Monday, March 30, 2009

SEMI-FINALS, Tue 31st March

Live updates from the semi-finals ...

Chapel Allerton bt Probuild Bristol 3/2
Thierry Lincou lost to Adrian Grant 11-7, 10-12, 9-11, 11-5, 12-14
Alister Walker bt David Evans 9-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-6
Aaron Frankcomb bt Hadrian Stiff 11-8, 7-11, 11-6, 12-14, 11-8
Chris Simpson bt Lewys Hurst 11-2, 11-3, 11-6
Jenna Gates lost to Sarah-Jane Perry 6-11, 6-11, 5-11

PCL Whitehall Security Surrey H&RC LOST TO Benz-Bavarian Duffield 2/3
Wael El Hindi lost to Nick Matthew 11-4, 6-11, 6-11, 6-11
Peter Barker bt Joey Barrington 11-7, 11-6, 11-4
Davide Bianchetti lost to Andrew Whipp 8-11, 11-9, 15-17, 10-12
Tim Garner bt Joel Hinds 6-11, 8-11, 13-11, 11-9, 11-9 (saving match ball at 9-10 in 3rd!)
Vicky Botwright lost to Tania Bailey 7-11, 7-11, 9-11

5 May Final:
Chapel Allerton v Benz-Bavarian Duffield

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Chichester finish with a win

In the final match of the PSL season, pnh Properties Team Chichester welcomed local rivals Unisport Guldford, in the bottom of the table clash, reports Mike Phillips.

Chichester’s Annabelle Collins-Ballands, making her home debut, played Emma Wardle. Both are Junior players and a fantastic match ensued. Wardle played good confident squash whereas Collins-Ballands looked fraught with nerves and in no time at all found herself 0.2 down. She needed a game to gain self-assurance. Her confidence was boosted when she narrowly took the third and fourth soon after. She raced to a 9/3 lead in the decider before she slightly faltered allowing Wardle to claw back 3 points with some excellent positive play. Collins-Ballands kept her composure and closed the game and match 11/6.

On the adjoining championship court, Olly Pett (Chichester), undefeated thus far this season, took on Phil Rushworth from Guildford. After a very tight first game, Rushworth finally won it 10/12 and a close match looked to be on the cards. Unfortunately Pett’s next 2 games were strewn with errors and Rushworth [all credit to him] took full advantage and played a solid, no frills match, to wrap up 0.3 victory.

1 match all.

Next on court 4, Neil Frankland was making his debut for Chichester against Mick Biggs. The match was very much a ‘to & fro’ affair with Biggs leading 1.2 before Frankland’s patience, composure and experience enabled him to fight back to take the 4th and 5th games – making Chichester 2.1 up.

On the glass back court Tim Vail played Steve Meads. For the most part Vail controlled the first two games, winning 11/9, 11/8 and although Meads had his chances Vail’s shot making was winning through. Meads then rallied well and pulled back to take the third game 6/11. Vail stormed to a 5/0 lead in the 4th only to be pegged back to 5/5 by Meads’ persistence. At this stage there was a small collision and an exchange of words which appeared to unsettle Meads. Vail took advantage and threw in a few of his trademark nicks to seal the match 11/6.

3.1 and the match to Chichester

So to the final match of the evening and what amounted to a dead rubber but nonetheless involved the silky skills of Stacey Ross (Guildford) and Chichester’s Alex Gough. The rallies in the first game were evenly contested to 5 all until a rally ensued didn’t move forward at all and his resistance faded; 11/5 to Chichester. After a slow start by Ross in the second game, Gough built up a healthy lead and some superb winning lengths brought Ross back into this game. The lead which Gough had created proved too much although a closer game than the first with Gough winning it 11/7. The third game had both players involved form the start using some great angles and all parts of the court. Gough had 2 match points but Ross held on to take the tie break 13/15. The fourth game saw Ross continue in the same vein with Gough looking like he had lost the impetus from the first 2 games. Ross took the game 5/11 to set up a 5th and deciding game.

