Classy left-hander wins memorable marathon at The Mote
By ALAN THATCHER
No.2 seed Tom Ford claimed his first PSA World Tour title for six months when he won a thrilling final of the Select Gaming Kent Open against Welsh outsider Joel Makin.
Ford, a tall left-hander from Cheltenham, took 83 minutes to wear down an opponent playing his eighth match in 12 days.
Makin, who was runner-up in the Stortford Classic a week earlier, was on his knees in the closing stages but kept battling through his obvious exhaustion to lead 9-8 in the fifth game.
But Ford, who has developed into a stylish, attacking player, finished strongly to win the final three points with shots of stunning accuracy before a packed gallery at The Mote Squash Club in Maidstone, Kent.
The contrast in styles created a fascinating encounter with Ford angling his soft volley drops into both front corners with Makin’s powerful, physical approach producing some unbelievable retrieving and plenty of winners of his own.
Both players had battled through punishing, five-game semi-finals, with Ford beating Peter Creed in 87 minutes and Makin outlasting top seed Charles Sharpes after 104 minutes of mayhem.
However, they both looked fresh at the start with rallies of 50-plus shots. Ford led 8-5 in the opening game before Makin stormed through to win it 11-8. The second and third games were both settled on tiebreaks and, after almost an hour’s play, Makin led two games to one.
Ford sensed his opponent was tiring and raced through the fourth game in six minutes. He was in front all the way through the fifth game until he reached 8-6, when he lost three points in a row as Makin made one final, dramatic push, despite finishing many rallies bent double with fatigue.
Ford’s cool temperament saw him control the final, punishing exchanges with some precision rallying. He worked his opponent into every corner of the court to reel in one of the biggest prizes of his career and his first tournament win since two titles in Canada in November.
A delighted Ford said: “I want to thank a lot of people for running this superb tournament but the man I need to thank the most is the resident osteopath, Nick Griffith, who has treated me every day for an injury to my ribs and helped me to compete.
“Having extras like that available to us means a lot to the players and we appreciate it very much. It is a tough life on the tour and sometimes it can be a lonely existence but I have really enjoyed all the interaction with the Mote members during the tournament.
“It is lovely to play in a proper squash club in front of knowledgeable and appreciative audiences.
“I want to thank Joel for making the final such a great match and I felt we both produced some of our best squash on court today.”
Makin, when asked how he felt during the fifth game, replied: “I was pretty tired in the first game, let alone the fifth.
“I am pleased to have put together two good tournaments back to back and my aim, as always, is to keep improving.”
It was the youngest final in the eighth edition of the Kent Open, with Ford at 22 years of age and his opponent one year younger.
As Ford raised aloft his trophy after receiving it from title sponsor Jonny Powell, of Maidstone-based Select Gaming, spectators agreed that it was the best final in the tournament’s history.
Select Gaming Kent Open, The Mote Squash Club, Maidstone, Kent, England.
Final: (2) Tom Ford (England) beat (8) Joel Makin (Wales) 8-11, 12-10, 11-13, 11-5, 11-9 (83 minutes)
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt  Charles Sharpes (ENG) 11-8, 4-11, 11-13, 11-3, 16-14 (104m)
 Tom Ford (ENG) bt  Peter Creed (WAL) 13-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-13, 11-9 (87m)
 Charles Sharpes (ENG) bt  Jaymie Haycocks (ENG) 7-11, 11-5, 11-9, 11-8 (47m)
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt  Richie Fallows (ENG) 13-11, 11-6, 11-5 (51m)
 Peter Creed (WAL) bt Matthew Hopkin (AUS) 11-8, 11-5, 11-7 (37m)
 Tom Ford (ENG) bt [Q] Patrick Rooney (ENG) 11-9, 11-8, 12-10 (43m)
 Charles Sharpes (ENG) bt [Q] Asim Khan (PAK) 11-6, 12-10, 11-8 (45m)
 Jaymie Haycocks (ENG) bt [LL] Brian Byrne (IRL) 11-8, 8-11, 11-6, 11-9 (45m)
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt [Q] Youssef Soliman (EGY) 8-11, 12-10, 11-8, 6-11, 11-3 (82m)
 Richie Fallows (ENG) bt Lyell Fuller (ENG) 11-3, 10-12, 11-6, 16-14 (47m)
 Peter Creed (WAL) bt [Q] Nick Mulvey (ENG) 12-10, 11-7, 11-7 (39m)
Matthew Hopkin (AUS) bt  Chris Fuller (ENG) 11-9, 11-6, 11-1 (38m)
[Q] Patrick Rooney (ENG) bt  Arthur Gaskin (IRL) 5-11, 11-8, 8-11, 11-4, 11-8 (69m)
 Tom Ford (ENG) bt Ashley Davies (ENG) 12-10, 11-9, 3-11, 11-2 (46m)
Nick Mulvey (ENG) bt Ben Ford (ENG) 11-5, 11-6, 10-12, 8-11, 11-8 (68m)
Patrick Rooney (ENG) bt Ondrej Uherka (CZE) 11-5, 8-11, 11-3, 11-5 (38m)
Youssef Soliman (EGY) bt Brian Byrne (IRL) 11-4, 11-9, 11-7 (47m)
Asim Khan (PAK) bt Micah Franklin (BER) 14-12, 9-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-7 (72m)
1st qualifying round:
Nick Mulvey (ENG) bt Joe Green (ENG) 4-11, 7-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-5 (70m)
Ben Ford (ENG) bt Bradley Masters (ENG) 9-11, 11-3, 11-3, 11-5 (35m)
Patrick Rooney (ENG) bt Sean Conroy (IRL) 11-0, 11-6, 9-11, 11-7 (41m)
Ondrej Uherka (CZE) bt Rui Soares (POR) 11-6, 1-11, 11-6, 11-8 (60m)
Youssef Soliman (EGY) bt Emyr Evans (WAL) 11-8, 11-4, 11-7 (38m)
Brian Byrne (IRL) bt James Evans (ENG) 11-7, 11-5, 11-5 (25m)
Micah Franklin (BER) bt Gary Nisbet (ENG) 11-7, 11-4, 11-2 (23m)
Asim Khan (PAK) bt Chris Tomlinson (ENG) 8-11, 9-11, 14-12, 11-6, 11-7 (63m)
Pictures by KIM ROBERTS