New Zealand Premier Squash League
Squash is back in New Zealand, which after a seven-week lockdown moved to Covid Alert Status 2 this week – meaning that Clubs can reopen, and training and matches can take place, with suitable precautions (details here).
The initiative is the brainchild of John Duggan who is the owner of the SquashXL Club in Auckland, which will host all matches over the next four weeks on its state of the art all-glass show court.
Temwa takes out first NZ PSL title
Dave Worsley reports
Chileshe and his final opponent, Joel Arscott have both made the SquashXL centre in Avondale, Auckland their home over the past eight weeks in a bid to be able to practice, play matches and train in a dedication to the game the want to make a career out of.
The training obviously helped as they clashed in the final which although not having PSA world ranking points on offer their was prizemoney and the valuable time on court playing competition matches.
In the final it was Chileshe ranked 337 in the world who started on fire reeling on points with seeming ease and taking the first game 11-4. The second was just as straightforward for an 11-2 scoreline.
Arscott, with a world ranking of 235, re-focused himself during the break and played steadier squash in the third game to force some errors in his opponents game and won 11-8. However in the fourth when decisions went against Arscott he wasn’t able to get his concentration enough as Chileshe stayed on track and won the fourth and final game 11-5 for the title.
“I’m stoked with winning it and to show people we’ve been working quite hard during lockdown. I think I played a lot better today. You have to start hard and fast in the cooler conditions at night. It’s going to be good to getting better and better with each tournament against everyone, we’ll all improve for sure,” said Chileshe.
In other matches 17-year-old Jack Conder defeated NZ Junior Champion, Glenn Templeton one year his senior in the Consolation final in five games in 51 minutes 13-10 in the fifth using the ‘long or short’ rule of the player picking if they want victory in ‘next point wins’ or the first to 13 points from the 10-all scoreline.
The plate final had the youngest player in the tournament, Leo Fatialofa at barely 17 accounted for the oldest, Michael Shelton-Agar at 21 in straight games.
The third and fourth playoff featuring Elijah Thomas with a ranking of 257 beat Anthony Lepper at 256 was a five game epic, also finishing 13-10 in the fifth in favour of Thomas.
The second tournament in the series starts on Friday 22 May.
Finalists confirmed at SquashXL
Dave Worsley reports
The new squash Premier League finalists have been confirmed as the two players who call the venue their home won their way into the title match.
Nineteen year-olds Joel Arscott and Temwa Chileshe had to work hard to win their respective semifinals but know the glass court so well at the SquashXL club as the live on site at the venue and admit they are a little sick of practicing and playing each other.
“You could say we know each other’s games very well. We’re flatmates, roommates, squash mates, train together and both love the game,” says Arscott. Who has a PSA world ranking of 235. “I’m pretty stoked to be in the final after all of the time off.”
In his semifinal Arscott accounted for 17-year-old Elijah Thomas ranked 257 in a four game battle which had both players stretched and retrieving well. Both players were able to change the tempo of rallies which provide an entertaining match.
Thomas won the first game 11-9, while the second had went the way of Arscott 11-5. The third game was anyone’s to win as each player kept errors to a minimum. Eventually Arscott prevailed, but only after some quality rallies. In the fourth set Arscott became ruthless with his play, winning 11-2.
Interview with Joel
Lepper ranked 256 gained an early two-game advantage before a stroke at 9-10 gave Chileshe the third game and the hope of staging which might have a distant victory.
Once he was back into the match Chileshe gained confidence and proceeded to cut down his mistakes while the focus of Lepper appeared on the wane.
Eventually Chileshe winning the final two games 11-6, 11-6 in a match total time of 50 minutes.
Interview with Temway
In the early plate matches the oldest player in the tournament, Michael Shelton-Agar, aged 21 defeated Glenn Templeton in four games 11-9, 10-11,
11-7 11-7 in 29 mins with the younger player struggling to get into his
groove for much of the match.
Leo Fatialofa then accounted for fellow 17-year-old Jack Conder in straight games 11-5, 11-8, 11-8 with efficiency, although Conder again showed plenty of raw energy which could hold him well in the future.