The momentum was now with Ross and Gough was really struggling to regain control and the match slipped away 7/11 to make the overall score 3.2 on the night

Team Chichester will now need to take stock, regroup and apply themselves for the next campaign and hopefully a better season.

Mike Phillips

Fourth for Guildford

PNH Properties 3 beat UniSport Guildford 2

Alex Gough 2 lost to Stacey Ross 3
11 - 5, 11 - 7, 13 - 15, 5 - 11, 7 - 11
Tim Vail 3 beat Steve Meads 1
11 - 9, 11 - 8, 6 - 11, 11 - 7
Ollie Pett 0 lost to Phil Rushworth 3
10 - 12, 3 - 11, 9 - 11
Neil Frankland 3 beat Mick Biggs 2
11 - 5, 7 - 11, 9 - 11, 11 - 5, 11 - 5
Annabelle Collins-Ballands 3 beat Emma Wardle 2
8 - 11, 9 - 11, 11 - 7, 12 - 10, 11 - 6

Guildford finish fourth - Ian Robinson reports

UniSport Guildford travelled to the south coast with points uppermost in their minds for the last match of the Premier Squash League season. At the start of play UniSport were 9 points ahead of Chichester at the foot of the table and 9 points behind St Georges Hill in fourth place. So a win would see a fourth place finish ahead of St Georges Hill but a loss would make a points calculation inevitable with PNH Chichester chasing hard to lose the wooden spoon position. Both teams had absentees with Alison Waters and Dominique Lloyd-Walter away as well as UniSport team no 1 Jesse Engelbrecht and Chichester without ever present veteran Peter Genever and their number 1 Azlan Iskander. Nonetheless the matches were intriguing and made it difficult to predict the outcome with home advantage going to PNH Chichester.

The first match was between two young ladies of the future, Emma Wardle for UniSport Guildford and Annabelle Collins-Ballands of PNH Properties Chichester. Nerves were going to play a big part in this match and so it proved. Premier League Squash is all new to both these promising players who have been notable in their junior exploits. Predicting the outcome was akin to Saturday night lottery selection - much in hope but little certainty - and likely success would fall to the one who managed the occasion best. The first two games were claimed by Wardle who dictated terms from the middle of the court and hit the ball crisply with some clever placements. No doubt Collins-Ballands was showing early signs of nerves, making mistakes in situations where she would not normally. After building good leads Wardle proceeded to show her opponent enough daylight to encourage her keen participation, which was probably to cost in the long run. After looking the likely winner to the later stages of the third game Wardle lost her control and ceased her strong hitting to the back corners which allowed the Chichester youngster enough room to work her way to the middle of the court and start exercising more control over proceedings. It was the Guildford player who started to make mistakes, but there was no certainty either way. The tie break in the fourth game was the last time that Wardle had a chance to claim victory. Collins-Ballands came back from a 2 - 0 deficit, worked hard and at the same time reduced her errors to claim a hard fought victory. Both players will have been encouraged by this outing in the big time and will learn from the experience. But first blood went with home advantage, 1 - 0 to PNH Properties Chichester.

Phil Rushworth is in a rich vein of form at the moment and looking to add to his recent scalps found himself opposed to another upcoming youngster in Ollie Pett of Sussex. UniSport needed this tie to get back on equal terms and Rushworth was up for the challenge. The first game was particularly hard fought but in the end recent successes meant that Rushworth had the confidence to nose in front at the crucial time and claim a hard working first game success 12 - 10. This only served to increase his confidence even more and he came out firing at the start of the second and dominated the game with his relentless driving forcing loose balls to finish clinically to the front corners. In the third game matters were more even and Pett tried desperately to force his way back in, but in the end Rushworth was not to be denied and he happily put UniSport Guildford's first points on the board. 1 - 1 in match score and at this stage on games count back Guildford with 2 games from Wardle's match and 3 points from Rushworth's match had scored 5 points with a points tally of 10 being necessary to overtake St Georges Hill.

