England’s marathon man Declan James falls at final hurdle in Finnish Open
By Squash Mad Reporter
Raphael Kandra became the first German winner of the Savcor Finnish Open title after beating England’s Declan James in the final of the long-established PSA Challenger 10 squash event at the Shopping Center Stella in Mikkeli, Finland.
Second seed Kandra, the left-hander who celebrated a career-high World No.52 ranking in December, secured his anticipated place in the final after ending the run of Egyptian qualifier Karim El Hammamy in a straight games semi-final victory.
By contrast, Nottingham-based James was the event’s fifth seed – who made his breakthrough in the quarter-finals when he broke local hearts by ousting top seed Henrik Mustonen, the Finnish No.2 who was expected to bring the country’s established national open title back home.
World No.73 James went on to overcome unseeded fellow countryman James Earles to reach the seventh PSA Tour final of his career.
The final was the pair’s second meeting in the climax of a Tour event since last November in Canada. The 21-year-old Englishman took the opening game in a tie-break after saving a game-ball.
Kandra looked on course to draw level quickly after taking an early lead in the second – but James levelled from 3-7 down and saved game-balls before the German eventually took the game 12-10.
But Kandra regained supremacy in the third and maintained the upper hand for the next two games before closing out the match 10-12, 12-10, 11-6, 11-7 in 60 minutes.
The win, in his 15th final, marked 24-year-old Kandra’s eighth Tour title.
James can reflect on a successful week capped by two marathon matches against English rivals. He took 99 minutes to beat Adam Murrills in the first round and 91 minutes to overcome James Earles in the semi-finals. Earles had earlier taken out No.4 seed Jens Schoor of Germany in the first round.
PSA Challenger 10 Savcor Finnish Open, Mikkeli, Finland
 Henrik Mustonen (FIN) bt [WC] Jaakko Vahamaa (FIN) 3-0: 15-13, 11-1, 11-3 (26m)
 Declan James (ENG) bt Adam Murrills (ENG) 3-2: 11-5, 12-14, 12-10, 9-11, 11-8 (99m)
 Shehab Essam (EGY) bt Matias Tuomi (FIN) 3-0: 11-9, 11-3, 12-10 (28m)
James Earles (ENG) bt  Jens Schoor (GER) 3-2: 3-11, 11-5, 11-6, 10-12, 11-8 (67m)
 Steven Finitsis (AUS) bt [Q] George Parker (ENG) 3-0: 11-2, 12-10, 12-10 (42m)
[Q] Karim El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Geoffrey Demont (FRA) 3-1: 11-7, 11-9, 11-13, 11-5 (60m)
 Peter Creed (WAL) bt [Q] Joshua Masters (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-7, 11-2 (32m)
 Raphael Kandra (GER) bt [Q] Mohamed Elgawarhy (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 11-6, 11-6 (34m)
 Declan James (ENG) bt  Henrik Mustonen (FIN) 3-0: 11-8, 11-6, 11-4 (37m)
James Earles (ENG) bt  Shehab Essam (EGY) 3-1: 10-12, 11-9, 15-13, 11-3 (65m)
[Q] Karim El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Steven Finitsis (AUS) 3-1: 11-9, 11-5, 6-11, 11-1 (67m)
 Raphael Kandra (GER) bt  Peter Creed (WAL) 3-1: 10-12, 11-7, 11-5, 11-8 (56m)
 Declan James (ENG) bt James Earles (ENG) 3-1: 15-13, 9-11, 11-8, 12-10 (91m)
 Raphael Kandra (GER) bt [Q] Karim El Hammamy (EGY) 3-0: 11-2, 11-9, 11-5 (40m)
 Raphael Kandra (GER) bt  Declan James (ENG) 3-1: 10-12, 12-10, 11-6, 11-7 (60m)
Picture courtesy of PSA and Poku Salo