In the first-ever all-Surrey final, Surrey Health&Racquets retained the PSL title in front of a packed and partisan crowd at Surrey Sports Park as Camille Serme, Peter Nicol and Adrian Grant gave the defending champions an unassailable 3-0 lead over Surrey rivals St George’s Hill …
Surrey Health&Racquets 4
TWP St George’s Hill 1
Peter Barker 2-0 Daryl Selby 11/5, 13/11 (13m)
Adrian Grant 3-0 Tom Richards 11/7, 11/8, 11/9 (53m)
Alan Clyne 0-3 Nicolas Mueller 8/11, 8/11, 9/11 (46m)
Peter Nicol 3-1 Mark Krajcsak 11/7, 16/14, 11/13, 11/7 (75m)
Camille Serme 3-1 Dominique Lloyd-Walter 11/3, 9/11, 11/6, 11/5 (38m)
Surrey H&R win all-Surrey Final to deny St George’s
The 2011 PSL final, an all-Surrey affair, kicked off with the fourth and fifth strings taking to the courts at Surrey Sports Park in fron of a full house of partisan fans …
Camille Serme got Surrey off to a good start as she beat Dominique Lloyd-Walter in four games. Totally dominant in the first, the Frenchwoman encountered stiffer opposition in the second as Lloyd-Walter won a tight game, but early leads in each of the next two games were enough to see Serme home.
Meanwhile Peter Nicol was displaying his usual grimaces and dogged determination against Mark Krajcsak. The former world number one took the first comfortably enough, but had to fight back from 10-7 down in the second before taking it 16/14.
When Nicol moved – you can’t say ‘eased’, he was working too hard for that – into a 6-1 lead in the third it looked all over, but the Hungarian number one matched his illustrious opponent as he recovered to earn a game ball at 10/9. A despairing dive into the front corner couldn’t retrieve Nicol’s drop as the Surrey man forced extra points.
At 11/10 Krajcsak had to attend to a minor bleed on his elbow caused by the earlier dive, but went on to take the game 13/11.
There was no stopping Nicol in the fourth though, he may sometimes look like he’s just retrieving, but Mark will testify to the pressure he puts you under, and he moved inexorably ahead despite Mark’s best efforts, taking the game 11/7 to put Surrey into a two-nil lead.
By then the number twos had started and Surrey’s Adrian Grant, making his first competitive outing after a long injured spell, had taken the first game 11/7 against Tom Richards. The left-hander continued to hold sway in the second, taking it 11/8, but Richards mounted a comeback in the third to lead 9/6.
Nicolas Mueller was already one game up against Alan Clyne at this point, and went on to win in straight games to take a consolation point for St Georges, and Peter Barker finished things off with a two-nil win over Daryl Selby in an entertaining finish to the evening.
Howard Harding reports
In the first all-Surrey final in the history of the world’s most prestigious squash league, defending champions Surrey Health & Racquets overwhelmed final newcomers TWP St George’s Hill 4/1 to win the Premier Squash League titleat the Surrey Sports Park in Guildford for the third time in four years.
The county rivals faced each other twice earlier in the season, with Weybridge-based St George’s Hill claiming victory on both occasions before going on to top the Group B table by a significant margin after winning all but one of their ten ties.
With ample support for both teams, the Croydon club’s French star Camille Serme took on St George’s England international Dominique Lloyd-Walter at the beginning of the evening – while in the adjacent court England legend Peter Nicol, the now-retired 38-year-old former world number one and world champion, faced top-ranked Hungarian Mark Krajcsak.
But all eyes were on the titanic battle raging on the next door court, where – in their first ever meeting – Krajcsak was desperately trying to even the score against Surrey Health stalwart Nicol.
After dropping the first game, the 27-year-old Tour regular from Budapest moved to 10-7 and game-ball in the second. But Nicol would not cave in – and saved four game-balls before finally clinching his own at his fourth attempt to win 16-14.
Nicol led 6-1 in the third, and the end looked in sight. But Krajcsak kept up the pressure to reclaim the advantage before a full length dive into the front backhand corner caused a minor cut to the Hungarian’s elbow which required the game to be halted while he received treatment.
The break seemed to be just what Nicol needed, as the left-hander saved Krajcsak’s matchball at 11-10. But the St George’s fourth string secured his next to win the games and reduce the match deficit.
It was nip and tuck in the fourth game, but Nicol was able to pull off master strokes at exactly the right time before clinching the popular 11-7, 16-14, 11-13, 11-7 victory after 75 minutes which extended Surrey Health’s lead to 2/0.
“He’s very experienced – he can come back from situations which most other players wouldn’t be able to,” said the perplexed Hungarian afterwards of Nicol. “He’s a great fighter – he never gives up.”
It was Krajcsak’s first ever meeting with one the game’s biggest names. Was he overawed by the occasion?
“I may have been a bit affected by his reputation early in the match – I made five or six unforced errors – but from then on it was just like playing any other opponent,” said the world No54.
Nicol admitted that his form was good: “I’m in better shape now than I have been for the last three years or so – I probably only play about once a week, but I do a lot of other things to keep fit, including a lot of walking.
“It’s hard for these guys who play day in day out – then I come along having not played for a week. I’m their worst nightmare
“But I love playing team squash – whether it’s for your country or your club. And Surrey Health is particularly special for me – I do camps there and am quite involved with the club,” explained the four-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
“Mark is a tough opponent and played a good game. But maybe he could have been more attacking – he was towards the end, but that was probably too late.”
It was a battle between two England internationals which sealed victory for the defending champions when Londoner Adrian Grant, who made his England debut in 2004, beat this year’s England debutant Tom Richards 11-7, 11-8, 11-9.
Grant is making a comeback after a long layoff following a hip injury.
“It’s my first season for Surrey Health, and I was struggling with my injury in my games early in the season, so it’s really a good feeling to win for the club tonight – particularly as it was the match which clinched the title,” said the 30-year-old former world No9.
Swiss star Nicolas Mueller gave the St George’s fans some consolation by beating Surrey Health’s Scottish number one Alan Clyne in straight games – but in the best-of-three top string clash between England internationals and close Essex friends Peter Barker and Daryl Selby, left-hander Barker beat reigning British National champion Selby in two games to cement Surrey Health’s title-winning victory.
“I’m really chuffed – and I’m very proud of the team,” said the Croydon club’s team manager Pete Smith. “To defend the title is very special.
“Our man of the match was probably Peter Nicol,” Smith continued. “For him to play the way he did was magnificent. We really needed that win – it gave us a cushion.
“But our team overall was fantastic tonight – to win the title three times in four years is incredible. It’s been a real squad effort.”
St George’s Hill team manager Danny Lee was full of praise for the new PSL champions. “Congratulations to Surrey Health – they thoroughly deserved their win. I thought Peter Nicol was amazing. His shot selection tonight was superb.
“But we’ll definitely be back next year,” added the former junior England international.
Surrey Health & Racquets now become one of four clubs which have won the PSL title three times – including Duffield, from Derbyshire; Leekes Welsh Wizards from Cardiff; and Cannons of London.
But the Croydon club will now sets their sights on next year when they could make history by becoming the first to four.