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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Richards upsets Waller, but Elias grabs the Halifax headlines

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Even in defeat, Peru’s Diego Elias is called the best young squash brain since Jansher Khan
By FARLEY McLEOD,  BRIAN REID, JEFF SCRIBNER and DAVID WESTWOOD – Squash Mad Reporters in Halifax

Diego Elias in action against Cam Pilley
Diego Elias in action against Cam Pilley

England’s Tom Richards upset the form-book on day one of main draw action at the 2014 Fiera Properties Bluenose Squash Classic, PSA International 50 tournament taking place in Halifax, Canada to defeat compatriot Adrian Waller 3-0 in their first round encounter.

Having been treated twosome high-quality play in the qualifying tournament, Halifax squash fans witnessed a marked ascendancy in the the standard of play on the opening day of the main draw action in the 2014 Fiera Properties Bluenose Squash Classic.

Richards pulled off the only upset of the night against his compatriot Waller. However, this isn’t as much of an upset as the rankings would suggest, given Richards’ PSA tour experience and previous world number 12 ranking.

Following the matches, our tournament MC Neil Harvey took the opportunity to single out the skill and prospective talent of youngster Diego Elias of Peru, despite his loss to Cameron Pilley.

Harvey stated he had “not seen such a young, intelligent squash brain since Jansher Khan”. I don’t think there is a greater compliment to be paid, and we very much look forward to seeing the talents of the young Peruvian grow at future Bluenose events.

 

Borja Golan reaches into the corner
Borja Golan reaches into the corner

[1] Borja Golan (ESP) bt Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 11-2, 11-9, 11-7 (45 mins)

Golan, the 31-year-old from Spain, is a perennial Bluenose contender. This is his sixth appearance at the Bluenose Classic, and while he has not yet been the champion, he has twice been runner-up. Abouelghar, the 21-year-old from Giza, Egypt was making his first appearance in Halifax. This was a classic youth vs. experience matchup. Golan was the heavy favourite going in to this match, having won the only two previous PSA head-to-head matches, both played in August of this year in Hong Kong and Malaysia.

The first game saw Golan exert dominance over the younger Abouelghar, with a swift victory for the Spaniard. He was hitting tight drops and good length and the young Egyptian didn’t have time to orient himself to the pace before the game was over 11-2.

In the second game, Abouelghar got a better start, going up 4-1. It is apparent that one of his favorite shots is a cross-court drop, however, he never seemed to hit the nick he was looking for, and Golan stormed back to take a 5-4 lead. Abouelghar brought out a potent smash which earned him two points to tie the game at 7, before Golan unleashed a smash into the nick to go up 8-7.

They traded points before Golan put Abouelghar under pressure such that he was forced to play a ball off the back wall on game ball, and he hit it too high on the front wall, giving Golan the game with a score of 11-9.

Just like in the second game, Abouelghar took an early 4-1 lead in the third, with his cross-court nick finally paying dividends. However, Golan’s experience and patience resulted in him working himself back into the lead at 6-5. Golan’s mix of tight shots, good length, and mostly precise drops allowed him to keep the Egyptian under pressure and run out to an 11-7 victory in 45 minutes.

In his post-match interview, when asked about his game plan, Golan described Mohamed as “a really young player, but also really talented”, he said “I know I have to play really serious, and concentrate, I know he is really dangerous, as he has so many shots in the front…I just have to keep my length very good and I just have to be serious every point”.

When asked about returning to Halifax, Golan noted, “It is really nice to be back…the tournament is great, the people are great. I always stay with Sandy and Gail…I come and see them because they always treat me very nice…all the players are happy to come to this tournament”.
By Farley MacLeod

Tom Richards (ENG) bt [7] Adrian Waller (ENG) 11-9, 11-8, 11-9 (49 mins)

BluTomRThe first game saw both players coming out fired up, both going for kill shots. They were volleying, cutting the ball off whenever possible, and not letting the ball reach the back wall. At every opportunity they were going for cross-court nicks and drops. Each player was making winning shots, bringing the score to 4-4 to start the game. Waller  seemed to be the more aggressive player in the mid portion of the game, but Richards’ retrieving managed to weather the storm, and he hade some great shots of his own to take the lead at 9-8.
Richards then turned it around and became the aggressor, putting Waller in all four corners, hitting three winning shots in a row to win the game 11-9.

