Huge battles for Scottish hopefuls
By DAVE IRESON – Squash Mad Correspondent in Aberdeen
Day 1 from qualifying of the TRAC North of Scotland Championships treated the local crowd to some excellent squash. There were four Scottish players in qualifying.
Qualifying Round 1:
First match of the day saw home favourite Mike Black take on the No 1 qualifier from Pakistan, Asim Khan. Mike was unlucky not to get a game, but eventually the movement of Khan saw him through.
Al Prott was the next Scot in action. The talented youngster from Inverness is definitely one of the most promising rising stars of squash in Scotland and it was easy to see why. For such a young head, Al looked at home on the court throughout the match despite playing the much more experienced Brian Byrne from Ireland. Eventually Byrne’s experience won the day, but not before Prott gave him a bit of a scare.
Third Scot in action was Stuart George from Glasgow. Stuart was playing the very solid Ondrej Uherka from the Czech Republic. Stuart struggled to get into the match, and unfortunately lost out in three straight games.
Last Scot in action was Kevin Moran, who has recently returned to the PSA circuit. Kevin was up against rising French star Victor Crouin. In a highly entertaining, fast-paced encounter, Kevin volleyed well and kept the tempo high, stretching the movement of the young Frenchman. Finally the Scots get a win, Kevin winning in four games.
The final rounds of qualifying start at 5pm tomorrow (Wednesday), with the first main round matches starting at 12pm on Thursday.
Full results and match reports can be found at www.asrc.co.uk and videos of all matches can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKquVL2fhAS1nGnkId5cnDA
Nick Mulvey (Eng) vs  Addeen Idrakie (Mas)
Idrakie started the game slowly gradually finding his length and width, and although was pretty steady gave Mulvey an early lead, however once Idrakie had found his range, he made Mulvey do a lot of retrieval, and eventually managed to finish off every rally with a well-constructed length followed by a simple drop or boast to end the rally. Eventually taking the game 11/5.
The second game was quite erratic from Mulvey. He was either hitting sublime winners, and sending Idrakie the wrong way, or he was burying the ball into the top of the tin. This pattern continued all through the game, and the outcome was always going to be decided by Mulvey’s tin to winner ratio… Predictably the steadier Malaysian managed to squeeze the game 14-12.
Start of the third and another cluster of errors from the racket of Mulvey, going 5-1 down.
Then Idrakie made several errors – maybe trying to finish off the points too quickly rather than build the rally. Mulvey back in it 6-6. Then more errors from Idrakie, and Mulvey edges ahead and takes the game 11-8.
The fourth was nip and tuck with both players trading good length and tight drops, but towards the mid stages of the game some nice holds by Idrakie and again a few errors from Mulvey gave Idrakie a small lead – always 1 point ahead. Eventually closing out the game 11-9
Idrakie won 3-1 11/5 14/12 8/11 11/9 (51 mins)
 Victor Crouin (Fra) vs [L] Kevin Moran (Sco)
By contrast to the previous match this one started at a frantic pace with both players looking to get up the court and volley. Kev always seems to look comfortable playing at a higher tempo and sure enough forced a couple of errors from the racket of Crouin and give himself the “2 point cushion” by the mid stages of the first game. A “tiiight” forehand drop / stroke combo earns Kev 2 game balls, but doesn’t manage to convert. Another tight drive earns another game ball. Volley drop winner and takes the first 12-10.
A scrappy start to the second game with a lot of nothing balls chipped into the front with Kev seemingly distracted by a couple of calls by the referees. However at 6-5 down Kev put together a series of well-constructed rallies to take himself to 8-6 up, it was nip and tuck between the two of them with some errors creeping in once again, but Ken came out on top earning himself 2 game balls, converting on the second attempt, 11/9.
Kev looked to have tired his opponent, with Crouin looking slightly off the pace at the start of the third game, however a few delicately placed drops from the back saw Crouin draw level at 5-5. However the pace that Kev was playing at was starting to be the undoing of the young Frenchman; Crouin becoming more and more stretched with every rally but thanks to a couple of errors fromKev, manages to get himself back in the game and finds himself 10-9 up! Takes the game 11-9!
Disaster, Kev has a shocker of a start to the fourth game going 4-0 down! Then finally manages to find away to get the ball past the racket of Crouin, and claws his way back into the game slowly but surely. A 9-7 up Kev hits a lucky nick and the ball bounces away from the racket of Crouin – match ball! Match to Kev!
Moran won 3-1 12/10 11/9 11/9 11/7 (50 mins)
[L] Stuart George (Sco) vs Ondrej Uherka (Cze)
Uherka started the first game in his trade mark grinding style. No errors, solid length and width, and a very occasional drop. Stuart seemed to struggle with this style of play going 6 points behind very quickly. At 8-2 down Stuart seemed to get into the game more and the rallies extended , however damage done. Uherka takes first game 11/2.
Once again Stuart struggled in the second, (partly due to having to borrow someone else’s racket as his only one had broken), however he was in more of the rallies and was slowly starting to find his range at the back and the front of the court, but still found himself 8-3 down quite quickly, and Uherka closed out the game 11/4.
Much better start from Stuart in this game, hitting more aggressive length and getting the ball deep into the back of the court, however some cheap tins and strokes allowed Uherka to creep ahead to 6-3. Stuart manages to get it back to 5-6, but then another couple of cheap errors, and Uherka’s gets 4 match balls. Converts on the second attempt.
