Friday, May 24, 2024

Barker to meet Selby nose to nose

English aristocrats advance to semi-final showdown in Halifax 
By Squash Mad Reporters in Halifax

Borja Golan at full stretch on the backhand
Borja Golan at full stretch on the backhand

The fans at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia may have been wondering if Halloween had come early tonight, as they certainly were given a treat. The level of competition rose up again. There were certainly also some tricks to be seen, as players showed their deceptiveness, speed, and deft racquet skills to fool their opponents.

 The shortest match of the night was over an hour in duration, with all matches being hard-fought battles for a spot in the semifinals. None of the challengers were able to upset the top four seeds, who all move on as predicted by their seedings.

Our team of reporters is pleased to bring you descriptions of the matches below, and great photos by Jim Neale.

[1] Borja Golan (ESP) bt Tom Richards (ENG) 12-14, 11-7, 11-8, 11-2 (69 mins)
The first match of the evening pitted the tournament’s number one seed Borja Golan against the 22nd world ranked player Tom Richards of England.
blubortomThe first game started a little tentative for both players as they got a feel for the speed of the ball and the positioning of their opponent on the court. Golan uncharacteristically had three errors early, giving the patient Richards a 7-4 advantage midway through the first game. Richards was finding success just keeping the ball deep and sustaining the rally long enough for Golan to make a mistake. But Golan was in no mood to give up a game and fought his way back, eventually earning a game point at 10-9. Golan had the first game all but sealed when he missed a free opportunity to drive an errant volley into an open court. This gave Richards a second life and he capitalized on it a few points later, taking the first game 14-12. Hmm, this could be interesting.
The second game saw Richards jump out to another 3-1 lead. After a vicious rally of retrievals, Golan was pumping his fist even though he had only narrowed the gap to 2-3. Something had him fired up because he clearly took control of the momentum of the second game from that point forward running up a 7-4 lead. Then a shocking “no let” call favoring Richards had the crowd buzzing and Golan couldn’t believe it. Richards added two more counters to climb back within one. But Golan shut down any idea Richards had of pulling out another comeback. Golan quickly and confidently finished off the second game 11-7 from there.
Game three had the feel that Golan was in control, yet Richards never let him stray too far ahead. With the score 7-5 trending for Golan, another “no let” call had him wide eyed and arguing with the refs. But this time, Golan’s focus was laser sharp. In the ensuing rally, he blasted a drive by Richards who hadn’t witnessed that much pace on the ball in the match thus far. From there, it felt like an organized procession to a well-controlled 11-8 victory for Golan to take the third game.
In the fourth game, Golan’s superior seeding was beginning to shine. He was setting up rallies. He was moving Richards around to all four corners. He was forcing Richards to go for shots with lower percentages. Richards’ disciplined game strategy of just keeping Golan deep in the court and patiently waiting him out was gone. Golan was now completely controlling the game and cruised to an 11-2 victory, punching his ticket to the semi-finals tomorrow night.
By Blair Cook

[4] Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt [6] Stephen Coppinger (RSA) 5-11, 11-4, 11-8, 7-11, 11-5 (74 min)
The second match of the evening saw an influx of squash fans pile in to see what was lined up to be one of the closest of the night on paper.

BLUERODA furious pace prevailed throughout the match, with the tall South African directing the flow in the first game with his low quick straight drives. Looking at only their feet, Rodriguez (above) seemingly took twice the amount of steps than his opponent did to get to the same areas of the court – but he certainly makes up for it by being so incredibly swift!

From 5-5 onward Coppinger ran away with it, making it quite apparent that Rodriguez needed a change of tactics to take the match to the strong South African. It was just the opening game, but at an 11-5 margin you could certainly sense the high potential for Coppinger’s first PSA win over Rodriguez.

Rodriguez got off to the start he wanted in the second, quickly going up 4-0 from a couple of impressive holds, a stroke decision and a tin from Coppinger. Now we’re seeing the reigning Bluenose champ come to form! Much more patient play from the Columbian at 5-2 up resulted in a second string of points from tins off the Coppinger racquet. Even with a mammoth 9-2 lead, Rodriguez continued to use remarkable capoeira-like movements to chase down that tiny rubber ball. Dropping only one game ball opportunity, the Columbian Cannonball leveled off the match taking the second 11-4.

The third was a replica of the previous game, with many early tins from Coppinger giving Rodriguez an enormous 6-0 lead. With so much tin from Coppinger, his frustration turned to disbelief, and an 8-2 lead for Rodriguez. With seven game balls sitting comfortably at 10-3, a massive momentum shift saw Coppinger return to the form he started off the match with. With every game ball saved, the cheers and jeers emanating from the audience below grew louder and louder. One can imagine a similar elevation of pressure Rodriguez must have been feeling to close it out. After five game balls saved, mostly by using Palmer-coached early volley drops to the opposing corner, it was the same shot that eventually cost him when one found the middle of the tin.

It really seemed like Coppinger’s match to win or lose as he flipped from making Miguel run circles around him by cutting off every ball, to catching the tin several times giving relatively easy points to his opponent. The fourth game saw the former Coppinger, taking a 5-1 lead.

A great Bluenose moment midway through saw Rodriguez lob, Coppinger accidentally drop his racquet as he moved past Rodriguez, stick out his tongue in urgency, manage to pick it up and scramble back in the rally and go on to win the point! The crowd just loved every Coppinger reaction at this point. He rode this momentum to take the fourth 11-7 and push to a deciding fifth.

