Report 3, 17.00:
SURREY DOES IT AGAIN!
And we have a winner. But boy oh boy, did we tremble!
Well, I say “we”, as I play in Wimbledon Racket & Fitness Club, which is, as
you all know, in Surrey. So, pardon me for being a bit partial. No offence
to Yorkshire ...
As usual, I planted myself on the court that shows 3 matches, number 3, 1,
and then 2.
On court went Neil Frankland (Surrey) and Craig Smith
(Yorkshire). It started very well for Yorkshire, as Craig was up 8/2
in the first. Neil Frankland came back 8/8, but eventually lost 10/9. “You
fool”, shouted Neil to himself several times during the match. As he says
about his match “Lack of concentration! Sometimes, I don’t think I know that
It took him only 20 minutes to win the 2nd and the 3rd 9/5, 9/2. The 4th was
much closer. Craig was retrieving whatever shot Neil was throwing at him,
and fireworks were on the menu! Beautiful drops, glued to the wall drives,
long rallies, we saw it all. Neil served us with a few gorgeous backhand top
spin drops, the last one of which game him his first and only match ball at
8/7. 9/7 was the final score.
On the other court, the number 5s had finished playing, and Phil
Rushworth had beaten Chris Hall. So we were 1/1.
On that same court, the match between the two Juniors under 19s was taking a
long time. Shaun Le Roux (Yorkshire) was up against Tom Richard
(Surrey). Both of them are actually competing for a spot in the English
Juniors Team for the World Junior Championships. So the match was extremely
important for both of them.
When the number ones came on court, Shaun was up 2/1 against his opponent.
So it looked as though Stacey Ross (Surrey) couldn’t afford to lose
against Marcus Berrett if Surrey wanted to stay in the race.
0/9 – 3/9 in 19 minutes. Stacey Ross didn’t start that well ...
All his shots were going in the tin, he was not running that well, the
rallies were short. Good for Yorkshire, but baaaad for Surrey.
But the magic started in the 3rd. Suddenly, all the drops that went in the
tin in the first 2 games were miraculously finding their way just above the
tin, you know, when the ball flirts dangerously with the red line. Stacey
went up to 6/2, Marcus caught up 5/6, but the turning point of the match was
at 6/5, Stacey serving. Both players spoiled us with an
interminable-remarkable-wonderful-shots-after-wonderful-retrieving kind of
point. After that, breath was in short supply, but Ross was firmly in the
lead. He won the 3rd 9/5 in 15 minutes.
In the 4th, Ross took all the risks, and his drops were outrageously close
to the tin. Difficult to pick up, exhausting to pick up. He went up 8/0, but
Marcus avoided the 9/0 and “only” lost 1/9.
The 5th started very close, 3/3. But 3 balls in the tin, a great boast from
Ross and suddenly we were at 8/3. A not up shot conceded very honestly and
quickly by Surrey saved that match ball, 4/8. But Stacey Ross wanted that
match very badly, as on the next court, Shaun Le Roux had just won, and
Surrey desperately needed a win. Two rallies later, Stacey Ross gave to his
county the equaliser, 9/4 in the 5th.
“I twisted my ankle back in January, so I'm lacking competition,"
Stacey told me. "I have been training a lot, I hit the ball fine, but I just
didn’t play enough matches. In the first games, Marcus was volleying so
well, I really had a problem handling his shots. And then, I found my rhythm
So there we were. 2 all. One to go.
By that time, all the other matches, ladies and men had finished. So at
last, we had a decent audience, and a real atmosphere.
So, no pressure AT ALL on the two last players, lefthander Danny Meddings
(35) for Surrey, and young Ashley Flathers (20) for Yorkshire.
Youth against experience. North against South.
What to say about the match? That Danny has written the book, got the Tshirt,
went to Hell and back. He knows all the tricks (in a good way). His game is
full of wrong footing deception - you think he is going to play a straight
drive on the right wall, and it’s a drop shot left front corner that
explodes! And God knows Ashley is fit, and runs everywhere, but he really
had problems reading his experienced opponent’s game.
