Aussie Ryan calls time on Borja for his first win over Spaniard
By LEE HORTON – Squash Mad Reporter
Squash grinders Borja Golan and Ryan Cuskelly tore up the script that invited wham-bam, get-off-quick action in the new best-of-three format at Canary Wharf to deliver a 60-minute display of traditional, attritional squash.
The two seasoned pros opened the show on day two of the London showpiece and it was just like old times as the East Wintergarden faithful were entertained royally with ‘proper squash’ as the traditionalist would call it.
Golan, like day-one rivals Daryl Selby and Cam Pilley, is still playing great squash at the age of 35. He flew into London at the weekend after winning the Montreal Open, beating Nafiizwan Adnan of Malaysia in the final.
He is in vibrant form but there was definitely a hint of jet-lag about his game in the opening exchange. A 5-3 lead was gone in the blink of an eye and so was the game as Cuskelly rattled off eight straight points without reply. A little Spanish early evening siesta, perhaps.
But the 35 year old from pilgrimage city Santiago de Compostela is renowned as something of a “grinder” who is happy to battle his way through long matches. He certainly dug deep in the second, leaning on sublime touch and impressive athleticism rather than divine intervention to level proceedings 11-6.
Last year Golan reached the semi-finals at the East Wintergarden and lost to Fares Dessouki in 2 hours and 4 minutes of brutal combat. Tonight, he and No.7 seed Cuskelly entertained the sell out crowd for close to an hour but it was the Aussie number one who adapted better to the short-form format, not that it was that short.
He controlled the third game from the start, was never headed and moved into round two closing out 11-7. Cuskelly admitted to being a tad edgy at the start but added: “It was pretty tense to start with but once I got into the game I relaxed and played the squash I wanted to.
“The best of three is a challenge but it’s definitely worth trialing. Cricket and golf have the short form so squash needs to try it. The fans seem to like it.” Some, maybe, but not all.
Englishman James Willstrop delivered a masterclass of controlled squash to snuff out the challenge of gritty qualifier Greg Lobban. He had to be sharp and centred to quell the speed and force of the Scot who saw the chance to claim a big scalp and gave it everything he had.
Lobban’s pace is impressive and as Willstrop confirmed:” I had to prepare so well for that one. Greg is fast and strong. Rankings tell one story but reality is different.”
The Yorkshireman had to call on all his experience to keep Lobban at bay. The Scot probed, tested and matched the former world number one for lengthy swathes of the match but it was experience, and no little racket magic, that got Willstrop over the line 11-6, 11-7.
Nathan Lake was handed the golden wild-card ticket by the Canary Wharf promoters and the 25 year old from Cheltenham more than repaid the gift in his match up with world number three Ali Farag. Lake, ranked 50 in the world and stepping up 10 rungs on the quality ladder, impressed in a competitive first game, joining Farag on the short line producing a gritty medley of drops, counter-drops, touch and guile.
Of course, it would never be enough to unnerve the Egyptian second seed and Farag snuffed out the challenge 11-8. The second game showcased Lake’s undoubted resolve. From 6-0 down and looking like a dead ‘un, he chipped away at Farag, who must have through the job was done.
A bit of grit from Lake, a touch of complacency from Farag and suddenly the Englishman was back in the game at 6-8. The crowd suddenly fancied a mini-upset and a glorious nick roller off an inch perfect back-court boast stirred the punters further.
But that was enough to awake Farag from his mini slumber and bang, bang…it was over and the Egyptian was celebrating his 150th PSA tour win. Lake will take plenty from the experience, including a ringing endorsement from Cairo. Afterwards Farag confessed: “Nathan never made it easy for me. I thought I had him at 6-0, but he made it very hard for me. I am very happy to get through.
“We train together and I know how well he plays. I am happy to get through.”
It’s almost compulsory these days that Egyptian players fill up at least half the draw of any PSA event at the quarter-final stage. So it was no surprise when Tarek Momen joined the Elshorbagy boys and Farag in the last eight with a convincing 2-0 win over Frenchman Gregoire Marche.
Squash TV commentators Joey Barrington and Simon Parke rated it the match of the evening (before Wilstrop and Lobban got going) but as much as Marche toiled and scrapped, the superior court craft of Farag was never severely challenged.
PSA $100,000 Men’s 15th Canary Wharf Classic 2018, East Wintergarden, London, England.
First Round (bottom half):
 Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 2-1: 11-5, 6-11, 11-7 (63m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt [WC] Nathan Lake (ENG) 2-0: 11-8, 11-9 (32m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt [Q] Gregoire Marche (FRA) 2-0: 11-7, 11-6 (32m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt [Q] Greg Lobban (SCO) 2-0: 11-6, 11-7 (33m)
Quarter-Finals (Wednesday March 7):
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
 Daryl Selby (ENG) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v  James Willstrop (ENG)
Pictures courtesy of PSA, Patrick Lauson, Steve Line (www.squashpics.com)