After agreeing with team manager Pete Smith earlier in the day that they ‘wanted to make a little bit of history’, Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets went on to beat Surrey rivals TWP St George’s Hill in the Premier Squash League (PSL) final at Surrey Sports Park in Guildford to become not only the first club to win three titles in a row, but also the first in the 27-year-history of the world’s most prestigious squash league to win the crown four times.
But it was the Weybridge club, runners-up to Croydon-based Surrey Health in the 2011 final, that drew first blood whenLaura Massaro, the reigning British champion, overcame a leg injury to beat England team-mate Alison Waters 11-5, 7-11, 11-7, 11-6 in 51 minutes – a win which moved the career head-to head tally between the two to 12/11 in Massaro’s favour.
It was the pair’s fourth meeting this year – the first being the British National Championship final won by Massaro in February and the most recent the Irish Open semi-finals in Dublin where Londoner Waters, a former world No3, triumphed.
“I really wanted to win tonight for the club – and get my revenge for Ireland,” said Massaro, the world No4 from Preston. “I knew that my match could be crucial.”
Massaro’s return to the court for the third game was delayed while she received treatment for an injured left calf. “It was a bit of a shock when it happened midway through the second game – it went into spasm. I couldn’t really concentrate properly for a bit, then managed to ignore it and focus on the squash.
“Alison’s not the easiest player to play,” Massaro continued. “And it always seems to be me that has to play her – this is the fourth time since her return from injury at the beginning of the year!”
But minutes after the women’s match ended, Surrey Health drew level when Adrian Waller beat fellow 22-year-old and career-long rival Joe Lee, the St George’s No4, 11-7, 9-11, 11-5, 11-7 in exactly one hour.
Tension amongst the capacity crowd grew as the next pair of matches got underway on the two adjacent Surrey Sports Park showcourts – the right court featuring an all-continental Europe clash between German number one Simon Rosner and the top-ranked Swiss player Nicolas Mueller, and the left court starring second strings Adrian Grant and Tom Richards, ranked 17 and 16, respectively, in the world.
Rosner lifted Surrey Health hearts by taking the first game, but the younger Mueller – looking for his first ever win over the German – soon drew level. With both players looking as if their lives depended on it, it was Rosner who eventually prevailed, winning 11-4, 5-11, 11-6, 11-5 in 48 minutes to put the defending champions back in the driving seat.
“All matches are important to me – whether it’s on the Tour, or in European competitions, or a club event like this,” said Rosner, the world No19 from Paderborn later. “I just want to give it my all – and it usually seems to pay off.
By now the whole crowd was focussed on the single court where Grant, a 31-year-old former world No9 from London, had taken a 2/0 lead over his 25-year-old St George’s Hill opponent.
It was nip and tuck throughout the decider, with the more experienced Grant always just slightly ahead. And, after 87 minutes of breath-taking action, it was Surrey Health second string Grant who converted his first match-ball to win the clash 11-9, 11-9, 9-11, 9-11, 11-6 – and give his club the historic fourth title.
And it was a jubilant Surrey Health team manager Pete Smith who picked up the trophy and praised his players. “We really wanted it tonight – and I think you could see that. We wanted to make a little bit of history.
“It’s unbelievable – to do the triple, and win the title a fourth time. It’s quite an achievement!
“The players have done a fantastic job – not just the team tonight, who were awesome, but the rest of the squad throughout the season, including Peter Nicol, Alan Clyne, Tim Garner, Vicky Lust and Nada Elkalaawy,” Smith continued.
“Our new owners Virgin have been really supportive – and I hope they will be even more so next season.
“I’d also like to pay tribute to Danny Lee and his St George’s Hill squad. They made it a great final.
“My man of the match? It would have to be Adrian – he was fantastic tonight and did a magnificent job for us.”
St George’s Hill manager Danny Lee also paid tribute to his squad: “Our players have been absolutely fantastic this season – not just those playing tonight, but also Mark Krajcsak and Dominique Lloyd-Walter for their earlier contributions.”
The two top strings played out a best-of three ‘dead’ rubber – with world No10 Daryl Selby gaining small consolation for St George’s Hill by beating Essex schoolmate and England team-mate Peter Barker, the world No7, 11-7, 11-9.
RESULTS: Premier Squash League Final, Tuesday 8 May 2012
Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets 3 TWP St George’s Hill 2
Peter Barker lost to Daryl Selby 7-11, 9-11 (25m)
Adrian Grant bt Tom Richards 11-9, 11-9, 9-11, 9-11, 11-6 (87m)
Simon Rosner bt Nicolas Mueller 11-4, 5-11, 11-6, 11-5 (48m)
Adrian Waller bt Joe Lee 11-7, 9-11, 11-5, 11-7 (60m)
Alison Waters lost to Laura Massaro 5-11, 11-7, 7-11, 6-11 (51m)