Mulvey motors past Ford in Mote marathon
By ALAN THATCHER
It’s not often that four matches produce five winners but that was the case with tonight’s qualifying finals of the Select Gaming Kent Open. If that sounds a bit Irish, blame Kilkenny’s finest squash player, Brian Byrne, who lost a spectacular match against Egyptian firecracker Youssef Soliman but was then rewarded with a Lucky Loser slot in the main draw after the withdrawal of the injured Joel Hinds.
A hip injury forced Hinds to quit, but it turned into good fortune for Byrne, who battled toe-to-toe with Soliman for 47 minutes before the Egyptian powered through to a first round tie against the in-form Joel Makin.
It should be quite a match. Makin beat Welsh number one Peter Creed and top seed Ben Coleman in last week’s Bishop’s Stortford Classic before losing a five-game final to the Kent Open’s top seed and reigning champion, Charles Sharpes, in a battle lasting 111 minutes.
Soliman makes his first appearance at The Mote after a fantastic first half of 2016. After winning the British Open Under-19 title at Abbeydale, he won the $10k North of Scotland Open in Aberdeen before winning two $5k tournaments in Ipswich and Jersey. In all of them he had to work his way through to the final from qualifying.
The quality of his match against Byrne was worthy of a far higher status. With shot-making and retrieving of an astonishing quality, it was hard to comprehend that we were witnessing a qualifying tussle.
Soliman won 11-4, 11-9, 11-7 but Byrne earned the title of Mick Rodriguez for some amazing shots through his legs and behind his back. His real name then came first out of the pint glass for the lucky loser draw for a first round tie against number five seed Jaymie Haycocks.
Soliman and Byrne were first up in the qualifying finals and the intensity they produced was matched in all three of the matches that followed.
Patrick Rooney is looking in superb form. After starting the tournament with a bagel (11-0) first game win against Sean Conroy of Ireland, he followed up with a powerful performance to beat Ondrej Uherka of Czech Republic. Rooney pulled away from 6-4 to win the opening game, but let slip an 8-7 lead in the second as Uherka finished strongly. Rooney then tightened up all aspects of his game to win the third 11-3 and the fourth 11-5.
Rooney’s reward for his 38-minute victory was a first round clash with number six seed Arthur Gaskin from Ireland.
Bermudan Micah Franklin and Pakistan’s No.2 seed Asim Khan left everything on court after a 72-minute marathon which could have gone either way.
Khan looked edgy and nervous as he struggled past 39-year-old Mote Head Coach Chris Tomlinson in the first qualifying round, but here he demonstrated enormous physical resources to withstand a determined attack from Franklin.
Khan edged the first game 14-12 and fought back from 7-3 down in the second to lead 9-8, but Franklin closed out the game 11-9. Khan was in control throughout the third as Franklin’s accuracy deserted him, and the fourth was almost a carbon-copy of the second as Franklin played aggressively to lead 8-2 only for Khan to draw level with a run of six points. Again Franklin squeezed home to take it to five.
From 0-3 down he won four points in a row, but then Khan did the same. Back came Franklin and at 7-7 it was anybody’s match to win or lose.
Khan’s tight drops were the decisive factor as he won the final four points to gain a place in the main draw against top seed Charles Sharpes.
Nick Mulvey fought back from two games down to beat top qualifying seed Joe Green on Tuesday, and almost suffered the same reversal of fortunes himself as Kent’s Ben Ford recovered from two games down to take the match to five.
But in another match of high intensity and superb squash, Mulvey held it together to win 11-8 in the decider after 68 minutes of pure drama. The 40-year-old Ford recovered from two games down in impressive fashion to take the match to his opponent with some inventive shot-making.
Mulvey now meets Welsh number one Peter Creed, the fourth seed, in the bottom half of the draw.
SELECT GAMING PSA M10 KENT OPEN
At The Mote Squash Club, Maidstone, Kent, England.
Qualifying Finals (Wednesday May 25th 2016):
Nick Mulvey (England) beat (6) Ben Ford (England) 11-5, 11-6, 10-12, 8-11, 11-8 (68 mins)
Patrick Rooney (England) beat Ondrej Uherka (Czech Republic) 11-5, 8-11, 11-3, 11-5 (38 mins)
(4) Youssef Soliman (Egypt) beat Brian Byrne (Ireland) 11-4, 11-9, 11-7 (47 mins)
(2) Asim Khan (Pakistan) beat (7) Micah Franklin (Bermuda) 14-12, 9-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-7 (72 mins)
First Round (Thursday May 26th 2016):
(1) Charles Sharpes (Eng) v (Q) Asim Khan (Pakistan)
Lucky Loser Brian Byrne (Ireland) v (5) Jaymie Haycocks (Eng)
(8) Joel Makin (Wales) v (Q) Youssef Soliman (Egypt)
Lyell Fuller (Eng) v (3) Richie Fallows (Eng)
(4) Peter Creed (Wales) v (Q) Nick Mulvey (Eng)
Matthew Hopkin (Aus) v (7) Chris Fuller (Eng)
(6) Arthur Gaskin (Ire) v (Q) Patrick Rooney (Eng)
Ashley Davies (Eng) v (2) Tom Ford (Eng)
Pictures by KIM ROBERTS