Thursday, November 30, 2023

Stourbridge final is Fuller fun squash

Oh brother! All-Fuller final wows Stourbridge fans
By TREVOR DAVIES – Squash Mad Correspondent at Stourbridge

Brothers Mark (right) and Chris Fuller at Stourbridge
Brothers Mark (right) and Chris Fuller at Stourbridge (photobombed by James Willstrop)

Mark Fuller beat his brother Chris to win the Stourbridge Open, triumphing 9-11, 17-15, 11-13, 11-6, 11-4 in a dramatic encounter lasting 102 minutes.

Day One

In a draw decimated by withdrawals only two first round matches were required. First up was Jake Eden v Luke Parker with Luke taking a comfortable 3-0 victory in 33 minutes.

Next was the ever entertaining Steve Wykes v Chris Raybold – this was Chris’s first appearance in a Professional Squash Tournament. Steve took the first couple of games 11-4, 11-3 before Chris found his feet and started to play some excellent squash in the third. Neck and neck at 7-7, Steve upped his game to win the third 11-7.

The Quarter Finals began with Pontefract player Taminder Gata Aura versus local player Andrew Birks. Andrew eventually winning a scrappy, bad-tempered encounter riddled with strokes and lets 3-1 in 58 minutes.

Next match was Conner Sheen v Luke Parker. An excellent match between two very good young players – Luke winning in five games over 63 minutes.

The last two matches of the day starred the top seeds, the Fuller brothers, Mark and Chris. First on court was Chris against Steve Wykes. Chris winning 3-1 in just over an hour – Steve put up a great fight, diving all over the court in his usual all-action style, but Chris had too much guile, controlling the centre of the court. Next up was Chris’s older brother Mark against Mark Broekman. Fuller won in straight games in just over half an hour to wrap up the first day’s action.

Day 2

The first semi of the day was Mark Fuller taking on Luke Parker. Despite a valiant effort from Luke and some excellent rallies, Mark won 3-0 in just under half an hour. Chris followed with a similarly accomplished performance against Andrew Birks, again winning in three games in over 40 minutes.

And then on to the final … and what a final it was. A mouthwatering historic Fullerfest – the first time the Fuller brothers have competed against each other in a PSA final.

The first game was full of long probing rallies, neck and neck to 9-9 before Chris edged the last couple of rallies to take it 11-9.

If we thought the first game was tight, the second was brutal – a monster of a game where neither brother would give the other an inch to the delight of the crowd. Mark eventually levelling by taking the game 17-15 after 25 minutes of ridiculous reaction volleys and desperate retrieving.

Mark Fuler plays a drop against brother Chris
Mark Fuller scrapes one off the wall against brother Chris

More of the same in the third. Mark taking a 7-4 lead before Chris battled back to 9-8 with incredible never say die retrieving. Another tie break at 10 all – Chris eventually taking it 13-11 to go 2 -1 up in almost 70 minutes of intense action.

It was inevitable that there would be a dip in the ferocious pace, and so it proved in the 4th. Perhaps the superhuman effort needed by Chris to drag himself back in to the 3rd game took its toll. Mark taking it 11-6 to take the game into a deserved decider.

A similar story in the 5th, though battling valiantly Chris was struggling to get to the type of ball he was miraculously retrieving earlier in the match and Mark took the final game relatively comfortably 11-4 to rapturous applause from the audience. 102 minutes of thrilling sport.

I suspect there has been no finer final in any other PSA 1K event and was a fitting finale to the last 1K event ProSquash will be promoting.

ProSquash would like to thank Stourbridge Lawn Tennis and Squash club for their warm welcome and hospitality. It’s a fantastic club, with a superb showcourt that would be a great setting for, fingers crossed, a 5k PSA Challenger event next year.

Thanks to Wendy Danzey for refereeing the final day.

Finally, we would like to thank the players, in particular the Fuller brothers who agreed to step in and help us out after several withdrawals put the event in Jeopardy. Thanks, lads, it’s much appreciated and thank you for putting on such a fantastic final – it looked like you both really enjoyed the challenge of playing each other.


Pictures by ProSquash 


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