Sunday, April 14, 2024

Top seed shows how to extend the rallies

Stretch: Youssef Soliman lunges in to the front right corner

Great squash, shame about the blocking…

By DAVE IRESON in Aberdeen


TRAC North of Scotland Open, Aberdeen Squash Club. First Round reports:

[2] Eddie Charlton (Eng) vs [WC] Chris Leiper (Sco)
Last up after a very long day was local favourite / hero / hulk wannabe Chris Leiper in as the tournament’s Wild Card against No 2 seed Eddie Charlton. Leiper played well in the first, and didn’t seem too phased by the pace of the professional game. Charlton’s line and length was however, impeccable in the first and he forced a series of boasts from Leiper. Charlton capitalised on these with some nice holds at the front, and ran away with the first 11/5.
Into the second and a slightly more positive start from Leiper, looking to take the initiative and use his own holds at the front, sending Charlton the wrong way on several occasions. Sam story in the second however, it was even until 5-5 and then Eddie seemed to pull away, this time though as a result of errors from Leiper’s racket. Game to Charlton 11/5.
The third was much more exhibition like, with Leiper looking to be more aggressive with his front court play. Both players were holding, flicking, corkscrewing their way to points. It looked to be all over when Charlton went 10-4 up, but Leiper made a spirited comeback before Charlton closed out the game and match 11-7.
Eddie Charlton (Eng) bt Chris Leiper (Sco) 3-0 11-5 11-5 11-7 (26min)

[6] Steven Finitsis (Aus) vs [Q] Matthew Hopkin (Aus)
My first observation of this game is that there are very few decisions being made…. Just some typical Aussie blokes having some fun. Finitsis prepared for his match with some “Netflix and chill”, and he certainly carried on in relaxed fashion in the first moving effortlessly about the court taking the first 11-7. In the second Hopkin went on a nick rampage – so “on it” it was unreal – just didn’t miss – all over in minutes – exhibition stuff…. Hopkin takes it 11-1 #jokesquash
More of the same in the third from both players this time, absolutely ridiculous squash, loads of angles, boasts, holds, flicks, and nicks; such easy on the eye compared to the previous match! Finitsis takes it 11-5. Into the fourth and more ridiculous stuff, end to end rallies, with such great variety and creativity from both players. Finitsis just a bit stronger in the end taking the fourth and match 11-7.
Steven Finitsis (Aus) bt Matthew Hopkin (Aus) 3-1 11-7 1-11 11-5 11-7 (33min)

Don’t come back …

[5] Richie Fallows (Eng) vs Chris Binnie (Jam)
I am embarrassed as a player, coach, tournament organiser, and more importantly spectator when I am forced witness the absolutely shambolic scenes on the show court this evening.

I have not seen such an appalling display of blocking, cheating, and playing the man in a long time. Bluntly, if you are going to play like that, please don’t come back next year. PSA – sort this out….
Chris Binnie (Jam) bt Richie Fallows (Eng) 3-2: 11-5 3-11 11-2 11-8 (54min)

[4] Piedro Schweertman (Ned) vs [LL] Joe Green (Eng)
Straight off the bat, want to mention that this is probably one of the fairest, most flowing games of squash that I have witnessed to date. The pace was ferocious from the start both players looking to step up and volley and whilst there was a lot of competition for the middle of the court, in the whole match I think that I counted 3 lets, both players just choosing to get on with it and play the ball. Great to see.
Anyway onto the squash…. Both players are very similar in style, hitting hard length, pushing up and volleying and both looking to extend the rallies. This favoured Green in the early stages as perhaps Schweertman got a bit impatient and made a couple of uncharacteristic errors. First game to Green 11-9. The second game was a mirror of the first, this time Green making a few errors, handing the game to Schweertman.
It was clear in the third that Green had got up a bit of confidence and several members of the crows noted he seemed to be playing much more fluid squash that yesterday. Green decided to add a bit of front court flair in the third and hit a couple of front court rollers. Third to Green 11-9. Tiiiiight…..
What a fourth game…. Green not wanting to let this opportunity go! Excellent retrieval from both players, but Green looked just so up for the match; dives, splits, nicks – on fire! Green takes the fourth 11-9 – into the quarters. Great game!
Joe Green (Eng) bt Piedro Schweertman (Ned) 3-1 11-9 9-11 11-9 11-9 (59min)

[3] Mahesh Mangoankar (Ind) vs Dougie Kempsell (Sco)
The first game was the first more traditional game of squash we have seen with both players looking to rally up and down the wall in search of an opening. Kempsell looked to vary the height and pace of the ball more than Mangaonkar and this stopped him getting into a solid rhythm. It was level pegging until 8-8 when Dougie managed to use some nice touches at the front to finish the rallies off and take the game 11-9.
In the second and the third games Kempsell’s play got a bit passive; using some nice height on the front wall and forcing some weaker drives from his opponent, however he couldn’t seem to back this up with some solid line hitting or front court play to capitalise on this advantage. Mangaonkar too the second and third 11-6, 11-8.
Into the third and Kempsell starts to mix a good variety of floated balls with some short kills, which unsettled his opponent’s rhythm. Despite going 9-7 down Kempsell “dug” deep and took the game to a tie break, and closed it out 12-10.
The fourth and fifth games were really high quality from both players, Kempsell looking to vary the pace and take the ball short when in front, with Mangaonkar looking to keep the ball alive and make not errors. It was see-saw all the way through the game, with neither player more than one point ahead. Couple of errors from Kempsell’s racket was the difference. Kempsell took the fourth 12-10 and Mangaonkar took the 5th game 12-10. Great effort “Dug”!
Mahesh Mangaonkar (Ind) bt Douglas Kempsell (Sco) 3-2 8-11 11-6 11-8 10-12 12-10 (95min)

