Canary Wharf Squash Classic – day one

In Sport on March 19, 2013 at 11:03 AM

Daryl Selby and Simon Rosner produced the tie of day one at the Canary Wharf Squash Classic, as Selby triumphed in five games after a near hour-and-a-half of thrilling squash.

A gutsy performance, full of tireless running and amazing gets, saw him bounce back from 2-1 down to win 11-9, 4-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-5.

The Essex player started well, taking a 9-3 lead with Rosner getting increasingly frustrated with Selby’s let calls, most of which – probably rightly – granted by the ref.

However, he squandered the lead courtesy of some strong play from the German and some errors of his own – but stemmed the tide at 9-9 with two tight volley drops to take the game.

Rosner raced to a 6-1 lead in the second, and two great drop shots brought him the gameball at 10-4, which he smashed into the nick – the join of the side-wall and floor – with aplomb, using all of his considerable 6’3 frame and then some with his jump.

A combination of great court coverage and clever use of the video review system – which turned and upheld some calls in Selby’s favour, much to Rosner’s chagrin – saw Selby take a 5-2 lead, but three mistakes in a row brought the scores level, and then Rosner got the better of some tight rallies to take the game 11-7.

Selby again started brightly, with an inch-perfect drop on the first point, and controlling the rallies after to make it 5-2 – but Rosner fought back.

A key point at 8-6 to Selby saw the Englishman call and receive a stroke – angering Rosner who thought, with some reason, he had cleared the ball enough for just a let (replay of the point).

So he reviewed, but the decision was upheld. His audacious response was a return smashed crosscourt into the nick on the next point.

Then it was Rosner’s turn to receive a borderline stroke, which Selby wasn’t pleased about but had no reviews left with which to challenge.

At 8-9 to Selby, the Essex player received a let which could have been a stroke, but won the replayed point, followed by a rallying cry – and then the gameball after that, followed by an even more almightly roar.

That, and more contentious let decisions in the fifth, took the wind out of Rosner’s sails just enough for Selby to edge in front, setting up the matchball with a perfectly-constructed rally of lobs of ultra-tight drives.

Fittingly, Selby won it with a long rally which ended in him calling a borderline let/stroke – the umpires awarding the stroke, which was reviewed but, after an anxious wait, upheld.

Elsewhere, qualifier Henrik Mustonen, world no. 53, beat world no. 17 Adrian Grant 3-11, 11-2, 11-6, 11-4, in the upset of the day.

Although it would not have come as too much of a surprise to those who saw the 22-year-old Finn dispatch both Kristian Frost Olesen, one rank below him, and then world no. 32 Gregoire Marche in qualifying.

Nor did his impressive athleticism comes as a surprise after the master of ceremonies, Alan Thatcher, stated that his training regime involves a gruelling series of sprints and runs followed by a lengthy swim in the lake in his “huge” back garden in his hometown of Hollola.

The first game went comfortably to Mustonen then the next to Grant.

Thereafter, though, especially in the second and fourth games, Mustonen outfoxed and out-manouevred Grant – ten years his senior and a mainstay in the top 20 since 2006, who would surely have hoped this near-homecoming (he lives in Dulwich) would have proved more of a swansong.

Enfield’s Adrian Waller, another qualifier, lost to world no. 5 Mohamed El Shorbagy, but not before he gave the rising Egyptian star a severe scare.

El Shorbagy took the first 11-7, but to do so was forced to bring out his most inventive shot-making and almost physics-defying court coverage, drawing several gasps of amazement from the crowd.

Waller could be forgiven for feeling discouraged for his efforts only earning seven points, but hecame out even stronger in the second, with the scores nip and tuck all the way up to the tie break (two clear points when the scores reach 10-10).

Here, he won the point with a sublime drop shot on the return off the back wall – El Shorbagy replying with typical insouciance, smashing the return cross-court into the nick.

Waller won the next on a stroke, and held his nerve again to win the replayed point when he was only awarded a let on point after – the wry grin El Shorbagy displayed when looking at Waller’s review suggesting even the Egyptian thought it was stroke.

He could not quite match the same effort in the next two games, though, which El Shorbagy took impressively 11-5 and 11-6.

It was a similar tale in wildcard Charles Sharpes’ match against world no.4 James Willstrop – though the Kingston player did not quite seem to pose the same threat to the number two seed.

Sharpes started positively, though the longer rallies invariably either went Willstrop’s way or ended in Sharpes calling a let (which didn’t go unnoticed to Willstrop, once jokingly asking if the 21-year-old wanted a let when frantically trying to hit the ball behind his own back).

Sharpes did play some brilliant squash to take the second 11-9. But in the next two games Willstrop, with his 6’4 frame and impressive reach, largely controlled the game from the T, often appearing that he had Sharpes on a string, especially when bringing out glimpses of his now-infamous double-fake shot from the recent North American Open.

Quizzed on this afterwards, he said: “I keep trying to do it, which is not sensible really.

“Its popularity has been quite unbelievable. At first I did not really know what the fuss was about, but now I do, and that I must promote it to try to make a difference and help get squash into the Olympics.”

Joel Durston

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