Saturday, April 13, 2024

Canary Wharf Classic 2023: Makin wins bruiser with Asal to set up Coll final

Joel Makin and Paul Coll will meet in the GillenMarkets Canary Wharf Classic final in a repeat of their Commonwealth Games gold medal duel after winning highly contrasting semi-finals at the East Wintergarden in London.

In the night’s opening match, World No.11 Makin took on World No.1 Mostafa Asal. Having already knocked out Peru’s Diego Elias and Egypt’s Tarek Momen earlier in the tournament, the Welshman came into their contest full of confidence.

The match was played in two distinct parts. The opening act saw the two players moving around each other well, in a high-paced first game. Makin was able to put his improved shot-making ability to the test, and he eventually came out on top 12-10, before then moving into a 7-2 lead in the second.

Asal showed why he is at the summit of the world rankings, pulling the game back in his favour, and he reversed the scoreline from the first to win it 12-10. The second act started midway through that game, with play becoming distinctly ugly and fragmented and punctuated by regular, contested refereeing decisions. That suited the World No.1, who went on to take the third game comfortably.

A change of ball brought about a change of fortunes for Makin in the fourth. The quicker pace allowed the Welshman to take control, and he sent the match into a decider with an 11-3 scoreline. There was then a pause in between the fourth and fifth, with a broken ball meaning a third new ball had to be warmed up.

Asal led 8-5, but from there, the Egyptian hit a number of errors and loose shots resulting in strokes. The Welshman won six points in a row to secure a third upset of the week and moved through to the final.

“I was obviously struggling and wasn’t getting things right through the first half of the season,” said Makin. “I’ve taken on some new advice and I’ve had to adapt and change.

“My body has also come through at the right time, so I feel like things have come together as I would have wanted. Even when I wasn’t feeling great physically, I was still working on my squash and I was still thinking. So I felt like I spent months where my squash was getting better and my body wasn’t quite there.

“Then this week it’s come together and I’m in a good place and I’m confident. I think a few people didn’t think I was at that level or didn’t have the ability to adapt to that. So I certainly proved those sort of people wrong and have shown that my squash can be as good as my physicality.

“I can beat World #1, #2, #3, #4 as I’ve done this week and at Black Ball. I played Tarek [Momen] in Black Ball, Tarek here, Diego [Elias] here… no issues at all, obviously, so I hope people can grasp what was causing the problems today and what the issue was.”

Paul Coll will meet Joel Makin in the final of the GillenMarkets Canary Wharf Classic in a repeat of their Commonwealth Games gold medal battle after they won hugely contrasting semi-finals on Thursday night at the East Wintergarden in London.

Makin will now take on New Zealand’s Coll in the final on Friday evening after the Kiwi came through an outstanding contest between two former World No.1s, beating Egypt’s Ali Farag in a rousing end to the night’s action.

Despite only just returning from a four-month layoff, Farag showed no signs of rustiness, and the pace was high in the opening game. The Kiwi scraped through it 11-9, with the second then proceeding to go deep into a tie-break. Both men had several game balls but it was Farag that eventually claimed a 19-17 victory after a 33-minute stanza.

Like the second game, the third and fourth also went to tie-breaks, as the quality and pace remained high. The New Zealander, who is a two-time winner at Canary Wharf, was able to win the crucial points in both. He won the third game 12-10, before clinching victory after taking the fourth 13-11, to move through to another final in London.

“It’s great, man. Honestly, as tough as it was physically, I just loved every minute of it,” the Kiwi said.

“My mum sent me a message saying ‘So good to have Ali [Farag] just to watch those sort of matches again.’ He’s such a clean, fair player. Hopefully the whole squash world enjoyed it. I definitely did and I think he did. It’s just nice to be part of a match like that.

“I don’t think they [the crowd] were just behind me. I think they were behind both players. It’s such a good atmosphere, some of those rallies were just insane and you could just see the crowd loving it, standing up at the end, clapping for Ali as he walked off.

“It’s just great to see the respect the crowd has for the players, both players. It’s just fun to be a part of that and to play in front of such a crowd like that.

“It’s [the final] going to be tough. He’s [Makin] playing, I think, almost career best form for him. It is great to see him climbing the ranks again. He’s obviously taken out number 1 and 2 in the world so it’s going to be a real test tomorrow. Physically, I’m going to have to back up. I’m excited for the challenge and I’m sure he’s going to have plenty of support as well. It should be a cracking final.”

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