Guernsey Press

Champion Radford battles through two epic matches

JANICK RADFORD was crowned king of Guernsey squash last weekend.

The 2024 Island men's champion Janick Radford playing a backhand in his narrow semi-final victory over Leo Fossey at Beau Sejour. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 32914865)

He won last weekend’s Ogier Island Championships, marking his first crown since 2020, after upsetting top seed Henry Birch in a hard-fought final at Beau Sejour.

After winning two close games 13-11 and 11-9, Birch edged the third 12-10 and a comprehensive 11-4 defeat on the fourth sapped Radford's momentum going into the decider.

But he battled back to win the decisive fifth game 11-7 and take the honours after a final lasting 55min.

Both semi-finals had foreshadowed this tight nature, with Radford inching past young Leo Fossey in a 56min. epic after going 2-1 down initially, while Birch needed four games to defeat Patrick Josey.

Squash development officer Martin Watts, who would normally be in that mix if not for injury and is in fact the previous champion, is pleased to see the strength in depth among those top players.

‘It’s nice to have that competition,’ he said.

‘Obviously myself, Henry and Janick have been the top three players for a long time and it’s nice to see newer players like Leo and Simon [Birch, fourth seed] coming through.

‘We have got a couple of juniors who are now on the verge of breaking into that top four.

‘It’s not predictable who was going to win – that was refreshing.’

Similarly to the top-flight final, Matt Robin upset favourite Miles Birch to win the Grade B honours. He had to fight through the first three games but dominated the last 11-3.

The 14-year-old Axel Svejstrup – the son of Island Games triathlete Ove – defeated Nathan Neale in five games to take Grade C honours.

The women’s competition took place as a round robin, due to an entry of just three competitors, and Natalie Birch (nee Dodd) maintained her domestic No. 1 status.

Due to Lauren Ker’s withdrawal, the Island Games player only had Emily Thoumine for opposition and won the contest in three games of 11-5.

‘The entry is slightly disappointing as we’re trying to do our bit for women’s squash, but it’s great to see Natalie win another event,’ Watts added.

‘What I would really like to see is having a similar number to compete in the ladies’ event as well.’

A separate class, for men and women who are new to squash, resulted in victory for Pete Turner.

Watts has welcomed this brand-new class for the season.

‘We’ve got players that have just taken up squash and it might be too early for them to do tournaments. They would be a bit nervous about it.

‘We have a "new to squash" section and they can take part in it, have a little event to themselves where they can compete, and see the level they can potentially reach in the future.’