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Monday, May 17, 2021

Champagne Perry as Madeline ends career by winning the Irish Open

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Irish Open champions Madeline Perry and Ali Farag
Irish Open champions Madeline Perry and Ali Farag

Perfect finish for Madeline Perry as she ends WSA career on a dream day in Dublin
By DAN ZILIC – Squash Mad Correspondent

Madeline Perry played the ultimate match of her squash career today in Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club to win her final professional tournament in front of an absolutely packed centre court.

Facing Nicolette Fernandes, the world number 20 from Guyana, there was an air of uncertaintanty whether Madeline would be able to overcome Fernandes, who had looked impressive all week. 

Putting behind her the straight games defeat she suffered at the underdog’s hands at last year’s British Open, Perry was in scintillating form – despatching her 31-year-old opponent 11-8, 11-6, 11-9 in 43 minutes to claim the Irish Open title for a sixth time since 2005.

“I’ve been really looking forward to this event, desperate to win it and end on a high,” said Ireland’s most successful player of all-time after clinching her 12th and final WSA Tour title.

“I don’t think I’ve played that well for a long time, I just enjoyed every ball I hit, every moment. I never let the emotion overcome me as I was just in such a focussed state of mind.

“The perfect finish, I guess!” Perry added.

Nicolette established a lead in game one but Madeline found her range midgame and started wowing the crowd with some excellent shots to the front court. She claimed the first game 11-8 and established a quick 6-0 lead in game two. She never looked back after that and secured the game 11-5.

Champagne Perry after a dazzling win in Dublin
Champagne Perry after a dazzling win in Dublin

Madeline continued her good play and Nicolette fought back trying to go in short quicker. It worked in parts, but Madeline’s relentless hitting brought her to 10-8 match-ball.

Fernandes, who gave it her all and dived full-length twice, pulled one point back but Madeline eventually closed out the game 11-9.

In her winning speech, Ireland’s most successful female squash player was not only awarded a special lifetime award, but also thanked her support from over the years extensively.

“This is one of my favourite events and I want to also thank Nicolette, who is a very fun and fair player, for making it a good final, particularly since it is my very last”, said Perry.

Perry will still be representing Ireland in the European Team Championships in Denmark next week. With Perry, Ireland has not finished outside the top five in the last ten years, and with today’s form from the final, Perry will remain a tough player to beat.

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The men’s final saw a very worth finish to the fabulous week of squash. Playing in front of the Egyptian ambassador and several countrymen and women, the young Egyptian player Ali Farag (right) overcame Lucas Serme of France in an 81-minute five-set thriller.

Farag looked impressive in game one, not only distributing the ball brilliantly, but wowing the crowd with his court coverage. Serme found a way to withhold the pressure in game two, but it was all Farag in game three, which he took convincingly.

Game four saw Farag request an injury break at 5-6 down. There was uncertainty whether Farag, who seemed to have taken a slight knock to his calf, could continue, but the crowd was happy to see him continue after an 18-minute break.

Serme won game four despite Farag being two points away from matchball, but it was Farag who stormed ahead in game five. Serme fought back from 3-8 down, but in front of a vociferous Egyptian contingent in the crowd, it was Farag who held his nerve and made his country proud.

Ali Farag, all smiles after his biggest career win, not only thanked the sponsors and organizers, but also paid tribute to Madeline Perry’s great career in his victory speech.

“It is so great playing in front of our Egyptian ambassador to Ireland and all the Egyptians who came out to support me today. This title also means a lot, because my fiancé won the title here four years ago!”

The match concluded a great week of squash, which will stay in memory not only for making the Egyptians very happy, but also for Madeline Perry finishing her career in victorious fashion.

Gillen Markets Irish Open

Women’s final: (1) Madeline Perry (Ireland) beat (2) Nicolette Fernandes (Guyana) 11-8, 11-5, 11-9.
Men’s final: Ali Farag (Egypt) beat (5) Lucas Serme (France) 11-8, 5-11, 11-2, 9-11, 11-9. 

Pictures by MARY CROKE

 

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