From 4-4 in the second game. Waller managed to build a small lead to 8-6, but Richards picked up the pace and started to put pressure back on Waller, causing him to make several unforced errors to tie the game back up at 8-8. Richards kept this pace up for the remaining rallies, winning the next three points with winning drives into the back corners and finished the game with a fake drive to the back and hit a gaming-winning boast.

In the third, Richards started off right where he left off in the second game, being aggressive and keeping the ball in the back corners, and built a quick 7-2 lead. Both players were consistent throughout the middle portion of the game but it was Richards who was up 10-6. That’s when Waller picked up the pace and was putting the pressure on Richards, forcing him to hit several loose shots that Waller capitalized on and closed the gap to 9-10.

During the final rally, Waller had the pressure on Richards once again, hitting several drop shots in a row, but when he tried to cross-court Richards counter drop, Richards read the play and was ready for the crosscourt, and hit a winning length down the left sidewall to win the game at 11-9.

By Brian Reid

[7] Stephen Coppinger (RSA) bt Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 11-6, 11-13, 11-9, 11-5 (67 mins)
The match started with long patient rallies, but at 5-4 for Coppinger, the players started moving the ball around to all four corners. It was the tall South African that took the ball earlier and dictated the pace of the game. With several hold attacking boasts that caught Cuskelly flatfooted, Coppinger raced away with the game 11-6.

BluCoppThe second game saw a similar trading of points up until the halfway mark, when it was Cuskelly’s turn to pull ahead. He seemed to be hitting much harder and much tighter drives – I can tell you from experience these rarely go together for amateur players!

Desperately trying to close up the 6-8 deficit and get back to the track he was on in the first, Coppinger (right) used his effective hold and made attacking boasts to throw off the Australian. Cuskelly remained composed and looked to be closing out the game at 9-7.

A harsh no let decision at 9-8 stirred the beast within Coppinger, who then channeled it into the next two rallies by hammering cross court kills to bring the game to a tiebreak. At this point I wouldn’t have been surprised if Coppinger broke the sound barrier with how hard he was hitting.

It wasn’t enough to take the second though, as Cuskelly converted a quick winner and a deceptive boast after saving one game ball to take it 13-11 and level the match off at one game apiece.

To the unfamiliar it might seem like Coppinger jumped in a lake with how much he was sweating on this humid Halifax evening – but this is a familiar sight for squashies. The third game saw Cuskelly off to a great start at 4-0, continuing the quality from the previous game, but Coppinger’s blistering pace brought him right back into the match and before you knew it we had a tense 8-8 situation. Devastating errors decided the next string of points, the majority of which came off the left handed Australian’s racquet giving Coppinger the crucial third game 11-9.

From the start of the fourth you could tell there was no stopping the Coppinger train to clench the match in four. He is so deadly in the front of the court when given a high ball with his deceptive holds and low hard drives. It didn’t take too much longer for the South African to close out the match 11-5 in the fourth.

By Jeff Scribner

[4] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt Alan Clyne (SCO) 13-11,11-8, 12-10 (52 mins)

BluMiguelAs this match began, it appeared there was much less separating these two players than the 24 ranking points in the difference would suggest. The two players are of similar stature and both demonstrated their quickness early on.

Neither player was able to mount a sizable lead, and the game was tied up at 3-3, 7-7, and 10-10. Throughout the game, there were some massive rallies, with both players demonstrating patience. Rodriguez (right) mixed in some variety with his signature flair, including a reverse angle shot (locally known as the “Pat Kelly” or the “Kevin Byrne”), catching Clyne off balance.

He also displayed a seldom-seem high reverse angle shot to the back, but Clyne was able to catch up to it and win the rally. The game ended in dramatic fashion, as Clyne had his opponent on the run, with the Colombian making impressive pick-ups in diagonal corners, before putting a loose ball into the left side nick to Clyne’s dismay, for a 13-11 victory.

In the second game, the score remained close, with 2-2, 4-4, 5-5, 7-7, and 8-8 scores. Clyne was using a deceptive hold to try to catch Rodriguez off balance, and Rodriguez was showing off his “extra gear” of explosive speed to get to balls that seemed unreachable.

On at least one occasion, this took Clyne by surprise, as he appeared to think the rally was soon to be over when Rodriguez sped up like Wile Coyote and fetched a ball from the back, with Clyne responding with a drop to the tin. Rodriguez finished the game 11-8 with a winning cross-court drop.

