Squash: Champions Benz-Bavarian Duffield there to be shot at now
By Mark Eklid, Derbysport |
The hunters have become the hunted, as Benz-Bavarian Duffield begin their reign tonight as the team everybody wants to beat.
The champions of the Premier Squash League set out in defence of their crown at home to Nottingham (7pm) and are prepared to have to work even harder if they are to add a sixth national title next May.
Duffield ended an eight-year wait for PSL glory by beating St George’s in the final five months ago. It came at the end of a season in which the Derbyshire club repeatedly fought against adversity – all the way to the final, in fact, with star player Nick Matthew failing a fitness test on the day of it
Frixou will be without his top men’s and women’s player against Nottingham, as Laura Massaro is in New York for the Carol Weymuller Open and Matthew will be at Buckingham Palace to receive his OBE.
That means Duffield will go into the first match with the line-up that took them through most of their title-winning season but that is nothing new – and no great concern for Frixou.
“We were without Nick and Laura for most of last season as well but the strength the rest of the team showed all the way through and the way they handled every situation when the odds were against them was incredible,” he said.
“Nick and Laura are up for playing more games for us this season and I’m hoping we are going to be able to name our strongest side more often so that I’m not going to be made to sweat as much!”
Duffield have been among the strongest sides in the PSL for many years but after falling short of the ultimate prize too often, getting there was a relief as much as a joy.
Frixou admitted success took a bit of getting used to and he knows his players will have to get used to the extra pressure that come with wearing the mantle of champions.
“It feels different this time,” he admitted. “We usually look back on the year before thinking ‘how did we miss out?’ but there will be none of that this time.
“I feel a sense of contentment at being able to say we are champions but I’m also ready for it again. It’s a totally different mind-set. We are going into every match to let the other teams know that we are the champions and they are going to look to knock us down in the same way as everybody knew they had to beat Surrey last year.
“It did take a few months to sink in that we had done it in my seventh year of trying. It’s a nice feeling but it’s back to business now and we have to get stuck in again.
“We are the team to beat and there are going to be a lot of people wanting to knock us down but that is a good position to be in.”
Duffield will line up in the same group of six this season, alongside Nottingham, Leicester, University of Birmingham, Pontefract and Coolhurst London.
An added incentive for all teams this season is that the final will be staged at an international-class venue, the National Squash Centre in Manchester, and will be televised.