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Happy Halloween for Rodriguez and Barker

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Tricks and treats galore as Rodriguez and Barker set up a Classic Bluenose final
By Squash Mad Reporters BRIAN REID  and DAVID WESTWOOD in Halifax

Miguel Rodriguez at full stretch as he beats Borja Golan
Miguel Rodriguez at full stretch as he beats Borja Golan

After an unseasonably warm, beautiful, sunny day, while many ghosts and goblins were out collecting treats and performing tricks, the faithful and determined squash fans of Halifax made their way to the Homburg Centre at St. Mary’s University to see how their favourite squash players would fare this evening.

bluhallSuch faithful fans have been known to brave full-blown snowstorms to make it to the Bluenose (when held in February), so this was really not a challenge at all. A few of the pros even demonstrated their sporting ways by donning costumes to entertain the crowd in unexpected ways.

On the court, it was somewhat of a contrast to last evening. Tonight, both matches were over after three games, whereas this didn’t happen in any of the four matches last night. These things are likely correlated however, as it was clear that Selby didn’t survive the match the night before with Alister Walker unscathed.

In fact, in his post-match interview, Selby acknowledged “a few problems” physically other than simply being fatigued, but also credited Barker for keeping him under pressure at the back of the court, noting, “Pete was too strong”. Selby also credited Walker’s efforts the night before, and noted he was “delighted to come through that” and “today was a bit of a bonus”.

After all was said and done, the crowd was left with great anticipation for a battle royal tomorrow. Rodriguez and Barker met at the Bluenose in 2009, with that contest going to Barker, who has never lost to Rodriguez on the PSA Tour.

However, Rodriguez will be defending his 2013 title, and with his frequent smile and endless energy on the court, he has made many fans in Halifax, and will most likely have the crowd on his side.
Although SquashTV isn’t covering this event, we are providing play-by-play analysis via Cover It Live, with commentary from Patrick Kelly, Jill Moore, and David Westwood.

We may not have video review, but they will share their opinions on the lets and strokes (and you will never have video evidence to prove them wrong). So if you are not able to make it to Halifax, follow us on Cover It Live. You can even add your two cents in the commentary.

[4] Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt [1] Borja Golan (ESP) 11-4, 12-10, 13-11 (66 mins) By David Westwood
The crowd was slow to warm up on this All Hallows Eve, despite the presence of Cameron Pilley dressed as Moses and Sebastian Weenink dressed in a pink wig and very revealing skirt. Perhaps the Halifax squash fans were exhausted from the six hours of squash last night in the epic quarter-final matches.

In any event, energy began to build as Miguel Rodriguez, last year’s champion and absolute fan favourite, took to the court for the knock up. A rousing cheer also went up for long-time Bluenose competitor Borja Golan from Spain, the top seed in the tournament.

The first game went by very quickly, and in favour of the Colombian superstar 11-4. Golan was not hitting the corners with his usual precision, and he was victimized by several “strokes” despite his protests to the officials upstairs. Rodriguez, on the other hand, was incredibly steady, making at most one error in the opening game. A puzzled hush fell over the crowd between games, as fans tried to make sense of the lopsided scoreline.

blusfgoThe second game began much like the first, with Rodriguez storming to a 4-0 lead before fans had finished the first sip of their drinks. On the strength of a few more strokes against Golan it was quickly a deep 3-7 hole for the Spanish number one.

Giving his head a metaphorical shake, Golan began to tighten up his shots and dialed up some additional power. He was able to trade points with Rodriguez up to 10-6 in favour of the Colombian.

Then, something began to click for Golan as his feet began to move more quickly and he began to attack with more vim and vigor.

Before long he had forced a tiebreak, and surely Rodriguez began to wonder if he had woken the beast. Instead of crumbling, however, Rodriguez shored up his own performance and closed out the game 12-10 on the strength of some impressive drops and deceptive flicks.

Now in a 0-2 hole, things looked rather grim for Golan as he was confronted with the very real possibility of exiting the tournament before taking his anticipated place in the finals. This realization seemed to light a fire under the Spaniard, and he quickly fired in five points to amass a solid lead for the first time in the match.

