“That was the best I have ever played”
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
BEN COLEMAN felt he had played his “best squash ever” as he beat former champion Mathieu Castagnet in the Canary Wharf Classic qualifying competition.
On a cool court at Wimbledon Racquets and Fitness Club, Coleman produced some hot form to beat the experienced Frenchman 14-12, 5-11, 11-9 in 68 minutes.
With the PSA World Tour selecting the Canary Wharf tournament to introduce a best-of-three format up to and including the quarter-finals, Coleman admitted: “I was glad that didn’t go to five!”
He revealed: “I tried hard not to think too much about it and I spoke to Peter Marshall (former world No.2) this morning and he said to just let things take care of themselves.
“Mentally, though, it meant that you could not afford to take your mind off your squash for any length of time because things could soon run away from you.
“It’s bizarre. I can hardly remember anything from the first game, only that I was ahead by a point or so and was happy to win it 14-12.
“Maybe that worked against me in the second as maybe I was a little over-confident.
“I felt the pressure was on him but he is so experienced that he came back, got a good lead and ran away with it.
“I regrouped for the third game and felt I played the best squash I have ever played to go 9-3 up.
“I felt we worked each other very hard. Then it got a bit scrappy towards the end and referee John Massarella got more involved.”
Decisions went in favour of both players as Castagnet, who has slipped from a career-high of six in the world to 28, clawed his way back to 8-9.
Coleman held match ball at 10-8 and although Castagnet won another point, the match was decided by a refereeing decision as Massarella called “no let” as the Frenchman attempted to reach a straight forehand drive from his opponent.
The 26-year-old Coleman, ranked 48 in the world, added: “Maybe that was a bit harsh on Mathieu but there was nothing malicious either way.
“I was pleased with how I dealt with the situation. I have been working hard on making sure that I concentrate purely on my squash and not allow any negative influences to affect my game.”
Coleman meets Egyptian shotmaker Mazen Hesham in the qualifying finals tomorrow and he revealed: “I have never played him before. But I know one thing, I am not going to take him on going for shots. The match could be over very quickly!
“But I have a game plan and I am looking forward to the occasion. I appreciated having Paul Carter there to help me between games. He gives such great advice and no doubt we will have an interesting discussion before tomorrow’s match.”
HISTORY was made in the Canary Wharf Classic with the introduction of a shorter match format.
Matches in the early rounds will be best of three games with best of five used only for the semi-finals and final.
The shorter system was successfully trialled in a group format in the PSA World Series Finals, for the top eight male and female players, in Dubai last summer.
Today (Saturday) it was introduced to a World Tour knockout event for the first time as 16 players battled for a place in the main draw of the Canary Wharf Classic.
Top qualifying seed Declan James, from Nottingham, took just 29 minutes to beat Charlie Lee in straight games but Greg Lobban and Egypt’s Youssef Soliman were on court for an hour before the Scotsman prevailed.
The 24-year-old James, who has been selected to play for England in next month’s Commonwealth Games, said: “The best-of-three format makes the squash very intense. You have to focus on every point and can’t ease up for a moment.
“Hopefully that makes it more interesting for the spectators. Playing in the qualifiers, it certainly helps if you have two massive matches to get through before reaching the main draw, so it’s important to have a bit of energy left in the tank.”
On the adjacent court, the score seesawed dramatically in the opening two games.
Lobban led 10-3 in the first before Soliman produced a phenomenal comeback to win it 12-10. In the second, Soliman led 6-2 but then surrendered eight points in a row as Lobban hit back to take the game 11-7 before closing out the match 11-6 in the third in 54 minutes.
Chris Simpson continued his comeback trail with an impressive win over fellow Englishman Adrian Waller, a Commonwealth Games team-mate of James.
After losing a tight first game, Simpson powered through the second 11-2 and stayed in front throughout the third to win it 11-8.
Qualifying fourth seed Gregoire Marche beat Welsh number one Joel Makin in a volatile encounter lasting 54 minutes.
Some absorbing, tactical squash was punctuated by the Frenchman’s frequent discussions with the referee before he clinched his qualifying final appointment tomorrow with Simpson, winning 11-7, 8-11, 11-7.
Tom Richards enjoyed the shorter format, taking just 21 minutes to overcome Ireland’s Sean Conroy 11-5, 11-5.
Swiss number two qualifying seed Nicolas Mueller was detained much longer before nullifying the threat of home favourite Lyell Fuller. He earned the biggest cheer of the day when he won the second game but Muller stepped up the pace to win the third 11-2.
Mazen Hesham served up a nick-fest with Josh Masters adding a few of his own as the Egyptian won 11-5, 11-6, also taking 21 minutes. With some outrageous winners from the Black Falcon, the crowd definitely wanted this one to go on much longer.
Tournament Director Tim Garner was pleased with the new scoring system.
Midway through the opening day schedule, he said: “This has delivered everything we hoped it would.
“The sell-out crowd is watching some really exciting, entertaining squash and the format gives the winners the opportunity to put in a really good performance again tomorrow without being too physically drained.”
PSA M100 Canary Wharf Classic.
Qualifying competition, Wimbledon Racquets and Fitness Club, London, England.
(1) Declan James (Eng) beat Charlie Lee (Eng) 12-10, 11-5 (29 mins)
(5) Greg Lobban (Sco) beat Youssef Soliman (Egy) 10-12, 11-7, 11-6 (54 mins)
Chris Simpson (Eng) beat (7) Adrian Waller (Eng) 9-11, 11-2, 11-8 (38 mins)
(4) Gregoire Marche (Fra) beat Joel Makin (Wal) 11-7, 8-11, 11-7 (54 min)
(3) Nicolas Mueller (Swi) beat Lyell Fuller (Eng) 12-10, 8-11, 11-2 (33m)
(8) Tom Richards (Eng) beat Sean Conroy (Ire) 11-5, 11-5 (21 mins)
(6) Mazen Hesham (Egy) beat Joshua Masters (Eng) 11-5, 11-6 (21 mins)
Ben Coleman (Eng) beat (2) Mathieu Castagnet (Fra) 12-14, 11-5, 11-9 (68 mins)
1pm: Declan James v Greg Lobban
2pm: Gregoire Marche v Chris Simpson
3pm: Nicolas Mueller v Tom Richards
4pm: Mazen Hesham v Ben Coleman
Pictures by PATRICK LAUSON