Yes, Tuesday night, I popped up to Manchester to see my first National League match, and on Wednesday, it was a “normal day at the club”, with the Surrey Cup, or was it…. I had a lovely surprise there, as the Boss, Peter Nicol, is now playing for Esporta Croydon, a club situated a few miles from me!
Aren’t I lucky….
Sportcity for the National League
So Tuesday was my first night at the National League.
Funny scoring, the one to 9, which prompted a funny line from one of the officials, “which scoring are we playing tonight?”.
Sorry, but it still makes me smile…
It was a bit of a shock, I must say. I’m used to our Surrey League, where we have a very relaxed, informal atmosphere, a few spectators, simple, looking more like an evening between mates (off court of course, as the matches are always extremely disputed).
And here I was in Manchester, at Sportcity. Big place. Glass court. I would say 200 people. Lovely program handed out, full of useful and up to date information.
And a compere!
Yes, they even had the very professional and witty Andy Nickeas, Chairman of Cheshire Squash, a great squash lover, to present the players, and who interviewed Lee Beachill, the brand new world number one, which simplified my life, as I just had to listen and take notes. Cheers Andy!
By now, you know all the results, and you have match reports as well, so, I have decided not to dwell on the matches, but to offer you my “en bref” view of things.
Hope that’s OK with you. But I’m sure that if it wasn’t, you would let me know, wouldn’t you?
A very good start indeed! A very close, very disputed, extremely entertaining match between Jenny Duncalf (world number 11), and Pam Nimmo (number 20). First game: 12’, and a surprise, 9/7 for Pam, but which took a lot out of the just recovering Scottish Beauty. She loses the second 9/0 in 4 minutes.
In the 3rd, down 1/7, she gets her second wind, and takes the game 10/9 in 19 minutes. But Jenny Duncalf had just that much more legs than Pam, and after taking the 4th 9/5 in 12 minutes, she gets the 5th in 5 minutes, 9/1.
The match lasted one minute short of an hour. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The rallies were long, disputed, beautiful drop shots, great retrieval from both girls, yes, a great match.
For weeks now, I’ve asked, begged, threatened, reminded Jenny that I would love her to write for our column. “I started”, she said, “then I went on the column, saw that my name and photo had disappeared from the listing, so I stopped.”
Which proves that a silly layout necessity can create misunderstanding! Sorry, young lady! Not intentional, I promise you….
A long, lean and ballet-dancer like body, hair that could feature on a commercial for shampoo, a beautiful smile, a great sense of humour, who is able to eat take-away to profusion, and still look the way she does…
Girls, don’t you just hate her?
It was the first time I actually spoke at length with the beautiful Scottish player, and I was charmed. Can’t wait to see her again…
It was a short match (33 minutes), but very entertaining. After James took the first two, we thought the match could be over.
But David Evans has got a lot left, and he shut us up by taking a beautiful 3rd, in which he led 6/1 and 7/2 before winning it 9/5. But James recovered quickly, and took the 4th in 6 minutes, 9/5.
Here they were, Jenny and Pam, in the aisle, waiting to get on court, chatting away minutes before their match. So I told them “Come on girls, you’re playing against each other, you’re supposed to hate each other right now!”. “You don’t understand,” retorted Pam, “I missed the World Teams, I want to know all the gossip”.
I love squash players….
CLOSE, VERY CLOSE AGAIN
12 minutes. 8, 6, 9 and 13 minutes. 5 games. Again. Very close. Again. Like White says in his quote, it was a very back to basics, solid, precise match, where every rally was long and disputed, with some out of this world typical John White style retrieving.
As usual, if the first 4 games were very friendly, the tension went right up in the 5th, but the last points were played again with smiles and friendship.
Even disappointed, even frustrated, John is always smiling, and even winning, Lee is never condescending, always respectful of his opponent.
So another victory for the Yorkshireman, but like Ria Kennersley (PR for Nottingham) said in her report, “the season is just beginning…”
Good luck, Lee, as you are now the favourite target for every PSA member !!!!!
RALLY IN HISTORY
Well, according to the few officials I talked to, the second rally of the match between Lee Beachill and John White, was the longest on record. It lasted over 6 minutes.
Yes, you read well. SIX MINUTES. And it wasn’t one of those training, quietly paced rallies. No, we are talking a full power, drop shots and retrieving from hell kind of rally.
“It was so good to have such a rally to
start the match!” said John White afterwards. “It was great to be able to
keep it going, instead of having a few short ones, it was good to find the
lengths, the rhythm, and to be able to play such a rally, to have the
mental resources and the fitness to play such a rally.”
“The great thing about Lee, is that he never
leaves you dry when you interview him. His last sentence allows you to ask
“And James is just the same. Sometimes, players answer with yes or no, which makes my job difficult. Lee is just so easy to speak to…”
On being number one
It feels weird. It feels good, unbelievable, but good. Obviously, this result affects me. I’ve dreamed about being number one since I was 8 years old, I always wanted to be the best player in the world over a period of 12 months. It will take some getting used to, and I’m glad I’ve got a few weeks before my next big tournament.
On the welcome in Pontefract
Everybody thought it was wonderful, and the atmosphere was unbelievable… for 5 minutes! Then, back to normal… Of course, it’s all the more special, because I share this with them. With them and the three people I owe this success to, my parents and Malcolm Willstrop. It’s thanks to them I’m where I am today, and I hope I can be a worthy number one.
On his future
This is the pinnacle of my career to date, hopefully I can stay there a bit longer. I will need to keep on working, like I always did, like I always do. There are a bunch of ex number ones that are just behind, Peter Nicol, obviously, Thierry Lincou, Dave Palmer, John White, and a handful of juniors, James Willstrop, Nick Matthew, Grégory Gaultier...
When I had my baby Ben five months ago, and my number 2 in the world ranking, I didn’t think it could get any better. And it did! So, can it get any better? Probably not, I’d better retire now while on top!!!!
CONNOR AT SPORTCITY
Ellery Hanley and John White
David Evans, Alex Stait