Thursday, December 7, 2023

Amazing Grace: England’s Gear triumphs in five to win at her home club’s Linksap Open

Full house at Berko cheers British winners Gear and Lee
By JANE BALL (Squash Mad Reporter)

Last year’s inaugural Berkhamsted Linksap 10k Open saw the beginning of the meteoric rise of Gina Kennedy. This year we surely saw the emergence of another shooting star in the women’s game, 17-year-old Zeina Zein, who won last week’s Ampito Hove 5k Open.

On this occasion, though, having again come through the draw unseeded, Zeina came up just short in the final against Grace Gear, playing at her home club in front of a packed crowd giving vociferous support. Grace was victorious in a tremendous battle, winning 5-11, 11-7, 11-5, 6-11, 11-5.

With this result, Grace will be closing in on a world top 50 ranking and PSA World Tour draws.

The men’s winner was Joe Lee, overcoming a nasty looking blood injury on his eyelid in his semi-final, that required a couple of stitches at A&E post-match.

Although he won 3-0 against Scotland’s Rory Stewart, it was closer than the scoreline suggests, with both the first and third games being two-point margins:  12-10, 11-4, 11-9.

Both players treated the crowd to fantastic skill levels and played the match in a tremendous spirit, with the referee needing to do little more than keep the score.

Having now made a full recovery from the back injury that kept him out of the game for a couple of years, and threatened to end his career, Joe showed levels of form, fitness and determination at this event that will doubtless see his re-emergence on the men’s tour when the new season gets underway.

The Berkhamsted Linksap Open will be back again next year, with the club aiming to make it an established men’s and women’s 10k event on the PSA Challenger circuit.

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The club chair, John Shaw, commented that, aside from the world class squash that the event brings to its members and visiting spectators in the surrounding area, one of the standout moments was to see the 17-year-old daughter of one of the referees go up to Grace and Zeina after their final and speak passionately to them about how she had recently taken up squash, had never seen anything like the standard that they showed, and how inspiring she found them.

After hearing and seeing this, John aims to do more on that front at next year’s tournament: using the women’s event as a ‘see it, be it’ moment.

Linksap Berkhamsted Open 2022, Berkhamsted LT & SRC, Berkhamsted, England (July 7-10, 2022).

$12,000 Men’s PSA Challenger Tour Men’s Final:
[4] Joe Lee (ENG) bt [3] Rory Stewart (SCO) 12-10, 11-4, 11-9 (41m)

[4] Joe Lee (ENG) bt Ben Smith (ENG) 11-5, 11-4, 21-19 (99m)
[3] Rory Stewart (SCO) bt [1] Mazen Gamal (EGY) 12-10, 6-11, 11-2, 11-5 (66m)

Ben Smith (ENG) bt [5] Ben Coleman (ENG) 8-11, 11-3, 3-11, 11-6, 11-6 (68m)
[4] Joe Lee (ENG) bt Daniel Poleshchuk (ISR) 11-8, 11-7, 8-11, 11-4 (50m)
[3] Rory Stewart (SCO) bt [7] Curtis Malik (ENG) 7-11, 11-9, 12-10, 5-11, 11-9 (80m)
[1] Mazen Gamal (EGY) bt [8] Emyr Evans (WAL) 11-7, 6-11, 11-2, 11-5 (51m)

$12,000 PSA Challenger Tour Women’s Final:
[1] Grace Gear (ENG) bt Zeina Zein (EGY) 5-11, 11-7, 11-5, 6-11, 11-5 (52m)

Zeina Zein (EGY) bt [7] Anna Kimberley (ENG) 11-5, 11-4, 11-6 (25m)
[1] Grace Gear (ENG) bt Rana Ismail (EGY) 11-7, 12-10, 11-7 (31m)

[7] Anna Kimberley (ENG) bt Emma Bartley (ENG) 13-11, 11-2, 11-3 (22m)
Zeina Zein (EGY) bt [5] Alison Thomson (SCO) 11-4, 11-9, 11-4 (27m)
Rana Ismail (EGY) bt [3] Millie Tomlinson (ENG) 11-7, 11-9, 7-11, 11-4 (39m)
[1] Grace Gear (ENG) bt [8] Torrie Malik (ENG) 11-9, 8-11, 15-13, 11-3 (45m)

Pictures courtesy of Berkhamsted Squash and Racketball Club
Full results from


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