Aussie ace calls time on PSA career
By ALAN THATCHER and DAVE IRESON in Aberdeen
Australian Steve Finitsis announced his retirement from the PSA World Tour after limping out of the Trac Oil and Gas North of Scotland Open in Aberdeen last night.
The 33-year-old Queenslander, who reached a career-high position of 41 in the world two years ago, rolled his ankle playing England’s top seed Eddie Charlton but gamely battled on to the end.
Charlton clinched a 3-1 victory in 70 minutes before Finitsis informed the Aberdeen crowd that he will be ending his professional playing days and concentrating on a coaching career.
One of the most popular guys on the world tour, Finitsis was a member of the Australian squad who appeared at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Cementing his relationship with friends north of the border, Finitsis enjoyed a successful spell that summer when he was runner-up in the Select Gaming Kent Open and won the Inverness Open the following week.
On a night of twists and turns, the news of the Australian’s retirement overshadowed the astonishing performance of qualifier Youssef Soliman as he beat top seed and fellow Egyptian Karim Ali Fathi.
Quarter Final Reports:
 Eddie Charlton (Eng) bt (6) Steven Finitsis (Aus) 3-1: 11-5, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9 (70min)
Very clever variation from both players in the first with dome super use of height, and angles – very intelligent squash – great to see. Charlton’s deep forehand hold had Finitsis in trouble several times in the first game, coupled with some deft touches at the front same Charlton take the initiative and game 11-5.
The second game saw Finitsis take away Eddie’s trademark forehand hold, choosing to avoid hitting the ball in that part of the court unless he had no other option, and this strategy saw him move ahead to 8-4. Charlton tried to use some clever height variation to get the ball deep and force errors from Finitsis, but the lead Finitsis had created gave him some confidence and he looked to use his flare at the front to finish the rallies off, hitting several nick winners to take the second 11-7.
The quality that both players varied the height and pace of the ball is difficult to express, such delicate control of the ball like this is something you don’t get to see very often. Charlton was struggling to keep the ball off Finitsis’ racket, constantly cross courting the ball. In the mid stages of the game Chalrton seemed to straighten up at the back and started to claw his way back up the scoreboard. At 7-7 a classic frame-boast-winner was produced to take Charlton ahead. There’s some interference in the front corners that after several attempts Charlton got some reward from earning a stroke to take the game 11-7.
In the fourth Steve unfortunately suffered a nasty slip midway through the game and sprain his ankle. After some emergency treatment Steve came back on court to play out the match, although clearly not moving right. Eddie closed out the game and match 11-9.
Few people knew that this was actually Steve’s last match on the PSA – he announced his retirement after the match finished. Steve is a crowd favourite and his attacking style of play is a joy to watch, and will be sadly missed from the tour. Steve described that it was a difficult decision, but felt the motivation to keep training at an elite level was not quite there. Steve plans to go back to Australia and start to build his own programme from the ground up. Best of luck!
Chris Binnie (Jam) bt (LL) Joe Green (Eng) 3-1: 11-6, 12-10, 11-9, 11-4
Joe Green definitely playing some of his best squash this weekend, some outstanding length on show from Green – ball just dying in the back, Green also moving better today than we have seen all week – getting on the ball early and using some holds that we didn’t see in the early rounds. Green now a clear crowd favourite having taken the lucky loser spot from qualifying, the prospect of a semi-final spot was getting the crowd behind him. First game to Green 11-6
In the second Green stopped moving onto the ball as quickly as he had in the first, he was unable to hold Binnie, and check his movement, and consequently Binnie’s shot quality improved, and it also let Binnie volley more. This played into Binnie’s hands and he dominated the middle of the court, and pushed Green into the corners, making him do some serious retrieval. Binnie takes the second 12-10.
The third saw the tempo go up from both players but the quality suffered as a result – this slightly less refined style of play definitely suited Binnie; Green’s width dropped off and gave Binnie some cheap volleys around the middle, who pushed the ball straight into the front corners, making Green do a lot of work. Game to Binnie 11-9.
