There were two upsets in the 2016 Cambridge Doubles qualifying rounds on
Thursday afternoon. The first came when the young pair of Randy Lim and
Bassett Chaudry knocked out the experienced team of Will Hosey and
Michael Pirnak 3/1 in a 56 minute battle that was probably affected by
the shotmaking of Lim and the power of Chaudry.
The first point was fought point-for-point until the Malaysian/Pakistani
pair finally opened a three point lead at 13-10. Hosey, still beaming
after become world Over 55 champion at the world championships in South
Africa last month, and Pirnak, fought back to reach 13-14 before Lim hit
the winner to take first blood 15-13.
The second game saw the pair use their
experience to dictate play and run out 15-11 winners. If we thought the
natural order had righted itself, we were wrong. Hosey and Pirnak
imploded into a series of errors which help hand the third game to their
opponents for a remarkable 15-4 scoreline.
The fourth game promised a real battle
as each pair tried to gain the upper hand and build a lead but it was
again point-for-point until 8-all. But then Lim’s speed at the front of
the court and his ability to hit cross-court nicks helped his team pull
away to 15-10 and earn a berth in the qualifying finals, to face Carl
Baglio and Travis Judson on Friday for a place in the main draw.
In the other upset Tyler Hamilton and Robert Nigro faced Robert Burns
(USA) and Omar El Kashef (Egypt) in a huge 90 minute tussle that raged
through five battering games before Hamilton and Nigro edged the fifth
15-12. They had the hardest road to hoe having had to beat Strachan
Jarvis and Mark Porter in preliminary round before their first match
proper. This they did with a 3/0 scoreline and in their next match they
showed a consistency that will stand them in good stead when their other
attributes fail them.
They won the first game against Burns and El Kashef 15-12, but that was
no indication of superiority as their opponents responded by taking the
second game 15-8. That scoreline too was deceiving too because the third
game was close, reaching 13-all before Burns and El Kashef took the two
final points to lead 2/1.
There were some questionable calls from the marker; most memorable when
a player had both opponents blocking his shot to the front wall,
normally a certain stroke which the marker, in his trained wisdom,
decided was a let.
Burns was now showing distinct signs of fatigue on the left wall and his
error rate mounted while Hamilton and Nigro showed no signs of let-up.
Nevertheless the fourth game was still close and Burns/El Kashef almost
pulled it off when they fought back from 10-13 to 13-14, but failed to
stop their opponents from taking the final point to even the match at
two games all. In the fifth game Burns and El Kashef actually led 8-6
but the steadiness and low error rate of Hamilton and Nigro finally saw
them through 15-12 to end the 89 minute match. They would face Graham
Bassett and Freddie Reid on the final qualifying final on Friday.
Lim and Chaudry continued their winning ways at lunchtime on Friday
against Carl Baglio and Travis Judson in a 50 minute match which they
won 3/1. The first game however suggested that the match would run into
next week as both sides participated in a ‘I can hit the ball harder
than you’ contest. In fact one rally went on for so long, I was hoping
they had scheduled an intermission so I could get to the bathroom. Lim
and Chaudry won that game 15-10 and I hoped against hope that Lim would
rediscover his racquet skills and hit a few winners. The sparse winners
that did appear came from Chaudry who hit a few wonderful straight nicks
and was always dangerous because of his sheer power.
Baglio/Judson threatened to make a match of it by taking the second game
15-11 but then fell behind in the third to lose it 9-15. They put up a
real fight in the fourth, level at 7-all, then 10-all, and then fighting
back to 13-14 but Lim and Chaudrey would not be denied and Chaudry
closed out proceedings with a superb shot to length that neither Baglio
or Judson could return.
It will be interesting to see how this pair fares in the main draw where
they face the Australian pair of Matt Jenson and Scott Arnold.
In the final qualifying match Hamilton & Nigro finally found their their
way blocked by Graham Bassett and Freddy Reid, although in the first
game it seemed as though as the latter pair would pay for their lack of
playing, while Hamilton and Nigro were fully run in and motoring on all
cylinders. Bassett was prone to errors and trailing 4-11 he and his
partner had little hope of a comeback. And so it was, their opponents
winning 10-15 in an unremarkable game.
