Fantastic final in Aberdeen
By DAVE IRESON – Squash Mad Correspondent
Vikram Malhotra beat Mahesh Mangaonkar in an enthralling, all-Indian final of the TRAC North of Scotland Championships 2017 at Aberdeen Squash and Racketball Club.
The first game was possibly the first time that we have seen number two seed Malhotra tested by a player of Mangaonkar’s class, who looked to take away the fast paced style of Malhotra by playing tight and accurate squash.
Malhotra seemed unable to impose his attacking style on the game, and number three seed Mangaonkar quickly took an early lead closing out the first game 11-3 in five minutes.
The last time Mangaonkar was in Scotland was in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. In a bizarre show of support for the women’s double pairing of golden girls Dipika Pallikal and Joshua Chinappa, he said he would streak naked around Scotstoun if they failed to win the gold medal match against England’s Laura Massaro and Jenny Duncalf.
Fortunately for Mr Mango, the Indian girls played superbly to win the final and spared him some blushes.
If Malhotra was stripped bare in the opening game, he soon put it right at the start of the second.
Malhotra came out of the blocks firing, pumping the ball into the nick either on a drive or cross court volley. Mangaonkar was there to play the ball but it just didn’t bounce! Mangaonkar clawed his way back to 6-6. He can’t afford to put anything loose into the front – Malhotra’s soft hands and deception are too good. The pace of the game has gone up now! Tin from Mangaonkar and Malhotra takes the game 11-8.
The third game starts with the same high tempo. Brutal fast paced rallies, both players covering all corners of the court in every rally. Mangaonkar is trying to find his tight game again in this one, just not wanting to give Malhotra anything to work with. Malhotra fails to get back several straight drops and trails 10-3. Malhotra makes a spirited come back for a few points, but Mangaonkar closes out the game 11-6.
At 2-2 in the fourth game Malhotra gets a “no let” decision – the crowd think it’s close to a stroke! However, this seems to ignite his play, and he starts the next rally with some more of the attacking variety that has served him well so far this tournament. These boy are getting so much back! The retrieval is outstanding. But if you leave it loose, Malhotra is going to strike. He moves to 9-7 with a crosscourt nick roller!
Malhotra earns a game ball with a volley drop winner. Mangaonkar saves one with a drop winner. Then another after Malhotra calls his own ball down. Malhotra gets a no let, then pumps the return of serve into the nick. Not happy with that call! Stroke to Malhotra and he takes the game 13-11. It’s going to five!
Malhotra starts the game by sending Mangaonkar on a massive taxi. More flair from Malhotra and Mangaonkar is doing multiple court sprints. A few stoppages creeping in now, both players tiring and struggling to get through and play the ball. Referees having none of it – no let every time!
More end-to-end stuff. Malhotra on fire now! Mangaonkar is doing so much work. Malhotra is just showing too much class here. Magaonkar is struggling to get the ball back, everything on the last string of his racket.
Vikram Malhotra is the new TRAC Oil and Gas North of Scotland Open Champion 2017, taking the fifth game 11-4. Brilliant quality all match. A superb final.
Malhotra said: “This was extremely special for me, it’s the first one of the year, and I’m really happy. I want to thank all the people that have helped me this week, including my coach Thierry Lincou, who has been watching on the live stream.
“I want to thank the organisers and the club for putting on the event. Everyone is so friendly! And lastly I would like to thank TRAC the sponsors of the event.”
Finals day opened with the final of the Division 1 Tony Squash Graded Competition, sponsored by court repair expert Tony Gay from Cambridgeshire.
The final was between Al Prott, who played in one of the local spots in the Main PSA draw earlier in the week against fellow Invernetian Martin Ross, who now trains full time in Edinburgh.
Both players are known for their shot making ability and played in their usual attacking way, attacking off any loose ball. Al takes the match after five tight, attacking games.
Up next was the Women’s PSA Closed Satellite Final. The final was between Lisa Aitken of Montrose and Robyn Young of the Peter Nicol Centre. The match was high paced throughout with both players attacking the front and hitting solid length. In the end Lisa’s greater mobility around the front of the court was the deciding factor today and she got through in four tough games.
PSA M10 TRAC Oil & Gas North of Scotland Open 2017, Aberdeen Squash & Racketball Club, Aberdeen, Scotland.
 Vikram Malhotra (IND) bt  Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND) 3-11, 11-8, 6-11, 13-11, 11-4 (66 mins)
Pictures by ASRC