What can I say without appearing like I’ve been bribed to say it….
I had such a lovely evening.
Well, it doesn’t get much better than this: a club less than an hour from my flat, no congestion charge, no parking fee (after 6.30pm), two of the best young players in the country, and two of the greatest players that the sport ever bore…
Sorry, I just had a great time…
THE FUTURE OF SQUASH
That’s how Tim Garner, the organiser/compere of the evening, introduced the two marvels, Chris Simpson and Tom Richards, respectively number 1 & 3 under 19. And he is so right. Each in their own style: Chris, short, brown hair, quick, very confident, in control. Tom, tall, fair hair, with nicks to spare, less confident, but no less talented….
Tom seemed very apprehensive to start with, and Chris took the first game quite easily, 4/11, in 6 minutes, a game that was a bit “scholaire”, as we say in French, a bit “right out of school of squash”, no real flair, just slightly above training mode.
The second was a different matter. Chris was still solid, but Tom was attacking at last, stepping in front, taking the initiative, going for shots. And the tactic paid off, and he found himself up 7/3. But those two know each other's game like their back gardens, and slowly Simpson caught up, 9/9. Two long rallies, two mistakes from Chris, and Tom was home free.
In the third, those two boys showed the measure of their talents, deep paced shots from Simpson that forced Richards to retrieve again, and again, and again, tiring him just a little bit more than he would have liked. But the crowd thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the rallies, disputed, full of kills, nicks, retrieving, attacking shots.
Unfortunately, we needed a winner, and Chris’ game applied just that much more pressure on his opponent, forcing him to tin or mis-hit a few balls. The hierarchy was respected, and in a best of three match that still lasted 25 minutes, Chris Simpson, English number 1 at under 19 won 11/5 in the 3rd.
Chris Simpson bt Tom Richards
11/4, 9/11, 11/5 (24m)
If only all matches could be like this one: brilliant, entertaining, funny, and relaxed… No animosity, no anger, no nastiness… I sign at the bottom of the page any day…
But come on, it doesn’t come much better than this, John White, the biggest hitter on the circuit, with a height that allows him shot angles that the rest of the world can only fantasise on, and Jonathon Power, the Magician that taught the magicians, whose racquet seems made of rubber…
Those two don’t dwell on never ending straight drives, they don’t play “by the book”, they invent, surprise, create a different form of squash. Yes, they still look for (and find) great length, great width, but their squash defies the established rules…
And I just LOVE IT!
The beginning of the match was all Power’s. John was hitting well, and found some great length, but Jonathon was in command, changing pace and direction, delaying his shots, and putting his opponent under pressure. 11/6 for Power in 9 minutes.
White started the second with a mission, and quickly went up 4/0. But mistakes crept in, although he played some beautiful lobs, one in particular that pressed Power to say “Oh no…” while trying to get it out from the back wall. 6/6. 8/8. 15 minutes later, Jonathan took a strong bet on the outcome, 11/8. He was now up 2/0.
At that point, John was obviously extremely tired, Jonathan wasn’t. And to tell you the truth, I didn’t think White could get a game out of his sleepless body. Once again, the tall man proved me wrong…
JOHN CLAWS BACK
The third saw a real performance from both players. Although the atmosphere was very relaxed, both players joking with the ref Dean Clayton, smiling while playing at each other’s shots, the exhibition mode had switched to competition spirit. John didn’t want to lose, and certainly not in three games. Power switched on the magic button, White the guts one, and they offered us a beautiful tiebreak, 3-1 for John.
Honour was saved.
THIS IS HURTING
That’s what John said to me just getting on the court for the fourth. Once again, he gave it all…
I’m not going to explain to you the next two games. How do you explain beauty, magic, talent and inspiration? You don’t. You look, you gasp, you wonder, you admire, you laugh… Drop shots and retrieving from hell by Jonathon, nicks, angles and perfect length cross courts and drives for White, deceptions from them both…
But alas, sport cries out for a winner, and tonight, it was John, it could as well have been Jonathon. Who cares really. We had our match….
John White bt Jonathon Power
6/11, 8/11, 11/10(3-1), 11/7, 11/8
You're not in the British Open?
Power: “I’m not going to the British Open, because I've had 5 tournaments in a row, and I need a rest before “My” British Open, the Canadian Classic in Toronto. Not to mention that there will be a lot of good players out in Nottingham…!”
How does sex influence your squash?
Power: “Well, I've just spent five long weeks on my own, it’s been 5 very long weeks, but I have been playing some good squash though…”
After winning everything, and having nothing to prove to anybody, why do you still compete?
Power: “I still compete, because I just enjoy running around a squash court. That’s why I started on the professional circuit in the first place. The only thing I don’t enjoy is to be injured, only this year I got seven injuries. But when I’m injury free, I just enjoy my squash, and that’s why I keep on playing…”
What squash player did you look up to when growing up?
Power: “I look down on everybody… No, I took little pieces of everybody….”
White: “Brett Martin”.
What profession would you have attempted if not a squash player:
Power: “At 12, I had to choose between 5 sports, as my parents would only let me play one sport. So I guess I could have chosen another sport, I don’t think I would have been a nuclear physicist…”
White: “A sportsman, no matter what”.
What are your favourite shots:
Power and White: “Deception. It feels good to send your opponent the wrong way…”
At the end of the evening, after Tim Garner had finished thanking all the people that helped in organising the evening, Jonathan Power wanted to stress the role of Tim Garner in the organisation of the whole event.
“Without Tim”, he said, “we wouldn’t be here tonight, he organised my coming here, and John’s, so thanks Tim….”
And the crowd cheered the discreet efficient man….