All four players made up for this lack of flair in the second game when
winners started flowing from all the rackets. The sort of flair and shot
making that had seemed absent from the other qualifying matches now
sprouted all over the place. With the score at 7-7, I had counted seven
outright winners. Bassett seemed particularly determined not to allow
the squash to descend into a slamming contest and mixed up his shots
with entertaining regularity bringing his team back into the match with
a 15-11 score.
Jenson & Arnold Survive Qualifyer’s Challenge ; Bassett & Reid
It must have been a terrific Black Tie Extravaganza on Friday night
because when Matt Jenson and Scott Arnold took to the court to face the
challenge of Randy Lim and Bassett Chaudhry, there were three spectators
– and that included your correspondent. And 11 in the morning is a
The higher ranked pair started as though they had been part of the
celebrations- rusty is a word that comes to mind. Jenson was a little
ambitious so early in the morning and made more errors than his ranking
of 8 would suggest, while the Lim & Chaudhry machine continued their
near-error free play. They deserved the 13 minute first game, winning
In the second game Jenson tightened his game and kept the error rate
down and despite trailing 6-10 he and Arnold kept their heads and pulled
back to even the score at 12 and then 13 before losing 14-15.
A two game lead for the underdogs was not on the cards and the betting
people were getting jittery. However Jenson & Arnold asserted themselves
in the third game and were leading 7-3 due to some fine winners and some
good low drives. What happened next could have been a turning point:
Jenson’s racquet hit Lim in the face on a follow-through and there was
an immediate swelling on Lim’s eye. The blow had been hard enough crack
the lens of his protective glasses. Ice was applied and within five
minutes Lim was back in play. The blow had obviously affected him as the
final game score of 15-6 indicates.
The fourth game saw a glorious array of reverse angles and nicks from
the top pair which made
Chaudhry a little edgy causing him to slam some shots into the tin.
Jenson & Arnold kept up the pressure and took the game 15-9 to tie the
Lim & Chaudhry were not downhearted and made their opponents fight all
the way: level at 5, level at 8 level at 9 and level at eleven. Jenson &
Arnold took the next point, and just to crank up the suspense the ball
broke causing a suspension of play to warm up the new ball. (This is so
boring. Keep some balls in the oven, mother!) When play resume Jenson
hit a beautiful low drive for a winner , won the next and forced an
error from Chaudhry on the final point to give them the victory after 75
very interesting minutes.
When asked what caused the turnaround at two games down, Jenson replied:
“Hitting Randy in the face.” Then got serious saying that they kept
their opponents in the back of the court to give them the openings for
their many winners. Their reward is a semifinal meeting with favourites
Damian Mudge and Manek Mathur who had a much easier time in overcoming
Imran Khan and Gregory Parke.
Mudge and Mathur are ranked one and two while their opponents are ranked
10 and 15. The difference was obvious as Mudge (who could be the
winningest squash player ever if you counted all the doubles tournaments
he has won) brought a new level of stroke play to the court with the
experienced backing of Mathur, his new partner. The other team’s
performance suffered from the errors that streamed off Khan’s racquet.
He’s not the first player that, when faced with a superior player, would
go for winners. If it comes off , you’re a hero, otherwise you walk off
the court having lost. Which is what happened, Mudge & Mathur winning
15-9, 15-7, 15-12 in 41 minutes.
THE UNITED NATIONS COMES TO THE
The match between Viktor Berg & Robin Clarke and Graham Bassett & Fred
Reid had some contentious moments - perhaps that should be minutes. The
teams did not see eye to eye with each other and both teams failed to
agree with the marker on many decisions. Oh! So many decisions. Was the
ball up? Was he obstructed? Was it a let? Was the serve good? How many
angels can dance on a squash ball? (I made that last bit up).
At one time all four players were speaking at once with nobody seeming
to listen anybody else. We came to watch squash and what we get is
United Nations debates. And then Clarke accidentally drilled Bassett in
the ribs with the ball causing him to fall like a Canadian Fir. (A
terrific bruise, now on YouTube).