Mick Biggs found himself opposed to Neil Frankland, once of UniSport Guildford fame and now spending his twilight years as a super-sub for PNH Properties Chichester. As is the case in these situations it came back to haunt Guildford. Frankland did what he has done many times before in Guildford colours and that is won the first game with his brand of quality controlled squash. He worked his opponent out of position and hit some tasty winners to the front corners of the court. But credit to Biggs, he started to adjust to the Chichester courts and hit more accurately taking Frankland away from the middle of the court and making him work harder for his opportunities. Biggs even managed to venture some controlled placement winners of his own to steel the second and third games. Both these games were hard won and the closeness of the score suggested that Biggs was not really making his advantage pay as effectively as he should. When 2 - 1 down, Frankland applied himself to the task and increased his work rate and grabbed control of the play back from Biggs and ran out the winner using his experience to make it count at the key stages of the fourth and fifth games. Biggs will rue the missed opportunity here - the last time they played he took a 3 - 0 beating but here he was definitely in with a great chance. The fact that it went begging only says that it is a matter of time before he wins at this level and then there will be a suitable boost to his confidence with the attendant benefits. PNH Properties Chichester 2 - 1. However a further 2 valuable points were added to the UniSport cause in the League table.

Home team player manager, the ever popular Tim Vail greeted Steve Meads with a volley of attacking shots from the outset. So nothing new there then. Meads was pitting his reliable containing game against the outright and forthright attack of Vail. Always a fascinating contest made more so by the hint of niggle taking place on court, which the referee did little to allay. It was really an end of season struggle with the quality of squash sufficient but both players are probably looking forward to some summer sun or if they are not then they probably should be. Clearly the the result and the points were all that mattered. Both players are such good professionals that they wanted to deliver the goods for their team on the night. There was some interesting cat and mouse and by and large it was in the balance. But it was a straight battle as to whether Vail would find enough winners to keep him out of too much physical trouble against Meads trying to suck him into working as hard he could to reduce the attacking capability. The result went again with home advantage when, despite dropping the third game, Vail was able to find enough control to keep Meads at bay and raise the cheer of the night as Chichester won the match 3 - 1 and the tie 3 - 1 as well. But another valuable point in the league table for UniSport Guildford - now a promising 8 points with a further 2 needed to overtake St Georges Hill.

So with 2 points needed Ross was faced by the PSA's new Chief Executive Alex Gough, who, more importantly used to be a world top 5 player himself. Gough was immediately into his stride giving no hint of his retirement to take up more pressing executive matters. No question the ball was pinging around the court with little or no accuracy except that applied by Gough which was enough to win him the first game with Ross seemingly not at the races. The second game went a similar way with Gough far more in control and finding the right shot at the right time to claim the second game, however not by such a clear margin. Now Ross was beginning to show signs of getting his game together. The third game was closer but still Gough arrived at match ball before Ross started to come to life. Stung into action after the frustration of the first two games, Ross was timing the ball better and hitting some clean winners - always a good indicator. After saving himself in the third, Ross started to hit with precision, which conveniently co-incided with Gough getting tired and slowing his relentless speed around court just enough. Showing great accuracy and hitting some disconcerting winners Ross played particularly well in the fourth to level the scores and take it into fifth and deciding set without having to become embroiled in too many lengthy rallies. The fifth was an intriguing struggle with Gough trying to contain the attacking game of Ross hitting tight and deep, but Ross showing just enough patience to wait for his moment to hit the winner and stretch his opponent and make him work harder than he wanted to. After tough early exchanges in the deciding set, Ross moved clear and claimed a hard working victory in a strangely fascinating and entertaining match at the end of a long season. UniSport Guildford had lost the match overall 3 - 2, but had put 11 points on the board which was enough to finish 4th in the Premier Squash League table for the season.

