Monday, October 2, 2023

Rory Stewart roars back to rock Patrick Rooney in one of the most incredible matches in Commonwealth Games history

Day Three review from the University of Birmingham
By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)

Scotland’s Rory Stewart produced the performance of a lifetime to roar back from the brink of defeat to overcome England’s Patrick Rooney in one of the most dramatic triumphs in the history of the Commonwealth Games.

The Perth-born world No.66 fought back from 7-0 down in the fourth game and saved four match balls before levelling the match and taking it to a fifth-game decider.

Stewart, one of the 9/16 seeds, then put together a magical run of eight points in a row to power home 12-10, 7-11, 10-12, 13-11, 11-5 in 74 minutes of astonishing drama.

The result was the shock of the tournament so far and Stewart’s reward is a quarter-final clash against England’s defending champion James Willstrop.

With both players 6ft 4in tall, there won’t be much room on the glass court. And certainly no room for error.

World No.24 Rooney, a 3/4 seed, struggled get the ball beyond Stewart’s reach in the first game, throughout which the scores were neck and neck until Stewart clinched it 12-10.

Rooney improved in the second game, levelling with an 11-7 win, before edging in front with a fiercely contested 12-10 win in the third, after Stewart allowed a 7-4 lead to slip away.

Rooney made a confident start to the fourth game and must have thought he had one foot in the quarter-final when he raced into a 7-0 lead.

Incredibly, Stewart not only reeled Rooney in but, after saving four match balls, forced the match into a fifth game with a nerve-shredding 13-11 win.

Both players looked evenly matched at the beginning of the fifth, which was as much about mental ability as physical and technical.

Stewart, however, then put together another spectacular scoring blitz race from 4-3 down to an 11-4 winner after a brief wait for a video review to confirm his triumph.

“I’m delighted,” Stewart said afterwards. “To be honest I’d have said to myself I was probably getting beaten and to do anything more than that, I’d be happy to accept as a bonus.

“I definitely felt the tension. I think [my Scotland teammates] probably all thought I was losing [when 7-0 down].

“My ranking is lower than Patrick, but on a glass court I can pull off wins like this. There are a lot of Scots here and I’m glad they got to see this!”

How the match unfolded

England’s coaching staff, especially three-times gold medal winner Nick Matthew, will have warned the squad about the fighting quality that the Scots summon up when competing on the massive stage that the Commonwealth Games offers.

Stewart will be determined to summon up another Braveheart performance when he faces Willstrop today. And squash fans will be hoping that the BBC will bow to demand and broadcast the match in full.

Despite Rooney’s woes, the England team may reflect on the day as being a positive one overall after the other five members of their contingent recorded wins to reach the quarter-finals.

Georgina Kennedy’s ruthless performance against Canada’s Nicole Bunyan was perhaps the pick of the bunch, while Willstrop capped his 200th England appearance with a comfortable win over Pakistan’s Nasir Iqbal.

Reacting after her 11-3, 11-1, 11-3 win, 3/4 seed Kennedy said: “It’s crazy, I’ve said a few times that it’s been a dream since I was a girl to compete with Team England and just to be here is a life goal achieved.

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“But now, after the successful year I’ve had, my perspective has changed. I don’t want to just show up. I want to reach the podium. I’m so lucky to play on this glass in front of an amazing crowd.”

Earlier in the day, top seed and World No.2 Paul Coll avoided suffering a similar fate to Rooney when he fought back from a game down against spirited Welshman Emyr Evans.

Evans deservedly took the first game 11-8, but was met with a brutal response from the Kiwi, who restored parity with an 11-0 win in game two and then took the lead with an 11-5 victory in game three.

Evans, though, was not beaten yet. The Welshman battled well, impressing numerous times with a powerful backhand and had a chance to take Coll into a fifth game when he took a 10-9 lead in game four.

Coll, however, was able to rescue the situation, drawing level and then taking the match with a 12-10 win to set up a quarter-final match against England’s Adrian Waller, who brushed aside Jamaica’s Christopher Binnie 3-0.

A relieved Coll said: “I think he did really well. He put in a great performance and should be proud of himself today, he really made me work for it.”

India, Malaysia and Wales sent two players each into the quarter-finals.

For India, men’s 3/4 seed Saurav Ghosal and women’s 3/4 seed Joshna Chinappa put in assured performances to put away Canada’s David Baillargeon and New Zealand’s Kaitlyn Watts.

