Surrey back in the saddle

SH11190As Plato rightly said: “The beginning is the most important part of the work”, and there is surely little doubt that he had the first fixture of the new PSL season in mind when he said this. The packed crowd at Surrey’s first home match of the season also clearly knew it, because it was early doors when the seats started to fill for the eagerly anticipated clash between Surrey and Bristol.

Of course, what also may have heightened the crowd’s anticipation on the first day of term were the new kids on the block. Stepping up for Surrey was the rising star, Fares Dessouki alongside Dutch professional, Piedro Schweertman and Lyell Fuller.

After a last minute line-up change, they joined the seasoned experience of Alison Waters and Ben Ford who filled in for Pete Barker after he dropped out at the eleventh hour. Likewise, Bristol was also out in force, they too had the experienced hands of David Evans who was also backed up by a strong team of younger players on the rise: Mike Harris, Jim Bamber, Josh Masters and Tesni Evans.

Ben Ford beat Jim Bamber 3-0 (11-9, 11-9, 11-9) 

SH11189Jim Bamber and Ben Ford started proceedings with Ford appearing to pay homage to team mate Pete Barker by donning Barker’s team shirt. This proved to be an entertaining match that pitted Ford’s precise, controlled squash against Bamber’s energetic, attacking squash. The first game was a very close affair with Ford managing to use his experience to absorb Bamber’s relentless attacks. It was level-pegging before Ben opened up a lead to 9-8 after a beautiful drop to the front right. It then seemed that Bamber lost some concentration towards the end as Ford picked up a couple of stroke points to close the game out at 11-9.

Bamber responded well in the second game and managed to maintain a lead in the early stage of the game. At one point, Ford seemed to be struggling to stay in front of Bamber. The turning point it seemed was a stroke awarded to Ford at 6-7, which seemed to shift the momentum. From that point, Ford regained the ascendancy before taking the game 11-9 with a punishing low kill. The third continued in a similar vein with Ford managing to contain Bamber’s unrelenting attacks. Although it was a close fought third game, it was Ford who ultimately asserted control and concluded the game at 11-9.

Alison Waters beat Tesni Evan 3-0 (11-2, 11-7, 11-9)

SH11197Meanwhile on court 2, Alison Waters took on the young, aspiring talent of Tesni Evans. Waters appeared to immediately assert her dominance quickly in the first, although Evans managed to pull a few points back, Waters took the game 11-8. This however was not the case for the second as Evan’s fought back and managed to maintain a level score-line. At the midway point of 5-5, it seemed that Water’s precision was frustrating Evans’ attempts, and in turn, this allowed Waters to push forward and take the second 11-7.

Evans clearly regrouped well for the third and took an early lead. Perhaps by this point Evans had relaxed into the match whilst Waters took her foot off the pedal a little. In any event, Waters seemed to sense this and fought back to level-pegging before calling a halt to proceedings at 11-9.

Speaking afterwards, Waters said she was “…pleased to get a 3-nil… and obviously Tesni is an up-and-coming player so am very happy to get off in 3. I started off well, which was good and then she got into it in the third. She’s a very skilful, flowing player and has a nice style, which made her difficult to play.”

Piedro Schweertman beat Mike Harris 3-0 (11-9, 11-3, 11-6)

SH11196Next on court for Surrey was the newly signed Dutch player, Piedro Schweertman who is currently ranked 86 in the world. He took on Bristol’s Mike Harris. It was apparent from the first that both players were determined to gain the upper hand, and as a consequence, it proved to be a very closely fought game indeed. Both players matched each other with solid, intelligent squash.

The crowd were clearly enjoying this one and the excitement was palpable. It was only when the game got to the business end that Schweertman managed to edge the lead and close it out at 11-9. Schweertman was back on court early for the second, clearly keen to resume things. He appeared to step things up in the second, much to the delight of the crowd with Schweertman clinching the second 11-3. Harris clearly took the game to Schweertman in the third, proving himself to be a robust and skilful player. Both players really treated the crowd to some superb squash. It was Schweertman who overcame Harris 11-9 in the third.

Surrey were clearly impressed by their new signing. After his first outing for Surrey, Schweertman said: “I didn’t know my opponent, and I didn’t know the club of course, it was a nice crowd and I really enjoyed it and feel that it was a good start. The first game was pretty close, we were trying to test each other out and I then just tried to go on from there, which seemed to work.

“Mike was a difficult opponent because he hits it pretty hard and goes for a lot of shots out of nowhere and that makes it difficult to anticipate – because anything can happen. I tried to absorb it and put him in the back and if he went to the front, I tried to get there a bit quicker. I think my basic game helped me in doing this.”

Josh Masters beat Lyell Fuller 3-1 (15-13, 6-11, 11-6, 11-8)

SH11193Perhaps the match of the evening though was the spirited contest between the talented Lyell Fuller and impressive Josh Masters. This was a very energetic and intriguing match right from the start. Lyell’s attacking style seemed perfectly counterbalanced against Masters’ tight, controlled squash. Indeed the score-line appeared to also bear this out.

The first game was particularly impressive to watch as Masters did his utmost to contain Fuller’s clinical attacks. The first wen t right to the wire before Masters managed to steal the win at 15-13 with a stroke. Fuller however managed to pull one back in the second 11-6. Masters came back at him in the third however managing to take it 11-6 on a stroke, much to Fuller’s frustration. By the fourth, it was apparent that both players were flagging, although perhaps Fuller seemed to be most exasperated as Masters continued to absorb everything he could throw at him.

It was perhaps fortuitous then that there was a short injury break after Masters injured a finger, it seemed however that Fuller couldn’t quite regain the energy of the earlier games and so it was Masters that finished things up at 11-8.

Fares Dessouki beat David Evans 3-0 (11-6, 11-7, 11-7)

SH11198The final match of the evening was perhaps the most anticipated because it featured Egyptian Fares Dessouki, who has catapulted up the rankings recently to 30 and is fresh from an impressive performance at the U.S. Open. Fares certainly didn’t disappoint.

His powerful squash seemed to dominate and although Evans had experience and determination on his side, it wasn’t quite enough for Dessouki’s bubbling talent. Dessouki took the first 11-6. In the latter stages of the match there were a few discussions with the referee that seemed to break the rhythm of play. Evans seemed to hold his own in the second but Dessouki pushed on with some powerful, attacking squash that Evans could not quite contain. Similarly in the third, Evans maintained his composure, showing his class and grit but despite this, Dessouki managed to overcome him in the third taking it 11-7.

Speaking afterwards about the match, Dessouki commented that: “I was a bit worried as I heard he is a good player and a former world number 1 and many people told me that this was going to be a tough match. I tried to stay focused and sharp, I was nervous though as this was the first appearance for me wearing the Surrey shirt and I needed to win the match. I very happy to win and was happy to be so supported by the crowd.

“He [David] is very sharp on court, his backhand shots were very straight and he was able to hit a lot of nicks and didn’t hit many tins. I wish that I would be able to play like him when I am his age – he is so fit and very accurate, which is such a good thing and to be playing such wonderful squash.”

Surrey will face stiff competition next week against St George’s whilst Bristol take on Chichester.

Match report by Daniel Richards