Owain Taylor and Torrie Malik take Kent Open titles
BY ALAN THATCHER
Owain Taylor and Torrie Malik are the 501 Fun Kent Open champions after two high quality finals. After a week of superb squash featuring players from 16 nations we ended up with two all-British finals in front of a packed gallery at Tunbridge Wells Squash Club.
Home hero Noah Meredith played superbly but was unable to deliver another giant-killing act as Welsh international Taylor controlled the fifth game of a pulsating battle to clinch victory with a scoreline of 10-12, 11-6, 11-8, 10-12, 11-5.
In a tournament sponsored by Meredith’s Tunbridge Wells team-mate Jonny Powell, owner of 501 Fun, and dedicated to former Kent and England player Colin Payne, Meredith had taken out top seed Valentin Rapp (Germany) and third seed Temwa Chileshe (New Zealand).
But despite Meredith showing plenty of the attacking skills that earned him two enormous victories, Taylor’s solid control gradually wore down his opponent’s resistance. The two players are separated by more than 100 places in the world rankings, with Taylor at 112 and Meredith 215, but the 21-year-old from Brighton threatened another shock result as he hit back from 10-7 down to win the opening game on a tiebreak.
Taylor dominated the second and won the crucial third game after being 6-4 down. Meredith started the fourth game in positive fashion to lead 4-1 and after a titanic tussle he won another tiebreak to take the match into a fifth game. This time there was to be no fairytale finale as Taylor controlled proceedings with some precision squash to win it 11-5.
Afterwards, Taylor said: “Noah showed all week what a threat he can be, but I am very pleased to win the tournament. “It was a great match and it’s always good to play in a club which has been full of fans every day.”
The women’s final was a triumph for top seed Torrie Malik’s hard-hitting style against Scotland’s Alison Thomson. Malik powered through the first two games but Thomson hit back in the third with some intelligently structured rallies that moved her opponent around the court.
Thomson said: “I was very pleased to reach my first PSA final after coming back from injury but Torrie played very well.”
Malik said: “It’s lovely to win in a club that feels like home. It’s not far from where we live and I want to thank the crowd for supporting me all week.”
Semis : Giant-killer Meredith downs top seed Rapp to reach Kent Open final
By ALAN THATCHER
Royal Tunbridge Wells has a new Squash King after Noah Meredith toppled top seed Valentin Rapp to reach the final of the Colin Payne Kent Open, sponsored by 501 Fun.
Meredith, the 21-year-old from Brighton who plays number one for the Tunbridge Wells team, played brilliantly to win 10-12, 11-7, 11-5, 11-5 in 51 minutes of hugely entertaining squash. The packed gallery roared with delight as eighth seed Meredith, ranked 215 in the world, continued the attacking form that produced a similarly stunning win the night before against New Zealand’s third seed Temwa Chileshe.
The opening game was even all the way through until Rapp, ranked 117, pushed through from 6-7 down to win on a tiebreak. The players were evenly matched, with some brilliantly skilful exchanges at the front of the court. Meredith conjured up a sustained spell of magical squash in the second game to win five consecutive points to lead 8-3. Rapp fought back but Meredith hit a stylish winner to take the game. With his confidence sky high, Meredith dominated the third and fourth games as the winners flowed from his racket, winning each one 11-5.
He said: “Valentin is such a good player but I was very pleased with how I played tonight. I was focused and more patient than usual. “Winning the second game was very important. I could hear Valentin breathing harder and that was a sign for me to prolong the rallies, which is not my normal game!”
Meredith faces second seed Owain Taylor in the final and he will be aiming to achieve another upset having beaten the Welshman last time they played in the Ostrava Open in Czech Republic last year. Taylor overpowered fifth seed Perry Malik in the other semi-final, winning an ill-tempered match 11-5, 11-7, 11-9.
