Canary Wharf trials best of three format but Selby and Pilley still clock up 49 minutes
By LEE HORTON – Squash Mad Reporter
PODCAST partners Daryl Selby and Cameron Pilley let their rackets do the talking as the two seasoned campaigners raised the curtain on this year’s Canary Wharf Classic in London.
Selby and Pilley have been entertaining squash fans with their Comments from The Couch broadcasts, but their undoubted friendship was put on hold as the two provided the pulsating opening act for the tournament’s new ‘Best of Three’ format being trialed in a PSA knock-out event for the first time.
Squash chiefs are hoping that the shorter matches will produce even more dynamic, exciting and pulsating contests removing the element of fatigue and attrition from the equation. The jury was very much out ahead of this week’s opening rounds on the East Wintergarden glass court. Whether the paying public buys into the idea remains to be seen.
Whatever the long-term future, Selby and Pilley played their part in giving fans, promoters and sponsors value for money.
They served up a 49-minute treat with Essex man Selby taking the honours 2-1 to increase his head-to-head record over the 35 year old Aussie to 7-1. Their previous meetings over the traditional five games have averaged 71 minutes but no-one in the crowd would have felt short-changed here.
Pilley took advantage of a tentative start by his opponent to take the first game in 14 minutes. His whip-cracking forehand was working well and that, combined with some uncharacteristic tins by Selby, saw him nudge home 11-7.
Selby improved his length and touch in the second and the two players, with 213 months in the world’s top 20 between them (Selby 100, Pilley 113), slugged it out for 19 minutes before Selby took it 11-8.
The decider saw Selby dig deep, Pilley pull off a full length dive and the crowd raise the roof as the paIr ran through their full repertoire of goodies. Selby went 5-2 up, resisted a mid-game push from Pilley and finished it off winning 11-5.
Afterwards Daryl shot down talk that the best-of-three format was an easy night’s work. “That was as tough as any match I have played against Cameron, ” he said. “Trust me, that was brutal. Oh, and by the way…that is the first time Cameron has ever dived in a match so we were all treated to something special tonight.”
Sadly, Pilley was so quick he took all the photographers by surprise and we may have to try to download a screen-grab from the Squash TV footage to prove that such an incident genuinely occurred.
The quickfire format failed to get the thumb’s up from world number four Marwan Elshorbagy. The Egyptian safely negotiated his way past Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez in two (11-5; 14-2) but wanted the match to go beyond the 44 minutes it had lasted.
“I think the crowd wanted it to go to five and I wouldn’t disagree. I prefer the traditional length of match.
Marwan looked in full control of proceedings after winning the first inside 13 minutes. But the Colombian is nothing if not resilient and had game ball before the man from Alexandria booked a place in the second round with the clock showing 44 minutes. Rodriguez pulled off his own version of the Pilley dive to excite the crowd, although it only scored a 5.9 compared to the Aussie’s 6.0.
The yearned-for short-course fireworks and brimstone came in a flood in the third match of the evening. The Egyptian match-up between world number one Mohamed Elshorbagy and the ridiculously talented youngster Mazen Hesham brought the house down as the two racket-magicians exchanged shots dreamed up by the Gods.
Showbiz nicks, unplayable rollers and dying length winners were all on a menu that will have left the powers that be bemoaning the fact that not every player on the PSA tour can reach such heights.
“He’s an amazing player,” said Mohamed. “He got to World No.13 and he had a really bad injury. He’s making his way back and he’s been playing well. Every tournament he’s been getting better and once I saw that I had him in the first round I had to have a special preparation for him because he is very tricky.
“Two of his shots are already the the PSA shots of the month so no other player need bother to try to win it.
After taking the first game 11-7, Rosner powered through the second to lead 9-0 before Mueller managed to get a point on the board.
“This format is very tough,” said Rosner. “You have to be ready to play right from the start and you can’t afford to ease up for a second. It makes for very intense squash and I think the crowd enjoyed it.”
Tomorrow’s action kicks off at 6pm with Spain’s Borja Golan, fresh from a tournament win in Montreal, facing Ryan Cuskelly of Australia. Qualifiers Greg Lobban and Greg Marche face James Willstrop and Tarek Momen, while wild card Nathan Lake meets No.2 seed Ali Farag.
PSA M100 Men’s 2018 Canary Wharf Classic, East Wintergarden, Canary Wharf, London, England.
Results – First Round (Top Half):
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [Q] Mazen Hesham (EGY) 2-0: 11-6, 11-6 (25m)
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt [Q] Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 2-0: 11-7, 11-5 (25m)
 Daryl Selby (ENG) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 2-1: 7-11, 11-8, 11-5 (48m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 2-0: 11-5, 14-12 (44m)
Draw – First Round (Bottom Half): To Be Played March 6
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v [Q] Gregoire Marche (FRA)
[Q] Greg Lobban (SCO) v  James Willstrop (ENG)
 Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) v Borja Golan (ESP)
[WC] Nathan Lake (ENG) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
Draw – Quarter-Finals: To Be Played March 7
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
 Daryl Selby (ENG) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
Pictures by Steve Line (www.squashpics.com) Andrew Cross and Patrick Lauson