R4: Surrey get back to business

After a short break whilst the World Championships came to its thrilling conclusion in Qatar, normal PSL service was resumed last night.

For many people attending last night, this was probably the ideal way to fill the void left by the World Championships because the evening’s first string match featured Mohamed El Shorbagy who narrowly lost out to Ramy Ashour 14-12 in the fifth game of the World Championships final. Added to that, Shorbagy was also recently crowned world number 1. It is no surprise therefore that it was packed to the rafters last night with people eager to see the action.

Alison Waters beat Alison Thomson (3-0) (11-4, 11-2, 11-5)

Stepping on to court to kick things off first was Alison Waters who took on the up and coming U19 player, Alison Thomson. Brimming with confidence from her win at the BSPA Solent Classic over the weekend, Waters quickly found her lines and applied immediate pressure on Thomson, which forced a number of early errors. What was impressive about Thomson’s performance was her speed around the court as she retrieved some fantastic shots whilst coming under heavy fire from Waters. Waters looked steadfast and in control however and quickly took the first 11-4. As the players came back to court for the second, Thomson maintained her spirited defence against the Water’s onslaught and kept her composure before Waters concluded game two at 11-2

In the third, Waters really seemed to ramp up the pace and began firing in clinical shots to the front of the court from all angles and Thomson seemed to be fading fast. Waters’ consistency and pressure ultimately won the third with a convincing first game win for Surrey. Thomson gave a very good account of herself and demonstrated grit and determination that is sure to hold her in good stead for the future.

Piedro Schweertman beat Luke Bishop (3-0) (11-9,11-2, 11-4)

Meanwhile on the neighbouring court, Dutch professional, Schweertman who recently made the main draw in the World Open in which he played teammates, Kristian Frost Olesen and Adrian Grant took on Somerset no.1, Luke Bishop. The first was a somewhat cautious encounter with both players testing each other out. Schweertman put in a solid performance though and took the first 11-9 with a tight, controlled approach. It seemed however that Schweertman was then able to step up a gear in the second and third games concluding them at 11-2 and 11-4 respectively.

Asked about how the match went, Schweertman had this to say: “The team won so that is always good. The first game was pretty tricky as he was hard to read. In the second and third, I played a bit better to the back of the court, which helped me a lot, so was less pressure for me. He was able to use his wrist at the front to flick a lot of cross courts, which was pretty unorthodox and added a lot of depth for me. This week I have a tournament coming up in Belgium, Brussels and next month I have two tournaments – one in Valencia and one in the Ukraine.”

Tim Vail beat Adrian Grant (3-2) 7-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-8, 11-8

Grant came into this match fresh from a recent win at the Lagos International a couple of weeks ago. Grant started off strong with a superb performance that forced a slightly dazed Vail to make a string of errors and ended with Grant clinching the first 11-5. However, Vail came back strong in the second and had clearly now acclimatised to the match as demonstrated by putting in some stunning gets coupled with a series of great rallies where he really shone and showed his skill by playing very intelligent squash. Grant seemed to weather the storm but Vail pegged the game 11-7.

Grant responded in kind in the third and dazzled with an array of wonderful shots including a number of stunning drops from the back of the court. In what proved to be a see-saw game Vail came back again but Grant managed to keep level until Vail edged ahead and took the fourth 11-8. In the decider, Vail made a strong start getting himself up to 8-5. Grant however managed to pull a few back, tantalisingly close to a tiebreaker at 9-10. Vail however stayed focussed and swept up taking the fifth 11-8.

Greg Marche beat Micah Franklin (3-0) (11-4, 11-7, 11-3)

Impressive as ever, the “Acrobat”, Greg Marche lived up to his moniker as he flew about the court and eased ahead in the first game against his young opponent. Franklin managed to pull a few points back in the second looking like he might stage a comeback but Marche picked up the pace taking it 11-7. Marche’s speed and pressure proved too much for Franklin in the third with the Acrobat whooshing past his opponent 11-3.

Speaking afterwards Marche said that: “It wasn’t too hard tonight; I didn’t know the player, Micah. It was good to play in front of the crowd tonight and I think they appreciated it. I tried to be relaxed on court and tried to get into my shots and try a few things. I was happy with that. It was a good match for me after the wars last week and I have a small national tournament in France this weekend which is the last tournament for this part of the season. After that, I will be training in preparation for the next part of the season.”

Pete Barker beat Mohamed El Shorbagy (3-1) (11-2, 15-17, 11-6, rtd)

This was surely the most anticipated match of the evening given Shorbagy’s momentous World Championship final just last week. It was very much standing room only for this one. The first game was fast and frenetic with lots of short, attacking rallies with both players trading blows. It became apparent however that Shorbagy was struggling somewhat and his usual artillery of thundering nicks and powerful squash was not what it usually would be.

It was with this reason that Barker pulled ahead quite comfortably taking the first 11-2. Shorbagy clearly frustrated with his performance in the first remained on court practicing before resuming the second. He was clearly able to channel his frustration in the second because he forged ahead.

Early in the game at 2-1 El Shorbagy broke a string and upon realising that he wasn’t going to be able to get past the packed crowd to his bag to fetch another racket, he asked for someone to get a racket from his bag. Upon being asked what type of bag it was, his sponsors would surely have been proud to have heard him say “Tecnifibre…of course”. Shorbagy noticeably upped the pace in this game and threw in a series of amazing crosscourt volley nicks and an overhead drop, which had Barker shaking his head in disbelief.

This game stayed neck and neck all the way with Shorbagy eventually closing it out 17-15. In the third, Pete forged a lead and it became increasingly obvious that Shorbagy was now struggling having used up what would appear to be the last of his energy reserves in the last game. Barker took the game 11-6.

Upon returning to court the players spoke at the start and Shorbagy offered him his hand to concede the match. In true sportsman style, Barker graciously accepted the win choosing to say a few words to the crowd in deference to his opponent.

Speaking afterwards, Barker reiterated his thoughts on the match saying that: “To be honest, he had a tough tournament last week whereas I didn’t have a tough tournament because I didn’t play very well and I was struggling a bit with my body. So I was quite keen for a match and he had just come off the back of a really tough tournament and that’s probably the difference because the World Open is a long, arduous tournament.

“I said to him that he’s a young guy and he’s going to be world champion and he feels obliged to turn out to these matches and I was surprised to see him play – he’s got a tournament next week and even though he’s younger, he needs his rest. The team won and did the business before I even went on court so there wasn’t any pressure and I was determined to have a good match as I haven’t had many matches of late.

Speaking about what was coming up next, Barker said: “I’ve got the British Grand Prix in Manchester next week and then that’s it for the year and then I’ve got a nice break over the Christmas period. The season started early for us with the Commonwealth Games this year and even though it was probably about the same amount of tournaments, it felt like I’ve been playing a lot and as you get a bit older, the body needs a bit more rest!”

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