Top seed Charles Sharpes loses bitter battle on racket-throwing conduct stroke
By ALAN THATCHER
Top seed and reigning champion Charles Sharpes crashed out of the Select Gaming PSA M10 Kent Open after a dramatic and often physical contest with Welsh No.2 Joel Makin. This bitter, ugly clash ended with Sharpes receiving a conduct stroke for throwing his racket towards the front wall after a penalty stroke had taken Makin to match ball after more than 100 minutes of mayhem.
Their semi-final battle lasted 104 minutes, seven minutes less than an apparently equally unpleasant final of the Stortford Classic last week contested by the same two players and won by Sharpes.
In contrast, No.2 seed Tom Ford overcame Welsh No.1 Peter Creed in the opening semi-final in an absorbing match that ebbed and flowed with brilliant, attacking squash, coupled with astonishing retrieving in a match that was a credit to the professional game, with honesty, commitment and sportsmanship in equal measure.
Both matches went to five. Ford protected a 10-6 lead and closed out the match 11-9 after a late wobble. Makin won 16-14 after Sharpes wasted a 10-7 lead.
Ford has developed into a flamboyant, attacking player with an impressive range of attacking shots. Much of his match with Creed took place in the front half of the court with both players attempting spectacular winners, which in turn produced equally impressive retrieving.
Ford won the opening game the hard way. He powered ahead to lead 10-6 but Creed won five points in a row before Ford nailed it 13-11.
He dominated the second, winning 11-6, and the 22-year-old looked to be heading for a place in the final as he led 7-4 in the third.
However, Creed showed why he is rated one of the best athletes in the game as he hurled himself around the court, combining some gut-wrenching retrievals with superb winners.
He won the third 11-8 and took the fourth 13-11 after some fast and furious rallies.
Creed led 5-3 in the fifth before Ford put together a phenomenal spell of controlled aggression to win six points in a row. After a couple of nervous tins he closed out the match and booked his first appearance in a PSA final since November.
Nursing bruises on both legs after twice being hit by the ball, Ford said: “The first one actually glanced off one leg on to the other, so it wasn’t as painful as a direct hit on one leg.
“Peter is such a great competitor that, even when I was two games ahead, I knew that a big fightback would emerge. He is a very experienced player, he is several years older than me, and has a lot of big-match experience. He is a great fighter. I love to play attacking squash and go for my winners but with such fine margins in the game you have to rein it in a little bit with someone as fast as Peter.
“It was a really enjoyable match to play. I love the whole atmosphere here at the club. It’s a proper squash club and it’s great to see the place packed out every day. The players really enjoy coming here because we are so well looked after.
“On my last appearance here I only lasted one day but it’s nice to come back and stay for a bit longer. I am really looking forward to the final.”
Pictures by KIM ROBERTS: Tournament Gallery here
In a bizarre twist, the second semi-final finished on a conduct stroke for racket throwing for the second night in a row. During the quarter-finals, Jaymie Haycocks was punished for his indiscretion after Sharpes had been awarded a conduct stroke.
This time it was Sharpes who conceded a stroke which took Makin to match ball at 15-14 after a momentous battle in the fifth game. Sharpes immediately launched his racket towards the front wall, a conduct stroke for racket abuse instantly followed, and the reigning champion was out.
Makin gleefully celebrated the decision. After going so close to beating Sharpes last week, having beaten Ben Coleman and national team-mate Creed at Bishop’s Stortford, it was an important result that will bring a rise up the rankings.
However, it was an unseemly end to a brutal contest. It wasn’t pretty. But it was raw, high-octane sporting endeavour, compelling drama to the end.
Unfortunately, many of the spectators, who had cheered the first match to the rafters, had walked away from the court as the match degenerated into chaos. The moments of quality, and there were plenty of them from both players, were overwhelmed by the constant bickering over the simplest of decisions.
Both players accused each other of blocking and fishing for strokes, Sharpes claimed Makin had deliberately given him a dead leg early in the match, and the whole affair degenerated into a farce as anything short of a good length on either wall resulted in physical contact, followed by lengthy debates with referee Wendy Danzey.
Newcomers to the sport were baffled by the contrast between the two matches. Experienced club players, who made up most of the audience, turned their backs on an ill-mannered contest that did nothing to promote the game.
I advise all players to read a previous Squash Mad article about honesty in sport.
Select Gaming Kent Open, The Mote Squash Club, Maidstone, Kent, England.
Semi-Finals (Saturday May 28th 2016):
(8) Joel Makin (Wales) beat (1) Charles Sharpes (England) 11-8, 4-11, 11-13, 11-3, 16-14 (104 mins)
(2) Tom Ford (England) beat (4) Peter Creed (Wales) 13-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-13, 11-9 (87 mins)
Pictures by KIM ROBERTS