Great day for England in Canary Wharf qualifiers
By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor
It was a great day for the English in the qualifying competition for the Canary Wharf Classic. Six of the eight spots in Sunday’s finals have been filled by players from the home nation, with one or two shocks along the way.
Top qualifying seed Laurens Jan Anjema was knocked out in the first round by England’s Richie Fallows.
This highly entertaining match illustrated why squash is such an addictive and intoxicating sport at the top level.
The combination of astonishing skill and the breathtaking brutality of close combat were in evidence throughout this compelling encounter.
Fallows won a tough opening game 11-9 but was completely overwhelmed as Anjema took the second 11-2.
The tall Dutchman stayed on top to win the third 11-6 and Fallows had a real battle on his hands to stay in the match.
He led 5-2 in the fourth but Anjema’s quality and experience shone through as he worked his way back into the proceedings and he held match ball at 10-9. But Fallows recovered to win three points in a row to take it to five.
Fallows opened up a solid lead in the fifth as the rallies became intensely physical. It was clearly hurting both players as they were forced into some gut-wrenching retrievals, followed by moments of exquisite skill.
Anjema saved two match balls but, after 71 minutes, Fallows finally ended the hopes of the man he once idolised as a junior at Connaught Squash Club on the edge of Epping Forest in east London.
Fallows said: “I used to watch players like LJ train at Connaught under Neil Harvey. It was just before Peter Nicol moved on when I got my chance to join the squad.
“That was one of the best performances of my career and certainly the best mentally. I felt close to boiling point at the end of the second game but kept my feelings under control.
“It was a fantastic match to play in. LJ is physical but fair and you have to expect one or two knocks in this game. There was nothing dirty at all. We both wanted to play the ball.”
Robbie Temple’s weekend plans go haywire
Robbie Temple is an occasional player these days. He stepped in to the qualifying competition at short notice after a couple of withdrawals and instantly had to rearrange his plans for the weekend.
First of all, he had to tell his football manager (he is a flying left winger for Chessington in the Combined Counties League) that he couldn’t play for them today.
So, instead of a 3 o’clock kick-off, he was starting a squash match at the same time against Henrik Mustonen at Wimbledon Racquets and Fitness Club.
He was on the verge of an early bath, too, facing match ball in the third game. However, he rescued the point and then won some quick points to win the game 12-10.
Suddenly the momentum changed and Temple took control against a rapidly fading Mustonen.
After 53 minutes he had completed a stirring victory, winning 3-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-5 to win through to the qualifying finals tomorrow against Mohamed Reda.
However, that’s not the end of an amazing story.
This evening, Robbie is playing former world No.2 Peter Marshall in a battle of the two handers in an exhibition evening at Middleton Squash Club in West Sussex!
Asked how he turned around that third game, Robbie admitted: “I can’t remember. Really, I can’t remember what happened. But, once I got in front, I managed to build some momentum. That’s what helps you to win matches: momentum. Suddenly it swung my way.
”I am hardly playing these days – maybe one league match a week. I spend most of my time on court feeding when I’m coaching. So it took me a while to get used to the pace at this level.
“I’m looking forward to playing Reda. He was the last player I played, in the British Open, before I retired from the PSA Tour, which he reminded me of when I arrived at the club today!”
Reda looked sharp against fellow Egyptian Mazen Gamal, winning comfortably in four games. Gamal fired in some impressive boasts and reverse angles, pacing his shots perfectly to match the cool conditions on court.
However, his head dropped when he begun needlessly arguing with decisions in the fourth game and his challenge soon evaporated as Reda floated some beautiful lobs to the back corners which his opponent declined to chase.
Declan James and Chris Fuller know each others’ games inside out, so it was no surprise that large elements of their match were cautious, close passages of play.
The second game was a brutal affair, with James squeezing home 18-16 after a lengthy tiebreak.
That seems to take the sting out of Fuller’s game and James went through 11-8, 18-16, 11-5 in 53 minutes.
Joe Lee has been struggling for form in recent months.
He made a sluggish start against Lyell Fuller and was soon 8-3 down, but he worked his way back to take control of the match.
After the first game he maintained the quality and ended up a comfortable winner in straight games.
Fuller will be back on Friday, playing Josh Masters in the Wild Card Shoot-out before the main final.
Squash can be a cruel game. Just ask young Irishman Sean Conroy.
Trailing 2-0 to the vastly experienced Finnish player Olli Tuominen, he won the third to work himself bak into the match, and then seemed to be in a strong position in the fourth.
At the midway point he slammed two crosscourt volleys into the nick, and even tried some trickery and fakery in the front left corner.
But then he tinned his third volley-nick attempt, was unlucky to float a backhand out of court, and was left down and out on the floor as a very relieved Tuominen won through to the qualifying finals.
Charles Sharpes always has a point to prove against fellow Englishmen, having lost his funding from the national governing body last year.
He looked impressive as he beat Eddie Charlton in straight games.
Sharpes kept it tight on the backhand and his disciplined approach did not give Charlton anything loose to profit from, and he took advantage of the openings when they came his way.
There were several long, competitive rallies where Sharpes looked comfortable and although Charlton hung in, Sharpes was pleased to get off in three.
Eddie, it must be said, looked slightly below his usual level. But Sharpes was delighted to win, reversing a recent result in the Swedish Open.
Sharpes said: “We played in the Swedish Open qualifiers and Eddie took me apart. I was a bit slow off the pace after the Christmas break and Eddie was well on top throughout that one.
“But today I felt good, stepped up the court well, and felt I dominated large parts of the match.
“I was hitting through the ball well, it’s my home court, the crowd are on my side and I’m looking forward to playing Olli tomorrow. I have never beaten him so I hope tomorrow is the day. The closest I have come to beating him was a 3-2 in Qatar.”
Canary Wharf Classic, PSA M70, qualifying first round, Wimbledon Racquets Club, London, England:
R Fallows (Eng) bt LJ Anjema (Ned) 11-9, 2-11, 6-11, 12-10, 11-7 (71 min)
J Lee (Eng) bt L Fuller (Eng) 11-9, 11-5, 11-7 (40 min)
D James (Eng) bt C Fuller (Eng) 11-8, 18-16, 11-5 (53 min)
J Masters (Eng) bt J Schoor (Ger) 11-4, 11-7, 1-0 retired (31 min)
O Tuominen (Fin) bt S Conroy (Ire) 11-3, 11-8, 8-11, 11-9 (44 min)
C Sharpes (Eng) bt E Charlton (Eng) 11-5, 11-7, 11-5 (44 min)
M Reda (Egy) bt M Gamal (Egy) 11-5, 7-11, 11-3, 12-10 (54 min)
R Temple (Eng) bt H Mustonen (Fin) 3-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-5 (53 min)
Qualifying finals, starting 1pm:
Reda v Temple
Tuominen v Sharpes
James v Masters
Lee v Fallows
Pictures by PATRICK LAUSON