Fossey plays the star turn with his run to the final

FOR a while it looked like there could be a new name on the Grade A trophy in the Island Championships.

Ultimately, experienced development officer Martin Watts defended his title by winning Saturday’s final, but 22-year-old opponent Leo Fossey played some fantastic squash to reach that stage.

Fossey beat the favoured Patrick Josey in the quarter-finals and when facing Guernsey star Janick Radford in his semi, he played out of his skin to win a five-set battle.

After winning the opener 11-4, he traded set wins with Radford and it all came down to a decider, which he came through 11-8 to deny the decorated player a shot at the final.

However, given a sore body and the pressure of a major final, he stumbled out the blocks against Watts and lost the first set 11-1.

His subsequent sets were significantly stronger and he forced Watts to come from behind in the second, only to lose 11-9, together with making the third a real battle that his experienced rival edged 13-11.

‘I think my experience got me through in the end,’ Watts said as he praised Fossey’s promising form.

‘He has been in the top six players for the last 18 months, two years.

‘He has always been a good junior, but he had a particularly good weekend. When he gets a lot of matches, he tends to get his eye in and strikes the ball a bit better.

‘He played the game of his life to beat Janick.’

When asked whether he sees Fossey as a future Guernsey champion, the development officer added: ‘He has got the potential if he sticks to it and he also will certainly have potential of being in the inter-insular A team for a few years to come.’

Many of the experienced adults enjoyed being tested by up-and-coming players even younger than Fossey throughout the men’s draw, though there could only be one women’s champion.

Natalie Dodd lost to another Leo – Leo Ware – in the Grade B final but overcame a solid challenge from Tansy Clark to take the women’s-only honours.

Women's champion Natalie Dodd also reached the Grade B final in which she faced eventual winner Leo Ware. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30418756)

There were only three women in the draw but in their clash, Dodd beat the former UK player and new arrival 13-11, 11-6 and 11-5 to build upon her tall stack of domestic titles.

Dodd also made the doubles final, where she joined forces with Henry Birch in a narrow loss to a Radford and Josey pairing.

Radford and Josey won the first two sets 11-10, but their rivals retaliated with a couple of cleaner 11-7 victories, a scoreline that was flipped in the decisive final end.

These Island Championships unfolded in their entirety over one week as planned, forming a stark contrast to last year when the second lockdown struck on the 23 January finals date and the decisive matches could not be played until four months later.

However, due largely to Covid and travel concerns, next month’s planned Guernsey Open has been pushed back to 29 April-1 May.

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