R7: St George’s get past Surrey in 3-2 nail-biter

Surrey suffered their second consecutive defeat in round seven. This time it was at the hands of St George’s but it truly went down to the wire in a sensational last match with both teams tied at 2-2.

The show-court was packed with spectators early doors last night. After Surrey’s defeat just last week by Bristol, the pressure was on Surrey to hold their lead. With just one point separating them at the top, all eyes were on Surrey and their arch-rivals, St George’s. The crowd were treated to a dazzling match that left everyone breathless but St George’s ultimately sealed the deal.

Yathreb Adel bt Katie Wilson (3-0) 11-2, 11-7, 11-6

Eighteen year-old local girl Katie Wilson took to the court in her first outing for Surrey. She had her work cut out for her though as she faced Egyptian rising-star, Yathreb Adel.
The young Egyptian dominated the first game with some ease taking it 11-2.

Katie found her feet in the second game and although both players made a number of unforced errors, it was Yathreb who had the upper-hand as she gained a 2-0 lead.

Yathreb soon came through in the third taking it 11-7 and closed out the match 3-0. Yathreb demonstrated clearly that she is a talent to be reckoned with and a name we will no doubt be hearing for a long time.

Lyell Fuller bt Philip Nightingale (3-0) 11-6, 11-8, 11-9

SH13475Meanwhile on court 2, Surrey locals Lyell Fuller and Phil Nightingale got things underway. Nightingale set his stall out early with a focused approach and played some tight, controlled squash. This kept things even through most of the first game. At 5-2 there was a lengthy rally with both players hitting to all four corners, which culminated in Fuller conceding a scoop. There was a highly entertaining rally at 3-5 where Nightingale dropped his racket but managed to carry on whilst making some impressive gets to keep himself in the rally. What became evident though as it got towards the business end of the game was that Fuller’s skilled attacks were putting the dents in Nightingale’s armour, and appeared to put him on the back-foot. Nightingale got himself back to 6-8 but Fuller was just too strong and closed it out at 11-6.

In the second, Fuller really stepped up the attacks and took a string of points where he capitalised on any of Nightingales cross-courts to the left-hand-side whereby Fuller was ready to take it in on the volley. Indeed, Fuller accumulated a significant number of points in this way throughout the match. Fuller took a lead in the third and Nightingale really dug in and pulled it back to level-pegging in the latter stage of the game but Fuller was just too strong. Although Nightingale was able to ask a few questions, Fuller had all the answers tonight.

Charlie Lee bt Ben Ford (3-0) 11-9, 11-7, 11-8

This proved to be the crucial match in the tie between the two teams. Ultimately it came down to experience versus youth. It soon became apparent that on this occasion, youth would take advantage as Charlie Lee took the first 11-8 in a very closely-contested, and accurate first game. Ben needed to step up his game in the second, however Charlie continued to control the match and took a 2-0 lead 11-7 in this all important game.

Charlie knew that it wasn’t over for Ben as Ben fought back hard in the third, rushing to an 8-4 lead with some high quality shots and finishes. However, Charlie saw that Ben was attempting to stage a comeback and soon got a hold of the game and was able to turn things around and take the game 11-8 and secured a well-deserved 3-0 win for St George’s. Charlie is sure to be another name that we will be seeing for a long time!

Kristian Frost bt Alex Ingham (3-1) 11-9, 11-5, 8-11, 11-9

SH13474Frost looked steady from the outset of this match slamming the ball into the nick on the opening point and seemed to be in front of his opponent for much of the game. His opponent, Ingham looked equally up to the challenge playing focused and patient squash. It was level-pegging all the way in the first. Ingham was unlucky to lose the first but produced an error at 9-10 that allowed Frost to take the game.

The second game seemed that it might follow suit but Frost managed to consolidate a lead by maintaining the pressure on his opponent that seemed to induce a string of errors from Ingham that saw him finding the tin all too often. In the third, Frost seemed to go out of focus and the game became a bit scrappy as the rallies got shorter. This change of play seemed to allow Ingham to gain a footing from an early stage in the game before he opened up a 9-6 lead. Ingham looked perilously close to letting this one slip from his hands as he found yet more tins. He held on though and managed to pull one game back at 11-8.

The fourth saw both players come back revitalised with a noticeable increase in the length of rallies. Ingham in particular seemed invigorated and determined to push back. Frost began to feel the pressure and has a couple of discussions with the referee. At 6-7 after a particularly long rally with both players scurrying round the court playing sublime squash, it was Frist that took the point with a roar. This appeared to be the turning point in the game because Frost managed to push ahead and squeeze yet more tins out of Ingham. Ingham managed to gain a couple of extra points but Frost brought things to a close with some clinical shots that finished things up at 11-9.

“It went pretty well – obviously I won, so I’m quite happy about that. I think I played well in the two first games and then my pace dropped a bit but I did well to come back and win the match. I think I played well tactically in the two first games and kept him quite deep in the court and I was controlling the T quite well” said Frost.

