I LOVE NOTTINGHAM….
A few among you know I’m thinking of leaving London. For where? Not sure yet. Paris, most probably, but with a “pied-à-terre”, a place somewhere in the UK. And I have to say I am falling in love with Nottingham. I like the human size of the town, the tram, the restaurants… But most of all, I fell in love with Nottingham SC. Shame it’s so far from London…
And thank God I like Nottingham Club, as I seem to spend my life up there recently! And how pleasant to be systematically welcomed by a “what are you doing here” from the tall Australian/Scottish John White, or a “hello woman”, from Ria… And big smiles coming from Nigel, Tony, and all the bar staff (I don’t know their names yet, but I’m working on it)… It’s the sort of place that makes me feel at home, where “everybody knows your name” kind of place…
So, thank you Nottingham Squash Club, to make me feel like, for once in my life, I actually belong somewhere.
PARKE/KEMP: A CLASSIC….
I had the choice of title. “Classic”… “Homeric”… “Why make it simple when you can make it hard for yourself”…
It took Sir Parke 11 flicking match balls to win the match.
Yes. You read correctly. So, imagine what the spectators were feeling… The Duffield ones were praying for their man not to lose, the Nottingham ones for theirs to win…
I didn’t expect to see the match between Jonathan Kemp (who was one of the first timers in the British Open) and Simon Parke (who must own parts of the Squash Club by now…).
I thought that, like in Manchester, I was going to see the Ladies, then number 1 & 2 on the same court.
But I guess that, due to the popularity of Simon Parke, and his current form, the organisers thought it more appropriate to make them play on the main court. And I have to say they were right, as Cassie Jackman won “easily” in three games (even if the stunning Pam Nimmo fought very hard in the third to only lose 7/9).
So, in front of a packed audience, world number 25 Simon Parke started a league match against world number 45 Jonathan Kemp. On paper, it should have been quick and easy…
First game. Parke controls most of the rallies, but Jonathan succeeds to place a few lethal backhand drop shots to equalise at 6/6. Unfortunately, the Duffield man plays slightly too short, allowing the old timer to take the ball early and apply pressure where it hurts. 9/6 in 11 minutes.
Second game. Parke is cruising 5/0, the rallies are short, a nice forehand drive, two glued to the wall drop shots… Fairly quickly, he’s got game ball, 8/4. But he will need three to close the game 9/7, as Jonathan kills the ball one rally after the other… Once again, 11 minutes.
Third game. This time, it’s Jonathan who is cruising, 5/1. Too many mistakes from Parke, his defensive lobs are not high enough, he is not tight enough, the width is approximate … 8/2 for Kemp, who also will need a few game balls, four to be exact, to eventually win the game 9/5, again in 11 minutes…
In the fourth game, Parke has tightened his game. Length, width, height… Much better. 8/4. Match ball. The first of four in the game. Kemp is attacking every ball, hitting, dropping, cross courting… Simon tins, mis-hits, is out of his depth… Jonathan will need only one game ball. 10/8 in 13 minutes.
We are 2 all.
How to describe the fifth one… Well, it could have been the final of the British Open, people wouldn’t have been more involved. “We need to win this one” murmurs Ria in my ear. “Come on Parkie”, “Come on Kempie”. “Come on Simon”, “Come on Jonathan”… Every rally finishes with an outburst of delight or despair…
Kemp is attacking very well, but he starts to make a few mistakes, a few imprecisions… And quickly, Parke is up again with his fifth match ball of the match. 8/4. But drop shot after drop shot, Kemp is clawing back. 5/8. 6/8. 7/8. Another backhand drop shot, and it’s 8/8. Parke tins a cross court kill.
9/8, first match ball for Jonathan, who goes for a kill… and tins it. 9/9. Another backhand drop shot tin from him, 10/9 and a ninth match ball for Parke, who misses a drop shot… 10/10. Kemp places a remarkable drop shot, glued to the wall… 11/10. Second match ball for Kemp, but who won’t be able to return a cross court kill from his opponent.
11/11. The experienced Parke suddenly slows the pace down, catches his breath back while frustrating his opponent. A “no let” gives him a tenth match ball, 12/11. A “no let” will take it away from him. 12/12.
But two mistakes from Jonathan will eventually, finally, AT LAST, give the 68 minute match to Simon Parke, and his eleventh match ball will the one….
And still two matches to go….
When I had match balls, I got very tense,
BLESS THE SPONSORS…
Let’s face it… No sponsors, no money; no money, no squash… So, it’s always a pleasure to meet the people who make evenings like these possible. And I was told, but I was told so many things last night my small brain had problems to store all that information in English, that some of the sponsors from both teams were down to enjoy the show.
