Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Greg Lobban takes out Declan James to win glass court clash with James Willstrop

Greg Lobban (yellow shirt) in action against Declan James             Picture: PATRICK LAUSON

English quartet lose in Canary Wharf qualifiers
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor


Greg Lobban is through to the main draw of the Canary Wharf Classic, where he faces England’s James Willstrop, after knocking out top qualifying seed Declan James. It was a tough day for the four English hopefuls, who all came second in the best-of-three encounters.

Lobban edged a tight first game but completely dominated the second as James lost his length and control.

There were several issues with collisions in the mid-court area. It was unclear whether the players were struggling to get the ball into the back corners because of the cold conditions, but that was the prime cause of the traffic problems.

Lobban frequently complained that he was unable to move around his taller opponent but in the second game he read the situations better and moved quickly to avoid contact, taking the ball early and putting his opponent under pressure.

James will be disappointed by the number of tins, and his failure to put the ball into areas of the court to return the pressure to his opponent.

But this was Lobban’s day. He is looking sharp, attacking the ball, and playing with an impressive level of creativity. He will love the chance to go up against Willstrop before a packed house on his first appearance at the East Wintergarden.

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Chris Simpson looked well in control at 9-6 in the first game, having hit two sublime winners, a crosscourt backhand drop shot that hit the nick and rolled out across the floor, and a flat forehand kill.

But Greg Marche then produced a superb spell of intense, error-free squash to win the game 11-9 after 18 minutes of intelligent, absorbing squash.

Simpson tinned a couple of backhand drops and he surrendered a penalty stroke on a loose backhand. Squash can be a cruel game. Up one minute, playing brilliant squash. Down the next.

This format, especially, will expose and punish those moments where you lose focus and control.

Simpson led 3-1 and 4-2 at the start of the second game, but Marche soon drew level and powered ahead to lead 9-4.

Simpson fought back but Marche moved to match ball at 10-7. After some brutal rallies Marche closed out the match 13-11 after 41 minutes of high-quality squash.

Nicolas Mueller and Tom Richards entertained the crowd with some mesmerizing play in both of the front corners.

Their brilliant, creative shot-making forced some gut-wrenching lunges to keep the ball in play.

The crowd were gasping at both the skills on show and the phenomenal retrieving.

Mueller was first to game ball, on a lucky backhand crosscourt that hit the nick, but Richards kept fighting back until at 12-12, Mueller played an astonishing shot behind his back into the front right nick, forcing an error from his opponent.

He clinched it 14-12 after 20 minutes with a dying forehand drive beyond the reach of Richards’ racket, even when he launched it through the air in despair.

The intense pace continued in the second game but this time Mueller maintained a healthy lead. A stroke against Richards took Mueller to match ball and Switzerland’s world No.18 quickly clinched victory in the next rally to book his place in the main draw.

Yesterday’s giant-killer, Ben Coleman, fell short of the form that saw him overcome the 2016 champion Mathieu Castagnet when he came up against Egypt’s “Black Falcon” Mazen Hesham today.

Coleman matched him throughout an enthralling opening game, changing the pace intelligently to combat Hesham’s constant attacking threat, only to lose out 14-12.

Hesham stepped up the pace in the second and produced an unstoppable display as he chose to unleash his array of shot-making artistry.

Coleman rallied late in the game to make the scoreline more respectable but Hesham was in a hurry to finish the game off.

The draw pitted the flamboyant Hesham against top seed Mohamed ElShorbagy in the main draw of PSA men’s $100,000 tournament, while Mueller’s name came out of the hat to pair him with his best friend Simon Rosner.

In the bottom half of the draw, Greg Marche meets Tarek Momen and Lobban will be flying the flag for Scotland when he meets the hugely experienced Englishman Willstrop.

The best-of-three games scoring system will continue throughout the opening round and quarter-finals, with the semi-finals and final the best of five.

PSA M100 Canary Wharf Classic, London, England.

Qualifying Finals, Wimbledon Racquets and Fitness Club, London, England.

(5) Greg Lobban (Sco) beat (1) Declan James (Eng) 11-9, 11-3 (27 mins)
(4) Gregoire Marche (Fra) beat Chris Simpson (Eng) 11-9, 13-11 (41 mins)
(3) Nicolas Mueller (Swi) beat (8) Tom Richards (Eng) 14-12, 11-6 (31 mins)
(6) Mazen Hesham (Egy) beat Ben Coleman (Eng) 14-12, 11-4 (28 mins)

Revised Main Draw First Round (Top half Monday):
(1) Mohamed ElShorbagy (Egy) v (Q) Mazen Hesham (Egy)
(5) Simon Rosner (Ger) v (Q) Nicolas Mueller (Swi)
(8) Daryl Selby (Eng) v Cameron Pilley (Aus)
(3) Marwan ElShorbagy (Egy) v Miguel Rodriguez (Col)

Bottom Half Tuesday:
(4) Tarek Momen (Egy) v (Q) Gregoire Marche (Fra)
(6) James Willstrop (Eng) v (Q) Greg Lobban (Sco)
(7) Ryan Cuskelly (Aus) v Borja Golan (Spa)
(2) Ali Farag (Egy) v (WC) Nathan Lake (Eng)

Pictures by PATRICK LAUSON  (


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