TWP St George’s Hill avenged their defeat by Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets in last season’s PSL final when they beat the champions 3/2 in tonight’s fourth and final round of the year in the world’s most prestigious squash league.
Fielding four of the five players who represented the club in the final in May, St George’s went into the lead courtesy of the one player who didn’t – Laura Massaro, the England No2 who was injured earlier in the year and unavailable. The 28-year-old from Lancashire, who now boasts a career-high world No3 ranking, has not dropped a game for the Weybridge club team – and maintained her run with an 11-7, 11-5, 11-7 victory over Egyptian Nada Elkalaawy in just 22 minutes.
Two marathon matches followed, in which Hungarian number one Mark Krajcsak stunned the visitors’ Alan Clyne 7-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-5 in 54 minutes, and St George’s Swiss star Nicolas Mueller held off promising Egyptian Karim Abdel Gawad 11-7, 7-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-7 in 76 minutes. The wins gave St George’s an unassailable – and unexpected – 3/0 lead.
“Krajcsak put in an amazing performance, particularly as he’s been unwell recently – and as a result has slipped down the rankings and is now 46 places behind Clyne,” said St George’s Hill team manager Danny Lee.
Beaten for the first time this season, title-holders Surrey Health grabbed the next two matches to reduce the deficit – Adrian Grant prevailing in five games over St George’s stalwart Tom Richards, and Londoner Peter Barker defeating fellow Essex player Daryl Selby in straight games.
“On paper, I didn’t think we’d win tonight, so the victory is a real boost to the team – and it went down really well with the packed crowd,” added Lee. “It puts us right back into contention – we couldn’t afford to lose again tonight if we want to make the play-offs again this season.”
The result, however, still leaves Surrey Health above St George’s in the Group B points table – but it is Exeter Diamonds who now top the tables after storming to a 5/0 home win against UWE Bristol. It was a tie full of drama and celebration – and one which did not finish until well after midnight when Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema, ranked 12 in the world, survived a brutal 10-12, 15-13, 12-10, 7-11, 11-9 score-line over Bristol’s higher-ranked Mohamed El Shorbagy, the world No8 from Egypt.
Aisling Blake, James Snell and Tim Vail earlier guaranteed victory for the Devon club – before all eyes focussed on the home side’s Australian star Stewart Boswell. The 33-year-old former world No4 announced his decision to retire from the PSA Tour last month – and tonight brought to an end his distinguished four-season term with Exeter.
Boswell delighted his loyal fans by despatching the visitors’ Lucas Serme 11-9, 11-5, 11-2 – completing his 23rd PSL appearance for the Diamonds with his 18th victory.
There was another PSL defeat for a member of the El Shorbagy family on the south coast where Mohamed’s younger brother Marwan El Shorbagy, the world junior champion, went down 11-8, 11-8, 12-10 to Malaysian Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan as Team Chichester clinched a 3/2 win over IGT Winchester.
Home side Chichester took the early lead with wins by Lauren Briggs and Alex Gough – but Winchester’s Stacey Ross and Jethro Binns pulled back the deficit to level the tie for the visitors.
But Adnan, who made his debut for Chichester this season, chose the ideal time to register his first victory for the club by claiming the decider over the 18-year-old El Shorbagy.
In Group A, MB Nottingham strengthened their position in second place (behind the ‘resting’ Benz-Bavarian Duffield) with a 4/1 home win over Courtcraft Pontefract. Emma Beddoes set the home team on their way with a 12-10, 9-11, 11-8, 11-4 win over the visitors’ former world champion Vanessa Atkinson.
Nottingham regulars Mark Fuller, Lewis Walters and Eddie Charlton made sure of a home success before James Willstrop, England’s new world No3, gained a consolation point for the Yorkshire club when he beat Guernsey-born Chris Simpson 11-8, 13-11, 11-5 to maintain his unbeaten run since early November.
But there was disappointment in Group A for University of Birmingham, the PSL newcomers looking for their first home victory. The team faced strong opposition from Oxford Health & Racquets, whose Irish international Madeline Perry gave them the early advantage with a four-game victory in her first ever meeting with namesake Sarah-Jane Perry.
Visitors Oxford maintained the pressure with wins by Ben Coleman and Mark Cairns – before the Birmingham side mounted a comeback when Jaymie Haycocks beat Oxford stalwart Scott Handley in four games.
And the hosts’ top string Chris Ryder fully stretched Cameron Pilley in the final match of the evening – but the higher-ranked Australian international fought back from 2/1 down to beat Ryder 13-15, 11-2, 9-11, 11-2, 11-1 to give Oxford a 4/1 win to move into third place in the tables.
RESULTS: Premier Squash League, 4th round, Tuesday 6 December 2011
University of Birmingham 1 Oxford Health & Racquets 4
Chris Ryder lost to Cameron Pilley 15-13, 2-11, 11-9, 2-11, 1-11
Jaymie Haycocks bt Scott Handley 11-4, 12-14, 11-3, 11-6
Chris Truswell lost to Mark Cairns 4-11, 5-11, 7-11
James Earles lost to Ben Coleman 6-11, 7-11, 5-11
Sarah-Jane Perry lost to Madeline Perry 8-11, 8-11, 11-2, 6-11
MB Nottingham 4 Courtcraft Pontefract 1
Chris Simpson lost to James Willstrop 8-11, 11-13, 5-11
Eddie Charlton bt Lee Beachill 11-5, 11-5, 11-6
Lewis Walters bt Simon Parke 7-11, 13-15, 11-8, 11-9, 11-5
Mark Fuller bt Neil Cordell 11-4, 11-4 ret.
Emma Beddoes bt Vanessa Atkinson 12-10, 9-11, 11-8, 11-4
Exeter Diamonds 5 UWE Bristol 0
Laurens Jan Anjema bt Mohamed El Shorbagy 10-12, 15-13, 12-10, 7-11, 11-9
Stewart Boswell bt Lucas Serme 11-9, 11-5, 11-2
Tim Vail bt Arthur Gaskin 11-5, 11-5, 2-0 ret.
James Snell bt Tom Ford 11-7, 11-2, 11-8 (27m)
Aisling Blake bt Olivia Howell 11-4, 11-6, 11-5
Team Chichester 3 IGT Winchester 2
Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan bt Marwan El Shorbagy 11-8, 11-8, 12-10
Robbie Temple lost to Jethro Binns 9-11, 6-11 ret.
Olivier Pett lost to Stacey Ross 11-6, 9-11, 4-11, 6-11
Alex Gough bt Alex Phillips 11-9, 7-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-7
Lauren Briggs bt Lisa Aitken 11-8, 11-3, 11-9
TWP St George’s Hill 3 Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets 2
Daryl Selby lost to Peter Barker 8-11, 6-11, 8-11
Tom Richards lost to Adrian Grant 8-11, 11-4, 10-12, 11-7, 3-11 (72m)
Nicolas Mueller bt Karim Abdel Gawad 11-7, 7-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-7 (76m)
Mark Krajcsak bt Alan Clyne 7-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-5 (54m)
Laura Massaro bt Nada Elkalaawy 11-7, 11-5, 11-7 (22m)
St George’s v Surrey photos, from Jordan Mansfield