Magic night in Malta as Battle On The Rock bottles the essence of squash
By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor at The Marsa Club in Malta
I love watching the top professionals play exhibition matches. It’s like opening up a whole new window to the soul. The caution and stress (and sometimes fear) that often manifests itself during ranking tournaments is completely swept aside as these incredible athletes showcase their huge array of talents.
That was the case when Team France (Gregory Gaultier and Geoffrey Demont) headed to Malta for an exhibition evening labeled The Battle Of The Rock, attracting a packed gallery to the beautiful Marsa Sports Club.
I don’t think I’ve seen Geoffrey play before. He was first on court against Daniel Zammit-Lewis, who is the coach at the RAC country club in Surrey and represented Malta in last year’s Commonwealth Games.
A hard-hitting left-hander, Daniel buried as many winners as he could, including a stupendous over-arm tennis serve that turned into an ace as the ball spun and died in the back corner!
However, Geoffrey, the world No.104 from Aix-en-Provence, had a few more tricks up his sleeve, including an array of crosscourt nicks and a variety of drop shots played behind the back.
The crowd lapped it up and Geoffrey’s 3-2 win signalled a rush for the bar. Well, it was 32 degrees earlier in the day!
During the interval, spectators placed donations in envelopes in support of the Ladybird Foundation, a Maltese organization that arranges special events for terminally-ill children.
After the break the audience resumed their seats as the Australian-born Brad Hindle, who organised the whole event, took to the court to play world number three Gregory Gaultier.
However, before play began Brad’s beautiful bride Kate was invited on court to join the photocall.
With the French ambassador seated in the front row, Greg and Brad turned on the style with some outrageous squash, mixing incredible shots with some ridiculous retrieving.
At one point Greg left the court and returned with a small-headed racket that had been hanging on the club wall.
The crowd loved every moment as the two gladiators turned into high-quality entertainers, mixing pace and power with precision and panache.
Greg’s 3-2 victory made it a French double and at the end of the evening, after he and Brad donated shirts and rackets to the Ladybird Foundation prize winners, he thanked Brad for all his hard work in putting together such a great event.
I was delighted to be part of the show as MC and made sure the crowd were in fine voice at the start of the evening when I asked them one simple question: “Do you think squash should be in the Olympic Games?”
The raucous response set the tone, and the volume, for the whole evening.
On fantastic nights like this, you genuinely feel you can bottle the sheer essence of squash. Whether you are a club hacker or a world-class star like Gregory Gaultier, the love we all have for this sport is like a universal language.
Squash was immersed in that loving glow in Glasgow last year as Brad and Dan competed for Malta in the Commonwealth Games.
With squash now on the shortlist for a place in the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan, we need the IOC to absorb that unique essence and understand that language.
Thank you to Brad for inviting me over. And thank you to Dan Zammit-Lewis and his father Joe for putting me up.
I loved every minute. I wish I could have stayed longer, and can’t wait to go back.
A big shout-out to the main sponsors: Dean Gera Hairdressing, Casumo Gaming, Kinetix and Harrow Sports (proud makers of Brad’s signature Maltese Falcon racket).
Pictures by ROB SULTANA