And as if that was not enough, Meddings possesses a devastating return of
serve backhand volley drop with which he got at least 6 points.
It’s funny you know, but when Danny was playing, you had the impression that
the ball was actually slowing down after hitting the front wall. It must be
a technical trick that I can’t read, and you specialists you may be aware
of, but it’s really a great way to play the ball.
It’s interesting to note that the ref and marker were sitting on a Tennis
Umpire’s Chair, right above the court. So yes, there were a few queries from
both players, but the ref (Linda Davie) was able to answer them quietly,
without shouting. And the players just, well, accepted it. No heavy
discussion. No tension. Just squash.
As you may have guessed by the title of this article, Danny won the match in
4 games, 65 minutes, a last acrobatic forehand volley kill gave him match
point, and he finished it 9/7.
So Surrey wins two years in a row.
In the women final Ulster won rather easily against Middlesex [which
is a pretty fine achievement for a team enjoying its first season in the
Premier, Ed], the match finishing early when Ulster's number two conceded
her match after learning that her team had won. She wanted to go to the bar!
Next year could see a change in the
organisation of the event. England Squash may try and get the whole
competition in a few days, instead of having it on several weeks.
Well, nothing is sure, they are just thinking about it, trying to make the
event more attractive to both players and spectators.
THE WORLD IS SMALL
Before ending this column, just a word that shows that the World is very
small. Yesterday, I saw a lady player in a corridor, and you know, when you
have the feeling that you know that person, but that they are not at the
right place ...
Well, the lady is in fact Jill Campion (Middlesex), who used to live
in Paris a few years back, before I came to England, and who dominated the
French Paris League for years and years. Her only real threat at the time
was the captain of my team, Kerry Cawthorn.
Yep. In my days, not too many French players could compete with the English.
Hold down. Have things changed on the ladies scene? Not that much I’m
Thank God we have some French men players. Who knows, maybe even one day,
we’ll have a French World Number 1 ... Naaaaa. That’s just day dreaming,
Anyway, it was funny to see Jill after so many years. She is as fit as she
was. Lucky thing!
So here we are. The event is over, and all the trophies have been dispatched
to their rightful owners.
I’ll speak with you very soon, as I will be reporting on the Wimbledon
Cup that starts on Thursday evening.
See you next week, ladies and gentlemen ...
A bientôt (See you soon)
CLAIM THIRD PLACE
It’s funny you know the matches or the
players you get to see or not to see. In these events, numbers 3 and 5 play
first (on 2 separate courts, bien sûr), then numbers 1 and 4, finishing with
So basically, what I get to see is number 3, number 1 (if I’m lucky), and
then the men start and, I’m sorry to say, for personal preferences (nothing
to do with squash quality, I’m sure you got that by now…), off I go.
So yesterday, I saw only one ladies match, number 3 Kent v Ulster. And again
today, I saw number 3 Kent v Lancashire this time. Candy Wilton (Kent)
against Danielle Dawson (Lancs)
Whereas yesterday Candy was dressed all in navy blue, a skirt/Tshirt outfit,
today, she was in burgundy and black. And isn’t she slim! She has got a
great figure, and legs that go up to the armpit. Very beautiful woman
But her opponent is also very fit, and very nice looking. But Candy has got
a sort of 'Rebecca Macree' type of body, the cat-like look …
Now, about squash, her service lobs are lethal, and a very fit and
determined Dawson had a real problem returning them, that obviously gave her
opponent a great advantage in most of the rallies. Especially as Danielle
played quite a few backhand volley drop that went straight in the tin.
Although the match was short (20mn), we had a good squash display, as
Danielle Dawson defended every point with all her heart, well, all of her
Did she run!
But the constant hammering of Candy ended up being too much, and Kent scored
its first point, 9/4, 9/3, 9/3.