As expected Berg & Clarke took the first game 15-12 despite trailing
4-9. Berg finished the game with a superb long drop from the back of the
court. What was not expected was that they would lose the second game
despite being level at 12-12, Bassett showing his skill by closing out
the game, also with a long drop from the back. The third game took 20
minutes due to injury time out and some lengthy debates; the steadiness
of Bassett & Reid once more being the deciding factor – 15-11.
The fourth game seemed like a doddle for Bassett &Reid when they led
12-4 – yes 12-4! Berg & Clarke did not give up and fought hard to get
back to 7-12 before their opponents took a point to bring their run to
an end. Then came a long, long rally, with both teams realizing the
importance of the next point; It went on forever before Clarke made the
error to put the game at match point. Bassett & Reid took that point to
put them in the semis where they will face Michael Ferreira & Yvain
Jonny Smith and Raj Nanda were not expected to lose to Ferreira & Badan
in the final match of the afternoon. And nor was the match expected to
last 97 minutes, the longest of the tournament so far.
None of the four players showed a range of killer shots and long
stretches of games were taken up with Smith on the left wall
cross-courting high balls to Badan on the right wall, who would volley
back to Smith who would repeated his shot. It began to look like a
well-honed training routine instead of competitive squash play.
Smith& Nanda took the first game 15-7 due to Badan’s error rate, and
then lost the second game 9-15 in just 11 minutes. They reasserted
themselves by winning the third game in 18 minutes, 15-9, a session that
included a thousand cross court volleys. (This could be an
They were again expected to win the fourth game which they led 8-5 but
their opponents wore them down to win 15-12 to force a decider.
The game was timed at 32 minutes , which included innumerable training
routines and at least two broken balls. To be fair it had suspense :
tied at 12 and then 13 and then 14-all, match ball. The gallery was full
and nobody had left their seat for the entire match. The point finally
went to Ferreira and Badan who must surely need a long ice bath and
massages before Sunday’s semi-final.
This man Matt Jenson is either very good or very bad. Whatever face he
happens to show he keeps his opponents on their toes. Today it was
Damian Mudge and Manek Mathur whose toes must be aching. Not so much in
the first game when they jumped quickly to a 3-1 lead and suddenly they
were 6-1 ahead thanks to three Jenson errors. Mathur then rubbed salt
into the wound with a winning slam down the court followed by a perfect
drop shot to make the score 7-1, not the sort of mountain that Jenson
and partner Scott Arnold want to climb so early in the match. Mathur &
Mudge kept control of proceedings to lead 10-4 when Jenson’s good side
came out: he hit three winners on the run to give his side a chance of
getting back into the game at 7-10. Mudge stopped the run with a perfect
overhead volley into the nick which was followed by two more errors from
Jenson and Arnold to make the score 13-7 from which there was no going
back. Jenson finished the game with a slam into the tin and the first
seeds had the game 15-9 after 14 minutes.
In the second game everything went into reverse. Jenson & Arnold jumped
to a 4-1 lead and although their opponents gave chase right through the
game Jenson was now on target hitting nine outright winners. There was
some pretty long rallies but Jenson always seemed to have the last word
which helped his team nick the game 15-13 after 24 minutes of hard work.
Games three once more reversed the picture as Mathur & Mudge jumped to a
5-1 lead, hitting some nice winner of their own. They held the lead and
ran out 15-7 winners in only just 11minutes to lead 2/1.
The fourth game was a battle with Jenson on the left wall hitting on the
old man (Mudge is now 40) on the right wall in the hope he would tire.
Jenson errors and winners cancelled each other out but he and Arnold
played well enough to lead 11-7 with the promise of forcing a fifth
game. Mudge hit two counter drops off Jenson drops and then served an
ace to make the score 11-11. This was not the time to take any bets and
when Jenson hit a beautiful forehand drop into the nick to take back the
lead, a fifth game looked very likely. Mudge hit the tin to give his
opponents a lead at 13-11 but then Jenson’s skill deserted him into
another error. This was cancelled out by a tin from the other side to
give Jenson & Arnold game ball. 14-12. But two great drop shots brought
the score to 14-14 (Oh! the drama! )
Readers, can you guess what happened next ? Right Jenson blasted the
ball into the tin from the back of the court. It was all over 15-14 and
old man Mudge and his new partner Mathur were into the final.
