The first glass court match of the 2021 Allam British Open may well be one of the best we see all week, as Malaysia’s Sivasangari Subramaniam and English wildcard Georgina Kennedy went head-to-head for well over an hour.
The pair met just six weeks ago at the Squash on Fire Open in Washington, D.C., with Kennedy taking the victory en route to the final, but it was the Malaysian that strode out to an early advantage in this clash, thanks to winning two lengthy tie-breaks.
The Englishwoman then won a tie-break of her own, a second 15-13 score-line in the match, before taking the fourth 11-9 to send it into a decider. In the fifth, though, it was the young Malaysian that was able to pull through to book her place in the second round, where she will face World No.5 Amanda Sobhy.
“She is better than what she is ranked but I am just relieved to get through the first round!” the Malaysian explained.
“I knew it would be a tough match, Gina is a tough player. I knew I had to push hard and take the lead because she is really fast, so definitely I will have to recover well because this was a long match and I hope to come back fresh tomorrow.
“I was just trying to stay as positive as I can. Obviously, as I said, I have lost a couple of matches with her, and it is tough to just get in and push through. I am proud of myself that I managed to do that, and to stay positive on court!”
Result: Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS) bt [WC] Georgina Kennedy (ENG) 3-2: 15-13, 14-12, 13-15, 9-11, 11-6 (73m)
Former World No.9 Daryl Selby fell to wildcard Nick Wall in the opening round of the Allam British Open, as the left-hander showcased his skills on the glass court at the Allam Sports Centre.
Wall started strongly, winning the first four points of the match, but Selby showed his experience to fight back to take the first game and hold the advantage in the match.
However, from that point, Wall was able to fight his way into the contest, and he went on to take the next three games, to secure victory on his first appearance in the main draw at the British Open.
Wall will take on Egypt’s World No.5 Marwan ElShorbagy in the next round.
“Just an amazing experience to be here, to be given the opportunity and to play a legend like Daryl. [He is] someone I have always grown up, looking up to, and yeah, I really enjoyed it,” Wall said.
“I seemed to hit a lot from high on the backhand, he was lobbing me a lot to. that corner. At the start of the match, I struggled to get my length but as I adapted to the glass and the pace of it, I got myself into a bit more.
“It’s tough, you have to get a perfect line on the glass court otherwise you’re going to leave it loose, which I did at the start of the match here. Playing someone like Daryl, you can’t do that because he puts the ball away so well, so you have to find that length and then go from there.
“We [with coach, Nick Matthew] spoke a lot before the tournament. It has been a tricky few months for me and the preparation has not been ideal. I have done what I can, and that is what he asked of me. Luckily I have been able to get myself fit enough to get here, which was the first thing I wanted to do. Then, to win against Daryl, that is just great.
“[It is a] great opportunity to play someone like Marwan [ElShorbagy], one of my favourite players, and I am sure I will learn a lot from that match!”
Result: [WC] Nick Wall (ENG) bt Daryl Selby (ENG) 3-1: 8-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-9 (61m)
England’s Lucy Turmel made her way into the last 32 of the British Open after a comfortable victory over Swiss No.1 Cindy Merlo, winning in 25 minutes on the glass court at the Allam Sports Centre.
The World No.30 was in control throughout the contest, as she extended her 100% head-to-head record over Merlo, winning for a third time over the Swiss player.
“I felt like I played quite well today. It feels good and it was nice to look out and have some familiar faces to look at,” she admitted.
“The court is quite dead. Because of the colour of the glass, I find it a bit more difficult to see the ball, but the ball is quite dead so if I found the back corners well, I was then able to take the ball in o the front and usually it was the end of the rally.
“Cindy hits a really nice ball if you leave the ball teed up for her. I played well though, and executed what I wanted to do!”
Result: Lucy Turmel (ENG) bt Cindy Merlo (SUI) 3-0: 11-8, 11-3, 11-4 (25m)
38-year-old Borja Golan showed his experience and skill to come through a tricky test against England’s Nathan Lake, coming from a game down to book his place in the last 32 in Hull.