It was quite clear that Rodriguez’ tactic was to extend the rallies as long as possible, rely on his fast legs to retrieve, and wait for either an opportunity or a tin from his opponent. He got exactly what he wanted in the second rally, as it went well over two minutes. Even though he didn’t get the point, it may have been one of the major factors that caused so many tins from Coppinger in the latter stage of the match decider. Despite going up 3-0, Coppinger couldn’t retain the form that he needed to win the match. A couple great taxis from both players brought the match to level at 5-5, but this is when the Coppinger tin affinity kicked in. Rodriguez used the opening to get a string of 6 points in seemingly no time – a slightly uncharacteristic end to an otherwise highly entertaining match.
By Jeff Scribner

Daryl Selby at full stretch
Daryl Selby at full stretch

[3] Daryl Selby (ENG) bt [8] Alister Walker (BOT) 13-11, 6-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-5 (102 mins)

Despite a significant gap between these two in the rankings, their head-to-head history is 2-2. Both of these players have played in the Bluenose Classic previously, with Selby being a three-time runner up.

The first game began with the players taking a conservative approach, with most shots being played in the back of the court. The pace was fairly gentle and steady. Neither player was able to carve out a lead, and the score remained close through the game.

bludarsThey picked up the pace as the game went on, with both getting somewhat more aggressive. Walker hit some tight drops throughout the game. Selby closed out the game with a winning drop and a 13-11 score.

In the second game, Walker brought more winning drops to take a 3-0 lead. At 4-3 for Walker, after three let calls in a row, they played a ferocious rally, with Walker coming out on the better end of it. Walker was able to maintain his lead through the rest of the game, with some assistance from Selby in hitting tin on a couple of occasions.

At game ball, Selby went for the cross-court winner, but missed, giving Walker a loose ball, which he dropped nicely into the nick. 11-6 Walker. Games are tied 1-1.

Selby went out to a 6-2 lead at the start of the third game, thanks to some good length. He demonstrated tight shots that Walker wasn’t able to return.

At 10-7, Selby hit Walker’s racquet with a shot to the front wall, sending the racquet flying to the front of the court, with Selby being awarded a penalty stroke and the game 11-7.

Both players demonstrated excellent retrieving to begin the fourth game, but Walker tinned two shots to give Selby a 3-1 lead. Selby managed a 5-2 lead with good length and tight shots, but Walker fought back to tie the game 5-5. This game, as well as much of the match saw quite a few rallies ending in let calls, with many being replayed as a result of Yes Let decisions. The score didn’t wander too far from a tie, until Walker managed a 10-8 lead, proceeding to hit a perfect drop shot for the win.

After the fourth game, it appeared as though this was anyone’s match. Both players were playing great, and not showing negative effects of the longest match of the evening. The fifth game started out with the score remaining close until 3-3, but from that point forward, Selby climbed into a lead and Walker proceeded to hit three tins in a row to extend Selby’s lead to 9-5. A winning drop by Selby and an error by Walker ended this match sending Selby further into the draw in a chase for his elusive first Bluenose Classic title.
By Farley MacLeod


[2] Peter Barker (ENG) bt. [5] Cameron Pilley (AUS) 11-6, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9 (66 mins)

The last quarterfinal of the evening featured second-seed Barker (WR #8) against the fifth-seed Pilley (WR #22). Both players came out strong, hitting the ball crisply into the back corners.

Pilley played his signature power-shots down the lines, hitting several winners, but Barker was up to the challenge, with his consistent play leading to a 4-4 tie.

Barker’s excellent shot selection and steady pressure led to an 8-4 lead. Pilley was able to pull close with a couple of nicks in the front court and off the service return, but some unforced errors and a final “stroke” call allowed Barker to close out the first game 11-6.

The second game started with Pilley using his power to his advantage, jumping out to a 4-1 lead; however, Barker began to control the pace of the game to pull even at 4-4.

Barker then gained the lead with a quick drop, followed by a powerful frontcourt nick. Pilley appeared to be rattled by a subsequent “stroke” call, making two unforced errors, before regaining his composure for a beautiful powerful left front court nick, mirroring Barker’s earlier shot. The players traded points with nicks being the winning shots of choice, but another “stroke” call on game ball resulted in an 11-7 victory for Barker.

In the third game, a number of let calls appeared to faze Barker, allowing Pilley to capitalize on his opportunities, demonstrating great shot selection with a variety of winning shots, for a 5-1 lead. Barker seemed to regroup and the players traded points for a fast and furious few minutes, resulting in a score of 10-5, with game ball for Pilley. Barker then slowed the pace of the rallies and was able to save 4 game points, including a beautiful sequence in which he returned Pilley’s cross-court nick with a stellar drop shot; however, Pilley replied with a trickle boast to take the third 11-9.

Pilley continued his pattern of quick starts in the fourth, again jumping out to a 4-0 lead. Both players seemed to shorten their rallies, attempting winning shots more frequently, and trading points back and forth to a score of 9-5; however, again, Barker slowed the tempo of the match, moving Pilley around the court and changing directionality of the ball, with the game drawing even at 9-9. Barker continued his momentum with two great lengths to finish the final game 11-9.
By Brian Reid

2014 Fiera Properties Bluenose Squash Classic – October 30, 2014 – Quarter Finals.

[1] Borja Golan (ESP) bt Tom Richards (ENG) 12-14, 11-7, 11-8, 11-2 (69 mins)

[4] Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt [6] Stephen Coppinger (RSA) 5-11, 11-4, 11-8, 7-11, 11-5 (74 mins)

[3] Daryl Selby (ENG) bt [8] Alister Walker (BOT) 13-11, 6-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-5 (102 mins)

[2] Peter Barker (ENG) bt [5] Cameron Pilley (AUS) 11-6, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9 (66 mins)


Picture by JIM NEALE


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