By ALAN THATCHER and ADAM FULLER
Gina Kennedy continued her winning ways and Ben Coleman made his experience count as they lifted the titles at the inaugural Linksap Berkhamsted Open.
Each draw had a $6k prize fund and some high-quality squash made it an enjoyable weekend for spectators at this progressive club.
It won’t be long before Kennedy’s performances result in a realistic ranking and seeding.
Unseeded in this new event on the calendar, she took out three of the top four seeds and her victories against Emily Whitlock in the semi-finals and Lisa Aitken in the final underlined her all-round abilities and increasing confidence.
She mixes a natural relish for the physical side of the game with intelligent shot placement and the ability to finish rallies when the opening arises. It’s a formidable combination.
Coleman, the men’s top seed, was severely tested by Rory Stewart in the semi-finals, with an opening game that lasted 29 minutes, but from then on took control.
In the final he faced Sam Todd, who had taken out No.2 seed Rui Soares in a demanding battle through the bottom half of the draw.
He started the final strongly but Coleman, the 30-year-old world No.60, took control to continue his impressive sequence of winning each match in straight games.
In the women’s final, Kennedy came out of the blocks quickly and Aitken struggled to get a foothold in the match until Gina was two games to the good. Aitken gathered a run of points but Kennedy reasserted her authority to close out the match to continue her phenomenal run of recent form.
There were some great rallies but Gina seemed to have an answer for most of the questions Lisa posed.
Lisa will no doubt be disappointed with her error count although she won’t need to wait long to play her again, with them due to play each other this week at the British Nationals.
As the men’s final began there was a feeling that we could be in for a long match with the scores fairly level throughout the game. However, from the business end of the first game Ben began to take control.
Perhaps the previous matches were still in the legs of Todd having had a 3-2 and a tight 3-1 en route to the final. He began to look a little tired after Coleman took the first.
Coleman became more and more confident to soak up his opponent’s attacks before counter attacking himself. It looked as if Todd ran out of ideas.
The 18-year-old Todd, ranked 139 in the world, plays a very exciting style of squash and we have no doubt that he will continue to grow and improve, but the final was a clear case of experience over youth.
Semi-Finals: Gina Kennedy v Emily Whitlock
A match that the spectators were excited to watch and a contest that didn’t disappoint. Gina came out the quicker of the two, which suited her, taking the first game in a slightly scrappy affair.
The trend continued in the second, although Emily was starting to assert herself a little more towards the second half of the game, but it was Gina who took it. In the third Emily was able to disrupt Gina’s rhythm and was winning the length battle, giving her more time to execute her short game.
At the start of the fourth you could see Gina wasn’t prepared to take the match to a fifth with some superb retrieving. It was nip and tuck throughout but it was Gina who pulled through in an entertaining match.
Lisa Aitken v Georgina Adderley
In this all-Scottish affair, it was evident early on that they were both very familiar with each other’s games. In the first two games Lisa seemed to have the edge with Georgina doing a bit more work through some well weighted straight lines forcing Georgina to defend more than Lisa.
Credit to Georgina; she hung in well and got her reward in the third showing the crowd her own racket skills. However, Lisa also looked determined not to let it go to a fifth and put in a mature performance in the fourth to set up a final clash with Gina.
Rui Soares v Sam Todd
Sam made a great start, going 6-1 up as Rui starting a little slowly. Rui started to settle but it was a big gap to make up. Rui was able to build upon the momentum he had at the end of the first to level the match at 1-1.
The match had some very quick exchanges, which seemed to suit Sam more than Rui. Sam looked more composed in this match than previously and he made far fewer errors. In contrast Rui looked less comfortable than usual.
At 10-6 in the fourth, it looked like Sam was about to convert but there was a spirited come back from Rui. Unfortunately for Rui he made an uncharacteristic error at 10-9, much to Sam’s relief, preventing it from going to five.
Ben Coleman v Rory Stewart
The first game was crucial with Ben winning on a tiebreak after 29 minutes. There were several stoppages, with the referee under a bit of pressure from both players thanks to several traffic issues.
Both Ben and Rory displayed great court coverage but perhaps Ben’s experience after winning a tough first was the difference.
Rory seemed more frustrated after the first and made some errors and rash decisions that allowed Ben to grow in to the match.
Ben is keeping home interests alive, with the club looking forward to the final. They have played twice before with Ben winning both, but Sam is improving all the time and should be a real test for Ben.
First pro event a great success
Berkhamsted haven’t run a large PSA event before so this week has been exciting for all involved. It seemed to be a real success and there is definitely a thirst to run similar events in the future.
Having several players involved in the event that train at the club regularly involved in the event was fab and to have a home winner was special.
The crowd got to see these players in a competitive environment which has really got the club keen to support these guys on their journeys as much as possible.
PSA $6k Linksap Berkhamsted Open 2021, Berkhamsted LT & SRC, England.
 Ben Coleman (ENG) bt  Sam Todd (ENG) 11-8, 11-3, 11-2 (33m)
 Sam Todd (ENG) bt  Rui Soares (POR) 11-9, 6-11, 11-5, 11-9 (50m)
 Ben Coleman (ENG) bt  Rory Stewart (SCO) 12-10, 11-5, 11-5 (57m)
 Rui Soares (POR) bt  Joshua Masters (ENG) 11-9, 12-10, 15-13 (46m)
 Sam Todd (ENG) bt  Sean Conroy (IRL) 8-11, 11-4, 5-11, 11-8, 11-8 (62m)
 Rory Stewart (SCO) bt  Connor Sheen (ENG) 11-6, 11-7, 11-5 (31m)
 Ben Coleman (ENG) bt  Tom Walsh (ENG) 11-9, 11-9, 11-8 (54m)
Georgina Kennedy (ENG) bt  Lisa Aitken (SCO) 11-3, 11-3, 11-8 (31m)
Georgina Kennedy (ENG) bt  Emily Whitlock (WAL) 11-6, 11-8, 7-11, 11-9 (44m)
 Lisa Aitken (SCO) bt  Georgia Adderley (SCO) 11-8, 11-6, 4-11, 11-9 (50m)
 Emily Whitlock (WAL) bt  Faiza Zafar (PAK) 11-2, 11-3, 11-3 (23m)
Georgina Kennedy (ENG) bt  Alison Thomson (SCO) 11-7, 11-1, 11-1 (29m)
 Georgia Adderley (SCO) bt  Anna Kimberley (ENG) 11-6, 11-4, 6-11, 11-9 (46m)
 Lisa Aitken (SCO) bt Grace Gear (ENG) 11-6, 11-5, 5-11, 11-3 (31m)
Full results from SquashInfo