Malik’s sister, top seed Torrie, squeezed through to the women’s final, beating Malaysia’s No.4 seed Yasshmita Jadishkumar on a fifth game tiebreak. Malik started strongly, winning the first two games, but she lost concentration as her opponent began to dominate. Jadishkumar wasted two match balls in the fifth as Malik won the final three points to triumph 11-6, 11-5, 9-11, 10-12, 13-11.
Malik meets Scotland’s Alison Thomson in the final. Thomson, who took out second seed Elise Romba in the quarter-finals, has looked stronger every day this week.
Against third seed Ali Loke of Wales she won a tough opening game after being 6-3 down, and then powered through the next two to win 11-9, 11-2, 11-2.
Quarters : Home hero Noah Meredith stuns third seed to reach semis
By ALAN THATCHER
Home hero Noah Meredith sprang a huge surprise by ousting third seed Temwa Chileshe to reach the semi-finals of the Colin Payne Kent Open sponsored by 501 Fun. Meredith, the 21-year-old from Brighton who plays No.1 for tournament host club Tunbridge Wells, produced a sparkling display of skilful, attacking squash to win 11-8, 11-4, 3-11, 12-10.
Cheered on by a packed gallery, Meredith fought back from 8-5 down in the first game to win six points in a row with a mixture of deadly accurate drops and volleys. He dominated the second game with a sustained but later admitted that he tried to force the pace as he lost the third game after a flurry of errors.
New Zealander Chileshe, who has moved to the UK to be coached by three-times world champion Nick Matthew, powered through that third game and seemed to be gaining the ascendancy. Chileshe looked set to take the match to a decider as he edged ahead in the fourth and he was first to game ball at 10-8. However, Meredith finished strongly to win the final four points to book his place in the semi-finals against top seed Valentin Rapp from Germany.
Afterwards, Meredith revealed: “My coach Ben Hutton used to call me ‘Hollywood’ because I was always looking to finish rallies as quickly as possible. But I have been able to play a lot more PSA tournaments this season thanks to the generous support of some of the members here at Tunbridge Wells.
“I had a good spell of results followed by a bit of a lull, but this season a few things have clicked into place mentally and I have been playing more patiently and waiting for the opportunity to go for the winner. “Those tactics paid off for me tonight and I was really pleased with how I recovered after making so many errors in the third game.
“I was trying to force the issue and look for the win rather than build the rally to create the opening. “It’s been great to have the home crowd cheering me on but I want to thank Temwa for such a clean and fair game.”
Top seed Valentin Rapp dropped a game against 19-year-old Irishman Alex Smith before wrapping up a 3-1 win in 36 minutes.
In the bottom half of the draw, Perry Malik made it a great night for Sussex by beating fourth seed Aqeel Rehman in three close games. The vastly experienced Rehman hoped his short game would win it for him but the mobile Malik produced some outstanding retrieving matched by some high quality attacking shots of his own.
Fifth seed Malik made a powerful start to the opening game, quickly building up a 7-1 lead, and withstood a late surge from Rehman to win it 11-9. He led 4-1 in the second before Rehman turned the tables to move ahead at 6-5, only for Malik to win five points in a row to reach game ball. Again, he survived a late flurry from the 16-times Austrian national champion before winning 11-8.
Rehman led 6-3 in the third and held game ball at 10-9 but Malik dug deep to win 13-11 to reach the semi-finals against second seed Owain Taylor.
The Welshman wore down the resistance of England’s Will Salter to win 11-7, 11-8, 11-2 in 44 minutes and looks a solid contender for the title after two wins in straight games.
In the women’s competition, Scotland’s Alison Thomson hit back after losing the opening game to take out second seed Elise Romba of France, winning 8-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-9 in 33 minutes. Thomson improved as the match went on and dominated the second and third games. She built a strong lead in the fourth but Romba hit back to draw level at 7-7. Thomson reeled off three points in a row to hold match ball and she survived a late fightback from her opponent to seal a victory that takes her into the last four against Ali Loke of Wales.
