R10: Surrey secure semi spot

The pressure was on Surrey last night to come up with the goods in their face-off against Chichester. At this point, Surrey needed 5 points to get themselves a spot in the semi-finals. Looking at the line-ups for both teams, it was a close one to call but Surrey managed to slip past Chichester 3-2 and book their place in the semi-finals. 

Daniel Richards reports

Alison Waters bt Lauren Briggs (3-0) 11-2, 11-2, 11-4 (23 mins)

Alison Waters and Lauren Briggs took to the court to get things going. In the first, Waters quickly raced to a decisive lead whilst Briggs evidently struggled to keep pace with Waters’ domineering and fast-paced squash. In a few short minutes, Waters closed the first out 11-2. The second game followed suit with rallies becoming noticeably shorter with a string of tins from Briggs who light-heartedly asked the referee to confirm that she had in fact just hit 6 straight tins. After taking the second 11-2, it was clear that the writing was on the wall and so it was that Waters brought things to an end at 11-4 in the third.

Even though she was clearly out-gunned by a formidable opponent, Briggs demonstrated the breadth of her experience through her good-natured and sporting acceptance of defeat.

Phil Rushworth lost to Robbie Temple (0-3) 3-11, 11-13, 0-6 rtd

Making his second appearance for Surrey, Head Coach at Wimbledon Racquets & Fitness Club, Phil Rushworth took on Robbie Temple who is utilising his significant experience as a pro to coach a number of up-and-coming players in London. In the first, it was Temple who quickly asserted control of the game at a fast pace with some good attacking squash that made it difficult for Rushworth to get a foot-hold in the game. Temple closed the first game out 11-3.

Rushworth responded in the second however and managed to assert control over the pace of the game and initiated some well-timed attacks to the front of the court. Temple however regained control by picking up the pace again and marched forward to take the second game into a tie-break before eventually closing it 13-11. By the third it became evident that Rushworth’s movement had become laboured and conceded the match to Temple at 0-6.

“I was pleased with how it went. I wanted to put Robbie under a bit of pressure because he’s got a lot of skills and he plays the game at a high pace and he’s very tricky to play” said Rushworth.

He went on to say: “In the first game, I was struggling to get into It, but in the second game, I felt like I was getting somewhere and had a couple of chances. I managed to slow the game down and use a little bit more height and take him into some deeper areas of the court and that opened up a little bit more space for me to take him into the front corners.

“I had to take him in short because I couldn’t keep just getting the ball back like I was doing in the first. Towards the end of the second, he put me under so much pressure that I managed to twist my hip in the early part of the third and had to stop at that point. I was pleased at being able to get into the second game with him.”

Piedro Schweertman bt Rex Hedrick (3-1) 11-5, 9-11, 11-6, 12-10 (55 mins)

This was perhaps the most crucial game of the fixture for both sides with The “Ice Man” Schweertman going head-to-head with the higher ranked touring, Australian professional, Rex Hedrick. The crowd was treated to some fantastic squash from what was arguably the match of the evening. There were some long, searching rallies in the first with superb retrieving on both sides.

“Ice Man”, Schweertman lived up to his moniker by coolly absorbing Hedrick’s pressure whilst dispatching well-timed clinical attacks to the front that seemed to unbalance Hedrick. Schweertman built a lead to 4-0 in the first after some great rallies. Hedrick’s clawed his way back by upping the pace and forcing a few errors from Schweertman. At 4-6, Hedrick hit a superb length after both players took each other into all four corners of the court. Schweertman executed a brutal low-kill shot at 7-4 and a gut-wrenching boast at 8-4. It seemed that Scweertman was able to retrieve most of what Hedrick threw at him and nullify his attacks and kept things simple by just getting the ball back and through upsetting Hedrick’s rhythm by varying the pace.

Hedrick appeared to have regrouped well for the second and came in firing after taking advice from team mate, Robbie Temple. This appeared to again force a few errors from Schweertman who seemed to be trying to force the issue. Hedrick acceded to a 3-2 lead in the early part of the game but Schweertman quickly came back though by slowing things down before regaining the lead at 4-3 with an immaculate straight drive. Schweertman pushed on to 6-3 after a beautiful drop shot to the front. Hedrick regained the momentum however to get himself to 5-7 after a couple of errors from Schweertman where he seemed to dip out of concentration with a tin and an out of court ball. The momentum shifts persisted and led to both players drawing even at 8-8 after a beautifully weighted drive to the back. After a stroke was awarded to Hedrick at 9-8, a couple more forced errors from Schweertman gave Hedrick the second game 11-9.

Schweertman maintained his strategy and appeared to mitigate Hedrick’s attempts to increase the pace and apply more pressure. Hedrick used holds to great effect that unbalanced Schweertman and enabled him to pull a few points back to get himself to 3-4. Schweertman responded in kind however and played tighter, more attacking squash and reduced the error count to get to 9-5 ahead. With the momentum clearly going towards Schweertman he looked sure to take it. Hedrick increased the pace even more and squeezed a couple more points through a temporary lapse in Schweertman’s concentration to take it to a tie-break and then gained game ball but by this point Schweertman regained his focus and it became a fait accompli with Hedrick clearly flagging and Schweertman sealed the deal 12-10.

