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Finals Day saw the women’s final up first between Belgium’s Nele Gilis and South African, Alexandra Fuller. Promised to be a great match between these 2 great players. Despite some early tins, possibly with nerves, from both players, we had some lovely rallies in the first game. Nele settled a little quicker and was a bit more patient to win the 1st game, 11-6.
The second followed a similar pattern with Nele going ahead but Alex came back well to level it 6 all. There was the best rally of the match at 8-6 which Nele looked to have but Alex fought hard with great skill to win the point. However Fuller continued to hit some tins to hand the initiative to Gilis. Nele duly won the 2nd to go 2 up.
Alex came out firing in the 3rd. However Nele was playing so confidently and consistently, staying in control and putting Fuller under pressure. Gilis made few mistakes whereas Fuller hit more tins. Gilis went 9-5 up. Alex played 2 nice rallies bringing it back to 7-9 but put another ball down to give match ball to Gilis. It took just one rally for Nele to win it, by wrong footing Alex to win the title and her 2nd Irish Open.
In the men’s final New Zealander Campbell Grayson played Mahesh Mangaonkar from India. They played each other just once before, which Campbell won. Expecting a very quick match with 2 players who will run forever, the big audience in Fitzwilliam eagerly anticipated a great match. Grayson started very strongly and went 4-0 up, controlling the T.
Both players were playing low risk squash and making very few mistakes. However Campbell was just that bit more precise and won the 1st game 11-6.
Grayson drops were so tight and at a dead weight which got him many points and so it continued at the start of the 2nd. Then at 4-1 to Campbell, we had the best rally of the match with super retrieving from both players and great driving into the corners which both players got to. Grayson won that rally though, which was a reflection of the match and the control he had.
In the 2nd game there was a better variety of shot from both players. Grayson continued to work really hard and making few mistakes, while dragging his opponent from the front of the court to the back and visa versa.. He won the 2nd game 11-8 and looked in full control of the match.
The 3rd saw a super rally for the 1st point with some lovely drops and pick ups and then a great piece of anticipation by Grayson to win the point after Manngaonkar drove it from the front of the court. Grayson then went 4-1 up very quickly with his pin point accuracy. However then maybe Grayson started to get a little tired as he made a few mistakes and it went to 6 all. Then at 7-7 Grayson won a huge rally where he played a lovely drop dead which Mangoankar couldn’t get to. This signaled the end for the Indian and Campbell won the next 4 points in convincing style to win the title.
So the end of a super week of superb squash, which was a joy to watch. The athleticism, deft touch and skill of all the players was magnificent and an inspiration to the club players in the audience. See you all back in Dublin next year!
Paul Nugent, Irish Squash
Semi finals day with Women’s no. 1 seed Millie Tomlinson playing South African Alexandra Fuller. The 1st game saw Fuller come out quickly and she took control from the start. Millie came back but Alex took the game 11-8. The 2nd saw Tomlinson come out quickly to go 4-1 up, showing her experience. There is 23 places between them in world ranking, with Tomlinson at 22 and Fuller at 45 but it did not show..Fuller came fighting back and went 6-4 up. Both were playing some lengths, dead into the corners. Belying the gap in rankings, Fuller was playing the better and more assertive game at this point and went on to win the 2nd 11-7.
Millie has to do something or she was going out! She did and took the 3rd 11-8 playing more direct squash. In the 4th game Millie went 5 points up and looked to be leveling the match, however Alex came back strongly, playing lovely lengths and had 2 match balls winning the match on the second.
In the 1st men’s match, 2 very energetic players were playing. India’s Mahesh Mangaonkar was up against Welshman Peter Creed. Both players went at it from the start and the 1st game was nip and tuck. Creed just got it 12-10. In the 2nd Mangaonkar came out quickly and built a 7-3 lead playing some aggressive squash. Playing with nice variation now Mahesh won it 11-4.
He continued into the 3rd playing a lovely length and then super boasts to drag Peter out of position. Mahesh went 10-0 up and won it 11-2 in convincing style. Creed has to do something significant now and unfortunately for him it didn’t happen. Mahesh was in full control and won it 11- 3 and 3-1 for the match.
The 2nd women’s semi final saw no. 2 seed Nele Gilis of Belgium play New Zealander and no. 3 seed Amanda Landers Murphy. In the 1st it was a very close game. Both players were sizing each other out. Gilis had just a bit more accuracy and won the game 11-8. in the 2nd, it got worse for Murphy as she put 5 or 6 balls into the tin, to hand the game to Gilis, 11-5.
Unfortunately for Landers Murphy it never got going for her and with Gilis played very nicely, making very few mistakes, which her opponent was making, she won the game and match 3-0.
