Friday, February 23, 2024

Joel Makin survives scare in Kent Open

Jan van den Herrewegen battles with Joel Makin                 Picture: KIM ROBERTS

Top seed forced to fight
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor


Top seed Joel Makin survived a tough battle against training partner Jan van den Herrewegen in the quarter-finals of the Select Gaming Kent Open, presented by First Business Finance.

Welsh number one Makin squeezed home 11-6, 9-11, 12-10, 13-11 in 72 minutes of high-quality squash.

The two players train together at the Midlands-based Robert Owen Academy and, with a familiarity of each other’s playing styles, it was close all the way through.

Makin advanced to match ball at 10-5 in the fourth game but Herrewegen put together a superb spell to win six points in a row to hold game ball at 11-10.

Makin, runner-up to Tom Ford in the Kent Open last year, turned the tables to win three points in a row to clinch the match and book his place in the semi-finals.

He will face England’s Richie Fallows, who beat Adam Murrills in straight games. Fallows looked confident, moved supremely well and finished strongly in each game.

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The other semi-final is between Bristol-based training partners Todd Harrity and local favourite Josh Masters, who was cheered throughout by a packed crowd at The Mote Squash Club in Maidstone.

Each one battled through hugely challenging encounters. Masters weathered a fierce physical and mental encounter with Denmark’s experienced Kristian Frost, while US number one Harrity overcame his hotel room-mate Aqeel Rehman, from Austria, in five entertaining games.

Ironically, Masters’ three-game victory was one minute longer than Harrity’s five-game battle.

PSA M10 Select Gaming Kent Open, presented by First Business Finance. The Mote Squash Club, Maidstone, Kent, England.

 QUARTER-FINALS (Friday June 16):
(1) Joel Makin (Wal) beat (6) Jan van den Herrewegen (Bel) 3-1: 11-6, 9-11, 12-10, 13-11 (71m)
(3) Richie Fallows (Eng) beat (5) Adam Murrills (Eng) 3-0: 11-7, 11-9, 11-6 (37m)
(4) Joshua Masters (Eng) beat (8) Kristian Frost (Eng) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 12-10 (50m)
(2) Todd Harrity (USA) beat (7) Aqeel Rehman (Aut) 3-2: 11-7, 7-11, 11-2, 10-12, 11-8 (49m)
SEMI-FINALS (Saturday June 17):
5pm: (1) Joel Makin (Wal) v (3) Richie Fallows (Eng)
6pm: (2) Todd Harrity (USA) v (4) Joshua Masters (Eng)

Joel Makin

How did you feel today went?
If I’m being honest, it was a really tough match. Every game was really close, with half of them being set. I felt like he was on really good form, playing winners, and it helped he was really relaxed. For me, I felt I played ok, not the best I have ever played, but it was difficult given the circumstances of being friends.

How close are you and Jan?
Jan is a really good player, and I know this as we train together every week. Therefore, we know what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are, however, this can be an advantage and a disadvantage, because, although I know his, he also knows mine, so can play to my weaknesses if he gets the chance. Even on the court, we are nice towards each other, although obviously we both want to win.

How do you feel about the semi-finals?
Tomorrow, in the semis, I am due to play Richie Fallows, who I have played many times before. I hope to ultimately win, however I would like to give a good game for the crowd to watch, as this makes it more enjoyable for everyone. It will be a tough match. Hopefully I will win and reach the final- one step closer to winning.

Is this your last tournament of the season?
This, for me, is the last tournament of the PSA season, however I will be playing in the World Doubles Championship in August, with a hope to qualify for the Commonwealth Games in Australia next year. My partner is Peter Creed, and I am also playing in the mixed doubles. Hopefully, with a bit of luck and hard work, we will be meeting England next year.

How do you feel about squash not being in the Olympics?
This is a question that, as being a squash player, we are asked all the time. Of course, it is very frustrating. I feel as a sport we have done all that we can, and that it is about time. However, we can’t make the decision, and only time will tell to see if it is in the future. Although it is not in the Olympics, we are glad that it is in the Commonwealth Games, so we can achieve recognition from this.


What went well for you today?
I feel like my short game worked really well for me, especially as I was trying really hard to get in front, therefore I was able to punish his shots that were a bit weaker. I was lucky that I was able to get into my style, so the game turned out to be how I wanted it to be, right up my street.

Was it a physical match today?
Yes, very physical, which makes it tough. However, when he is arguing, it does give me a rest, which is sometimes beneficial to catch my breath back. Although it gives me rest time, sometimes I just want to get on and finish, which is why I am glad that it was just a 3-0 match.

What are your hopes for the next round?
I am seeded to reach the semi final, so I know that there is no pressure for me to win, therefore I will go in with a clear mind, try to relax and hopefully play a good game of squash, and do my best. I have played him before, and we train together, so hopefully it will be a long close match.

Is this your last tournament of the PSA season?
Yes. Over the summer, during my break, I hope to do a lot of training, especially in my fitness, to make sure I am on top form for the start of the new season in September.

Have you now finished your studies in Bristol?
Just a few weeks ago, I sat my final exams. I was tough, this year especially, because I had to balance my squash work, with my maths studies at Uni. I don’t necessarily feel like my squash has declined as a result, although it hasn’t improved at a steady rate. However, over the summer, hopefully I will push hard, focus, and be even better next season.

Pictures by KIM ROBERTS


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