Early in the third game, Rodriguez showcased his leaping ability, suggesting his vertical jump is about half of his height. In doing so, he jumped out to a 5-2 lead, with both players displaying impressive tight drop shots and equally impressive quickness and soft hands to get the ball back despite seemingly being glued to the sidewall.

Rodriguez added some variety by utilizing a flick of his wrist to deceive Clyne on a number of drop shots in the middle of the game and some rewarded him with points. Clyne was more apt to make a straight drop, which he did repeatedly with precision, and occasionally Rodriguez failed to pull them off the wall successfully.

The game got knotted up at 10-10, before Rodriguez pushed Clyne to the back, and in a full-out effort, Clyne attempted a “Go Go Gadget Arms” maneuver, but lost the grip of his racquet, sending it flying to the front of the court. Rodriguez sealed his place in the quarterfinals of the tournament with a perfect drop into the front right nick.

Baffled, Clyne appealed to the marker if the ball was good, and when he indicated it was, Clyne replied, “Are you sure? You can’t see much from up there”. It was to no avail, as the marker was sure about the call, and Clyne was surely disappointed with the result.

By Farley MacLeod

[3] Daryl Selby (ENG) bt [Q] Christopher Gordon (USA) 11-6, 11-7, 11-9 (40 mins)

BluSelbyThe sixth match of the night saw third seed and world number nine Daryl Selby take on top American and Bluenose qualifier Chris Gordon. With Selby 50 ranks above Gordon it didn’t seem to be a likely victory for the qualifier, but being the first time these competitors matched each other on the PSA tour, anything could happen.

The match started with long rallies as the players tested the waters, but we soon saw that dissipate into short, fast-paced exchanges that took the players all around the court. It was difficult to discern any structure from how the rallies played out, but Selby (right) always remained at least two points ahead of his younger opponent. Selby closed out the opener by a comfortable 11-6 margin.

The second game was an almost repeat of the first as Selby consistently stayed one step ahead of Gordon. During a long rally midway through the game, Gordon pulled out the same shot he’s nominated for in the October Shot of The Month for PSA TV: a deceptive flick crosscourt drop from the back right corner.

The crowd responded and really backed Gordon to take it to the Englishman. He was working quite hard as you could tell from the beet red color of his face. By contrast, Selby looks like he hasn’t even broken sweat! This writer suspects it may have something to do with Selby’s main sponsor being a renewable energy heating company. In any case, he motored on to close out the second 11-7.

With the prospect of his Bluenose campaign coming to an end, the American dug deep and fought even harder in the third. With legendary squash coach Neil Harvey in his corner between games, you can bet he gathered invaluable insight and encouragement to help propel him.

A common exchange that unfolded in the third game saw Gordon going for a crosscourt nick off the serve, followed by Selby playing a ridiculous topspin crosscourt drop, then a Gordon counter drop, then Selby would slam the ball crosscourt and Gordon then retrieved to reset the rally. As always, Selby maintained his lead thoughout, and looked to be finishing off the match at 10-7, but Gordon played a series of unbelievable rallies to save two match balls. It was ultimately a perfect length shot from Selby that finished off the match 3-0.

By Jeff Scribner

Alister Walker at full stretch on the backhand
Alister Walker at full stretch on the backhand

[8] Alister Walker (BOT) bt [WC] Andrew Schnell (CAN) 12-10, 11-6, 11-7 (34 mins)
The second match on hallowed court 3 at the Homburg Centre featured Alister Walker, ranked 25 in the world from Botswana, versus the Canadian Wild Card for the tournament Andrew Schnell (ranked 101 in the world). The crowd was somewhat subdued to begin the evening as fans trickled in to enjoy this match in the round of 16.

The first match was a tight affair, requiring a tiebreak before Walker left the court 12-10. It was clear that Walker was just a bit faster, and his shots just a margin tighter than Schnell in the opening game, but it was also clear that the lone remaining Canadian in the draw had a realistic chance of doing some damage in the match.

The second game was back and forth to 6-6, before Walker began to show his superiority, reeling off the next five points to take the game 11-6. Much like the first game, the difference seemed to be Walker’s ability to drop the ball a millimeter above the tin at will from virtually any location on the court. Schnell showed signs of brilliance, catching Walker heading the wrong direction on more than a few occasions.

Game 3 saw Walker race ahead to a 5-2 lead and hometown hopes began to fade that Schnell might be able to eke out an upset victory. Indeed, a string of points punctuated by gorgeous fading crosscourt drop shots and effortless movement saw Walker accumulate a 9-3 lead before much longer.