Malaysia’s 9/16 seed Rachel Arnold upset Wales’ 5/8 seed Tesni Evans to join compatriot and 5/8 seed Eain Yow Ng in the quarters after he beat Canada’s Nick Sachvie.

There was consolation for both Wales and Canada, though, after Welsh No.2 seed Joel Makin and 5/8 seed Emily Whitlock progressed through to the quarter-finals, while Canada’s 5/8 seed Hollie Naughton beat Malaysia’s 9/16 seed Aifa Azman for a second-successive 3-0 win.

Scotland’s 5/8 seed Greg Lobban, who beat Malaysia’s 9/16 seed Ivan Yuen in a see-saw encounter, joins Stewart in the quarter-finals, although his wife Donna, competing for Australia, went out to Whitlock.

Women’s top seed and defending champion Joelle King will play England’s 5/8 seed Lucy Turmel after beating Scotland’s 9/16 seed Georgia Adderley.

The quarter-finals begin today at 12 noon.

Please stay tuned to our Live Blog and tell all your friends.

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, University of Birmingham, England.

Men’s Third Round:
[1] Paul Coll (NZL) bt Emyr Evans (WAL) 3-1: 8-11, 11-0, 11-5, 12-10 (51m)
[5/8] Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Christopher Binnie (JAM) 3-0: 11-7, 11-4, 11-4 (35m)
[5/8] Greg Lobban (SCO) bt [9/16] Ivan Yuen (MAS) 3-2: 11-3, 9-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-7 (64m)
[3/4] Saurav Ghosal (IND) bt [9/16] David Baillargeon (CAN) 3-0: 11-6, 11-2, 11-6 (38m)
[9/16] Rory Stewart (SCO) bt [3/4] Patrick Rooney (ENG) 3-2: 12-10, 7-11, 10-12, 13-11, 11-5 (74m)
[5/8] James Willstrop (ENG) bt Nasir Iqbal (PAK) 3-0: 11-6, 11-4, 11-7 (33m)
[5/8] Eain Yow Ng (MAS) bt Nick Sachvie (CAN) 3-0:11-6, 11-6, 11-4 (38m)
[2] Joel Makin (WAL) bt [9/16] Alan Clyne (SCO) 3-0: 11-3, 11-4, 11-4 (42m)

Women’s Third Round:
[1] Joelle King (NZL) bt [9/16] Georgia Adderley (SCO) 3-0: 11-3, 11-5, 11-5 (30m)
[5/8] Lucy Turmel (ENG) bt [9/16] Jessica Turnbull (AUS) 3-1: 11-1, 13-11, 9-11, 11-4 (40m)
[5/8] Hollie Naughton (CAN) bt [9/16] Aifa Azman (MAS) 3-0: 11-6, 11-7, 16-14 (31m)
[3/4] Joshna Chinappa (IND) bt [9/16] Kaitlyn Watts (NZL) 3-1: 11-8, 9-11, 11-4, 11-6 (36m)
[3/4] Georgina Kennedy (ENG) bt [9/16] Nicole Bunyan (CAN) 3-0: 11-3, 11-1, 11-3 (22m)
[9/16] Rachel Arnold (MAS) bt [5/8] Tesni Evans (WAL) 3-0: 19-17, 11-7, 11-7 (34m)
[5/8] Emily Whitlock (WAL) bt [9/16] Donna Lobban (AUS) 3-0: 13-11, 11-7, 11-3 (29m)
[2] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt [9/16] Chan Yiwen (MAS) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 13-11 (28m)

Men’s Quarter-Finals:
[1] Paul Coll (NZL) v [5/8] Adrian Waller (ENG)
[3/4] Saurav Ghosal (IND) v [5/8] Greg Lobban (SCO)
[9/16] Rory Stewart (SCO) v [5/8] James Willstrop (ENG)
[2] Joel Makin (WAL) v [5/8] Eain Yow Ng (MAS)

Women’s Quarter-Finals:
[1] Joelle King (NZL) v [5/8] Lucy Turmel (ENG)
[3/4] Joshna Chinappa (IND) v [5/8] Hollie Naughton (CAN)
[3/4] Georgina Kennedy (ENG) v [9/16] Rachel Arnold (MAS)
[2] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v [5/8] Emily Whitlock (WAL)

Pictures courtesy of World Squash and England Squash


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