The fourth game was a copy of the third, Green too content to try and hit his way past Binnie rather than trying to place the ball accurately the way he had done in the first. Binnie once again commanded the middle, and eased through the game 11-4.
(3) Mahesh Mangaonkar (Ind) bt (7) Chris Fuller (Eng) 3-0: 11-6, 11-3, 11-5 (32min)
It seems fairly obvious that Fuller likes a stable platform to play from – sporting heavy ankle supports, and adding lots of little small positional steps to his movement. In the first few rallies Mangaonkar looked to exploit this by keeping the pace high and not letting Fuller settle into a rhythm, and using subtle deception to slightly check Fuller’s movement. This worked well in the first as he raced into an early lead. Fuller tried to claw his way back into it, but Mangaonkar kept up the pressure to close out the game 11-6.
More of the same from Mangaonkar in the second, varying the pace well to unsettle Fullers rhythm, and using his holds when he got the chance. His straight play when taking the ball short was excellent leaving Fuller with so few options, he was forced to just ship the ball back into play. Mangaonkar making Fuller look a little ordinary. Game to Mangaonkar 11-3.
Mangaonkar, in no mood to muck about this evening, more of the same in the third, just taking Fuller’s game apart. Nothing Fuller could do this evening Mangaonkar was just too good – everything he hit either rolled out the nick, or was glued to the side wall. Ridiculous rally to end, Mangaonkar all over the court, but Fuller just can’t put the ball away. Game to Mangaonkar 11/5.
(Q) Youssef Soliman (Egy) bt (1) Karim Ali Fathi (Egy) 3-1: 8-11, 11-6, 11-4, 11-9 (73min)
The first game saw a nervous start from both players as they both tried to push in front of each other. In the early exchanges both players looked to use their speed to get onto loose drives and these were punished with strokes from the referees. As their width improved, both players looked for opportunities to take the ball short, and a series or errors followed – the ball just clipping the top of the tin on several occasions. Unfortunately for Soliman it was his racket that produced slightly more errors and Fathi duly took the game 11-8.
At the interval, Soliman asked for a three-minute injury break, seemingly suffering a sore lower back. Some emergency physio from Injury Time Physiotherapy (shameless plug), that operate out of ASRC tried to repair the young man…. Into the second and Fathi clearly looked to extend the rallies and keep the tempo high. Soliman however continued to attack the front of the court, whereas in the first he made a series of errors, in the second he reeled off a series of winners to take the second game 11-6. Schedule already out the window… 41 mins for 2 games…
After a cheeky “equipment” change, Soliman came back on court – clearly he had changed into his lucky t-shirt, rolling a series of winners straight out the nick, and taking an early lead, going 6-1 up. The onslaught seemed to slow after this when Fathi responded with a cross court nick winner, followed by a series of lets and a sting break from Soliman.
Tell you what, the boy Soliman can play a bit… Fathi is very steady with solid length hitting, but Soliman subtle use of holds and deception are very high quality, as is his speed and relentless retrieval. Brutal rally at 6-3 seems to break Fathi’s spirit a bit, he has Soliman all over the court, but can’t finish the rally off, then loses several quick points in succession to give the game to Soliman 11-4.
Yep, into the fourth and Fathi definitely looks a bit dejected; Soliman using all four corners of the court to great effect, forcing weak shots from Fathi’s racket. Now it’s Fathi’s turn to get some luck managing to hit a series off lucky floorboards and nicks, and some holds of his own.
It’s nip and tuck all the way, at 8-9 down Fathi gets involed with the referees – clearly rattled at the prospect of being beaten by an opponent 120 places below him in the world rankings. Dead length from Soliman takes him to 10-8, tin from Soliman 10-9, tin from Fathi, game and match to Soliman 11-9. Big upset here. Bigger things to come from Soliman….
Pictures by MIKE HEGARTY (ASRC)