Quarters : Charlie joins three seeds in the semis … or English trio join top seed Todd ?
The Clarke Report
I’m so happy to be back hosting the Guilfoyle PSA Squash Classic. Last time was in 2020 when Daniel Mekbib won the title for a 2nd time and ended up sleeping in the parking lot after 15 beers in the bar with a number of members trying to figure out his slurred Czech accent.
This year, thanks kindly to the PSA grant scheme we have upgraded our event to a Challenger 10 for the first time. We might have the strongest 12k tournament in the history of the PSA tour, with our top seed Todd Harrity coming in at a whopping 38 in the World Rankings.
Poor Daniel ended up being 4th reserve, relegated to the basement but that’s on him for continuing to float around the same ranking for the 10th year in a row. Seems the divisor rule the PSA did away with during Covid is allowing higher ranked guys to participate in events they otherwise wouldn’t usually enter without the fear of a rankings drop.
There also seems to be a gap in the tournament schedule so players are looking for match practice and prize money, a stepping stone towards preparing for their larger events. This is great for me, the tournament promoter but tough for some of those lower ranked players but this is likely not the norm so I won’t complain!
Todd Harrity vs Alfredo Avila
I assumed, incorrectly that Todd was an attritional player. Both his first round match and tonight’s matchup against the speedy Avila proved otherwise. Sure, he extends rallies and is extremely fit but he hunts the ball well across the middle and isn’t afraid to take it in short. His ball control is exceptional, and his ability to pull himself out of pressure is impressive.
It was rare to see Avila get Harrity on more than 1 or 2 attacking shots in a row, using the height of the court well or throwing in a counter drop to quickly switch momentum. The rallies were extended, and if you watched a few minutes would assume the match was going to be a 5 game barn burner but “the player that controls the T usually wins the match” is a fitting way to describe this encounter.
Looking forward to seeing more of Mr. Harrity this week.
Curtis Malik vs Christopher Gordon
Good to see Gordo on tour after this, his 27th season. Not much has changed from when we played ages ago. That consistent straight length, robotic like backhand drop and his ruthlessness on hunting the loose crosscourt onto his forehand.
Curtis’s countering ability is precise and quick, and his height allows him to cut off the shot after the counter, putting more pressure on his opponent. His technique gives him fantastic opportunities in all corners of the court, so his variation really put Gordo under pressure. The only thing that seems to be a weakness is his mental game. He can play entire points well but then throw a ball into the tin. Over and over, not recognizing that moment when he might have his opponent broken.
Luckily he sharpened up in the 5th. The better player won the match but the grind that Gordo proved at 36 is still there and is not an easy out for anyone opponent.
Tsz Kwan Lau vs Charlie Lee
Before the match Liam Marrison showed me a trick shot Lau posted to YouTube. No look crosscourt Mizuki roller. Unreal. His first round match was so impressive to watch. His array of shot making from anywhere on the court is so fun to watch.
That was yesterday. Today’s match shows what happens when you attack too early with a player with as much ball control as Charlie. Outside of a blood break to clean up his cut, Charlie was in control. The fans wanted more Lau, but it was not to be. The in form Charlie moves through to the semi-finals.
Abhay Singh vs Nathan Lake
Nathan’s first round match with Joseph was interesting. I watched for a few minutes and each rally was 20-30 shots in length. Super competitive. I left, and when I saw the scoreline of 5, 5, 0 I was left to wonder what the heck I had missed. I didn’t want to miss this match, I wanted to see what or how the hell he dismantled his previous opponent.
Pretty evident he’s 42 in the World for a reason. His pure hitting is gold. Smart player too, extremely smart shot selection under pressure. Abhay made him work though, and both players were getting frustrated with our resident referee Michael McCue although I thought he actually nailed each and every call.
In the end Nathan was able to clean up his straight lines and dominate the straight drop, forcing some errors from his opponent. Good comeback.
The semi-finals tomorrow are set. Looking forward to some seriously competitive squash!
Round ONE : Quartet of upsets
Day One at Toronto Cricket Club saw four upsets out of eight first round matches, with Alfredo Avila, Chris Gordon, Charlie Lee and Abhay Singh setting up quarter-final meetings with the four remaining seeds …