Top seed Clyne clinches Kent Open title
By ALAN THATCHER
Top seed Alan Clyne powered home to the Kent Open title with a straight games victory over surprise finalist Jonathan Harford in the climax of the $10,000 PSA World Tour event at The Mote Squash Club in Maidstone, Kent.
The Scot won 11-8, 11-3, 11-8 in 35 minutes, finishing strongly in the first and third games and totally dominating the second to win the inaugural PSA One Star tournament.
Clyne was in control throughout most of the match, using his incredible speed and court coverage to counter any attacking moves from the tall English qualifier who had enjoyed a walkover into the final following the withdrawal through illness of third-seeded Irishman John Rooney.
The 23-year-old world No.62 from Edinburgh dominated the front half of the court and whenever Harford played anything loose or short, the Scotsman pounced on the ball and won a succession of points with his trademark killer drop shots.
Clyne’s composure at the closing stages of each games was a major deciding factor. From 6-6 in the first game, he tightened up to win four points in a row and although Harford countered with two stunning winners, Clyne had no trouble in seeing out the game.
In hot and humid conditions, both players were literally dripping with sweat as the second game started and Harford was unable to withstand the ferocious barrage of front-court winners flowing from the Scotsman’s racket.
The game was over in five minutes and the crowd were willing underdog Harford to prolong the match. The 26-year-old from Birmingham responded solidly and fought hard in the third game, but was unable to build on his 8-5 lead as Clyne regained control to win six points in a row to claim the title.
“I was very pleased with the way I played all week,” said a delighted Clyne, who will soon begin training for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
“The courts here at The Mote are excellent and everyone at the club made us very welcome. It’s always great to see new tournaments added to the calendar and I am sure all the players will look forward to coming back next year.”
Runner-up Harford was pleased to claim some valuable points to help his climb back up the PSA rankings following a hip operation. He said: “Alan played a fantastic game and I couldn’t get near him today. He was absolutely awesome at the front of the court.
“I would like to thank The Mote Squash Club and the Kent SRA for giving me a local spot in qualifying. It has really helped me to get back into the game. I can only endorse what Alan said about the hospitality at this club and the players are all grateful for the way they have been looked after. It has been a wonderful tournament.”
Mote locals Jonny Powell and James Evans, plus Rodmersham’s Neil Baker, gained valuable experience in the qualifying competition. Wild card Steven London, from Park Langley, succumbed to Irishman Rooney in the first round of the main draw and will have also gained a valuable insight into the requirements of the professional game.
In the semi-finals, Clyne had to fight back from two games down to beat Ducth No.6 seed Piedro Schweertman, who also held match ball in the fifth game before Clyne reeled off the final three points to clinch his place in the final.
With Harford enjoying a free passage after Rooney went down with food poisoning after a Chinese meal in Guildford, the packed gallery was entertained by a Lightning Round competition involving a dozen club players and four professionals. Egyptian Wael Farag won 20 points in seeing off six opponents before bowing to Malaysian Asyraf Azan, who lost in the final shoot-out to Kent junior Elliot Knight from Farningham.
The Mote was packed every day with junior coaching clinics held by the star players, and finals weekend saw the club busy with a Kent Open doubles competition and a Challenge Match between the Outer Kent League and the SE London Priory League, which the “Cockneys” won 6-4.
Trophies were presented by Paul Fennell of England Squash and Racketball, the main tournament sponsors, who also supported a major development programme ahead of the tournament in which more than 300 school pupils all over Kent were introduced to the sport.
PSA Kent Open final: Alan Clyne (Scotland) beat Jonny Harford (England) 11-8, 11-3, 11-8.
Kent Open doubles final: Garry Clarke and Neil Baker (Rodmersham) beat Steve Smith and David Rannard (Rodmersham) 11-9, 11-7, 15-13.