Top squash back under way in Auckland
Dave Worsley reports on Day One
There were no major upsets in the initial round of the Unsquashable Premier League in Auckland as elite sport got underway in New Zealand for the first time after around seven weeks of lockdown.
Held on the glass court at the SquashXL centre and featuring the majority of New Zealand’s best domestic players the first match had 20-year-old Joel Arscott facing the oldest competitor in the eight-player field, Remuera Rackets Club’s, Michael Shelton-Agar with his sometimes unorthodox play.
Both players were lacking match practice and conditions on the cool side meant it was always going to take a while to get into their stride. Arscott with a current PSA ranking of 235 was keen to play from the front of the court and took the first game 11-8 with unforced errors from both players.
The second game had Shelton-Agar rise to the occasion and play some shots which were unreturnable and difficult to predict as he won 11-6. Into the third and Arscott gained control with a more positive style of play for a scoreline of 11-7. He quickly wrapped up the fourth game and match 11-1 in what was a clinical display.
The second match was a replay of the New Zealand U19 final from the previous year and featured two of the rising stars of New Zealand squash, Elijah Thomas, 17 from the Eden Epsom Club in Auckland and 18-year-old Glenn Templeton from Katikati in the Bay of Plenty. Templeton won that match nine months ago in five dramatic games and it was close again on this occasion too.
Templeton who is ranked 357 and is 6’4” (193cm) or more with a powerful build won the first game 11-9 with wide sweeping backhands and efficient forehands. But Thomas who has also gained plenty of height in the past year is very quick on the turn on court and fought back to win the second and third games 11-8, 11-3. However in the fourth Templeton showed he’s not just power and provided plenty of touch to win 11-9.
In the fifth and final game Thomas who has a PSA ranking of 257 was able to win with a very comfortable 11- 1 scoreline for a total time of 40 minutes.
Game three had Temwa Chileshe facing Leo Fatialofa with the latter having turned 17 just two days prior to the Premier League start. Chileshe, 19 is the younger brother of fellow pro, Lwamba who is ranked currently ranked 160 in the world.
Fatialofa started the match in frantic fashion with plenty of athletic ability and forcing Chileshe into uncharacteristic errors only for a late comeback and both players to drawing even before the umpire called “long or short”. Fatialofa appeared uncertain and the official decided short, which didn’t go the way of the younger player who found himself losing the game 10-11.
Chileshe won the next two games 11-7, 11-8 looking professional in his approach.
In the final contest Anthony Lepper accounted for teenager Jack Conder in straight games. Conder from the Titirangi Club is known for his intensity and energy on court and Lepper kept to a steady game plan for the 11-6, 11-9, 11-8 victory.
Semifinal matches on Saturday have Arscott facing Thomas while Chileshe takes on Lepper from 3pm including plate matches until 6pm.
Preview and competitors
The UNSQUASHABLE Premier Squash League will provide leading New Zealand players a chance to get back on court & compete after an extended period of self-isolation & will conform with all New Zealand government health & safety rules, including maximum gathering, spacing, hygiene & tracking.
This is the first of four weeks of tournaments all at the same venue and aimed at giving players a chance to get back on court and be competitive again after seven weeks of no action, on New Zealand’s only permanent glass court, and will have an official PSA accredited referee as well as live scoring.
Although there are no PSA ranking points on offer, there is prize money and for the competitors involved, but it’s also about playing time and getting ready for when international tournaments are staged again.
The highest world ranked player competing is 20-year-old Joel Arscott at 237, Anthony Lepper is next at 256 and 17-year-old Elijah Thomas, who was a finalist at the Henderson Open in February, one place further back in the world rankings.
Temwa Chileshe, the 20-year-old who won his first PSA Satellite title in April, is ranked 337 and is the younger brother of New Zealand No.4 Lwamba who is in the top 150 in the world and currently based in the UK.
Others in the tournament are the powerful Glenn Templeton from the Bay of Plenty, who is the current New Zealand junior champion and is 357 in world senior rankings, while 17-year-old Leo Fatialofa from the Henderson Squash Club is also a top 400 ranked player.
Teenager Jack Conder from the Titirangi Squash Club and Michael Schelton-Agar from the Remuera Club are also competing