Schnell mounted some energy for a final push, getting as far as 6-10 before ultimately falling 7-11 in the third and final game of the match. Walker seemed pleased to see his way through to the quarterfinals of the Bluenose Squash Classic in three games, looking to make it deep into the tournament draw.
By David Westwood

[5] Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt [Q] Diego Elias (PER) 11-9, 11-4, 11-5 (42 mins)

BluEliCamDiego game out with a quick start at the beginning of the match, and built a 6-2 lead. Pilley seemed unfazed and started to tighten up his shots, which saw him hit several winning shots in the front left corner and closed the lead to 5-6.

During the middle portion of the game they traded points, going back and forth, until Pilley evened it up at 9-9.

It was there that Pilley picked up the pace and hit a winning shot into the mid sidewall nick and then at 10-9, put the game-winning nick into the front left corner taking the first game 11-9.

The second went back and forth at first as they were tied at 3-3 to start the game. Again, Pilley started to put the pressure back on Diego as he was starting to look fatigued from his match the night before against Salazar that went to 5 games.

It was 7-4 to Pilley when Diego started to try and slow down the pace of the ball but it didn’t have any effect on Pilley, as he continued to hit the ball consistently into the back corners until he finally hit the last three shots into the front right hand corner nick to win the game 11-4.

Again, they game out to a 3-3 tie to start the third game. However, it was Pilley who managed to take the lead, as he was picking up the pace and putting more pressure on Diego, and Pilley gathered a 4-point lead to go to 7-3.

Diego tried to keep up the pace and put the pressure back on Pilley, but the tall Australian was too strong and hitting nick after nick to go up 10-5.

Then Pilley forced Diego to hit a loose shot back at himself, which resulted in a penalty stroke and the game to Pilley 11-5.
By Brian Reid

[2] Peter Barker (ENG) bt [Q] Sebastiaan Weenink (NED) 11-4, 11-6, 11-8 (42 mins)
BluBarkFrom the outset it was clear the left-hander from England had come to play. The decibel meter spiked with each shot, and despite the best efforts of Weenink to control the pace of play, he fell quickly 11-4 in the first game.

Barker’s power was matched by his ability to hit pinpoint drop shots, and Weenink was made to do tremendous work on every rally.

The storyline was repeated in the second game, although it was clear Weenink had adjusted his tactics, attempting to cut off more of Barker’s cross-courts and to hit with more purpose. Losing 11-6, things were beginning to look desperate for the Dutchman, who had appeared so strong coming through the qualification rounds.

The third game was a more even affair, with Weenink beginning to find the right blend of power and control to keep pace with Barker in the early going.

Indeed, Barker was caught going the wrong way more than a few times, although he showed a remarkable ability to recover and gain the advantage on his returns.

Points were traded to 8-8 before Barker locked up the match 11-8 on the strength of some punishing rallies that ended with precise attacking boasts and a few timely nicks.
By David Westwood

Fiera Properties Bluenose Squash Classic 2014, Halifax, Canada.

First Round:

[1] Borja Golan (ESP) bt Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 3-0: 11-2, 11-9, 11-7 (45m)
Tom Richards (ENG) bt [7] Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-8, 11-9 (49m)
[6] Stephen Coppinger (RSA) bt [Q] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 3-1: 11-6, 11-13, 11-9, 11-5 (67m)
[4] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt Alan Clyne (SCO) 3-0: 13-11,11-8, 12-10 (52m)
[3] Daryl Selby (ENG) bt [Q] Christopher Gordon (USA) 3-0: 11-6, 11-7, 11-9 (40m)
[8] Alister Walker (BOT) bt [WC] Andrew Schnell (CAN) 3-0: 12-10, 11-6, 11-7 (34m)
[5] Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt [Q] Diego Elias (PER) 3-0: 11-9, 11-4, 11-5 (42m)
[2] Peter Barker (ENG) bt [Q] Sebastiaan Weenink (NED) 3-0: 11-4, 11-6, 11-8 (42m)

Quarter-final Draw:
[1] Borja Golan (ESP) v Tom Richards (ENG)
[6] Stephen Coppinger (RSA) v [4] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
[3] Daryl Selby (ENG) v [8] Alister Walker (BOT)
[5] Cameron Pilley (AUS) v [2] Peter Barker (ENG)

Pictures by JIM NEALE and FARLEY McLEOD

 

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