Frost went on to comment that: “I stepped off the gas just a little bit in the third and he did well to come back. He hit some good shots and I was down and I was crawling back towards the end but I couldn’t sneak the game.”~

At this stage in the overall match, things were now at an impasse of 2-2 and it became apparent that everything would rest on the final 1st String match between St George’s Borja Golan [WR 9] and Mazen Hesham [WR 34].

Borja Golan bt Mazen Hesham (3-1) 12-10, 6-11, 11-8, 16-14

This match was a real treat for the crowd. The players’ clearly knew what was at stake and both played their hearts out. At 3-1 in the first Hesham dazzled with a ridiculous drop to the front played with exquisite deception. Golan pushed back though and things were close at 7-6. At 7-7 Hesham hit a beautifully weighted drop-shot from the back of the court that caught Golan off guard, much to the delight of the crowd. It was all square at 8-8 then Hesham struck again with yet another drop from the back – this time with a fake that had the crowd cheering. At 9-10, there was a tremendous rally that resulted in a let. A tie-break was reached at 10-10, which Golan managed to close out at 12:10 with a superb length to the back.

The first point in the second game was a corker that culminated in a rapid-fire exchange at the front where Hesham guessed correctly and Golan tinned – again the crowd roared. At 3-1 there was an incredible exchange of drops at the first that just seemed to cling to the lip of the tin. At this point, Hesham managed to open up a lead as Golan became increasingly frustrated. Hesham produced a run of points to get to 8-3. Golan then managed to pull back to 6-8 after a string of errors from Hesham. Hesham pushed forward though and regained composure. Golan tinned to give Hesham the lead at 10-6 and then 11-6. The home crowd loving it as Surrey kept themselves in it.

In the third, Hesham played an incredible drop-shot at 0-1 and managed to gain the lead with a two point buffer as Golan hit a string of errors and became increasingly angry with himself. That seemed to be the impetus that Golan needed to smarten up and pull a few points back though. At 6-5 Hesham pushed a sublime volley crosscourt drop into the front. Hesham hit a tin at 7-9 and it became increasingly apparent that he had to hit the ball to such fine margins to stay level with Golan. Golan pushed forward to 10-7 and Hesham pulled one back to 8-10 but it wasn’t enough as Golan closed it out at 11-8.

In the fourth, the pressure mounted on Surrey and Hesham came out firing. In the opening point, he thundered the ball into the nick. At 2-0 there was an enormous rally that ended with Golan floating the ball into the back that Hesham just couldn’t dig out. Hesham managed to extract a lead to 7-3 when Golan tinned. Surrey by this point had a glimmer of pulling level and taking it to the fifth. Golan then began to claw the points back with some incredible rallies ensuing. By this point though, it was clear that Hesham was flagging physically after giving it his all. Golan’s experience seemed to shine through and was able to maintain control at the crucial points.

Hesham’s legs seemed to be turning to jelly by this point but still gave it everything and dug deep to bring it to a 10-10 tie break. The crowd by this point was on the edge of their seats willing both players on and Surrey could taste a fifth game. Hesham clearly spurred on by the support of the crowd and the cheers kept going and kept it level, saving two match balls to get to 12-12. After Hesham tins, Golan draws it back to 13-13 and then Hesham edges a lead to 14-13 and it is now Golan’s turn to save two game balls at 14-14. At 15-14 it is clear that Hesham’s legs were gone but he wasn’t giving up yet. Golan though was the eventual victor and dashed Surrey’s hopes.

“In the beginning it went really well and I was patient and played the right shots at the right times and it made the difference in the first at 10-8 where I could have had the lead,” said Mazen. “He made it really hard for me to win that game and at that point, I missed my chance, which was a big mistake with these guys as if you miss a chance like that, it is harder to get the next time. In the second, I think I played really well but in the third I was alright but he showed he was better at the critical points. I’m better now but I’m still not that strong mentally.

“He’s like top ten and was the world number 6 from quite recently. I’m still happy with the performance. I’ve been training really hard lately. I had a couple of bad results this year and have been putting too much pressure on myself. I’m trying to just enjoy it again…and it’s working. Not this time but maybe next time I’ll get it. All credit to him…this is the quality of the top ten players…it’s not going to be that easy, you can’t just get quick points and run. I tried to do too much with the ball and it’s not easy to keep that running and you have to keep playing the points until he stops you.” addedHesham.

Asked about how he kept his focus in the fourth when he was clearly struggling physically, Hesham said: “It’s all head and heart. I really wanted to play well and this was the first home match that I played and lost the match for the club and I really wanted to do my best because it’s not me playing, it’s the team and they needed me today. I’m sorry for the loss man and I tried to do my best but maybe next time I get the win – my first PSL win. Thank you to everyone for the support and I hope to see you again and I’ll do better next time.”

In response to the match, Surrey manager Pete Smith had this to say:

“Congratulations to St George’s. It was a tremendous evening of squash going down to an incredible deciding game of squash. It was a match of pure skill, determination and will to win from both players. Mazen and Borja, you delighted the crowd…”

Of that, there is no doubt. St George’s win now puts them at the top of Division B. Surrey are sure to now fight back and reassert their dominance from the first half of the season. Stay tuned for fireworks.

Match report by Daniel Richards & David Smith

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