The English/ Swiss pairing of Michael Ferreira and Yvain Badan (third
favourites in the betting) had scraped into the semis after a wearing
107 minute battle with Smith and Nanda in the quarters and now faced the
American/ Canadian qualifyers, Graham Bassett and Freddie Reid who hit
the court running to lead 3-1. There’s nothing flashy about either of
these teams, so at times it is a matter of who makes the most errors. In
the first game this unpopular title went to Bassett - five unforced
errors . Nevertheless they were all square up to 14-all when Reid was
caught on the right wall next to a tight drive and marker had no option
but to give Badan the stroke to end the 14 minute game 15-14.
The second game was a quick 10 minute affair with Bassett & Reid keeping
control from 4-4 to lead 12-9 and then combined to hit three winners in
a row to take the game 15-9.
The third game was even quicker, Ferreira & Badan racing to a 5-1 lead
on some fine winners. It seemed that neither pair wanted to hang around
too long (did they have a plane to catch?) and winners and errors moved
the game forward, Ferreir & Badan reaping the benefits to lead 11-4 with
the help of Bassett’s errors. They took the game 15-11 in just nine
The final game was well contested with Bassett & Reid giving away four
unforced errors to cancel their early lead. So the battle commenced at
4-4 and almost point-for point until 10-10. Ferreira & Badan were always
steady which helped put them into the lead and, at 14-12, Bassett’s
ambition tried another winner but resulted in the sound of the tin,
which at the point was the death knell.
Clean Sweep For The New Pair In Toronto
Martin Bronstein Reports
Mudge may be the old man of the doubles circuit but tonight at the
Cambridge Club he showed why he has been top man for so long with so
many tournament notches on his belt. Yes, he had a partner, Manek Mathur,
a new match this season, but as Michael Ferreira and Ivain Badan had
decided on targeting the older man in an attempt to wear him out, it
seemed Mudge had to hit most of the balls and Mathur (Badan’s former
partner) was reduced to that of a supporting role.
The first game was no
indication of what was in store for Ferreira& Badan as they more than
held their own, probably encouraged by their first meeting this season
when they beat Mathur & Mudge 15-13 in the fifth. (Mind you, at their
next meeting they lost 3/0)
Mudge was firing a barrage of
balls back at Ferreira on the left wall and his two-handed backhand was
given a lot of work. On some shots Ferreira added a sort of snapped
slice, sending the ball into the front right nick – it was unreadable
and promised much grief for his opponents – but ultimately caused grief
to himself with a high error count.
There were few long rallies as
both teams were looking for opportunities to go short. There were some
wonderfully dynamic rallies with displays of lightning reaction that
caused cheers from the packed bleachers. At 13-13, it was still
anybody’s game when the ball broke. The warmed up ball was Mudge’s lucky
charm – he won the next points with a fluked nick off the frame and
then an outright winner on a reverse nick – 15-13 after 18 entertaining
Sadly that was about it. The
first point of the second game was another lucky nick, the next point
went to him and his partner when Badan was denied a let and from that
moment they just raced away. Mudge was hitting screaming cross-courts
that were too fast for Ferreira to scrape off the wall: he was cutting
in surprise drops and disguised drops for which his opponents had no
answer. And always Mathur was there as solid backup. Mathur & Mudge
were 8-3 up and with the help of eight outright winners took the game
15-6 in 16 minutes – which included time out for a broken ball.
Now Ferreira & Badan are known
for their determination, their never-say-die attitude and coming back
from match ball down, so there was anticipation for the third game,
despite the evidence of the second game.
Alas, it was not to be and once
again Mathur & Mudge raced away to lead 8-2 and although Badan hit
three winners to give hope at 5-8, the race was virtually over and
after just 13 minutes Mathur & Mudge had the game (symbolically the
last point was on an unforced error from Ferreira ) and the match as
well as then their names on the Jim Bentley Cup.
In the changing room Mudge said
he’d had a good work out during the day “..and opened my hips. So when
I’m feeling good in my body, I’m more confident.” Tomorrow he will be
undergoing his third knee operation: he certainly did not play like a
For Mike and Yvain it was a bad day at the office, and scant reward for
all the hard work of the weekend when they had to ground out victories,
in contrast to the winners who had a comparatively easy route to the
final. Roll on 2017.