After a few minutes delay, Helen Easton (Lancs) and Sue Wright (Kent)
stepped on court. For those who follow squash for a few years, you’ll
remember Sue. She was British National Champion a few years back (Howard
Harding, where are you when I need you to tell me the exact stats???), and
was in the World top 10. Now semi retired, she lives and work in Bicester,
where she has just opened a Squash School.
I know I speak very often of men’s physical appearance (which proves one
thing, that I’m a healthy and active woman, OK, maybe more healthy and more
active than normal….), but when Helen Easton steps on court, you cannot not
notice her amazing figure.
As we say in French, “she’s got what is needed, where it’s needed, and
plenty of it”.
She was wearing a “close to the body” dress, top white, lower navy blue. If
I was a man watching the match, I’m not sure I would have been able to
concentrate on the match.
No, really, she is really very attractive. But not just a pretty body and
face. It took her 4 games and 35 minutes to give Lancashire their 1st point
(and maybe their last one?).
Sue Wright didn’t seem to be too bothered by Helen’s serve. Her returns were
quite damaging. But what made the difference in the match was 1; Fitness, 2;
Helen's retrieving qualities.
Sue attacked every point, whether by force or by drops (in particular her
backhand volley in the left front corner is remarkable). But Helen picked up
nearly every ball, visiting the four corners of the court, and served some
lethal replies to Sue that finally got the better of her. In the 4th, it was
obvious to all that Sue’s fitness was not at its best, and Easton won in 4,
9/4, 7/9, 9/5, 9/5.
If anything, Easton could work a bit more on her return of serve, but her
best shot is, in my eyes anyway, a great backhand volley drop that got her
out of trouble a few times, a shot that she is able to play from any
So I saw a lovely 2 games. OK, it’s now past 14.00, and I’m missing the 1st
of the Men’s final. God, run run run….
Report 1, 11:00
TIM VAIL: AT LAST A PLAYER
WHO DARES TO REFEREE!
Here we are, second day at Lambs. Second and
last day actually.
Ladies 3/4 play-off at 12.00, Kent vs Lancashire. Men have decided not to
play the play-offs. Shame for me, but I’m sure they have their reasons.
I know that, most of the time, we mention players. Very rarely, do we
mention the “others”. The one who are actually allowing the players to
shine. Like the ES people. For this event Alison Henley is in charge
(I did ask for her official title, which is “Inter County Administrator”).
You want something, ask Alison!
Then, the refs, you know, those people who get to be shouted at, and who not
only do not get paid for it, but most of the time, pay most of their
expenses out of their own pocket…
For this weekend we had:
Jack Harris, Rob Ward, Paul Allen, John Barry, Linda Davie (oh come
on, don’t tell me you’re surprised to see her), AND ... Tim Vail.
Yes, you read correctly. Not only he is a good player and coach, but he is
also refereeing. And being assessed today actually. He will ref the game of
the number 1 Ladies play-off, Sue Wright (Kent) versus Helen Easton
I can’t tell you how glad I am that some players are actually taking the
plunge and start putting their money where their mouth is. Instead of
constantly whinging about bad marking, wrong decisions, bla bla bla, what
about some players starting refereeing when they finish their professional
Would be nice, wouldn’t it?
