Thursday, May 30, 2024

Patrick Rooney roars past Raphael Kandra to reach Manchester semi-finals

‘It felt like a practice match where you play whichever shot you want, but I like it,’ says Rooney
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor

Patrick Rooney ruled the court against Germany’s Raphael Kandra to reach the semi-finals of the Manchester Open, where he will meet No.3 seed Joel Makin.

Rooney backed up his brilliant win over No.2 seed Marwan ElShorbagy by playing some dazzling, inventive winners at the front of the court to delight a packed crowd who cheered him to the rafters at the National Squash Centre.

Rooney triumphed 11-8, 11-4, 8-11, 11-4 in 46 minutes which he likened to a training session where you can play any shot you fancy.

He said: “There wasn’t much consistency to that match, but I enjoyed it. It felt like one of those practice matches where concentration goes out of the window and you play whichever shot you want, but I like it.

“You don’t want to get too ahead of yourself, but I had a lot of confidence coming from the previous round, I had to keep my feet on the ground to get past Kandra.

“I like playing in front of a crowd, it makes it more enjoyable. If they’re enjoying it, then I’m enjoying it. I’ve played too many matches with no crowd, so this feels good.  I’m playing World Champs in a few weeks so you can fly over if you want!

“I watched Joel and Youssef play in Washington not too long ago and it was brutal, whoever wins that I’m in for a tough match. Let’s just hope they tire each other out, but it’s Joel Makin we’re talking about. Just give me any of them, I don’t care.”

Rooney possesses incredible touch at the front of the court, which was on display right from the outset as the Englishman set about working the German into all areas of the court. Kandra’s athleticism was being tested to the maximum as the Englishman’s volleying was relentless. Rooney secured a 2-0 lead winning 11-8, 11-4.

Kandra found a way back into the match by narrowing the angles for Rooney, keeping the ball straight and tight. The world No.26’s concentration dipped slightly allowing Kandra to capitalise on some loose attacks and secure the third game 11-8.

Rooney fired straight back in the next game, getting back on the volley and twisting and turning his German opponent, making life extremely difficult for Kandra. Rooney’s touch at the front of the court was a continual problem that the higher seed was faced with and proved too much to handle in the end. Rooney closed out the game 11-4 to win in 46 minutes.

Joel Makin powers through in straight games against Youssef Soliman

World No.9 Joel Makin will be Rooney’s opponent in the semi-finals after he closed out the day’s play, beating Egypt’s talented No.5 seed Youssef Soliman for the second time this year.

Makin put work into the legs of Soliman from the outset and consistently made the Egyptian work hard for every point. The Welshman is regarded as one of the fittest players on the PSA World Tour and capitalised on this as he extended the rallies to further work the World No.15.

After taking a crucial first game 11-9, the end came quickly for Soliman as errors started to flow from the Egyptian’s racket, which only helped Makin’s cause. The Welshman secured the second and third games both 11-4 to book his place in the semi-finals for the second consecutive year.

“He started really quick and got me on the backfoot a little bit. I just had to get control of that backhand sidewall against him and if you don’t do that then, he is moving the ball from the middle and he’s got nice options on the ball,” said Makin after his win.

“Pat [Rooney] is quality and he has had a good patch over the last six months. He’s getting in amongst it with the best players and fair play. He has a nice brand of squash, I’ll have to get into him and get him behind me to get some work into him and that’s the plan.

“I’ve not had too many hours on court so far, which always helps. I’m trying to put some good squash together and I’m feeling good.”

Tesni Evans volleys against Gina Kennedy

Wales’ Tesni Evans reached the women’s semi-finals of the Manchester Open after beating England’s No.3 seed Georgina Kennedy in straight games in 31 minutes.

Evans was the runner-up in this event back in 2019 and rediscovered that form as she put in an accurate display to beat the World No.9 in straight games at the PSA World Tour Silver event.

Evans capitalised on a slow start from Kennedy and ran out to a 6-1 lead, before Kennedy started to work her way back into the match to get herself back to within one point at 8-7. From there on, Evans managed to control the game and produced a quality finish to take it 11-8.

The World No.14 continued to fire the ball in short with supreme accuracy and forced Kennedy into several uncomfortable movements throughout the entire match, taking the second game and third games 11-6, 11-4 to reach yet another Manchester Open semi-final.

Evans said: “I’m pretty happy about that! I couldn’t really play much better than that. Gina seemed a little bit off today as well. I can’t play much more accurate than that and I knew that I had to do that at my best. I’m really happy that I could put out a good performance.

“We put loads of hours in and that’s the way I like to play squash, it’s trying to minimalize as much work as possible, some days it comes off like today, other days it really doesn’t. You play for that one match where you hit everything.

“I love this place so much, I love playing here. I’m so happy the glass court has been put back here and I’ve got some good friends in the crowd, a lot of Welsh people, all my family in the front row who mean the world to me and have got me through some rough times. This one is for them.”

Sarah-Jane Perry in action against Jasmine Hutton

Facing Evans in tomorrow’s semi-final will be England No.1 Sarah-Jane Perry after she beat compatriot Jasmine Hutton in four games to advance. Evans and Perry have met in every Manchester Open since the inaugural tournament back in 2019, with the Englishwoman winning two of those encounters.

Perry looked confident in the opening exchanges of her match with Hutton, showcasing her trademark accuracy and deception to twist and turn her younger opponent. Hutton fought back to 8-9 but couldn’t stop the No.1 seed from converting a tight opening game.

Perry continued to consistently hit her targets in the match which set up numerous attacking opportunities, which she confidently dispatched and despite dropping the third game, booked her third consecutive semi-final spot in 41 minutes.

“I’m just thinking about trying to win the next rally, I had a few periods where my concentration dipped and Jazz took full advantage of that,” said Perry in her post-match interview.

“It’s a testament to how much she has come on, particularly in the last 12 months. She’s had some fantastic results, she’s really dangerous and is looking to push on and is nearly inside that top 20 now – I don’t think it will be long, I know how hard she works.

“Me and Tesni were joking last night and have worked out that we have played at every Manchester Open. We both had to put extra in today to win and make sure that happened tomorrow. We are sharing a room, so I have to check everything when I get back – no alarms set for 4am and things like that.”

Manchester Open 2022, National Squash Centre, Manchester, England.

Men’s Quarter-Finals (bottom half):
[3] Joel Makin (WAL) bt [5] Youssef Soliman (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-4, 11-4 (50m)
Patrick Rooney (ENG) bt [8] Raphael Kandra (GER) 3-1: 11-8, 11-4, 8-11, 11-4 (46m)

Women’s Quarter Finals (Bottom Half):
[1] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt Jasmine Hutton (ENG) 3-1: 11-8, 11-5, 7-11, 11-4 (41m)
[6] Tesni Evans (WAL) bt [3] Georgina Kennedy (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-6, 11-4 (31m)

Men’s Semi-Finals:
[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v [4] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
[3] Joel Makin (WAL) v Patrick Rooney (ENG)

Women’s Semi-Finals:
[2] Joelle King (NZL) v [4] Nele Gilis (BEL)
[6] Tesni Evans (WAL) v [1] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)

Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour


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