Team Chichester and Oxford Health & Racquets made solid starts to their campaigns in the new Premier Squash League (PSL) season with 5/0 home wins in the first round of the 29th year of the world’s most prestigious squash league.
Chichester, marking their 18th PSL season in a row, hosted Winchester Racquets & Fitness. After impressive victories by team stalwarts Lauren Briggs, Anthony Graham, Olivier Pett and Robbie Temple, it was team debutantJonathan Kemp who clinched maximum points by winning the final match between the two top strings.
Kemp, the Staffordshire-born world No30, beat experienced campaigner Stacey Ross 11-7, 10-12, 11-8, 11-9.
“I felt we had a good chance of a win tonight, but Jonathan made a great start for us with his victory over Stacey – especially as he was playing well too,” said Chichester team manager Mike Phillips. “I’ve been trying to get Jonathan to play for us for some time, but now that he’s moved south, to Ipswich, it’s much more convenient for him.
“Robbie (Temple) also played very well – he took his opponent apart – and there were good all-round performances from the rest of the squad,” added Phillips.
Oxford entertained AJP Pontefract, the Yorkshire club led by former world number one Lee Beachill. Irish internationalMadeline Perry led the Oxford assault, beating the visitors’ Kirsty McPhee 11-7, 11-6, 11-7. At 4/0 down, the away supporters were hoping that Beachill would be able to wind back the clock to earn a consolation point for Pontefract.
But the home team’s number one Cameron Pilley was too strong for the now-retired Yorkshireman. The world No17 from Australia was tested in the first two games, but eventually wore down Beachill 12-10, 11-9, 11-3 to earn Oxford their 5/0 win – and top place in the Group A tables.
Also in Group A, England’s world champion Nick Matthew salvaged a 3/2 home win for Benz-Bavarian Duffield in the former champions’ battle against Yorkshire newcomers Chapel Allerton. The Leeds club, marking its return to the PSL under the stewardship of new coach Simon Parke, the former England international, pressed the Derbyshire hosts hard.
It was victories by former world No3 Parke, over Austria’s ranked player Aqeel Rehman, and a five-game win by South African Shaun le Roux over local boy Joel Hinds, that led to the decider between the two top strings.
World No2 Matthew, embarking on his 10th season for Duffield, took on Ong Beng Hee, the Malaysian number one making his debut for the visitors. Matthew was simply too strong – winning 11-6, 11-7, 11-2 to ensure a 3/2 home win.
Hosts MB Nottingham also earned a 3/2 win over West Midlands rivals University of Birmingham – and the former champions, managed for the first season by former Scottish international Alistair Gorrie, made a strong start, with victory assured after wins by Nottingham stalwarts Emily Whitlock, Ollie Holland and Mark Fuller.
But Birmingham struck back when Jaymie Haycocks beat Lewis Walters in straight games and Chris Ryder earned a swift win when Nottingham No1 Eddie Charlton was forced to concede the match after just a few points with a back injury.
“It was a sad end to the evening – but just one of those things really,” said Gorrie. “Despite Eddie’s injury the MB Nottingham players, supporters, management and sponsor leave tonight a happy bunch. A great start to our campaign and we’re already looking forward to the next fixture. Here’s just hoping that Eddie will be fit!”
One of the night’s most eagerly-awaited ties was the replay of last season’s final between Group B rivals TWP St George’s Hill and Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets. Hosts St George’s Hill were looking for revenge – and a repeat of their home win over their Surrey county rivals at the beginning of last season.
But early wins by the visitors’ Nada Elkalaawy, Ben Ford and Davide Bianchetti ensured another win by title-holders Surrey Health. St George’s regular Tom Richards battled for a consolation point by beating fellow England internationalAdrian Grant in four games, but Daryl Selby was unable to further reduce the deficit, going down to close friend Peter Barker, the world No6, 6-11, 4-11, 11-3, 9-11.
“I’m very disappointed,” said St George’s team manager Danny Lee. “We had our chances, but didn’t take them.”
A west country clash between UWE Bristol and Exeter Diamonds produced the latest finish of the night after four matches lasting more than four hours. It was Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet, a former Bristol player, who clinched victory for Exeter with a 62-minute win over Irishman Arthur Gaskin – but it still took a 59-minute final match which went the full distance to give the tie’s final outcome when Bristol’s Mohamed El Shorbagy beat top-ranked Finn Olli Tuominen 11-5, 13-15, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9, making the overall score 3/2 in Exeter’s favour.
MB Nottingham 3 University of Birmingham 2
Eddie Charlton lost to Chris Ryder 2-9 ret.
Lewis Walters lost to Jaymie Haycocks 10-12, 8-11, 8-11
Mark Fuller bt Jonathan Harford 8-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-7
Ollie Holland bt Chris Truswell 11-7, 8-11, 11-2, 11-9
Emily Whitlock bt Deon Saffery 11-7, 13-15, 11-7, 11-4
Benz-Bavarian Duffield 3 Chapel Allerton 2
Nick Matthew bt Ong Beng Hee 11-6, 11-7, 11-2
Joel Hinds lost to Shaun le Roux 12-10, 6-11, 5-11, 11-5, 9-11
Andy Whipp bt Dylan Bennett 12-10, 13-11, 11-5
Aqeel Rehman lost to Simon Parke 9-11, 11-9, 8-11, 8-11
Fiona Moverley bt Carrie Ramsey 12-10, 11-7, 11-5
Oxford Health & Racquets 5 AJP Pontefract 0
Cameron Pilley bt Lee Beachill 12-10, 11-9, 11-3
Scott Handley bt Sam Wileman 11-4, 11-3, 11-3
Ben Coleman bt Alex Hodgetts 11-8, 11-5, 11-9
Richard Birks bt Taminder Gata-Aura 11-8, 7-11, 10-12, 11-9, 11-6
Madeline Perry bt Kirsty McPhee 11-7, 11-6, 11-7
UWE Bristol 2 Exeter Diamonds 3
Mohamed El Shorbagy bt Olli Tuominen 11-5, 13-15, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9 (59m)
Arthur Gaskin lost to Mathieu Castagnet 10-12, 11-8, 3-11, 4-11 (62m)
Lucas Serme bt Joey Barrington 11-7, 11-8, 10-12, 11-5 (72m)
Thomas Ford lost to Tim Vail 7-11, 11-9, 9-11, 12-10, 5-11 (59m)
Victoria Bell lost to Aisling Blake 8-11, 9-11, 6-11 (25m)
Team Chichester 5 Winchester Racquets & Fitness 0
Jonathan Kemp bt Stacey Ross 11-7, 10-12, 11-8, 11-9
Robbie Temple bt Robert Downer 11-7, 11-4, 11-6
Olivier Pett bt Scott Fitzgerald 11-7, 11-7, 10-12, 16-14
Anthony Graham bt Alex Phillips 11-7, 11-5, 8-11, 11-5
Lauren Briggs bt Selina Sinclair 11-7, 11-6, 11-2
TWP St George’s Hill 1 Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets 4
Daryl Selby lost to Peter Barker 6-11, 4-11, 11-3, 9-11
Tom Richards bt Adrian Grant 11-8, 7-11, 11-9, 11-6
Charles Sharpes lost to Davide Bianchetti 6-11, 5-11, 7-11
Stephen Meads lost to Ben Ford 6-11, 11-13, 10-12
Harriet Ingham lost to Nada Elkalaawy 8-11, 11-4, 11-7, 4-11, 10-12
PSL TABLES (after 1st round):
|St George’s Hill||1||0||1||1||4||6||13||6|