‘Playing in front of a crowd like this and with my family watching was all the motivation I needed’
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
England’s Daryl Selby provided the biggest shock on the opening day of the 2020 St. James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic with a thrilling fightback to beat Welsh World No.10 Joel Makin. The 37-year-old Selby earned a standing ovation from the packed crowd after saving seven game balls in the second game before clinching the match 11-8, 15-13.
Selby treated the crowd to the full array of his attacking genius with a variety of winning trick shots in the opening game. Every one was a contender for the SquashTV shot of the month award. If this is what he can produce with a pair of goggles then everybody will be wearing them soon.
Selby, who is dropping some strong hints about an imminent retirement, was clearly determined to enjoy what could have been his final appearance before a full-house crowd jammed into the East Wintergarden. Selby patiently built a 6-0 lead, and weathered a solid comeback before taking the first game 11-8. His repertoire of winners included chops, drops, flicks, nicks and kills.
He frequently slowballed shots down the side wall to break up the Welshman’s rhythm and momentum.
The rankings predicted a win for Makin, who set about his task in sold fashion in the second game as Selby’s range of winners appeared to be drying up.
Makin looked in control as he reached game ball at 10-5 but Selby suddenly regained his touch and, as the winners began to flow again, Makin’s authority evaporated.
Adding to the drama, both players and the audience were perplexed by some of the refereeing decisions, with Selby feeling particularly aggrieved after a run of calls went against him. At one point Selby was poised to finish the rally with Makin off balance and out of position by the left service box when Ralf Harenberg shouted “Stop” and said it was for safety reasons.
Selby drew level at 10-10 and kept clawing his way back from a total of seven game balls until he completed a stunning finale to triumph 15-13 in 52 minutes of pure entertainment, drama and the occasional moment of slapstick.
Selby had admitted that his retirement would be “sooner rather than later” and said he was inspired by what could have been his farewell appearance at the East Wintergarden.
He said: “It’s obviously not my last appearance here now because I managed to get the win. But, as well as thinking this could have been my last time playing here, well, this is Canary Wharf. This is one of the best tournaments in the world, and I found out this morning that I have played here for 15 years in a row.
“Playing before a fantastic crowd and with my family watching through the side wall, that’s all the motivation I needed. That’s why I love this game so much and (addressing the crowd) I guess that’s why all of you do too.
“I got off to a good start which is important in best-of-three, and I am not notoriously a good starter. It wasn’t quick, as you would expect with someone like Joel. I felt like I played good squash, and I stuck to my game plan quite well.
“At the end of the day, I pulled out some shots at crucial times, especially in the second game. I had to be positive today because there is no way you are going to outmanoeuvre Joel. He has earned his place in the top 10 and it is pleasing for me to get a win over a top 10 guy.
“I’m playing Tarek [Momen] tomorrow and I played the World No.1 in Chicago last week, now the World Champion this week. I might be coming to the end but I love testing myself against the best guys to see how close I can get, just constantly trying to push and finish strong.”
There were a couple of other surprise results on the opening day, with Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet beating compatriot (and room-mate) Gregoire Marche, and Scotland’s Greg Lobban overcoming an out of touch Mazen Hesham.
World No.22 Castagnet got the better of Marche on the glass court after battling through a lengthy first game, taking it after half an hour. The second game was slightly more straightforward, as he eventually came through to take the win, booking his place in the second round, where he will face World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy.
Lobban got the better of Hesham, who had pulled out of his third round clash at the Windy City Open in Chicago last week, and he was clearly not fully fit here, but the Scot pushed on to secure victory, booking his place against Karim Abdel Gawad on Tuesday.
“I didn’t know which Mazen was going to turn up. I knew he was not 100%, but for me, even Mazen at 50 or 60% is a good win. You never know when he is going to roll out some winners, but I wish him a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back to full fitness,” Lobban said.
There were victories for James Willstrop and Declan James in the first and last battles on the glass court, both against fellow Englishmen Richie Fallows and Adrian Waller.
Willstrop is a keen actor and, instead of playing in Chicago, he warmed up by appearing on stage at the Bingley Arts Centre in a play called Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. The theatrical production lasted two hours and 30 minutes, which was considerably more taxing than the 21 minutes he spent on court against wild card Fallows. The local hopeful won a run of early points, but was overwhelmed by the occasion once Willstrop got into character.
If Willstrop and Selby put a broad smile on people’s faces with their early endeavours, Waller ended the evening on a sour note as he was given a conduct stroke on match ball for racket abuse, following a string of errors against James.
The Egyptian duo of Omar Mosaad and Fares Dessouky, and India’s Saurav Ghosal, all advanced to the second round of the PSA Gold tournament.
Mosaad muscled his way past Malaysia’s Eain Yow Ng and Dessouky hit back after losing the opening game to Raphael Kandra. These were the only matches that went to three games. Ghosal had too much control at the front of the court as he dominated his match against Tom Richards.
PSA Gold $109k St. James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic, East Wintergardem, Canary Wharf, London, England.
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) bye
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt [9/16] Gregoire Marche (FRA) 12-10, 11-8 (46m)
[9/16] Saurav Ghosal (IND) bt Tom Richards (ENG) 11-7, 11-7 (25m)
 Simon Rösner (GER) bye
 Diego Elias (PER) bye
[9/16] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [WC] Richie Fallows (ENG) 11-5, 11-6 (21m)
Daryl Selby (ENG) bt [9/16] Joel Makin (WAL) 11-8, 15-13 (52m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bye
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bye
Greg Lobban (SCO) bt [9/16] Mazen Hesham (EGY) 11-6, 11-7 (25m)
[9/16] Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt Eain Yow Ng (MAS) 7-11, 14-12, 11-8 (69m)
 Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) bye
 Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) bye
[9/16] Fares Dessouky (EGY) bt Raphael Kandra (GER) 8-11, 11-3, 11-5 (35m)
Declan James (ENG) bt [9/16] Adrian Waller (ENG) 12-10, 11-6 (43m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) bye
Second Round (top half Monday):
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
 Simon Rösner (GER) v [9/16] Saurav Ghosal (IND)
 Diego Elias (PER) v [9/16] James Willstrop (ENG)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Greg Lobban (SCO)
 Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) v [9/16] Omar Mosaad (EGY)
 Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) v [9/16] Fares Dessouky (EGY)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v Declan James (ENG)
Pictures by STEVE LINE (courtesy of PSA) and PATRICK LAUSON