Loke won three very close games against Scotland’s Katriona Allen, who held game ball at 12-11 in the first game before Loke took control to win 15-13, 11-9, 11-8.
In the top half of the draw, tope seed Torrie Malik completed a Sussex hat-trick by beating Polly Clark in straight games, but Malik looked far from comfortable for the majority of the first two games before winning 11-6, 13-11, 11-3.
Malik’s semi-final will be Malaysia’s impressive fourth seed Yasshmita Jadishkumar, who won in straight games against French opponent Ella Galova.
Round One : Smith and Salter battle back to knock out seeds on day one of the Colin Payne Kent Open
By ALAN THATCHER
Ireland’s Alex Smith and England’s Will Salter produced storming comeback wins against seeded opponents to win through to the quarter-finals of the Colin Payne Kent Open sponsored by 501 Fun at Tunbridge Wells Squash Club.
The 19-year-old Dubliner Smith trailed by two games to sixth seed Lewis Doughty before raising his game to power home 9-11, 9-11, 11-4, 12-10, 11-8.
Smith said: “The first two games didn’t go well but in the third I started hitting my targets and things picked up from there.”
Doughty appeared to have the upper hand in multiple rallies in the final two games but Smith’s phenomenal retrieving, coupled with accurate hitting while under pressure, saw him win through to a last-eight clash with top seed Valentin Rapp of Germany, who eased past Poland’s Dariusz Filipowski in straight games.
Salter faces second seed Owain Taylor after fighting back from 7-3 down in the fifth to beat seventh seed David Zeman of the Czech Republic.
It was a high quality match throughout, with the lead seesawing from game to game. Zeman roared through the fourth, dropping only three points, and seemed to have the upper hand in the fifth before Salter tightened up to win 11-8, 6-11, 11-8, 3-11, 11-9 in 72 minutes, the longest match of a busy day in front of a packed gallery at the Tunbridge Wells club.
Bryant squandered an 8-5 lead in the opening game and the second was a brutal affair before Taylor won a long tiebreak. The third was almost as long but Taylor finished strongly in each game to win 11-8, 17-15, 14-12 in 54 minutes.
Local hero Noah Meredith, the Tunbridge Wells No.1, played superbly to beat Lowie Delbeke of Belgium 11-5, 11-6, 11-13, 11-7.
His reward is a quarter-final tie against third seed Temwa Chileshe of New Zealand, who produced a consistently accurate display of powerful squash to beat Filip Jarota of Poland 11-3, 11-7, 11-2.
Fourth seed Aqeel Rehman scrapped his way through a fractious encounter with Egypt’s Abdelrahman Abdelkhalek before winning 9-11, 12-10, 11-4, 9-11, 11-5. The Austrian No.1 now meets England’s Perry Malik, who beat his younger brother Bailey Malik 5-11, 11-4, 11-0, 11-8.
Their sister, women’s top seed Torrie Malik, was made to work hard by Kent’s rapidly improving Isabel McCullough before winning in four games. She now meets eighth seed Polly Clark, who overcame Phoebe Colman, one of the junior coaches at Tunbridge Wells, in 15 minutes.
Ella Galova (France) and Yasshmita Jadishkumar (Malaysia) meet in the quarter-finals after enjoying similarly rapid results against Mariana Ventura Martins (Portugal) and Juliette Permentier (Netherlands).
In the bottom half of the draw, Scots Alison Thomson and Katriona Allen, seeded five and seven, both looked in strong form as they battled past Katie Wells (England) and Sanne Veldkamp (Netherlands) respectively.
Thomson meets France’s second seed Elise Romba, who beat Leia Lee Zi Fang of Singapore in straight games. Allen tackles third seed Ali Loke of Wales, who was taken the distance by Portugal’s Sofia Pita before winning 6-11, 11-7, 16-18, 11-6, 11-9.