Meredith makes Malik work for victory as McCullough misses three match balls
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Royal Tunbridge Wells sits on the border of Kent and Sussex, and players from both counties took centre stage on day one of the Colin Payne Kent Open, sponsored by 501 Entertainment.
Men’s top seed Curtis Malik was fully tested by wild card Noah Meredith, who plays number one for host club Tunbridge Wells.
The scoreline of 11-8, 8-11, 11-9, 11-8 shows how close each game was between the two Sussex players. Meredith performed well, and a packed gallery roared him on throughout the match, but he was up against an in-form opponent whose recent run of success (winning 12 of his last 15 PSA matches) has clearly given him a massive air of confidence.
Meredith hit some outstanding winners but on many occasions he found Malik anticipating his shots and moving into position before his opponent had struck the ball.
Malik meets Aaron Allpress in the quarter-finals after the Colchester player ousted No.5 seed Hasnaat Farooqi from London in a ding-dong battle, winning an entertaining encounter 11-3 in the fifth.
Malik’s younger brother Perry is also playing well at the moment and his straight-games win over Jordan Warne landed him a quarter-final showdown with Owain Taylor a week after the two played a 96-minute marathon in the Lockerbie Challenge in Scotland.
Welshman Taylor won that 18-16 in the fifth but enjoyed a much quicker win at Tunbridge Wells, beating Nick Ratnarajah 11-4, 14-12, 11-3 in 27 minute
Kent’s Jack Mitterer played some superb squash to beat Josh Attwell in four games and he meets Manchester’s 17-year-old Finnlay Withington, who celebrated his first Tour match win when he upset #3 seed Anthony Rogal from London.
Kent’s No.2 seed Josh Masters, runner-up to Joel Makin in the last edition of the tournament played at The Mote Squash Club in Maidstone, finished proceedings with a 19-minute win over veteran campaigner Phil Nightingale, who spent many years playing Kent League squash before becoming a vicar in Northamptonshire.
Masters meets James Peach, who achieved a straight-games win over Alvaro Martin from Spain.
The day began with some off-court drama as four players were forced to withdraw from the women’s competition.
One of them tested positive for Covid … and three more had to pull out because they all share the same apartment at the University of Birmingham.
The players who withdrew are Katie Cox (England), Kiera Marshall (England), Chloe Foster (Wales) and Megan van Drongelen (Netherlands).
The PSA immediately arranged a redraw which resulted in the top four seeds, Torrie Malik (England), Kace Bartley (England), Rana Ismail (Egypt) and Satomi Watanabe (Japan) all receiving a bye.
When play began there was plenty of drama on court. The standout match of the day featured two 17-year-olds, with Yorkshire’s Amy Royle fighting back from two games down to beat Kent’s No.8 seed Isabel McCullough 9-11, 3-11, 11-5, 11-9, 16-14 after saving three match balls in the fifth.
Despite spending two hours stuck in a traffic jam on top of the QE2 Bridge over the River Thames on her journey down from Essex, Lara Newton looked fresh as she beat No.7 seed Catherine Holland, who had taken an even longer journey down from Scotland.
Portugal’s No.6 seed Sofia Aveiro Pita was also delayed by the same snarl-up which caused tailbacks on the M25 on her journey down from Cambridge. She too looked fresh as she beat Bermuda’s Emma Keane, based in Guildford, in four games.
Yorkshire’s Polly Clark, with coach David Pearson in attendance, beat Hampshire-based Russian Olivia Besant in straight games.
The four top seeds join the fray today after enjoying a rest day because of the Covid issues.
Torrie, however, was kept busy, along with her two brothers, as the BBC South East filmed interviews which will be broadcast during today’s evening news bulletin.
The 2021 Colin Payne Kent Open sponsored by 501 Entertainment at Tunbridge Wells Squash Club, Royal Tunbridge Wells, England.
Men’s First Round:
 Curtis Malik (ENG) beat [WC] Noah Meredith (ENG) 11-8, 8-11, 11-9, 11-8 (41m)
Aaron Allpress (ENG) beat  Hasnaat Farooqi (ENG) 6-11, 11-3, 11-2, 7-11, 11-3 (56m)
(6) Owain Taylor (WAL) beat Nick Ratnarajah (ENG) 11-4, 14-12, 11-3 (27m)
 Perry Malik (ENG) beat Jordan Warne (ENG) 11-4, 11-7, 11-7 (29m)
Finnlay Withington (ENG) beat (3) Anthony Rogal (ENG) 6-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-7 (36m)
(8) Jack Mitterer (ENG) beat Josh Attwell (ENG) 11-9, 9-11, 11-4, 11-6 (39m)
(7) James Peach (ENG) beat Alvaro Martin (ESP) 11-5, 11-5, 11-6 (28m)
 Joshua Masters (ENG) beat Phil Nightingale (ENG) 11-6, 11-6, 11-3 (19m)
(1) Curtis Malik (ENG) v Aaron Allpress (ENG)
(4) Perry Malik (ENG) v Owain Taylor (WAL)
(8) Jack Mitterer (ENG) v Finnlay Withington (ENG)
(2) Josh Masters (ENG) v (7) James Peach
Women’s First Round:
Lara Newton (ENG) beat (7) Catherine Holland (SCO) 11-2, 7-11, 11-5, 11-4 (25m).
 Sofia Aveiro Pita (POR) beat Emma Keane (BER) 11-5, 9-11, 11-3, 11-4 (26m)
(5) Polly Clark (ENG) beat Olivia Besant (RUS) 11-7, 11-6, 11-7 (21m)
Amy Royle (ENG) beat (8) Isabel McCullough (ENG) 9-11, 3-11, 11-5, 11-9, 16-14 (46m)
(1) Torrie Malik (ENG) v Lara Newton (ENG)
(3) Rana Ismail (EGY) v (7) Sofia Aveiro Pita (POR)
(4) Satomi Watanabe (JAP) v Polly Clark (ENG)
(2) Kace Bartley (ENG) v Amy Royle (ENG)
Pictures courtesy of Martin Steyn