It was the Englishman that started the better on home soil, and he took the first game against the higher-ranked Golan to hold the advantage in the contest.
However, Golan was able to dig deep and showcase his abilities, coming back to take the next three games to secure his place in the second round of the Platinum level tournament, where he will face Gregoire Marche.
“I enjoyed it when I was up, not when I was down! I really enjoyed the match,” he Spaniard said.
“Nathan is a really fair player, a really quality player. It is a pleasure playing against players like that, whether you lose or you win. You have a fair match, easy traffic on the court and it is really nice to come back to the glass court again, after a few months, and I am really happy to be injury free, and enjoy my squash. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a bit better!
“I was thinking of my firs match, so I didn’t focus on the other match. In the next few hours, I will relax and then start thinking about it. Greg [Marche] is a the peak of his career. Such a physical player, and he has improved his racket game in the last two years, and he is now fighting with the top guys. For me, it will be a pleasure playing against him, and I was try to make a surprise tomorrow!”
Result: Borja Golan (ESP) bt Nathan Lake (ENG) 3-1: 8-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-9 (61m)
Hutton on Form to See Off Villard
England’s World No.44 Jasmine Hutton is through to the second round of the Allam British Open for the second time in her career after a confident performance saw her dispose of the player directly below her in the PSA World Rankings – Enora Villard – in straight games.
Hutton put in a good performance during the Manchester Open when she bested World No.30 Lucy Turmel, and she built on that impressive victory with an assured 11-2, 11-8, 11-5 victory over Villard in 29 minutes.
Villard had won two of their previous three meetings on the PSA Tour, but 22-year-old Hutton hit her targets well and had too much in the tank for her French opponent today.
Hutton now progresses to the last 32, where she will play New Zealand’s World No.8 Joelle King.
“I’m absolutely chuffed, I’ve had such a stressful few days, so to come out on top is amazing right now,” Hutton said.
“I haven’t played the last couple of days due to the complications with James [Willstrop] and COVID [Willstrop tested positive and withdrew from the event]. I’m just happy to be here.
“I’ve been working really hard recently with my movement in the back corners. There are times when I get too close and it’s definitely been something that I’ve practiced. I’m really trying to practice my basic game and improve that so much.
“When you’re playing the top players, what is most recognisable is how much better their basic game is compared to yours.”
Speaking about the strapping she was sporting on her ankle, Hutton played down any injury fears, saying: “I hurt my ankle in the Doubles squad on Friday. I had my ankle support on to stabilise it a bit more and keep it secure.
“It wasn’t anything serious, it’s just the extra protection, and the reason I was standing [between games] is because I hate sitting down between games.”
Result: Jasmine Hutton (ENG) bt Enora Villard (FRA) 3-0: 11-2, 11-8, 11-5 (29m)
Masotti Powers to Win Over Masters
Frenchman Baptiste Masotti overcame England’s Joshua Masters with a 3-1 victory in a match that was delayed due to a late PCR test result.
Masters – who only entered the draw yesterday following a spate of withdrawals – was forced to wait for the result of his PCR test, which all players must take before joining the ‘event bubble’ as part of the PSA’s COVID-19 protocols.
That meant a 20-minute delay to proceedings, but Masotti certainly did his best to get the schedule back on track with a ruthless performance in the first two games.
Masters has only played a handful of competitive matches this year and that lack of action showed as Masotti showcased the kind of squash that has taken him to a career-high ranking of World No.24, which is 149 places above today’s opponent.
But after taking just four points across the first two games, Masters settled down in the third and displayed his skills with the racket, taking a 6-1 lead and holding off a late fightback from his opponent to halve the deficit.
It was all Masotti in the fourth though, and the 24-year-old progresses to the second round, where he will play either compatriot Lucas Serme or Switzerland’s Dimitri Steinmann.
— Allam British Open (@BritOpenSquash) August 16, 2021
“I’ve been working hard for a lot of years, and it’s starting to pay off,” said Masotti.
“I never fix goals in my head to be in the top 20, I just work hard and see where it goes. I’m 24 now, but you can drop off very quickly and you can be 50 in the world in six months, so you have to work even harder. I feel a bit of pressure to be at this ranking because I love to be the hunter.