FINALS Sun 14th
Surrey 3-2 Yorkshire
Stacey Ross 3-2 Marcus Berrett
Danny Meddings 3-1 Ashley Flathers
Neil Frankland 3-1 Craig Smith
Tom Richards 1-3 Shaun LeRoux
Chris Hall 1-3 Phil Rushworth
Ulster 3-2 Middlesex
Madeline Perry 3-0 Alison Waters
Tanya Owens 2-3 Elizabeth Day
Carolyne Coyle 1-3 Lisa May
Nicky-Ann McDonnell 3-0 Jill Campion
Zoe Barr 3-0 Jo Brown
Lancashire 5-0 Sussex
Kent 3-1 Lancashire
Kent 3-2 Yorkshire
Women's Lge 3/4:
Essex 3-2 SE Wales
SEMIS Sat 13th
Day ONE reports
Marcus Berrett 3-2 Peter Genever
Ashley Flathers 0-2rtd Tim Garner
Craig Smith 0-3 Tim Vail
Shaul LeRoux 3-2 Neil Priddy
Phil Rushworth 3-1 Alex Crouch
Lancashire 0-5 Surrey
Nigel Willis 0-3 Stacey Ross
Greg Laider 0-3 Danny Meddings
Dan Massaro 0-3 Neil Frankland
Jon Gallagher 0-3 Tom Richards
Mike Tudor 0-3 Chris Hall
Alison Waters 3-0 Helen Easton
Dom Lloyd-Walter 3-0 Mandy Warren
Elizabeth Day 3-1 Steph McPhee
Lisa May 3-1 Danielle Sawson
Jill Campion 3-0 Chris Booth
Ulster 4-1 Kent
Madeline Perry 3-0 Sue Wright
Tanya Owens 1-3 Keeley Johnson
Carolyne Coyle 3-2 Candy Wilton
Nicky-Ann McDonnell 3-0 Karen Hume
Zoe Barr 3-1 Kath Hull
Women's League semis:
Kent 3-2 SE Wales
Yorkshire 3-2 Essex
North v South in
The Inter-County Championships are the largest squash event organised
in the UK, with over 2,000 entrants playing in 400+ teams, with age groups
ranging from 11 to over 60.
Eight months of competition comes to fruition at Lamb's club this weekend,
with the semi-finals of the men's and women's competitions. Across the
country the other counties will be vying for promotion, or fighting to stave
off relegation for next season.
The men's semi-finals feature two North-South clashes - defending champions
Surrey, who won the title last year for the first time since 1971,
meet Lancashire, while Sussex take on Yorkshire. The
Sussex team for the semi-final is Peter Genever, Tim Garner, Tim Vail (c),
Jamie Davis and Neil Priddy, and the other teams will also be featuring
In the women's semis Lancashire are
bidding for a third consecutive title, but will be without Vicky and Becky Botwright
and Laura Lengthorn, who are currently in action in the USA and Switzerland,
so face an uphill task against a strong Middlesex squad.
Ulster, who are enjoying their first
season in the premier division and thus their first finals weekend, take
on Kent, for who Sue Wright will be making her first competitive
appearance for quite a while.
Lambs, here I come.
Well, here I am actually.
And you know when I told you that I
could park today in front of the club, wrong I was! Saturday is free only
after 1.30. So I paid my £5, only to realise that, just behind the club,
there are parking spaces reserved for the directors of Mike Corby’s Group.
Not to be used during the week, but exceptionally, English Squash and your
servant have been authorised to park there … one day, I’ll get it right, I
Back to squash.
INJURED TIM CONCEDES AT
2/0 AS SUSSEX CRASH OUT
I am not happy.
I know, members of the Press are not supposed to take sides, bla bla bla.
Don’t care, people. Tim Garner has been helping me a lot for the past
year, and he is always there when you need him. He is such a nice, gentle,
discreet and efficient entrepreneur.
But let’s start from the beginning of the second semi-final between
Yorkshire and Sussex.
Tim Vail started well for Sussex, and won his match easily and
quickly, 9/0, 9/2, 9/3. So, one up for Sussex. Then Alex Crouch lost against
Phil Rushworth in 4 sets. So, we were one all.
Then 2 matches started roughly at the same time, number 4’s and number 1’s.
Peter Genever, who thank God, is back from his Iroquois period and has
now found a decent hairdresser, didn’t start the match against Marcus
Berrett that well. A lot of faults, a lot of tins, a few balls very close to
the wall that he couldn’t retrieve, and he was down 4/8. He suddenly woke
up, and started to cut out mistakes, to finally come back 8/8 and win the
1st game 10/8.
