Exeter Diamonds kicked off their New Year’s Premier Squash League (PSL) campaign in fine style with an emphatic 5/0 home win over west country rivals UWE Bristol in Tuesday’s sixth round of the world’s most prestigious squash league. The victory takes the Devon side back to the top of the Group B tables, replacing title-holders Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets.
Comprehensive straight games wins by Aisling Blake, Tim Vail and Joey Barrington gave Exeter an unassailable lead. Former British Open champion Welshman David Evans saved Bristol’s blushes by taking a game from Exeter No2 Olli Tuominen, but the Finnish number one extended the home side’s lead with a 3/1 win, before Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema made it a maximum points triumph by despatching the visitors’ Lucas Serme – the Frenchman who won the first PSA World Tour ranking event of the year last week – 11-8, 11-2, 11-8.
“We’re just trying to do our bit for squash,” said Exeter team manager Adam Lings. “It’s great to give ourselves a fighting chance of qualification, but we realise that the next two games will prove critical!”
Champions Surrey Health were also at home, fielding a less-than-full-strength team against county rivals TWP St George’s Hill in a repeat of the last two seasons’ national finals. With a near full-strength line-up, the visitors were looking to gain some much-needed points to give themselves a chance of a third successive appearance in the grand final.
But the hosts’ Richie Fallows and Alison Waters won the opening two matches – leaving an away victory in the hands of the three remaining St George’s Hill players.
And the Weybridge club-mates duly obliged – third string Charles Sharpes seeing off Steven London in three games; 26-year-old world No13 Tom Richards saving two game-balls in the second before overcoming retired 42-year-old LondonerTim Garner 11-2, 13-11, 11-7; and top string Daryl Selby, the world No11, beating Italian ace Davide Bianchetti 11-6, 11-5, 11-4 to give St George’s a 3/2 win.
And in the other tie in the Group, visitors Team Chichester also eked out a 3/2 away win – over Winchester Racquets & Fitness. Again it was left to the top strings to fight out a decider – home hero Stacey Ross taking the early advantage against Chichester number one Jonathan Kemp, but the left-hander ranked 40 in the world reclaiming the advantage to pull off a mighty 8-11, 11-3, 11-5, 11-5 victory.
The win puts Chichester and Surrey Health in equal second place in the Group – both with 91 points – behind Exeter on 100 points – and St George’s Hill still in fourth place, but now only 19 points away from a runners-up berth.
Derbyshire’s former champions Benz-Bavarian Duffield extended their unbeaten record this season in Group A by beatingChapel Allerton. But it was an injury sustained by the Yorkshire hosts’ top string Alister Walker that gave the decider to Duffield’s Joel Hinds when world No15 Walker was forced to concede the match despite holding a 2/1 lead.
Oxford Health & Racquets restated their claim for a place in the end-of-season play-offs – and reduced the gap behind Group A leaders Duffield – by crushing AJP Pontefract 5/0. The Oxford visitors faced a home side missing three key players – and took full advantage. Oxford wins by Madeline Perry, Mark Cairns, Ben Coleman and Scott Handleyled to a top string showdown between home club hero Lee Beachill, the now-retired former world number one, and Spaniard Borja Golan, the new world No10. Golan was too strong, however, winning 11-4, 11-9, 11-7 to keep Oxford’s qualifying hopes alive.
University of Birmingham delighted their local supporters by celebrating their first win of the season with a 4/1 home victory over former champions MB Nottingham. Birmingham-born 22-year-old Sarah-Jane Perry gave her team the inspiration they needed by battling to a first ever win over seasoned compatriot Emma Beddoes – a valiant 11-4, 11-9, 10-12, 5-11, 11-8 victory in 68 minutes.
Team-mates Chris Truswell and Jaymie Haycocks followed suit before the University team number one Chris Ryderbeat Jan Koukal – the top-ranked Czech Republic player making his PSL debut – 11-4, 11-4, 12-10 to clinch the home team’s 4/1 win.
RESULTS: 6th round, Premier League, England
University of Birmingham 4 MB Nottingham 1
Chris Ryder bt Jan Koukal 11-4, 11-4, 12-10
Jaymie Haycocks bt Eddie Charlton 10-12, 11-7, 11-9, 11-6
Nathan Lake lost to Mark Fuller 11-6, 4-11, 7-11, 9-11
Chris Truswell bt Alistair Gorrie 6-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-7
Sarah-Jane Perry bt Emma Beddoes 11-4, 11-9, 10-12, 5-11, 11-8 (68m)
Chapel Allerton 2 Benz-Bavarian Duffield 3
Alister Walker lost to Joel Hinds 8-11, 11-8, 11-6, 3-10 ret.
Shaun le Roux lost to Andy Whipp 4-11, 8-11, 5-11
James Earles lost to Chris Fuller 7-11, 5-11, 7-11
Simon Parke bt Aqeel Rehman 11-7, 11-7, 5-11, 3-11, 11-8
Carrie Ramsey bt Lesley Sturgess 11-2, 11-6, 11-1
AJP Pontefract 0 Oxford Health & Racquets 5
Lee Beachill lost to Borja Golan 4-11, 9-11, 7-11
Thoboki Mohohlo lost to Scott Handley 7-11, 7-11, 9-11
Sam Wileman lost to Ben Coleman 7-11, 5-11, 4-11
Alex Hodgetts lost to Mark Cairns 10-12, 6-11, 3-11
Sarah Kippax lost to Madeline Perry 3-11, 8-11, 11-7, 9-11
Exeter Diamonds 5 UWE Bristol 0
Laurens Jan Anjema bt Lucas Serme 11-8, 11-2, 11-8 (37m)
Olli Tuominen bt David Evans 11-6, 4-11, 11-9, 11-3 (43m)
Joey Barrington bt Thomas Ford 11-9, 11-3, 11-4 (23m)
Tim Vail bt Stuart Hadden 11-3, 11-9, 11-3 (21m)
Aisling Blake bt Victoria Bell 11-3, 11-9, 11-3 (23m)
Winchester Racquets & Fitness 2 Team Chichester 3
Stacey Ross lost to Jonathan Kemp 11-8, 3-11, 5-11, 5-11
Robert Downer bt Olivier Pett 11-3, 12-10, 9-11, 11-1
Alex Phillips lost to Anthony Graham 6-11, 12-10, 3-11, 8-11
Adam Auckland bt Alex Gough 11-6, 11-1, 14-12
Rachel Willmott lost to Lauren Briggs 5-11, 4-11, 5-11
Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets 2 TWP St George’s Hill 3
Davide Bianchetti lost to Daryl Selby 6-11, 5-11, 4-11
Tim Garner lost to Tom Richards 2-11, 11-13, 7-11
Steven London lost to Charles Sharpes 5-11, 3-11, 2-11
Richie Fallows bt Jamie Wilde 11-4, 11-8, 7-11, 13-11
Alison Waters bt Dominique Lloyd-Walter 11-6, 11-5, 11-3
PSL TABLES (after 6th round):
|St George’s Hill||6||3||3||15||15||57||47||72|