R4: Surrey pushes past Winchester to get back on the trail

Daniel Richards reports

It’s been a busy time in the squash world with the World Championships culminating last week and Qatar just before that, the US Open and various other tournaments that have kept the squash world busy. It also feels like it’s been a long time since Surrey were at home after a run of away matches and gaps between fixtures so it was good to be back on home territory.

Charles Sharpes 3-0 Scott Handley 11-3, 11-7, 11-4 (22m)

As Surrey Cup sparring partners, these two were no strangers to each other’s game. It was Charles though who looked solid from the start. Sharpes quickly took a very healthy lead to 6-1 and worked Handley around the court well. Sharpes dominated proceedings and sprinkled in a number of boasts to good effect that seemed to catch Handley out more than a few times, particularly as Handley seemed reluctant to move into the front corners. Handley’s error count also attested to the score line amassing approximately 5 unforced errors in the first. Whilst Handley managed to peg a couple back, it was Sharpes who closed the first out comfortably at 11-3.

In the second, Sharpes quickly took a lead to get him to 3-1. There was a brief lapse of concentration by Sharpes as a few errors started creeping in that allowed Handley to draw level with his Surrey compatriot. Sharpes however, got back to business and opened up the gap against Handley. Sharpes artfully moved his opponent around the court, never letting him settle before taking the second 11-7.

In the early part of the third, things were level pegging at 2-2 but Sharpes stepped up a gear and put some trickle boasts in that just kept running away from Handley. Whilst Handley was able to pull a couple of points back, Sharpes closed out the game and match 11-4.

Alison Thomson 1-3 Gina Kennedy 11-5, 9-11, 4-11, 2-11

Meanwhile on the neighbouring court, the tussle between Surrey’s Alison Thomson and Gina Kennedy was a much closer fought affair. Thomson had a strong start in the first whilst Kennedy struggled to find her feet in the first. In the second and subsequent games, Kennedy found her feet and went on to stamp her authority over the match.

Ali Farag 3-0 Robbie Downer 11-4, 11-6, 11-2 (17m)

This was perhaps the match that had piqued everyone’s interests as it was a chance to watch rising Egyptian star, Ali Farag. Not only has Farag recently graduated from Harvard, he has also had a string of successes on the PSA world tour, most recently getting to the quarter finals of the World Championships in Seattle after beating Simon Rosner (ranked 7 in the world) and took Gregory Gaultier – the eventual winner of the World Championships and new world number 1 – to 5 games. Whilst Farag is currently ranked 33 in the world he will most likely be rising to the top 20 in the world after his recent successes, which is much more reflective of this young Egyptian’s talent. It was apparent therefore that Downer would have his work cut out. Downer got off to a good start at 3-2 with Farag acclimatizing to the match but quickly got into the flow of things and strung together a succession of points in a few short minutes as he seemed to step up a gear taking the first 11-4.

In the second, Downer was clearly struggling and couldn’t get into any rhythm whilst Farag’s ease of movement and coverage around the court allowed him to mop up anything that Downer could muster. Downer looked increasingly raged whilst Farag just stepped it up another gear. It wasn’t until Farag pressed on to a 9-3 lead that Downer managed to pull a few points back as Farag went slightly out of focus. Farag however, quickly re-established himself and closed the second game out 11-6. By the third game, Downer was clearly struggling as Farag raced to a 7-0 lead. Downer pulled back a couple of points but by this point, it was a fait accompli as Farag brought things to a close at 11-2.

Speaking about making his debut in the PSL and as part of Surrey, Farag said: “It was fun for sure. I’d heard of PSL but never played in any of the matches, so to be in one, and play for the Virgin Active team was an honour.”

‘Of course, I’m happy to get the win as I don’t want to be bad luck for the team! Next time might be a tough one though’ said Farag about his match against Downer.
Asked to comment about his recent successes at the World Championships and Qatar, Farag commented, “Hopefully I can keep going with the momentum and take that forward into the next match.”

Piedro Schweertman 3-0 Adam Corcoran 11-5, 11-8, 11-5

After a string of great results including his win at the recent Gdansk Open in Poland and a finalist in the Bexley Open, Schweertman was in fine form and in irrepressible form. His younger opponent, Corcoran who is a promising junior level player at the moment in the top of his age range put in a very solid performance against Schweertman but it wasn’t enough to match the more experienced Schweertman who held steadfast throughout the match with his characteristic tight, controlled squash.

“It went alright, he’s a younger guy – and he tried hard – so I’m happy to win of course. I think it is good for him to gain the experience and play matches like this. Happy to still win as that is always good for the team.” said Schweertman after the match.

“I was trying to make him stand still on the ‘T’ so that he had to wait before I hit it and changed directions, which was pretty hard for him. In the end, he got tired – I think.”

#Peter Barker 1-3 Zahed Mohamed 11-9, 7-11, 4-11, 8-11 (32m)

Barker made a convincing start in the first game with his Egyptian opponent trailing him closely throughout. The rallies were short and intense with Barker perhaps not quite hitting his targets to begin with. Mohamed, one of the many talented Egyptian players at the moment who similar to Farag is having a good of success and troubling some of the top players , seemed calm, collected and at ease against Barker. Things were all square at 9-9 but Barker managed to push forward to 11-9.

In the subsequent games, Barker’s movement became increasingly suspect as he struggled to move into the far corners as he one might have. Mohamed maintained the pressure managing to stay ahead of Barker in the second before taking it 11-7. The third followed in a similar fashion with Barker visibly struggling with his movement and the error-count increasing. Mohamed maintained his momentum and kept the ball tight with some excellent retrieving. In the fourth, Barker, clearly struggling was forced to do court sprints at one point but pushed forward and tried to counter his opponent with some superb attacks. It was Mohamed however that was the eventual in the fourth at 11-8.

SH22227“I was pleased to win the first game and the team had already won and got the tie sewn up, so to speak, so it was quite nice to go on without any pressure,” said Barker.

“He’s a young, hungry Egyptian, so he’s tough to play and physically, I wasn’t up to it today and he was the deserving winner. Pleased the team won but I’d like to think that I kept a few down in the order though!”

Speaking about the current crop of Egyptian players, Barker had this to say:

“It’s huge… it’s a national game over there for them and there’s a financial incentive for them to play and the numbers are there, so naturally, the cream rises to the top. It’s all about the numbers at the junior level as that is the base line. At the end of the day, we just need to get the numbers up. There’s no rocket science to it – coaching or anything like that, it’s just playing, learning how to win and learning how to lose and they just learn on their feet. You can tell that because they’ve all got different techniques.

“They work backwards, I think. They work out where they want to put the ball and technically, they find out how to do that. They work on technique, movement in and around the game so they come at it from a different point of view. I think the fundamental thing is that they are just so hungry and desperate to win and the English guys need to match that. That’s imperative because it doesn’t matter how good you are, if someone wants it a bit more than you – at the top level – it comes down to one or two points, and that’s the difference. Maybe then, we have to change the attitude of the English pros and our approach.”

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