This has been another successful campaign in the Premier Squash League by UniSport Guildford who have worked hard to make the most of their playing resources. A very special mention must go to all those that have supported the team as sponsors, the University of Surrey Sports Department (UniSport) Colbornes VW and R A Robertsons & Sons. We would also like to thank all those travelling spectators,drivers and general camp followers too numerous to mention but you know who you are - you have all added to the spirit of the team. We look forward to next season, which we hope will be adorned by the move to the new Surrey Sports Park facility with 8 brand new glass backed squash courts. Can't wait. See you next season.

Ian Robinson

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chapel A grab top spot at Duffield

Arthur Curran reports

Here at Duffield tonight we see the top of the Group A battle between Benz Bavarian Duffield and league newcomers Chapel Allerton, to decide who wins the group and is therefore entitled to a home tie in the semi final. Chapel A are obviously weakened by the loss of Thierry Lincou their No 1, who is playing the final of the Super Series at Queens tonight, so not a good start for them. However Duffield are without their No 1 Ladies player Tania Bailey, so Laura Hill comes in and she says she will do her very best against British Champion and World # 5 Jenny Duncalf.

First match up was the ladies, and good hard work by Laura in the first game kept her level up to 9/9 but then Jenny struck out and took the game 11/9. Jenny started the second very much in control and despite Laura battling bravely as she always does, Jenny took the game 11/5. Jenny took control again in the third, despite battling hard again, levelling at 7/7, Jenny took four straight points to take the game 11/7 and the match 3 -0.

Meanwhile on the glassback court, the No 3 strings were playing, Andy Whipp for Duffield and Australian Scott Arnold for Chapel A. The first game went very evenly up to 8/8,Scott took the next point but Andy won out with two great shots and took the game 11/9. Scott got slightly in front in the second game, Andy could not quite find the shots to pull back and Scott took the game 11/5 – 1 game each. Whippy took control early in the third with his usual all action game and took the score to 9/5, but Scott fought back tenaciously and, although Andy had a game ball at 10/9, Scott levelled up and took the tie break to win 12/10.

Andy started off well again in the fourth, helped by five straight bad shots from Scott, then a lovely drop shot and a deep volley helped him take the game 11/3. 2 games all. The final game was a battle royal, the home crowd cheering madly every point won by Andy, with long rallies and great shots, the score moved to 7/7, after a couple of “discussions” with the referee Scott went to 9/7, Andy levelled at 9/9 with a sizzling drop shot but then tinned one to give Scott match ball. But Andy was not quite finished – he took the next point to go to a tie break, but unfortunately Scott took the next two points to take the game 12/10 and the match 3 games to 2 to rapturous applause from the audience after 61 minutes on court.

Andy must have been very tired, he must have had some sleepless nights the last couple of weeks since his lovely wife gave birth to a baby girl two weeks ago. Congratulations to Andy and his family!.

Meanwhile, on the adjoining court the 4th string players had started their match. Joel Hinds for Duffield and South African Steve Coppinger for Chapel A started off very quietly with a cat and mouse game, which went level up to 9/9. After a very long rally Joel got game point then with a lovely long drop shot took the game11/9.

The second game was again very close with both players battling hard. The game went to a tie break at 10/10 and was decided eventually in Joel’s favour 15/13. 2 games to nil. Steve took an early few points lead in the third and just managed to keep in front to take the game 11/7and stay in the match. Steve again took an early lead 4/0then went to 7/1and 8/3 with Joel fighting hard, but then took the game 11/3. This final game was all important – a win for Chapel A would give them the tie 3 games to nil with two matches to play. With a very tense crowd looking on, Steve took the first point, but then gave Joel 2 with two tins. After 7 lets at 2/1, the score went to 2/2, 3/3 (another 3 lets here), but then Steve moved slowly up to 8/3, however Joel had not given in.