In Nottingham's corner, we had the exquisite Merchants Restaurant, Pierre Victoire & Lace Market Hotel Marketing Manager, Amanda Marshall, and their director, Robert Beacham (below), a keen squash player, who was actually talking with the players between the games.
30. Yes. Thirty people from Duffield came down to Nottingham to support their team who nearly won the night. They were very vocal, very loyal, and very knowledgeable, and humour is flowing freely in their ranks….
On some points, I thought I was in Duffield, as the noise level, the encouragement to the Duffield players was louder than to Nottingham’s.
I can’t wait for the return match in February, to which I have been invited… And of course, I’ll tell you all about it!
PASSIONATE ABOUT SQUASH…
And I thought that Steve Cubbins and myself were mad enough about squash, but I think I’ve found our Master….
If you had to create a perfume called squash, one of the ingredients would have to be what Brian is on, let me tell you….
He smiles, he talks, he breaths squash. As a squashplayer parent a few years ago (his son Paul is now 28), going to all matches and competition all over the county and country, and later extremely involved in the National League (he was the 'supremo' for a few seasons and now presents us with his regular 'inside the national league' stories), and he has been for years Duffield’s team manager and club secretary.
If he approaches you, be afraid, be VERY afraid… His exuberance, his love of squash could well be catching…. I should know, I’m now completely Hargraved….
A DUFFIELD PLAYER LIVE
Not just the big stars get exposure in the squash world. Millie Tomlinson, who just became National Champion under 13 at last week's National Championship in Bishops Stortford, will be talking live on Radio Derby at 6pm on Wednesday.
The Press is at last interested in squash!
After the excitement of the previous match, we could have done with a calm and an easy match. Euh… With Nick Matthew, world number 6, ex number 5, and the new world number 5, ex number 1 John White? I don’t think so.
Apart from the third game, that lasted 21 minutes, and was very disputed, the others were quite one sided.
To start with, John wasn’t really in the match, Nick was. The tall Scot had problems picking up simple shots, and Nick seized the opportunity to take the first game in 8 minutes, 9/4.
John woke up pretty well, and started controlling the rallies, even if Nick was varying his game beautifully. Nottingham quickly equalises 9/3 in 7 minutes.
The third, as I told you, was the most disputed by far. 3/3. 4/4. 6/6. 8/8. 9/9. 10/10. In the middle of it, Nick made three easy tins, that prompted him to say “three cheap ones”… At 9/9, we are offered a fantastic rally, both players planted on the T, refusing to give ground, volleying, hitting, dropping, wrong footing, retrieving…. At 10/10, it’s anybody’s game. But a drop shot that ends up in the tin from John, and a drive kill from Nick give the game 12/10 to Duffield in 21 minutes.
John will take the fourth without forcing, 7 minutes, 9/1.
The fifth is close to start with, 3/3, but Matthew is more present today, varying, mixing his shots… John is just a bit behind the ball and can’t dictate the pace as he would like.
And in 59 minutes, after winning the game 9/3, Duffield and Nottingham are now 2 matches all.
All-French Decider !!!
If a few years back, somebody had told me that, in the heart of the Land of Squash, the Beautiful England, two Frenchmen would play the decider of an encounter in the National League, I would have advised them to seek professional help…
But here we were. Grégory Gaultier, French number 2, world 11, for Nottingham, was to play his team mate, Renan Lavigne, French number 3, world 19 for Duffield.
A bit surrealistic I must say… Here I was, the only true non-sided spectator, among supporters who were once again, extremely involved… Come on Greg, come on Renannnn, with a very strong English accent…
And as usual when those two meet, it’s a very close match, even if Greg normally wins in three. And today was going to be no different…
I didn’t give much chances to Nottingham to start with, as I knew that Greg had injured his back on Sunday morning. But if he started the match looking a bit like a tray with legs, his back, his muscles started to warm up, and he got better as the match went along…
Quite logically, Renan takes the lead in the first game, 4/1, to be caught up by the precision of the shots of his compatriot. 4/4. From then on, Greg takes the control of the T, forces Renan to make mistakes, and takes the first game in 12 minutes, 9/4.
The second one is SOOO close. 4/4. 5/5. 8/8. A few lets at game ball for Grégory (I counted three given, one refused), and he gets the second in 16 minutes. As Renan throws his racquet in disgust, he is given a conduct warning by the ref. “Everybody does it here, Parke did it… It’s a Nottingham Specialty”, says the French while leaving the court…
Once again, the third will be close, Greg making too many mistakes, put under pressure by a more attacking Renan. 8/8. The pace is once again extremely high, with period of slowing down, well varied. It’s a beautiful match indeed, very disputed, both boys refusing to let their team down. But Greg is just slightly more precise, and gives Nottingham the ultimate point they needed.
Nottingham 3, Duffield 2.