By Max Chesterton
The Dunlop National Masters Championships 2018 kicked into action at the Northern Squash Club in Didsbury where a whole host of competitors in eight categories began their quest for national glory.
With a number of big hitters receiving a bye in the first round, a collection of players were afforded the opportunity to showcase their talents.
The day’s action commenced with the MO65’s featuring three former British National Masters champions, including Howard Cherlin, Ian Graham and Peter Smith.
There were no first-round jitters for the reigning champion, Ian Graham who overcame the challenge of John Musson with a 15-8, 15-8, 15-7 victory.
Likewise, two-time British National Masters champion, Howard Cherlin progressed through to the next round with a three-game victory over John Jeffrey.
The two former champions will have to rediscover their form from previous years when they face each other in the second round on Thursday if one is to progress.
Meanwhile, top seed John Goodrich had no problems getting past Lancashire’s Brian Dawson, completing a quick three-game victory 15-6, 15-3, 15-8.
Despite fierce competition from Cheshire’s Paul Vale, second seed Ian Holmes completed a 15-9, 15-10, 15-11 win to set up a match against Leon Kirton in the next round.
2017 runner-up Terry Belshaw also progressed through to the second round alongside Scottish 3/4 seed John Rae and 2016 victor Peter Smith.
5/8 seed Neil Harrison played out an intriguing battle with Cheshire’s Barry Watkins, battling to victory in a hard-fought first round match.
Harrison took a 11-9 lead in the first game before the former World Top 50 pro powered back to wrap up the second game 11-8.
However, Harrison’s experience prevailed, grinding down his opponent in the next two games and clinching victory in both with 11-9 and 11-4 wins to progress through to the second round.
2013 MO50 champion and 3/4 seed Martin Greenslade also advanced into the second round with a comfortable 11-8, 11-7, 11-7 win over Don Armitage.
The 2014 MO55 champion Jeremy Goulding also started his campaign positively in a tricky match with Andrew Simpson, which saw the former winner progress past his opponent, wining 3-1.
The only five-game thriller in the MO55 competition came in the tie between Rob Reid and George Kousseff, where the former prevailed in the final game to clinch the match.
Gary Raw is also through to Thursday’s matches alongside the likes of Nick Peel, David Fan, Allen Day, Neville Thomson, and Nick Gollaglee.
David Newman and Allan Whittow had the pleasure of knocking up the first ball up in the MO70 championship and the pair played out a hard-fought match which, at times could have swung either-way.
Newman led the opening two games, but Whittow came back with a vengeance in the third, setting up an entertaining fourth game.
After coming from behind, Newman got the better of his Buckinghamshire opponent, completing a 15-10, 15-11 8-15, 15-9 win, which sets up a second-round tie against top seed Ian Ross.
Elsewhere, Scotland’s Alastair McMeckan completed a quickfire 3-0 victory over challenger James Dubois to ensure his progression into day two of this year’s competition where he will face nine-time champion Philip Ayton.
Derbyshire’s John Robertson also advanced into the second-round following a three-game victory over Lancashire’s Brian Robertson in a 15-11, 15-3, 15-4 rapid fire match.
Thomas Elves and John Smith also booked their place in the next round.
There were just the two matches on Wednesday in the MO60’s as Chris Jordan and Tony Bowyer faced-off, with the former taking the win in three straight games.
Bowyer will take on top seed Allen Barwise in the second round in what could prove to be an intriguing match up.
In the second tie, David Johnstone reigned supreme claiming a 15-4, 17-15, 15-9 victory over Cheshire’s Peter Marsden.
In the standout tie of the first-round, Giles Cook battled back from 2-1 down to edge Scott Hay 3-2: 8-11, 11-8, 5-11, 11-5, 11-5.
Barry Talbot and Matthew Lloyd-Lewis also join Cook in the next round after claiming 3-0 victories over their respective opponents.
There were no shock results in the MO50 first-round draw, with seeded players Andrew Murray and Eamonn Price progressing alongside Cliff Martindale and Steve Dodridge.
Similarly, in the MO35 event Colin Griggs, Chris Morrison and Michael McDonald advanced to Thursday’s matches.