He pulled the score back to 8/6 after a beautiful crosscourt shot got him back in the scoring, but then the much more experienced South African eased out to take the game 11/6, after 15 minutes, and the match 3 games to 2 after 71 minutes..

This meant of course that Chapel Allerton had taken first place in Group A in their first season in the league and Duffield were runners up.

However there were two matches still to be played, and they were certainly played competitively. First, Joey Barrington (Duffield) took 75 minutes to beat Chris Simpson (Chapel A) 10/12, 13/11, 11/8, 11/5. Then Nick Matthew came on court against Alister Walker, who has moved up to #16 in the World Rankings, but despite putting up a great fight Alister lost out 11/9, 11/3, 11/5 in 37 minutes.

The results we have had from the other matches means that Duffield will travel to Surrey H&RC, Croydon, and Chapel A host Bristol in the semi finals two weeks tonight on the 31st March.

Arthur Curran

Surrey go top

Surrey Health & Racquets Club 3 beat UniSport Guildford 2
Ian Robinson reports

UniSport Guildford made the short journey to Croydon and nearly came away with the spoils. Title chasing Surrey H & R Club spent the early part of the day determining whether Wael El Hindi, the World number 8 and their club number 1, was going to be able to play with commitments to the Super Series Finals at the Queens Club distracting him. UniSport Guildford arrived at the club and to their surprise found that he was unavailable. This did not discernibly reduce the firepower that Surrey H & R had at their disposal when veteran Tim Garner was drafted in. UniSport welcomed back Stacey Ross who arguably was not missed when the team won the last match at home to St George's Hill.

Alison Waters was first on court and had her unbeaten Premier Squash League record of almost two years to defend. This was to be one of the sternest tests of her mettle as Vicki Botwright was a finalist in her farewell international tournament, the World Open, in her home town of Manchester before taking to her coaching duties. There was no hint of the struggle to come as Waters stormed to a convincing 11 - 2 first game lead - this was a mixture of an excellent start with winners flying around the front of the court and some costly errors by the home player. The second game saw the contest begin to even out as Botwright started to find her range and her lobs combined with stealthy drops made the going a lot tougher for the World number 6.

Botwright started to frustrated Waters whose play became somewhat untidy and allowed the Surrey H & R player to level the score. Waters undeterred, hit back and took a lead and built on it to forge a 2 - 1 lead which meant that the older player was having to play 'catch up'. This was to be the decisive factor. Botwright played some excellent squash using all the available space on the court to test Waters' athleticism to the maximum and after another close and tense game it was into a fifth and deciding set. The fifth saw Waters make a good start and build a lead which she then had to hang onto. Easier said than done and just when it seemed that Botwright was being reeled in, Waters found herself on the end of some tough well constructed rallies, which caused errors and just kept the door slightly ajar.

Botwright fought to the end and was mounting yet another comeback at match ball down when the sheer athleticism of Waters saw her return all Botwright's best shots and then finally played an inch perfect drop shot to clinch the win. It was one of the finest ladies match seen for a very long time in the Premier League and a credit to both players. It was great entertainment for the large crowd as well if not the right result for the home side. 1 - 0 UniSport Guildford.

Phil Rushworth has run into some real form recently and it is backed with confidence. Here he faced Ben Ford, who is vastly experienced and has seen it all on the International tour but had probably not seen Rushworth in quite such good form and with a few tricks up his sleeve as well. Ford has excellent racket skills and that causes his opponents great discomfort with his placements and his easy winners. But Rushworth countered that with his speed and agility around the court, matched with no little skill of his own.

Ford, as all wily old professionals do, started each game well and built a lead for himself to act as a cushion in case he was derailed at the later stages. Rushworth was always playing 'catch up' and that in the end was probably the decisive factor. Each game was tight and with more experience at this level Rushworth will no doubt make an even bigger nuisance of himself than he did here. That is not to underestimate his effort as he was very unlucky not to put at least one game, if not two, on his side of the scoreboard. Match score was now 1 - 1.