“I was actually a bit lucky in the first and won it with alright squash” said Schweertman. “I thought maybe he needed to be a bit warmer, physically. In the second I was leading but was a bit sloppy. In the third, I regrouped and the fourth was actually the same as the first, I was leading 9-5, then he came back to 9-9, then 10-9 game ball down and I was happy to win but not happy to give away the advantage of being ahead… so it was a bit sloppy but I hope to recognize it a bit earlier next time.

I played him once before in a tournament in Denmark and lost 3-2 so I was happy to win this one for the league. I think because I knew his game a bit, I knew he likes to run and play long rallies so I tried to break up his rhythm a bit by varying the pace and the height so that he couldn’t get into a rhythm. When he did get into a rhythm, he won the rallies and I tried to do that as a game plan. He’s a good mover so I was happy to break that with starting and stopping and it worked in the end.”     

Stacey Ross lost to Sanjay Singh (1-3) 13-11, 9-11, 4-11, 9-11

Meanwhile on the court next door, Wimbledon Lakeside and Surrey stalwart, Stacey Ross took on Malaysian professional, Sanjay Sigh who trains under the guidance of Pete Genever. Stacey’s experience and precision shone through in the first and enabled him to win the game 13-11. However Sanjay’s fitness proved to be a strong determining factor throughout the match as Ross became increasingly tired with the pace set by Singh. Although Ross had an opportunity in the fourth games to push it into a fifth, his fatigue meant that he was unable to close it out. This evened things out for Chichester with the overall score at 2-2.

Peter Barker bt Adrian Waller (3-0) 13-11, 11-9, 11-9     

With the score tied at 2-2, things were all square. What it did mean for Surrey at this point was that they had the necessary points to seal their position in the semi-finals. The match wasn’t over for Surrey though as they still needed to get the win against Chichester. it came down to the match between Pete Barker and Adrian Waller. As training partners in Potter’s Bar under the tutelage of Paul Carter and former Surrey team mates and both being left-handers, it was always going to be an interesting affair. Right from the off, Waller made his intent clear and set his stall out commensurate with that.

The pace was frenetic and the rallies relatively short with each going for the winners. Barker took an early lead 2-1 before Waller struck back to 3-2, 5-2 and up to 8-5. However, Waller hit a succession of errors, mainly tins as he tried to slim the margins and play more percentage against Barker’s tight, straight lines squash which allowed Barker back in so that he could regain parity at 9-9. After some incredible drives from both and after Waller hitting two successive nicks on his widths, he managed to take the game to a tie-break. At 11-11, Waller’s ball went out of court and then tinned to give Barker the first 13-11.

In the second, Waller persisted with his attacks and tried to force the winners with some percentage shots but Barker was too strong and led 7-3. Barker however then seemed to have a lapse in his concentration and this got Waller back into the game at 9-9 when there was a frantic rally, which was clearly the pivotal point in the game. Barker came out on top though winning it 11-9.

The third was neck and neck with both players clearly upping their game with some astonishing shots taking their opponents deep into the back of the court. Waller hit a sublime volley drop to the front and they traded blows from 44-4 to 4-5 all the way through in a see-saw gam. Waller it seemed began to lose some focus towards the end and Pete capitalised on it to call an end to proceedings 11-9.

“I was pretty pleased to win 3 nil. Adrian and I train together a lot so we know each other’s game and we’re playing on Sunday in Egypt. In a big tournament so it was like a prelude to the tournament. We’ve grown up over the last few years training together…and I’d like to think that he’s improving a little bit because of my help and I’m sure he’ll overtake me one day.” said Barker.

Asked about how he felt coming off the back of playing Canary Wharf, Barker said: “I lost in the semis, which was a bit disappointing and I didn’t play amazingly well but physically I feel good and you’ve got to take your positives at this stage of the season as we’re just coming to the end, so as long as the body holds up, so long may that continue.”

Talking about what was coming up for him, Barker said: “I have El Gouna coming up but then it is the European Championships Teams and Adrian has just been selected for, which is pretty big for him. So, 3 more tournaments to go and then a break, which is always good!”            

Finally, Pete Smith, manager of Surrey had this to say about the win: “It’s a really great effort by the team to qualify for the semi-finals again. We know a trip will be very difficult as they are a strong side but we will go and do our best as always. Looking forward to a great match!”

Match report by Daniel Richards

You can follow Surrey’s progress on Twitter: @VA_SurreyPSL 

Matches start at 7:00pm. Tickets are £10 and are available by contacting Pete Smith on 0208 253 1314 or squash.surrey@virginactive.co.uk