He then lost the second 9/2, fairly easily. And the 3rd, 9/4. So, I thought,
that’s it. And as next door, Le Roux won the 1st set 9/0, I thought that
Yorkshire was up for an easy win.
But Peter didn’t think that was a good ending for this script. So in the
4th, after being down 0/5, he reiterated his comeback in the 1st game, and
In the 5th, with Berrett 2/0 up, the rally went on and on, both players
attacking like lunatics, backhand volley kills, drop shots from the back of
the courts, retrieving that deserved a video slow motion. And Peter got
tired. Really tired. He finally lost 9/0.
I have to say that this game deserved more spectators than the 6 it got.
It’s a match I would have come a long way to see. And it’s a shame that very
few people came to see the event.
And that match.
You know, at a time when everybody talks promotion, and TV coverage, and
scoring to earn more sponsors, more money, it’s nice to see a good, strong,
English scoring match, where players are there to play, not to argue with
the ref, not to show off, just to play for their county.
And sorry for the PAR lovers, but I had a lovely show.
So, Yorkshire was now 2/1, and next door, Le Roux and Priddy were still at
it, in their 3rd game actually.
Then Tim Garner went on court to face Ashley Flathers. Down 0/4, Tim
comes back to 4/2. And talk about a good English scoring match. 4/2, 2/4,
4/2, 2/4, and again ... and again!
I just love it! It’s such a concentration game. A stamina game. An endurance
Ashley was 8/5 up, but Tim wouldn’t let go. Point after point, rally after
rally, he eventually won the 1st set 10/8. In the second, he went up to 6/2,
and won very easily 9/6.
At that moment, we heard loud clapping from court number 3, where
Yorkshire's Shaun Le Roux just got the better of his opponent in 5
sets, 9/7 in the 5th.
That’s when Tim, having heard the result, shook Ashley’s hand, and conceded
“I injured my wrist playing Sussex League on Thursday night after coaching
for 6 hours," Tim told me. "It’s not that bad, extended tendon I think, it
will be better in a few days, but my physio advised to play within myself.
So, that’s what I did tonight. When I heard that we lost, there was no point
for me to push and make it worse.”
So, there you have it. Tomorrow, Yorkshire will play Surrey in the final.
VICTIM OF CIRCUMSTANCES
For those of you who actually read what I write (good for you, please keep
it up), I told you yesterday that I was a victim of circumstances, as
spectators have a direct view on bottoms.
And that it just happens that I am a butt person myself.
Men’s, of course…
Well, again today, here I am, writing down the names of the second
semi-final players in front of the English Board, talking at the same time
with Alison Henley from England Squash, in charge of the organisation of the
Then the gorgeous Greg Laider (Lancashire) decides to change his shirt at,
like, 50 cm from me! What can I say…
I’m trying to be good, and look elsewhere, but Jesus, it’s so tempting….
I do love squash.
See you tomorrow everybody…..
BAD DAY FOR LANCASHIRE
At the moment, the Ladies team is down
4/0 against Middlesex, and the Men just lost 5/0 against Surrey.
I did follow some of the men's matches, and I have to say, there was no way
this Lancashire Team was going to win. Listen to that.
Normally, Nick Taylor plays number one. For monetary reasons Nick isn't here
(the county has a budget for the year, asks Nick to play to get to the
semi-finals, and then runs out of money, or something). Then, Peter Billson
plays number two. He is away in Switzerland. Then their number three, John
Lambert, is injured. So, it’s their usual number 4 that finds himself
playing number one. And their number 4 is Nigel Willis.
One thing is sure, I’m not Nigel’s lucky charm. The only other time I saw
him play was in the final of the Over 35’s at the Nationals 2004 in
Manchester, where he lost to Gary Thwaite in 58 minutes and 5 looong games.
And today, he was playing Stacey Ross.