Stacey Ross found Davide Bianchetti too hot to handle. The wiry Italian seems to be mainly planted in the middle of the court and merely stretches out his racket carrying tentacle to play his shots, rarely having to leave that court position. Ross had success on the occasions that he persuaded Bianchetti to part with the T, as he was able to control the play better and find more space into which to hit his winners.

But as the match wore on, Ross found that he became increasingly frustrated with his inability to gain control of proceedings chancing his arm with one or two too many extravagant attempted winners - the errors became more regular the longer the match went on. Not noted for his killing shots, Bianchetti soaks up pressure well and counter attacks cleverly, all of which makes him an opponent to be feared. Ross was not a willing victim but found himself powerless to halt the inevitable. This gave the lead back to Surrey H & R Club 2 - 1.

Meads saw an old foe across the other side of the court when Tim Garner stepped in at the eleventh hour as replacement for El Hindi. Garner, bright and breezy, was hitting the ball well and was immediately into his stride. Talk of his squash retirement is ill-founded, I can report that Garner was finding accuracy, and a few handy winners that I have not seen in his game before.

Clearly enjoying the task Garner tore into Meads with a vengeance and ripped the first game off him 11 - 6. Meads is nothing if not a fighter and he was stung into action. Moving better and giving less to hit, Meads levelled 11 - 5. Swings and roundabouts, back came Garner still finding winners and space that Meads could not retrieve and though the match was tightening up it meant that the rallies were becoming more intense but shorter. The pace was remarkable and unrelenting for the two 'youngsters' - the desire was palpable. Garner took a 2 - 1 lead but Meads roared back levelling at 11 - 6 in the fourth to take this thoroughly absorbing match into a fifth set.

It was anybody's guess what was going to happen next but Meads to the relief of the travelling Guildford supporters built the all important lead and managed to hang onto it and give the visitors a 2 - 2 match score and force the match to the deciding tie at number 1 string.

UniSport Guildford on paper were heavily outgunned at number 1 string. Engelbrecht is a lowly 57 in the World against Peter Barker's World number 10. So all the odds pointed to a comfortable Surrey H & R Club win. Engelbrecht has also been struggling for confidence and has not had enough to matches to play his way into real form. Barker has been in excellent form of late, marked by his rise into the World's top 10.

Barker set off like a train with no intention of allowing Engelbrecht any daylight, hitting crisp and deep to the back corners and waiting for Engelbrecht to make errors or challenge him for T position on the court. None of which really happened in the first game, so first blood to Barker. The second followed a similar pattern with Engelbrecht looking tense and ill at ease contrasting with Barker who looked calm and composed. Once again the second game went to Barker and Surrey H & R Club were cruising to their expected victory. However the third game took everybody by surprise as Engelbrecht threw caution to the wind, relaxed and started to let things happen more naturally. He stepped up the court and took the initiative and left Barker somewhat shaken by this sudden transformation. Winners were precise and deadly and Barker, as quick as he is, was unable to do much about it.

The consummate professional that Barker is saw him claw back some of the advantage but for once Engelbrecht held firm and managed to pull a game back with some excellent play. The Guildford player again showed some flashes of quality in the fourth but by now Barker was alert to any potential danger and had roused himself enough to move clear as errors appeared from Engelbrecht's racket as he chanced his arm with some unlikely winners. Surrey H & R Club clinched the win that took them to the top of the table and sees them into the semi finals by the slimmest of margins against a first class challenge mounted by the UniSport players on the night.

UniSport Guildford have one last match to complete the season - the rearranged fixture against Chichester away. It has been a good season for UniSport Guildford with three wins so far, but there is a real danger that without a win against Chichester, UniSport Guildford could be looking at the wooden spoon. At the moment Chichester are at the foot of the table and so the local rivalry has added spice as both clubs vie for the upper hand at the climax of the season. All support gratefully received at the Chichester Club on Tuesday 24th March start time 7pm. See you there.

