Local hero fights back to beat US number one
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Local favourite Josh Masters recovered from 2-1 down in games to beat US number one Todd Harrity to reach the final of the Select Gaming Kent Open, presented by First Business Finance.
A boisterous, partisan crowd at The Mote Squash Club in Maidstone, the county town of Kent, roared their encouragement as Masters fought back against his higher-ranked opponent.
Harrity, the world No.49, is seven places above Masters in the PSA world rankings. The two train together in Bristol and, despite being good friends, there was certainly no lack of competitiveness.
Harrity settled quickly and from 5-1 up he picked off the first game 11-4. Masters responded solidly in the second and from 7-7 he finished strongly to make it one game all.
After an even start to the third game, Harrity powered through to win it 11-6. The physical investment on a hot court began to take its toll as Harrity’s control faded in the fourth. Masters dominated to win it 11-4 and set up an intriguing battle in the fifth.
From 2-1 down, Masters constructed his best spell of the match to win seven points in a row. He hit some devastating nicks, tight drops and forced a tiring opponent into errors.
At 9-3 up, Masters tinned a volley that was too high even for his 6ft 3in tall frame, and then mis-timed a drop shot. His fans began to chew their nails as they feared a Harrity comeback, but Masters clinched victory with two outstanding winners as the crowd roared with a mixture of joy and relief.
“I was a bit slow to start,” he admitted. “I knew the match was going to be hard and I was relieved that Todd started to get a bit tired. I have been happy to hit a good patch of form when I needed it most in the fifth game twice this week.”
No.4 seed Harrity admitted: “I felt that although I was 2-1 up that Josh was controlling most of the match and I was certainly tired in the fourth and fifth games. I had put in a lot of work and he wasn’t making many mistakes. He played exceptionally well.”
Top seed Joel Makin eased past Richie Fallows in straight games, winning 11-4, 11-9, 11-8 with the No.3 seed from London losing the match on a penalty stroke issued for arguing.
It was not the way he would have wanted to celebrate his 22nd birthday, and even though the Mote members sang “Happy Birthday” to him at the tournament party he knew he should have done better.
Makin was solid, positive and playing controlled, error-free squash. He said: “I was happy with the way I played but Richie always seems to engineer breaks in the play, whether it’s a shoelace or wanting the court cleaned. It gets very irritating.
“This is a physical game based on continuous play and you don’t want these hold-ups.
“I am looking forward to the final very much. Josh is a talented player. He likes to go for winners and we have very contrasting styles, which should make it a great match.“
INTERVIEWS BY ANNABEL WILLIAMSON
What went well for you today?
I was really happy with how I played today on court, I thought I was moving really well around the court, which obviously helped my win. I have played Richie about three times in the last month, so we know each other pretty well.
How did you feel the marking was like?
To be honest, we both had a few small issues with the marking, but nothing major until the end, when obviously the match was awarded to me over a conduct stroke. It is always the case when players think a decision should be one thing, and then the decision turns out to be something else. However, it is then how you deal with this, and try not to let it affect your game.
How do you feel about the awarding of a conduct stroke?
Obviously it helped me to close the match as a victory, however, truth be told, I think it was a fair call. He was asked to stop, and carried on; therefore the umpire has to take action. It is quite funny actually, as I have only ever been awarded to conduct strokes to opponents I have played, both been in this tournament, in the semi final, on my match point- what a coincidence!
How much are you looking forward to the final?
I feel quite confident going in, knowing how I have played this week. At the moment, I don’t know exactly who my opponent is, as the match is in progress, however, I haven’t played either of them recently. I have played both of them before, so it should be a good match with either. Hopefully I will be able to do better than last year, when I finished runner-up to Tom Ford in a long five-setter.
Routine before your match
Before a match, I always like to have a hit in the morning, to wake myself up, and make sure I am not tired before I play. However, I still have to remain fresh for the match, therefore I have to adjust how much I play, according to how I feel. At the moment, and here especially, it is really hot and humid on court, so I don’t want to make myself hot and tired.
How do you feel the match went today?
The match didn’t start too well. I was too loose and it was quite easy for him. Then I got into the match, starting play my game more. I still made a few too many errors in the third but cut them out in the fourth and fifth and played well in the end.
What worked well for you today?
As the game went on my short game got better and I got more confidence, managing to get a good lead in the fifth which helped.
How are you feeling before the final?
Looking forward to the final, especially as it’s my home tournament. It will be a very tough match against Joel but hopefully I can get one more win!
Do you feel the marking was fair today?
Yes I think the marking was fair. The referees were consistent throughout the match, whoever was asking for a decision.
PSA M10 Select Gaming Kent Open, presented by First Business Finance.
The Mote Squash Club, Maidstone, Kent, England.
SEMI-FINALS (Saturday June 17):
(1) Joel Makin (Wales) beat (3) Richie Fallows (Eng) 3-0: 11-4, 11-9, 11-8 (50m)
(4) Joshua Masters (Eng) beat (2) Todd Harrity (USA) 3-2: 4-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-4, 11-6 (63m)
Pictures by KIM ROBERTS