He was quite happy with his performance. “I shouldn’t play at my age
anyway!” said a dripping wet Nigel after his 4/9, 3/9, 6/9 defeat . “Since
the Nationals, my lower back has been playing funny, and I also have a groin
strain. If we had our normal squad, I think the result would have been much
Talking about his performance in the Finals at Manchester, Nigel said “I
didn’t prepare that well, neither physically or mentally. I thought that
Mark Cairns was going to play, and some other big shots, so I didn’t see the
point of killing myself to die in the ¼ finals. So, when I reached 2/2 in
the 5th in the final, I was a bit out of steam.”
Three things are sure. 1: Nigel varies his returns of serve very well. Or he
hits the ball like a lunatic, or he drops it in the nick. 2: He runs after
every ball, and never gives up the rally until he is really flat on his
back. 3: He is quite fit for an “over 35” player.
Well, some of us are over 35 and still kicking, you know…
But Stacey Ross just outplayed him. He tried not to be too hard on his
opponent, but was never complacent. Very concentrated, his shots were, as
usual, very precise, and the match was very pleasant to watch indeed.
Oops - Tim Garner just stormed in the office, and told me that I’d better be
quick, as I may miss the 2nd semi-finals.
Off I go then …
Report #1, 14.30:
ULSTER IS IN, KENT IS OUT
Things were a bit slow to start. At
12.00, only 2 women's matches on, number 5 and number 3 of Kent and Ulster.
I watched Ulster vs Kent, number 3. Caroline Coyle from Ulster,
against Candy Wilton, from Kent.
You can’t imagine two more different styles of game and physics. Caroline
(Ulster) is blond, not too tall, very strong, and hits the ball extremely
hard. Candy is dark hair, very slim, tall, and prefers to place the ball in
the front corners or to lob and drive.
The match was very long (50m), went to five, and was quite captivating. But
too many mistakes on Kent’s camp. Too many tins, a few poor shot choices
(trying to go for drop nick when a good drive was much more appropriate for
example, too many risky shots), and the best lady on the day won. So that
was 1 for Ulster.
And by the time I finished my quick lunch, and writing this article, Ulster
is now 4/0 up.
Not good for Kent, is it ...
TIM GARNER AND
HIS THREE HATS…
I was having my lunch, (oh, you should
taste that food in Lambs, it’s always fantastic at a great price, lots of
choice, very healthy…) and guess who came and sat at my table?
and Neil Frankland. Tim plays number 2 for Sussex, Neil number 3 for
Surrey. So, I couldn’t help asking them what they thought about the new PSA
Neil was very clear: “I’m not playing on the PSA circuit, so, as an
“amateur”, I prefer the old 'English' scoring”.
Now, Tim Garner’s answer was more complicated. “I’ve got three answers,
depending on the hat I’m wearing!” he said.
Basically, Tim thinks that, as a BSPA representative, they welcome
the decision. And as the BSPA is meant to prepare the players to the “real
circuit”, like a sort of back room if you wish, whatever (well, nearly) PSA
decide, they welcome it.
Now, as a promoter (he is one of the Three behind Eventis, the
company who organised the English Open and in a few days Canary Wharf
Classic), he thinks that PSA didn’t go far enough. He gave the example of
the type of scoring they are going to apply at the Canary Wharf Classic. It
will be scored in PAR up to 9 (and if 8/8, it goes to deuce, and advantage).
What he would like is shorter matches, 45m, then spectators at events can
have a little break, have a drink, talk about the match, and then see the
next match. “I prefer to see 45minutes of great squash, than 2 hours of long
rallies that don’t go anywhere!”, he says.
And from a player’s point of view, he thinks that it’s not a good or a bad
idea. “Players will adapt to whatever you throw at them”. He thinks that,
along the years, squash has adapted to new rules, new tins, new parameters,
new technologies, so the latest PSA scoring system won’t be a problem.
Well I have my own opinion (if you read
my column at
the Nationals, you know what I think), but I will comment on it a bit
later today…. Now, there is some action coming up, and I would prefer not to
miss anything really…