“I love to be behind the other players, it’s when I play my best squash. When I played Shorbagy twice this season, I think I played well because I had nothing to lose. Now, people want to hurt me, and it’s a bit different, so I think the performances are important.
“If I win tomorrow I’m playing Mohamed or Joel Makin, so it could be a good place to beat them. But I have a match to win tomorrow first, and then I will try to be on court in three days because there is a day off after tomorrow’s match. I hope to be here in three days, so I can try and show my best squash.”
Result: Baptiste Masotti (FRA) bt Joshua Masters (ENG) 3-1: 11-3, 11-1, 9-11, 11-2 (31m)
Whitlock Secures RD2 Berth
A trio of semi-finals this month – at the Berkhamsted Open, British Nationals and Manchester Open – have seen Whitlock demonstrate some strong form coming into the Allam British Open this week, and she was quick to show her quality, with a clinical performance and consistent length enabling her to defeat Soini in straight games.
Up next for Whitlock is an all-Welsh affair with World No.11 Tesni Evans tomorrow.
“It’s been difficult with the long day yesterday in my room and the really late practice,” said Whitlock.
“I felt okay this morning, but I wish I played an hour earlier. I don’t feel too bad, it’s fine but it’s just starting again on a new court at a new tournament, and it’s actually really dead. She’s firing in these boasts, and I’m having to run a lot, but it’s all good, there are worse problems in the world.
“I feel like I don’t generate the same amount of power as the other girls, so I naturally lift a bit more, maybe. I like the court, but it took me a while to get used to because it’s been so warm and so bouncy [in Manchester], so to go on a glass court that’s dead again took me a while to get used to, but I quite like it.”
Speaking ahead of her encounter with Evans, Whitlock said: “We’ve been demoted to the pig-pen, so unfortunately it’s not on the glass court, but it should be a good game either way, so I’m looking forward to it.
“I feel like we play a similar game, but who knows. It’s a new court, a new match, a new day, so it’s anyone’s. The strength and depth of the tour is so strong and it’s a new day tomorrow, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Result: Emily Whitlock (WAL) bt Emilia Soini (FIN) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 11-4 (27m)
Parker Sees Off Compatriot Todd
The 25-year-old has broken back into the top 40 this month and was up against a fellow up-and-coming Englishman in Todd, who at 18 recently won his maiden PSA event at the Pontefract Challenger.
Todd showed his class in a confident start to proceedings to go 7-5 ahead, but the superior experience of Parker saw the older Englishman play the key rallies better and he came back to take the opener.
The second game soon followed, but Todd refused to be overawed by the occasion and he continued fighting in the third to force his opponent to a tie-break. But he was unable to extend the match to a fourth game as Parker completed an 11-7, 11-7, 13-11 triumph in 43 minutes.
“He’s got nothing to lose and he makes you very edgy,” said Parker.
“You don’t want to put the ball in spots around the middle, and if you overhit at the back he is dangerous. On a court like this, he can reel two or three points off really quickly, so that made me really edgy to start with. I tried to keep the ball straight and deep as much as I could, pin him in the back and hope for an error.
“I was trying to get the ball back and seeing what happened. I knew when it got to 8-8, 9-9 my experience would probably help me over the line, but he is a dangerous player, he’s going to be very good.”
Next up for Parker is a second round clash with CIB PSA World Tour Finals winner Mostafa Asal which promises plenty of fireworks.
“It will pretty much be similar, but on a better level to Sam,” Parker said of his next opponent.
“Anywhere around the middle he is going to stand on it and hit a perfect length. You’ve got to be wary where you put the ball with players like that, but when you’re scrambling sometimes you can’t help but put it there, and that’s why he is dangerous.
“I’ve played a lot of games, I played two in Manchester and now this one in England, so I’m sharp. I’ve got a four-week break after this, so I have nothing to lose going forward. It’s sort of my final tomorrow, like it was Sam’s final today, so I’ll give it everything and see what happens.”
Result: George Parker (ENG) bt [WC] Sam Todd (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 13-11 (43m)