Aussie powers home to win Inverness final
By MICHAEL GREGSON – Squash Mad Highlands Reporter
The first Loch Ness £15K Challenger came to a pulsating climax today in Inverness, as Australian Commonwealth Games team member Steve Finitsis triumphed over rising Indian star Mahesh Mangaonkar by 11-9, 11-2, 2-11, 11-5 in 61 minutes.
The tournament’s culmination before a packed Inverness Court No. 1 was a predictably feisty affair, with both men squeezing one another’s shotmaking and testing muscle recovery after some tough matches this week.
The first game saw Steve race to 6-0, driving with power and pace to put pressure on Mahesh’s forehand. Steve’s languid manner – his touch exactly as he left off in the semi – suggested he had the game in the bag at 9-3; but then Mahesh began a series of accurate drops which stretched Steve uncomfortably.
A further delicate forehand drop pulled him up to 7-9, but a couple of Mahesh errors in lengthy rallies finally yielded the game to Steve 11-9.
Steve’s superior courtcraft and ability to pace the rallies by using loft and cross-court driving took him to a strong position, winning the second to make it 2-0.
But Mahesh showed magisterial flair in the third, producing repeated deep drives to take his tall opponent out of position before finishing points with drops and stunning forehand drives into the nick.
Then 6-1 became 11-2 after a series of skilled shots – an exquisite unplayable boast to the backhand side; a wide forehand drive down the wall which Steve, stretching, tinned; and a forehand kill which found Steve wanting at the front. 2-1 Finitsis: game on, or so it seemed.
But the resilient fox Finitsis, alternately languid between points, and then urgent in his evident desire to claim the gorgeous Quaich for the champion, upped the pace again in the fourth, and seized on balls early to wrongfoot Mahesh.
The Indian player was unhappy with some calls, but was undermined by his own error count at key moments. This time it was Steve who was able to conjure up superb forehand drops – one in particular was for the coaching manuals, when his cross-court deception in an exchange of drops drew admiring applause from the rapt and knowledgeable audience.
An increasingly frustrated Mahesh conceded a stroke to give Steve an 8-4 lead, then missed a backhand drop to make it 10-5. A final low forehand drive beyond Mahesh’s reach gave Steve the match.
Afterwards Steve commented: “I congratulate Mahesh on a great match, and look forward to his undoubted future success. I can speak on behalf of the PSA players in thanking organisers, sponsors, referees and everyone involved here in Inverness – including Nessie – for a great tournament. I hope we are able to come back and enjoy your hospitality again.”
Dave Massey of the organising committee said: “We really appreciate the pros who have given a superb exhibition. It’s been a feast of squash, and Be Personnel and our other sponsors deserve our huge thanks.
“We wish all the best for Glasgow 2014 to Steve and Mahesh, and all the Scots players involved.”