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[7] Chris Fuller (Eng) vs [Q] Ashley Davies (Eng)
A tight first game saw Fuller play everything to Davies backhand; Davies not quite able to keep the ball as tight as he would like on that side of the court. This frustrated Davies into careless attempt to end the rally early resulting in a few errors. However as the game progress Davie’s backhand width improved which forced slightly weaker shots from Fuller, allowing Davies to capitalise and claw his way back into the game, eventually pipping Fuller to the post 12-10.
In the second Davies played a series of very well crafted rallies, keeping the ball tight and forcing Fuller into playing some loose balls. Davies took a commanding 5-0, however he seemed to drop his focus mid-way through and allowed Fuller too claw his way back into the game. Point by point, Fuller kept getting the ball back and edging his points tally closer to Davies. As we neared the business end of the game the game got a bit more scrappy, which suited Fuller, and he managed to close out the game 13-11.
The third was just silly squash. End to end rallies. Back wall boasts galore. Crowd loving it. At 9-7 down Fuller has Davies on the absolute ropes, 6, 7, 8 court sprints, but makes the crazy decision of arguing with the referees about a pick up, giving Davies some well needed recovery. Davies then closed out the game with a ridiculous volley drop winner and then buried the ball deep in the forehand cross court nick. Game to Davies 11-7.
The fourth and fifth were both tight games, but it was Davies on the receiving end of some brutal rallies, being forced to retrieve ever deeper into the corners of the court. Fuller did just enough to close out the games 11-9 and 14-12.
Chris Fuller (Eng) bt Ashley Davies (Eng) 3-2 10-12 13-11 7-11 11-9 14-12 (98min)

[8] Joshua Larkin (Aus) vs [Q] Youssef Soliman (Egy)
The first game was a contrast of styles, both players wanting to play at high tempo, but Larkin looking to keep the ball straight and contain his opponent, whereas Soliman was looking to open the court up and use his speed advantage over his opponent. Larkin even commenting midway through the first “He’s quick”. This extra speed was the deciding factor as Soliman edged ahead and closed out the game 11-8.
Into the second game and Larkin looks to step up the court and volley the ball as much as possible keeping Soliman deep in the court. The game was highly energetic with Soliman looking to open up the court and either force a huge lunge from Larkin to recover the ball, or causing himself to use his retrieval skills when Larkin punished a weak attacking shot. In the end the consistency from Larkin saw him take a small lead and the game 11-9.
The third game was long and tiring, both players sensing the importance of the game, despite Soliman taking an early lead (6-1) by hitting some outrageous winners coupled with some pin point accurate cross courts. Larkin never looked as if he was out of any of the rallies though and fought back to 8-8 with some excellent retrieval and defensive lobs. There were a couple of clashes towards the end of the game, and it looked like these mini breaks favoured Soliman who took the next 3 points, to close out the game 11-8.
Into the fourth and once again Soliman took an early 7-0 lead with some outrageous winners, once again Larkin fought his way back into the game, however this time Soliman’s lead was far too great, and he took the game and match 11/7.
Youssef Soliman (Egy) bt Joshua Larkin (Aus) 3-1 11-8 9-11 11-8 11-7 (63min)

[1] Karim Ali Fathi (Egy) vs [Q] Joshua Masters (Eng)
Let’s be clear, the boy Masters can play a bit…. Starting off exactly where he left off last night, spanking the ball in the nick at every opportunity. Despite a high pace and some very low straight drives from Fathi, Masters still managed to consistently find an angle to play several outright winners, taking the game 11-7.
Into the second and Fathi noticeably looked to increase the tempo and keep the ball deep on Master’s backhand. Not deterred Masters continued to look to take the ball in. Unfortunately for Masters his racket work slightly let him down and a series of errors handed a very close second game to Fathi 11-7.
Predictably in the third given the high intensity of the match, Fathi looked to exert his slightly greater physical presence on the match, asking for let after let, for no reason – deliberately extending the length of the games, and turned a really good game of squash into a dog fight. Third to Fathi 16-14.
Despite the length and the intensity of the third game, Masters managed to continue his assault on the front of the court with devastating effect, taking the ball short from the most unlikely of places, including roll several 3 wall boasts right out of the nick in a row. Game to Masters 11-9.
The damage inflicted by Fathi on Masters in the third and fourth games was simply too great and in the fith game Masters couldn’t keep the ball out of the tin, looking more tired with every shot. Game and match to Fathi 11-4.
Karim Ali Fathi (Egy) bt Joshua Masters (Eng) 3-2 7-11 11-7 16-14 9-11 11-4 (76min)

Ab QF draw


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