Ian Robinson

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

UniSport Guildford 3 beat TWP St. George's Hill 2

Ian Robinson reports ...

Jesse Engelbrecht 1 lost to Mark Krajcsak 3
8 - 11, 5 - 11, 11 - 7, 6 - 11

Steve Meads 3 beat Neil Hitchens 0
12 - 10, 11 - 4, 11 - 7

Phil Rushworth 3 beat Phil Nightingale 0
11 - 9, 11 - 7, 11 - 3

Mick Biggs 2 lost to Adam Fuller 3
10 - 12, 13 - 15, 11 - 8, 11 - 8, 9 - 11

Alison Waters 3 beat Rachel Willmott 0
11 - 4, 11 - 3, 11 - 5

UniSport Guildford 3 beat TWP St George's Hill 2

UniSport Guildford had a narrow 3 - 2 win for the second Premier Squash League match in succession, this time over near rivals TWP St George's Hill. Both teams were less than full strength but TWP St George's Hill suffered more from unavailability. Nonetheless UniSport could only beat what was put in front of them and this was successfully achieved in a hard fought but entertaining evening of squash at the Varsity Centre. These PSL points being especially important for UniSport in their quest to avoid propping up the table at the end of the season, now only two matches away. The supporters witnessed some strong performances for the last match of the season at home.

Alison Waters was defending her unbeaten run and was a formidable prospect for Rachel Willmott. The World number 6 was in a hurry and quickly established a 6 - 0 lead before the university student could respond. The Waters surge was constant and the power plays meant that Willmott was left doing a lot of retrieving, ultimately to no avail. The result was never seriously in doubt and Waters was left with two more matches this term to protect her unbeaten record for the second season in a row. This was the just the start UniSport wanted and Waters has not failed to deliver in all the matches she has played. 1 - 0 to UniSport.

While this was kick starting the match for UniSport, on the outside court local hero Mick Biggs had the supporters cheering from the squash court roof tops as he shrugged off the disappointment of a 2 - 0 deficit to mount a major come back. By rights the home fans felt that Biggs was more than a little unlucky not to win one of the first two games if not both of them, but Fuller was cute enough to produce winners and accuracy at the crucial moment when Biggs' self belief was at its lowest ebb. However Biggs is very game and roaring back he came. He was more relaxed as he stared defeat in the eyes and thus started to play better. His shots became more accurate, chancing his arm with some outrageous winners and equally playing some tighter more controlled squash building leads in the third and fourth game, which he did enough to convert and tie the scores at 2 - 2. The fifth game was roller coaster with neither player looking convincing, interspersing outrageous winners with some poor errors. In the end it was Fuller who held his nerve clinching a 'lottery' match by two clear points in the fifth. The match score was now level 1 - 1.

Steve Meads made a full recovery from his ankle injury and took his place in the UniSport ranks which is always a comfort to his legion of supporters. Irrepressible as ever, Meads clearly a little ring rusty took time to settle but clawed his way back from game ball down to take the first game with his usual brand of controlled squash and solid defence. Thereafter Meads was to exert a control that was always too much for Neil Hitchens to match. Try as he might the visitor never had sufficient attacking ideas to threaten Meads and in the end home fans were relieved to see their veteran campaigner put another notch on his win record. This gave UniSport another lead with the prospect of only needing one more tie to clinch the match and winning points. 2 - 1 to UniSport.

