Squash: Epic encounter in Hong Kong is marred by antagonistic antics - Willstrop

England's Jenny Duncalf in action.
England's Jenny Duncalf in action.
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Pontefract’s own James Willstrop provides his insight into the world of squash.

The last stop on the world tour for 2013 was for the Hong Kong Open, one of the most established and prestigious tournaments on the calendar.

It brings the men’s and women’s tours back together again; good to see the two associations working alongside each other. It brings a balance and a business to the event.

The Hong Kong squash centre was the stage up until the semi-finals; the main court there can only hold 300-400 people and so was teeming with atmosphere on quarter-finals day.

I played a match with Mohamed El Shorbagy that someone said was the second-longest of my career, at 122 minutes. I lost the first two games 11-9 11-9 and so was in a precarious position against the man in form at present, winner in tournaments in Qatar and Egypt recently. I managed to dig deep, and brought the next two games home in an exact echo of the scoreline in the first two, meaning we went into a fifth-game decider unusually exactly level on points.

This parity threatened to end when I took a 6-3 lead in the fifth and then 8-5, but soon enough we were level again at 10-10, and in to a tie break. I had seven match balls before I ended up the winner, 20-18 in a bruising battle which ruined the match schedule for the day.

It had many of the ingredients of a classic: the quality of play and the intensity I felt was very high and I wouldn’t say that lightly, but was ultimately spoiled by lots of stoppages and let and no let calls, especially in the fifth game. We were both complaining to the referees, arguing with each other and getting in the way and for me this is not what it’s about. I lose the sense of satisfaction playing squash when it is played in antagonistic fashion.

I suppose sport can’t always be cups of tea and cake. It seems almost old fashioned in these days of sledging, outward aggression and disrespect to hanker for a game to be played in a civil way, but it’s what I aim for and it is how I have been taught. Sport can still be played with extreme inward aggression whilst preserving a level of respect and fair play during the big contest.

Laura Massaro lost to Hong Kong player Annie Au, Yorkshire’s Jenny Duncalf lost to Nicol David and Alison Waters beat Joshana Chinappa of India in the women’s quarters. Nick Matthew beat Amr Shabana 3-1.

Waters lost to Nicol David in four tight games in the women’s semi-final when the action moved to the Hong Kong cultural centre on the harbour side, one of the most spectacular locations in squash. Nick Matthew won his semi-final 3-2 against Greg Gaultier and I lost 3-0 to world number seven Borja Golan of Spain.

In the final, Matthew beat Golan 11-1 11-8 5-11 11-5 to notch up his 28th career title and reclaim the world number one spot. In the women’s final, David beat Raneem El Weleily in three games.

Just before Hong Kong, Pontefract and Chapel Allerton played their round four match of the Premier Squash League at Pontefract.

It was a fine evening of squash, and a packed and appreciative crowd turned out to support. There was a blend of players, past and present.

Former world number one Lee Beachill turned out for Pontefract.

Former world number three Simon Parke, meanwhile, made a show for Chapel, as did Daryl Selby, the Essex world number 10. Chapel Allerton won the match 3-2 with wins from Chris Simpson, Shaun Le Roux and Parke, leaving them fourth in the table. Pontefract stay bottom. More importantly though a top night for squash and for both squash clubs.

James Willstrop, lefvt, in action against Mohamed ElShorbagy in Dubai. Picture courtesy of PSA

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