Thursday, July 25, 2024

Joel Makin makes it a massive milestone in Manchester as he beats The Beast to win biggest PSA title

‘My body’s in bits and I’ll take a break before the World Championships’ says Joelle King after beating Sarah-Jane Perry

Joel Makin was more measured in his post-match comments but Joelle King was overcome with emotion as she spoke of the sacrifices she has made in her career. For both of them, winning the finals of the Manchester Open, overcoming the top seeds Mohamed ElShorbagy and Sarah-Jane Perry in the process, was a massive milestone in their professional journeys.

Makin was runner-up to Diego Elias here last year, but with lockdown restrictions it hardly felt the same. This time the National Squash Centre was packed and noisy, and the players responded accordingly, most notably Makin.

For King, she has had to deal with injuries, a mixture of personal sacrifices and being away from her family in New Zealand for three years, so the tears flowed as she stepped back on court to receive her trophy.

Welsh No.1 Makin was in unstoppable form as he captured his biggest title to date and his first since 2018 after beating World No.3 ElShorbagy in four games at this PSA World Tour Silver event.

ElShorbagy, known as The Beast, had beaten his training partner Makin in straight games in the final of the Squash On Fire Open in Washington DC earlier this year after taking several months out of the game to refine his approach to the sport.

This time World No.9 Makin started superbly and displayed his trademark intensity from the outset, not giving ElShorbagy any chance to settle on the ball and showcase his attacking capabilities.

Makin won the first game 11-7 but ElShorbagy responded in the second game and started to pick off Makin’s drives, causing the Welshman to cover a lot of ground to retrieve the Egyptian’s attacks. The former world champion claimed the game 11-5 to make it one game apiece.

Makin started the third game strongly, narrowing ElShorbagy’s angles of attack and counterpunching with great accuracy. The Welshman set himself up with five-game balls to take the lead.

ElShorbagy started to fight back however, and impressively won the next five points to set up a tiebreak. Makin recovered and after squandering another game ball, finally made the crucial push to win it 13-11.

Makin continued to press on in the fourth game and his relentless energy was proving too much for the World No.3 to deal with. Makin ran out to a 5-1 lead and showed no sign of slowing down. He earned himself six championships balls at 10-4 and this time Makin only needed one attempt to secure his fourth PSA title.

“That was a massive push for me. I’ve been close to getting a win like this for a while,” reflected Makin.

“You feel like you’re putting in the work and you get close and then you lose. You put together matches but you don’t quite get it together all through the week. I’ve managed to get off 3-0 in earlier rounds here, which has been great for me and I was able to have a big push in the final.

“I know what Mohamed has been doing to get back, he set six months aside to get back. I know he was hungry to get the win here today, he pushed hard and he was tactically difficult at the start of the match.

“A tense third game as well; it was tight but that’s what you want, to be able to compete like that. I enjoyed all of it and it’s great to be back here.

“We had the Manchester Open last year but we didn’t get to have a big crowd and this is what we want, people here enjoying the sport and tight, hard matches.

“The form coming into this tournament wasn’t where I wanted it to be, I just kept working hard and wait for a week to come together like it has done.”

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In the women’s draw, King claimed the second Manchester Open title of her career after defeating No.1 seed Perry in straight games at the National Squash Centre.

King, who defeated Belgium’s Nele Gilis in an epic five-setter in the semi-finals, started in terrific form, finding her targets with supreme accuracy and stretching Perry into all four corners of the court. The New Zealand No.1 took the opening game 11-8 in just nine minutes.

The No.2 seed continued that momentum into the second game, taking time away from her English opponent and firing the ball short with pace. King earned herself a game ball at 10-9 and after a video referee decision, doubled her lead.

Perry had to find something different in the third game to give herself a lifeline in the match but started poorly as King ran out to a 5-2 lead. Perry gathered some momentum to claw back to 8-9 but after a solid rally, world No.5 King had two championships balls and converted at the first time of asking to win the title.

“I’m actually quite emotional, it’s been a long time since I won an event,” said King after her win.

“A lot has happened in my life since then. I’ve been through a lot of downs and to be at this point winning a tournament against the calibre of players we have on tour means so much. It’s nice to have so much support, some of my team aren’t here and my body’s in bits, so it’s just so nice and emotional.

“It’s been three years since I’ve seen anyone in my family, and I love them, this is what all the sacrifices are for. I wanted to give my squash everything that I have and this one is for them and to everyone who stood by me.

“When you’re doing well there’s so many friends and people but it’s those that are there when things aren’t doing so well that mean so much.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, she added: “Everyone has the World Championships at the top of their minds. I’m choosing to miss the other tournaments (including the ToC in New York) to be at my best for that but everyone will go about it in different ways so let’s see what happens.”

Manchester Open 2022, National Sqush Centre, Manchester, England.

Men’s Final:
[3] Joel Makin (WAL) bt [1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-1: 11-7, 5-11, 13-11, 11-4 (70m)

Women’s Final:
[2] Joelle King (NZL) bt [1] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-9, 11-8 (41m)

Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour


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