The last semi final saw Campbell Grayson also of New Zealand play Czech Daniel Mekbib. This match promised to give the crowd in Fitzwilliam and those watching live on Irish Squash TV something special and boy it didn’t disappoint. Daniel was 9-6 up and playing beautifully, looking in control however Grayson had other ideas and clawed his way back to 10 all. Grayson working as hard as usual took the last 2 points to win it 12-10.
The 2nd game did not disappoint with both players going toe to toe and point for point. Mekbib really wanted this game and his play showed it. At 9-8 Campbell made a super retrieve but Mekbib played an unorthodox overhead into the nick to get game ball. Campbell put the ball into the tin for Mekbib to win it 11-9.
The 3rd was another super game. Both players gave each other room and there were very few decisions to be made by the referee. Also, lovely to see both players called balls down on themselves. It went point for point to 9 all with both players playing super squash, retrieving with such speed and such lovely touch. 10 all, and a no let for Campbell, so game ball to Mekbib.
Game ball saved and it went on to 12 all. Campbell eventually took it 14-12. Mekbib was all fired up for the 4th and again the game did not let us down. Campbell playing as if his life depended on it, just had that little bit too much. Mekbib was under pressure and Campbell closed it out 11-7 to reach tomorrow’s final for the first time.
Quarter finals day saw some really excellent squash in both the women’s and men’s events. First up was women’s no. 1 seed, Millie Tomlinson vs Egyptian Hana Ramadan. Ramadan caused the no. 1 seed plenty of problems with Hana playing some lovely backhand drives to the corners. She was also taking the ball early. Tomlinson got a couple of nicks in the 5th which helped her and then a couple of strokes to win it 11-6.
In the 1st men’s match, Benjamin Aubert of France played Indian Mahesh Mangaonkar. Both players were hitting the ball very hard and low. Aubert started to get tired but Maangaonkar was full of running and didn’t seem to be out of breath at all. In a match lasting 74m, Aubert ran out of steam and it went to the Indian 3-1.
The 2nd women’s match was between Belgium’s Tinne Gilis and Alexandra Fuller from South Africa, now living in Ireland and doing some junior coaching. Both players were very steady but Fuller was driving a little better which got her in the lead. 2-0. Gilis pulled one game back but Fuller closed it out 3-1.
The next match was between the 2 bionic men, Peter Creed and Alan Clyne who seemed as if they could run all night. The match went to 5 games and lasted 1 hour & 30 min. The first 4 games were shared with nothing in each game. Creed was unbelievably fast around the court which probably was the slight difference, as he took the 5th 11- 7.
Amanda Landers Murphy of New Zealand played French woman Enora Villard next. Villard took the 1st, but Landers Murphy took the next 3 fairly comfortably. The last women’s match was between no. 2 seed, Belgium’s Nele Gilis and Rachael Chadwick. This was the most comprehensive result today in the women’s event. Despite Rachael working hard and making it difficult for Gilis, the result was 3-0 to Gilis.
The last 2 matches in the men’s event were between Campbell Grayson & Richie Fallows and Daniel Mekbib & Karim El Hammamy. Grayson again was like the bionic man such was his coverage of the court and speed to the ball. This frustrated Fallows who despite his talent couldn’t find a way past Grayson. Fallows got one game but Grayson was too good and won 3-1. In the last match of the day,
Czech Daniel Mekbib played Egyptian Karim El Hammamy. Both players got into trouble with the referee and showed their impatience. Mekbib coped with this better and went 1 up. El Hammamy leveled it 1 all. in the 3rd Mekbi was 9-5 down but showing great skill and determination he brought it back to 9all and then won it 11-9, 6 points in a row!! he has the initiative now and won the 5th 11-7 in 8 minuted over the hour.
Some really amazing squash from all 16 players and even more to look forward to, tomorrow in the semi finals.
In today’s matches for the Cannon Kirk Irish Open, the only top seed to fall was the number 1 men’s seed, Todd Hannity of the USA who lost 3-1 in 59 min to Benjamin Aubert of France. The scores were 11-13, 11-7, 7-11, 10-12. So a close match which could have gone the other way. All the other men’s matches very much went to form with 3-0 scoreline in most matches.
In the women’s competition, no.1 seed Millie Tomlinson of England had a straightforward win over Chloe Mesic of France in the 1st match of the day. The only other seed to go out was Melissa Alves of France to Hana Ramadan of Egypt. Other seeds to be pushed were Amanda Landers Murphy of New Zealand vs Jenny Duncalf of England.
This was a close match, which Duncalf could have taken. Murphy pushed hard when it mattered and took it 11-4 in the 5th. Likewise, Enora Villard of France was tested by Swiss player Chloe Merlot. in a match which lasted 56 min. Villard was 2-0 up, but Merlot, working hard, brought it back to 2 all. The 5th was nip and tuck but Villard took it 11- 8.
Tomorrow sees the quarter finals with all matches on court 1. The first match starts at 12 noon with Millie Tomlinson playing Hana Ramadan