Jesse Engelbrecht and Phil Rushworth both entered the fray at the same time, which made it difficult for the supporters to spread themselves across two courts to check progress. Phil Rushworth was matched with a more experienced professional opponent in Phil Nightingale and certainly gave away inches in height, but amply made up for it in terms of nippiness around the court. Hardly David and Goliath except in terms of world rankings. The first game was a clumsy affair with Rushworth showing some positive shot making and Nightingale being hurried out of the middle of the court. The referee was called to adjudicate early on deeming that Rushworth should make more effort to get to the ball but later adjusted that view to decide that it was Nightingale that should move off the ball more. While this situation was being sorted out the match was very scrappy, once the decision making was established Ruishworth started to take control of the play and did not allow the taller man any leeway to play his game. With Rushworth attacking and controlling well and Nightingale defending, the balance of play changed very little for the remaining games. This led Rushworth home to a much deserved victory on the night and one which will leave his opponent with much to ponder. Rushworth was duly awarded Man of the Match and received a bottle of champagne for his efforts - a distraction that is clearly not required bearing in mind the next fortnight brings two more very important PSL challenges...

It was duly left to Engelbrecht to tidy up proceedings and hopefully add a further point to the UniSport points tally. Matched against Mark Krajcsak, who had flown in from Hungary that afternoon, Engelbrecht struggled for form and did not look his normal cheerful self. Krajcsak is ranked 10 places higher in the World rankings so this was no easy match. In the early stages Engelbrecht competed hard in the rallies but frequently made errors and became frustrated with the way he was playing, not that he was playing that badly. The Hungarian by contrast is a player in good form and has had some confidence building results recently on the tournament circuit. For two games the frustration was palpable in Engelbrecht's play and was made no better by the fact that the visitor controlled much of the play. The third game saw Engelbrecht start to fire and play how he knows he can but then the fourth was back to the earlier frustrations as Krajcsak eased home as more errors came from the Engelbrecht racket. This was a 3 - 1 reverse at number 1 string, which was not unexpected but overall 3 - 2 victory had been achieved and it was a big relief to earn a third win of the season and gain some respectability in mid table.

The next match of the season sees us make the journey to Surrey H & R Club in Croydon and this is followed by the rearranged match against Chichester on Tuesday 24th March, which is the last match of the season. See you in Croydon...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Surrey take the points at Chichester

Round 9 of the PSL took place at Chichester Racquets & Fitness Club this week with pnh Properties Team Chichester playing defending champions Surrey Health and Rackets Club; with Team Chichester still looking to kick start their season.

First on the show court were the number 3 strings, Chichester’s Pete Genever against the Italian champion, Davide Bianchetti. After a tight start and with the first game poised at 6-all Genever, unfortunately, made 4 mistakes to hand the hand the game to his opponent. It was, thereafter, one way traffic as Bianchetti upped the pace to win 6/11, 2/11, 5/11.

On the adjoining court, Dominique Lloyd-Walter (Chichester) was playing World Open finalist Vicki Botwright. Lloyd-Walter took the first 11/6 and then Botwright got into her stride and began to move the ball around the court beautifully. Although the next 3 games were tight Botwright took them 7/11, 9/11, 11/3 to put Surrey 2 up on the night.

Next on the show court Chichester’s Captain, Tim Vail, took on the World No.10, Peter Barker. In a very entertaining match, with nicks aplenty, the 10/12, 6/11, 6/11 scoreline highlighted that, after a nip and tuck first game, Barker kept control with good controlled squash. This was complemented by Vail’s usual array of outrageous nicks; but at the end of the day this was not consistent enough to trouble the World No.10. This decided the match with Surrey storming to a 0.3. advantage.

The number 4 strings played next; Chichester’s Olly Pett faced Adrian Waller of Surrey. After a tight opening game, which Waller sneaked 9/11, Pett began to play good solid, no frills, squash to dominate the next 3 games to win the match 11/4, 11/2, 11/7.

Finally Chichester’s Alex Gough faced the World No.9 Wael el Hindi. The entertainment – a combination of brilliant squash and good humoured banter – saw el Hindi prevail 8/11, 4/11, 9/11 with Gough more than playing his part in an entertaining spectacle.

So 4.1 to Surrey and where do Chichester go from here? Actually it’s to Bristol next week in search of a better result in their penultimate match.

Mike Phillips