Kate Bradshaw reaches British Masters Final
There was more squash action for Melbourn’s Women’s No.1 Kate Bradshaw at the weekend over at the Park in Nottingham, which was host to the iProSports British Masters National Championships 2022. This is one of the biggest events of the Masters Calendar and attracts some of the most talented over 35s players from all four home nations. With over 250 people at the event, it was a welcome return to something more like normality after two years of this event being cancelled due to Covid. Bradshaw was hoping both for some good performances and decent points towards a possible England o35/40 qualification slot.
2022 British Masters All Finalists. Picture: Brian Brock
Her first match was against a former Nationals finalist, Nathalie Townsend from Warwickshire. With their matches often going to 3-2, Bradshaw knew she had to be on her mettle, but didn’t expect to be quite so in the zone for the first match of the tournament. Whatever structure her warm up took clearly got her to the perfect place for this match which she romped through, annihilating Townsend 3-0, 11-3/11-2/11-1.
On paper, the next match should have been the easiest, as her opponent was playing down a couple of age groups. However, Mandy Akin is well-known on the circuit as a multiple Nationals champion in all her age categories. Against Akin, a tough player with immense mental and physical capabilities, Bradshaw struggled to find the same form from her earlier match and went down in the first game. It continued to be a battle throughout with Mandy having nothing to lose. However, Bradshaw finally managed to assert herself and up her level, to take a 3-2 victory.
Kate (left) and Hannah Wright-Davies ahead of their final. Picture: Brian Brock
This earnt her a place in the final against Hannah Wright-Davies, a former Wales International player and the top seed. Wright-Davies enjoys the physical side of matches and gave Bradshaw no quarter on court, holding and taking her space. This frustrated Bradshaw’s usual movement and created more pressure on each rally just to get to the ball. Although Bradshaw had beaten her opponent once before, it was not to be repeated here. Her opponent’s solid and consistent play was too much for Bradshaw on the day and she had to settle for runner up at the Nationals again. Bradshaw said: “Hannah was just too strong, both mentally and physically for me today. I didn’t do enough to upset her flow and couldn’t take control of the T often enough. Even when I did work the rallies and create opportunities, the finish wasn’t quite there for me – but that’s also a result of the pressure she creates for you on the court. The game scores were close, but I was disappointed not to challenge her more today. It wasn’t the result I’ve been working towards, but I was still happy to make it to another Nationals final and to see so many familiar and friendly faces here, especially after the last two years we’ve all had away from the circuit.”
Andy Murray (not that one...) of tournament sponsors iProSports presents Kate with the Runner-Up trophy. Picture: Brian Brock
The Nationals were the last event of the 2021-22 Masters Tour, with the selection of England squads for the Home Internationals in spring swiftly following based on the end-of-season rankings. Bradshaw’s final position of no.1 in the Women’s Over-40s meant she was a highly likely selection for the joint Women’s O35s/40s side (there is no standalone Women’s O40s in the Home Internationals), but not only has she been picked for the side, Bradshaw has also been asked to Captain it! This is a second chance for Kate to lead the England team as she was also asked to skipper the 2020 side, only for that year’s tournament to be cancelled due to the pandemic.
The Women’s O35s/40s section of the 2022 Home International Series will take place at Galway Lawn Tennis Club, Galway, Ireland on the weekend of 22-23 April. Bradshaw commented “I’m so pleased to be able to captain the team this season after the 2020 event was cancelled. All the players are always proud to represent their country, but I think this year will hold that much more meaning for everyone. It will be a real celebration of a return to playing a sport we love after so many restrictions over the last two years.”