Friday, March 1, 2024

Top seed Finitsis is too much of a realist for Youssef

Artist Steve brushes off Abdalla as he plays to the gallery 


Brush stroke of an artistic genius
Brush stroke of an artistic genius. Pictures by KIM ROBERTS

Top seed Steve Finitsis, an accomplished Marvel comic character artist as well as a world’s top 50 squash player, had to draw on all his reserves to overcome qualifier Youssef Abdalla in a testing 44 minute first round scrap in the Select Gaming Kent Open..

Aussie Finitsis, based in The Hague, came through in three straight games but he was a relieved man to put away the gifted Egyptian-born Londoner 11-6, 11-9, 11-7.

“That was tough, make no mistake,” admitted Finitsis.”Youssef has some incredible touches and I was delighted to just get off court. I guess my added experience told in the end but he has all the makings of being a really good player. He just needs more tournament experience.”

Abdalla, who has been hampered by an ankle injury since early March, was tough on himself afterwards. “Mentally weak, physically weak,” he said. “I guess I played well considering, and Steve is an experienced pro, but I need to regain my fitness.”

Ben Coleman, Adballa’s Essex team mate, is chasing his fourth PSA title in six weeks following success in Scotland, Ipswich and Paris. And he remains on course after a predictably spicy encounter with firebrand Midlander, George Parker.

Amid plenty of verbal jousting and high-energy squash, Coleman came through 11-7, 11-6, 11-6 thrilling the crowd and testing referee Dean Clayton to the full.

American Todd Harrity powered home in straight games against English qualifier Mike Harris. Harrity overwhelmed his opponent in the first game, but Harris hit back with a spell of sustained pressure to lead 6-1 in the second, but Harrity recovered his momentum to regain control.

Harris had endured a marathon qualifying battle with Phil Nightingale and he was always behind in the third game as Harrity’s employment of fast forehand drops emerged as a decisive factor. 

 Great balls of fire!

Additional reporting by SAM ELLIS – Squash Mad West Country Correspondent

In a long, dry-mouthed battle, number 6 seed Declan James battled his way through to a five-game victory over fellow Englishman Chris Fuller, who was returning to action after a long lay-off caused by an ankle injury, ironically enough sustained in a match against James.

The match was full of long, testing, well structured rallies. Squash is often referred to a high tempo chess battle of nerves. Both of these players were moving fast, hitting the ball hard, and testing each other’s mental stamina.

As the battle progressed, transformer Fuller stayed solid, calculating and cutting off angles, squeezing the ball tight and taking the first game 11-5. James relaxed and found more corners in the second, hunting the ball from his preying mantis T position and taking it in with ease, but squandered an 8-3 lead to lose the second 11-9.

deckneeHaving surrendered such a dominant position, James was determined to regain control with a structured, disciplined approach. It may have been conservative but it was certainly effective as he won the next two games with straight lengths, straight lengths, and more straight lengths. For the packed gallery of club players and juniors, it was a master-class of control.

At 5-5 in the fifth game it was anybody’s match, but it was precisely at that point that James took command, racking up a number of points and losing just one more rally to clinch a quarter-final tie with top seed Steve Finitsis.

Several passages of play were absolutely brutal, but James also suffered more pain as he drilled a crosscourt drive into his own knee (pictured right).

As a self-inflicted injury, he took it like a man.

Despite the result, Fuller admitted to being satisfied with his return to play after a long spell out with an ankle injury. He said: “I was pleased to be back on court but at 5-5 in the fifth I was just a bit off the pace physically and mentally.But it was nice to last for 92 minutes.” 

Lobban drives past Ford 

Number four seed Greg Lobban played hard,. aggressive squash to drive his way past Tom Ford. After a series of gruelling rallies, Lobban took the first game 11-9.  Ford responded in the second with a flurry of winners to take the game 11-1. Lobban appeared to drop his head after receiving a no-let call in mid-game.

Lobban led 8-4 in the third before Ford hit back to 7-8 but some well-pressed rallies from Lobban gave him control. It was a similar pattern in the fourth game before Ford hit too many errors. Looking desperate, he tried to hit winners but the tin got in the way too often.  

Richie Fallows made short work of beating Adil Maqbool, who was clearly struggling with a groin injury that hampered his movement. The European junior champion from London took just 24 minutes to beat the Dubai-based Maqbool.  It could have been a lot quicker but for Fallows’ discussions with the referee.

Jonathan Kemp overcame a slow start to beat James Earles 3-1. Kemp, playing in his final tournament before returing from the PSA Tour, looked in danger of an early exit as he surrendered the first game 11-1.

However, he began to construct some rallies with purpose and penetration and from 4-4 in the second game the winners began to flow. He took the second and third games 11-5 but Earles fought tenaciously throughout the third.

There was never more than a point between them but with Earles leading 9-8, Kemp finished strongly to win 11-9 and clinch a quarter-final showdown with the in-form Ben Coleman.


Select Gaming Kent Open, The Mote Squash Club, Maidstone, England.

First Round:

(2) Jonathan Kemp (ENG) bt James Earles (ENG) 1-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-9 (37 mins)
(5) Ben Coleman (ENG) bt George Parker (ENG) 11-7, 11-6, 11-6 (54 mins)
Richie Fallows (ENG) bt Adil Maqbool (Pakistan) 11-7, 11-8, 11-8 (24 mins)
(4) Greg Lobban (ENG) bt Tom Ford (ENG) 11-9, 1-11, 11-8, 11-4 (52 mins)
(3) Charles Sharpes (ENG) bt Steven London (ENG) 11-9, 11-3, 11-3 (32 mins)
(7) Todd Harrity (USA) bt Mike Harris (ENG) 11-4, 11-9, 11-9 (37 mins)
(6) Declan James (ENG) bt Chris Fuller (ENG) 5-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-6 (92 mins)

(1) Steve Finitsis (AUS) bt Youssef Abdalla (ENG) 11-6, 11-9, 11-7 (44 mins)

FOOTNOTE: The Hague School is the name given to a group of artists who lived and worked inThe Hague between 1860 and 1890. Their work was heavily influenced by the realist painters of the French Barbizon school. The painters of the Hague school generally made use of relatively somber colors, which is why the Hague School is sometimes called the Gray School.

Picture by KIM ROBERTS

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