Top seed Declan James marches on but battling Brits turn Madeira into the Isle of Fight
By MICHAEL CATLING – Squash Mad Reporter in Madeira
English second seed Chris Fuller slammed fellow compatriot George Parker’s treatment of the referee during their first round encounter at the Madeira International Open, branding the teenager’s conduct as “bad and unfair”.
Fuller needed 60 minutes to overcome the British Junior Open semi-finalist 11-9 11-5 11-8 at the inaugural PSA Challenger 5 event, but was left with mixed emotions after Parker’s expletive-ridden conduct threatened to overshadow an otherwise enthralling contest.
“George is willing to do everything to win and I knew it was never going to be easy,” admitted the world number 119. “I’m not sure his actions are always the right side of the line and it makes it a really physical game and not very enjoyable at times.
“Squash is a difficult game to referee. The decisions were possibly in my favour at times but they are always trying to do their best. I thought it was bad and really unfair how George treated him. But from my point of view, I was able to keep my head and I’m delighted to get through.”
A 21 minute opening game typified the tension, shot-making and controversy that plagued all three games, as Fuller remained composed amid the hostile atmosphere to take the opening game.
Fuller, whose last visit to Portugal culminated in his first PSA victory at the Porto Cup in November, continued in the ascendency in the second game and capitalised on his opponent’s frustrations with the refereeing decisions to double his advantage.
Parker (above) returned reinvigorated in the following game and while his discussions with the match official became more heated, he recovered from a 6-4 deficit to tie the scores at 8-8.
However, two stroke decisions later, punctuated by a tight backhand drive, handed Fuller a spot in the last eight and left a seething Parker to brand the referee’s performance as “awful”.
Despite over 100 places in the world rankings separating the pair, Pinto pressurised the world number 80 into several errors and threatened to force tie-breaks in the first and third games.
However, the 21-year-old Englishman remained unflustered and converted his third match ball to prevail 11-9 11-5 11-9 and inflict Pinto’s seventh defeat at the first round stage of a PSA event this year.
James, who amassed 13 unforced errors during the 39 minute encounter, admitted afterwards that he struggled to acclimatise to the “hot and bouncy conditions”.
The reigning Nottingham Open champion said: “I felt a bit tight in the first game and my short game wasn’t quite firing, but midway through the second I was able to let my arm go a lot more and control the front corners.
“I got a bit tense towards the end and made a few more errors but I think I can take a lot of confidence from my performance.
“It’s the first time I have been seeded first in a PSA event so there is a bit of pressure but I’ve been working hard in training and I feel like I’m playing some of my best squash at the moment.”
James will face training partner and sixth seed Mark Fuller for a place in the last four, after the 29-year-old booked his third consecutive quarter-final appearance on tour at the expense of Spanish number six Iker Pajares Bernabeu.
Fuller dropped just three points in a one-sided opening game and although the 18-year-old wildcard improved during a 13 minute second game, Fuller capitalised on his opponent’s inconsistency to triumph 11-3 11-6 11-6 in just under half an hour.
Gillams, who has yet to drop a game this week, survived a late fightback to triumph 11-9 11-6 11-9 and advance into his first ever PSA quarter-final.
However, the 18-year-old left-hander was left less than impressed with Geekie’s action on court as heated discussions between the pair threatened to boil over.
Gillams commented: “I have had a lot of experience with the dirtier side of the game but what annoyed me at first was that I missed three serves in a row because he was rubbing the ball on his sweaty shirt.
“I think it’s pathetic really that he was prepared to drop down to such a low level to do that and to then kick the ball away after I won a point was another pathetic act.”
Elsewhere, fellow qualifier and compatriot Joe Green ended Portuguese hopes of a home champion following eighth seed Rui Soares’ retirement in the fifth game due to injury.
The Portuguese number one, who breezed through the opening two games, revealed that he “tweaked his hamstring” during the early stages of the fourth game and despite taking an injury timeout with the scores locked at two-apiece, the 20-year-old was forced to pull-out midway through the decider.
Green will now face Swiss fourth seed Lukas Burkhart for a place in Saturday’s semi-final, after the world number 178 overcame a second game blip to beat England’s Joshua Masters 11-5 12-14 11-7 11-7 in 45 minutes.
In the bottom half of the draw, Joshua’s younger brother Bradley failed to repeat his qualifying heroics as the 17-year-old fell to a 11-4 12-14 11-6 11-6 defeat in 62 minutes against fifth seed Steven London, while Patrick Miescher doubled Swiss representation in the last eight after edging past qualifier Nick Mulvey 12-10 10-12 11-9 11-4.
Madeira International Open
First Round Results: Declan James (ENG) bt Claudio Pinto (POR) 11-9 11-5 11-9 (39m)
 Mark Fuller (ENG) bt [WC] Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) 11-3 11-6 11-6 (29m)
[Q] Joe Green (ENG) bt  Rui Soares (POR) 5-11 8-11 11-8 11-5 7-3 rtd (52m)
 Lukas Burkhart (SUI) bt Joshua Masters (ENG) 11-5 12-14 11-7 11-7 (44m)
 Patrick Miescher (SUI) bt [Q] Nick Mulvey (ENG) 12-10 10-12 11-9 11-4 (47m)
[Q] Angus Gillams (ENG) bt  Jonathan Geekie (SCO) 11-9 11-6 11-9 (37m)
 Steven London (ENG) bt [Q] Bradley Masters (ENG) 11-4 12-14 11-6 11-6 (62m)
 Chris Fuller (ENG) bt George Parker (ENG) 11-9 11-5 11-8 (60m)
 Declan James (ENG) v  Mark Fuller (ENG)
[Q] Joe Green (ENG) v  Lukas Burkhart (SUI)
 Patrick Miescher (SUI) v [Q] Angus Gillams (ENG)
 Steven London (ENG) v  Chris Fuller (ENG)
Pictures by MICHAEL CATLING (Squash Mad)