Thursday, July 25, 2024

Scots fall to Games hopefuls in Loch Ness Challenger

Lobban keeps Finitsis on court for almost two hours as Scots bravehearts bow out in Inverness 
By MICHAEL GREGSON – Squash Mad HighlandsReporter

Steve Finitsis wins a marathon semi-final
Steve Finitsis wins a marathon semi-final

A tumultuous evening of squash in Inverness: a packed house cheered four heroes of their sport, battling away with zeal, passion and phenomenal stamina in warm conditions. At the end of the day, both Scots were eliminated, and we have a Finitsis-Mangaonkar final in prospect

Despite a challenging sequence of matches, Mahesh brought a strong game to his semi-final. He varied his game well from the start, bringing a geometrical precision to his use of width and height, forcing the indefatigable Alan to constantly turn and play from unwelcome positions on the court.

Gliding into a 2-0 lead, Mahesh cut and carved, squeezing Alan’s game remorselessly. Then, increasing the pace, Alan seized the third by the scruff of the neck. His fierce attack saw him wielding his racket like a fencer with his epée, dominating the T and constricting Mahesh’s ability to manage trajectory.

lochmangoThe lower-ranked player eased up, yielding But the fourth saw Mahesh fighting fire with fire, matching Alan at front and back and producing a series of delightful angles to force errors. 3-1 Mangaonkar.

Against the wily Aussie Steve, Greg attacked from the start. Playing with verve, lunging gymnastically, the Scot retrieved energetically and used his trademark forehand caress to stretch the Aussie.

But the 29-minute tight first game went Steve’s way, his painterly backhand daubing the wall repeatedly to limit Greg’s attacking opportunities.

After Greg battled back to seize a 2-1 lead, some controversial let decisions frustrating Steve, it looked as if the younger man might claim a place in the final.

But the marathon rallies and the many lunges and retrieves had taken their toll, and Greg’s tightness dipped. Steve played great length in a patient game, working Greg hard.

The performance of Greg Lobban was a revelation to many in Inverness: although he has moved on to Edinburgh and the Scottish squad, his progress through the Junior ranks is well remembered.

Although he lost his composure at the end of the fourth and fifth games, this has been a successful event for Lobban, who will continue to rise in the rankings on this form.

Ultimately, although the match came down to just a few points, it was Steve’s qualities, in particular his variety and distinctive, elegant overhead play, which prevailed, to take him into the first £15K Be Personnel Loch Ness Challenger final.

Steve commented afterwards: “I’ve really enjoyed the tournament. I knew today’s match would be hard, and am just pleased to have made the final.”

Inverness Squash doyen Dave Humpage agreed: “It was an epic, and both finalists have had to put plenty in to get to tomorrow’s final. It’s been a bit of a Holy Grail for us, getting this tournament off the ground. But now it’s there, we’d like to keep it going – players, PSA and sponsors permitting.”

For more info go to: or, on Twitter: @squash_ness

Be Personnel Loch Ness Challenger, Semi-finals:

(8) Mahesh Mangaonkar (Ind) bt (1) Alan Clyne (Sco) 11-7, 11-4, 5-11, 11-7 (59 mins.)
(3) Steve Finitsis (Aus) bt Greg Lobban (Sco) 11-8, 8-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-8 (116 mins.)


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