Uherka won 3-0 11/2 11/4 11/7 (30 mins)
 Sean Conroy (Irl) vs Sebastian Bonmalais (Fra)
Into the evening session, and the first match saw a much more attacking style of squash from both players, both looking to take the ball into the front given half a chance. Conroy’s length and width was slightly more attacking in the early part of the game and in the end resulted some opportunities to use his holds and he took an early lead. Although Bonmalais retrieved well he just couldn’t match Conroy’s accuracy and gave away several strokes in the latter stages. Conroy took the game 11/6.
The start of the second saw a several with Bonmalais looking to hit down on the ball and make his length die and he took an early lead. Conroy responded with a flurry of short kills to try and force Bonmalais to lift the ball, however if it wasn’t perfect Bonmalais looked to quickly counter. A few mistakes towards the end of the game saw Conroy just edge it 11/8.
Again at the start of the third it was Bonmalais that started better, hitting more solid length and width and getting more opportunities to take the ball in short, forcing Conroy into all four corners of the court. However a few wild errors at the mid stages of the game saw Conroy draw level. At 7-7 Bonmalais cut the errors out from his game and following some dogged retrieval pulled ahead and converted the game on his first match ball taking the game 11/7.
Another positive start from Bonmalais hitting a series of winners to take a 4-0 lead, and wheras in the previous games, Conroy’s use of height got him “out of trouble”, his trusty lob let him down in this game; the ball touching just above the out line several times. Bonmalais ran away with the fourth 11-2.
Tense stuff in the fifth. Both players trying to play it tighter, wider, shorter, longer. Some excellent retrieval from both players, and some great variation. The game went to and froe as each player managed to get a few short runs of points. Massive rallies from 8-8, Bonmalais earns a match ball, Conroy saves it! It’s 10-10. Straight drive, taxi and another match ball for Bonmalais, takes the game 12-10 and match. Massive comeback!
Bonmalais won 3-2 6-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-2, 12-10 (75 mins)
Robert Downer (Eng) vs  Tristan Eysele (Rsa)
This match started in a much more traditional fashion. Up and down the walls play with only the occasional ball sent to the front, to then inevitably to be sent straight to the back again. As the game went on the T position of each player edged further and further back, yet still neither player was willing to try and take the ball in short! Eysele just had slightly more consistency in his back court game and took the first 11/9.
Game 2… Will someone please use the front half of the court?! Yes… Both players have completely switched their games. Downer seemingly suffering with some sort of injury looked to be trying to be finish the rallies off early, while Eysele looked to expose the slightly ropey movement of Downer. Then just when it looked like both players had realised there is a front half to the court….. back to length game again…. Then three drops from Eysele and he takes the second 11/9.
The third game was more attacking from both players and this seemed to suit Downer as he led for most of the game, however at 7-7, three errors from Downer handed match balls to Eysele, and he converted on the third attempt.
Eysele won 3-0 11/9 11/9 11/9 (43 mins)
 Brian Byrne (Irl) vs [L] Alasdair Prott (Sco)
Inverness’ talented youngster Al Prott takes on the experienced Brian Byrne from Ireland. The first started quickly with Al looking to attack the front. A few mistakes from the youngsters racket early on saw Byrne take and early lead, however Al was in every rally and managed to get back to within 1 point of Byrne. Some testing rallies followed and a bit of impatience from Al resulted in a couple of errors that was the difference between both players in this game. First to Byrne 11/8.
The second game was much more composed from the Inverness youngster. Some excellent length, retrieval and front court play, and far fewer errors from his racket. Although Al was hitting some outrageous winners Byrne managed to pick up a few too many balls for Al. Taking the second game 11/7.
Into the third and Al looked to be tiring, however despite this his attacking style was still hugely pleasing to watch, making Byrne do a huge amount of work to stay in some of the rallies. At 10-5 up it looked to be all over, but a spirited come saw him get back to 10-9 before a forehand drop shot tin handed the match to Byrne.
Byrne won 3-0 11/8 11/7 11/9 (34 mins)
Muhammad Farhan (Pak) vs  Mike Harris (Eng)
In contrast to the last match the opening exchanges of this match were slightly longer with both players looking to play to the back before taking the ball short. There were passages of tight play paired with some very loose exchanges down the middle which resulted in some cheap strokes. Harris managed to keep the ball consistently tighter and took the first game 11/7.
Into the second and Harris started well using holds to send Farhan the wrong way, however Farhan was starting to make much more of his length pushing the ball deep into the back corners, and counter dropping at the front to extend the court, forcing Harris to do a lot of retrieval. However, towards the end of the game a couple of lucky shots from the racket of Harris saw him take the game 11/8.
In the third the tempo increase from both players, who were hitting the ball much more crisply, however a slight lack of control at this tempo meant that there was a lot more traffic in the middle of the court, and a lot more decisions required from the referees. However, in the end Harris managed to keep his length and width good enought to take the match 3-0.
Harris won 3-0 11/7 11/8 11/8 (31 mins)
 Asim Khan (Pak) vs [L] Mike Black (Sco)
Following the birth of his first child Mike “scrapper” Black has recently taken a bit of a sabbatical for the last six months and this showed in the first game, looking a bit off the pace in the first game, with some sluggish movement, and the sprightlier Khan took advantage using the front of the court to good effect.
Scrapper started the second more positively looking to hit more solid length and use his deft touch at the front. This paid dividend as the score was level pegging through much of the second, but unfortunately Khan pulled away at the end of the game to take it 11/6.
A “Coach Leiper” intervention at the end of the second called for “the ball to be put away from his opponent…”; maybe an obvious strategy, but saw Scrapper take an early lead. However the six-month sabbatical proved costly, and ultimately a slightly fitter Khan capitalised and won in three.
Khan won 3-0 11/4 11/6 13/11 (26 mins)