However, Rodriguez fought back with four points of his own to keep Golan within striking distance. Back and forth with a dizzying array of drops, nicks, recoveries, lobs, and deceptive cross-court shots, the fans were treated to a taste of everything. Neither player able to gain a clear advantage, the score crept again to a tiebreak.

This time it was Golan who earned the first game-ball at 11-10, only to let the lead slip as Rodriguez gained three points to close out the third game 13-11 and take the match three games to love in 66 minutes.

In the post-match interview with MC Neil Harvey, Miguel commented that he drank “a lot of water” today in an effort to recover from yesterday’s five-game victory over Steve Coppinger. He went on to praise Golan for his tremendous skill and power, and noted, “I seem to play better when I face the top guys”.

No doubt pleased to see his way through to a second consecutive final at the Bluenose Squash Classic, Miguel vowed to “bring his best game” tomorrow to the applause of the fans in attendance at the Homburg Centre.

Immaculate control from Peter Barker
Immaculate control from Peter Barker

[2] Peter Barker (ENG) bt [3] Daryl Selby (ENG) 11-4, 11-4, 11-6 (40 mins) By Brian Reid

The second semi-final for the evening featured two fellow countrymen very familiar with each other’s games, having known each other since they were six years of age.

Barker came out focused and determined in the first game, waiting for his opportunity to kill the ball, to take a quick 4-0 lead. During the middle portion of the game, Selby tried to get himself back into the game, but Barker tracked the ball well, using excellent footwork and shot selection to conserve his energy, going up 7-1, before making two unforced errors for a score of 7-3.

Selby attempted to change the pace of the game, in efforts to shift Barker’s momentum; however, Barker was equal to the task. He maintained his consistent play and closed out the first game with a precise drop shot in the front left corner for a final score of 11-4.

blusfselbyIn the second game, Barker again started off with a 4-1 lead, capitalizing on loose returns from Selby with unretrievable shots. At the midpoint, Barker continued to control the play, demonstrating patience in drawing out the rallies.

This appeared to wear Selby down, given his gruelling five-game match the evening before, resulting in several mistakes on which Barker could kill the ball.

Selby appeared to get his second wind, increasing the pressure on Barker, resulting in two unforced errors, but Barker quickly regrouped with two quick powerful front-court nicks, followed by two perfect drop shots to win the game 11-4.

Barker maintained his focus in the third game, but Selby was up for the challenge, starting off with a 2-2 tie.

Once again, Barker was hunting the ball well, making kill shots at the opportune moments, and though Selby made a few theatrical saves to keep the ball alive, he appeared to fatigue, allowing Barker to take a 7-3 lead.

Selby tried to close the gap, tightening up his lengths along the wall for a score of 8-6; however, Barker was focused on the finish line, and continued to force Selby in the back court, closing out the match by controlling the business end of the game with three consecutive points, resulting in an 11-6 score, and taking the match 3-0.

In the post-match interview, in response to a question of how he played knowing that Daryl was tired, Barker acknowledged “a few factors came into it today… the fact that he has beaten me the last four times, so I was due one”. He stated “I just had to play quite disciplined and slow it down. Daryl has such great hands, and if you give him anything at the front, he can put you and hold you and do whatever, so I always like to play a typical English style of boring squash to the back and just to try to keep him behind me” (which drew laughter from the crowd).

Barker went on to say that he felt that he has been allowing himself to play in a more relaxed fashion this week in Halifax, after a short vacation and looking forward to the World Championships, and is pleased and surprised by his play so far. He proceeded to complement his upcoming opponent (Rodriguez) and his recent improvements, noting that he has his work cut out for him in the finals.

Fiera Properties Bluenose Squash Classic (October 31, 2014)

Semi Finals:

[4] Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt [1] Borja Golan (ESP) 11-4, 12-10, 13-11 (66 mins)

[2] Peter Barker (ENG) bt [3] Daryl Selby (ENG) 11-4, 11-4, 11-6 (40 mins)

Pictures by FARLEY McLEOD

 

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