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February 5, 2003

Women's Feud Set To Continue In Nationals

From: Squash Now, GB - 05 Feb 2003

SquashNow NewsDesk

A smouldering antagonism between Linda Charman of Sussex and Rebecca Macree of Essex showed little sign of diminishing in their fifth string clash this week as Chichester comprehensively defeated Tek Sing Lexden in the England National Squash League, and seems certain to reignite if they reach their scheduled semi-final in the British National Championships in Manchester next week.

Lexden, the defending NSL Champions, travelled to Chichester without their stronger men and might have welcomed a repeat of Macree’s third round win over Charman, the top seed for the women’s national title, in November when the Chichester player was forced into such angry frustration that her language and behaviour earned her a one week NSL ban.

Macree, a profoundly deaf athlete of astonishing achievement in a sport that requires considerable auditory attention, quietly carries a considerable grudge against Charman who, as Chairperson of the Women’s International Squash Players Association, was involved in the imposition of a three month ban that kept Macree out of the World Open last year and the England squad for the associated World Team Championship.

At Chichester this latest 65 minute encounter, described as ‘extremely tense’ by match officials, required 78 refereeing decisions before Charman edged to 9-6 9-10 9-7 10-8 victory to complete a 5-0 win for her team that put them three points clear at the top of Group B.

Another possible nationals semi-final preview was enacted before an ecstatic Edgbaston Priory home crowd in Birmingham when Del Harris, the famously athletic 34-year-old former British Champion, held a brace of match balls in the fourth game of a first string decider against Lee Beachill, the current British Champion who leads the Manchester-Pontefract line-up, before attracting a penalty stroke and losing 9-4 9-11 2-9 10-8 9-4 to reduce Edgbaston to a mere two point advantage in second place behind Nottingham in Group A.

Equally significant in Birmingham for next week’s domestic battles was a third unexpected victory for Marcus Berrett, a working coach these days, whose training for a successful defence of the Yorkshire Championship, in which he defeated World Junior Champion James Willstrop, has flowed through to give him wins this week over David Evans, a former British Open Champion, in the British Superleague and over Davide Bianchetti, the Italian Champion, for Manchester-Pontefract.

Welsh Champion Alex Gough also showed an interesting return to form when, having lost unexpectedly to Peter Genever in the Superleague on Monday, he defeated the fastest rising Australian on the world circuit, Anthony Ricketts, 5-9 7-9 9-4 9-4 11-9 to win the first string decider for Duffield against Hallamshire in Group A.
[ Duffield Team Manager Brian Hargrave reports forSquashNow: “Benz-Bavarian Duffield has had frustrating season in which little has gone right. In the match programme the team manager had stated “We have just pride to play for in the remaining 3 NL ties and intend to treat each remaining match as a cup-tie. The round 7 tie on 18 February is away to local East Midlands rivals Nottingham whilst the final home tie on 4 March could well become the wooden spoon decider against Wolverhampton”.
All players responded magnificently and another full house was treated to a cup-tie atmosphere which could not have been bettered even if the tie had been for a play off spot.
Number one Alex Gough has on four previous ties been left with the daunting task of trying unsuccessfully to clinch victory in the deciding rubber against higher ranked world opponents Last night he went on court with the same responsibility after a see saw tie had swung first one way and then another.
Duffield supporters gave Cassie Jackman an extra special warm welcome after the unfortunate travel traumas of the previous week which had ruled her out of playing at Edgbaston. Prior to going on court Cassie had patiently posed for The Times photographer assigned to carry out a preview for the National championships to be staged at the National Centre, Manchester from 9-16 February. Defending champion Jackman, who won her first of four titles ten years ago, will make her England comeback at the event just three months after undergoing back surgery for the second time in her career. Jackman who is seeded three, has reached the final in her last five appearances in the event
Once on court Jackman quickly got down to the real business and was moving freely working her younger opponent Jenny Duncalf (Eng 13) all around the court with a very confident clinical display which demonstrated that she must be a serious contender to retain her title. Hallamshire manager, Hedley Matthew, predicted that the young pretender Duncalf would provide Jackman with a tough test as she builds up for the National championships. However, Duncalf, a wholehearted talented opponent who is one of the fittest players on the WISPA circuit rarely troubled Jackman. Jackman allowed he opponent just nine hard earned points as she got the Derbyshire Club off to a flying start.
Mat Lowery, Derbyshire number 4, looking very smart in his new named shirt, once again stepped in for the injured Kevin White but despite a brave effort he had to give second best to Adam Stevenson, Eng 29, who looked very sharp and determined. Stevenson, who was supporting a new hairstyle with red streaks was red hot as he dominated the T forcing Lowery into making errors as he slipped to a 9-5, 9-4.9-4 defeat.
Next on the adjoining court was Jon Kemp who had shown signs of returning to his best form in the previous round. Kemp’s opponent was the very talented and normally determined Hadrian Stiff who was expected to provide stiff opposition. Unfortunately, things quickly went sour for the cream of Devon and in just 17 quick minutes Kemp had put Duffield 2-0 ahead surrendering just 11 points in the process with Stiff looking sadly out of sorts and Kemp showing no mercy. Earlier in the season Kemp had taken exactly the same time to beat Paul Lord of Edgbaston and once again the Treasurer was left working out the hourly pay rate. At least Kemp should be nice and fresh to tackle the Welsh giant dragon, David Evans, in the main draw of the Nationals a week today.
Duffield supporters had not been accustomed this season to going 2-1 up and the strain was clearly beginning to tell and Jim the ticket controller and results reporter was getting quite excited.
Next on court were two of England’s giants and the two son’s of the respective managers. Paul Hargrave, Eng 19, and Nick Mathew ranked 10 places higher in England and 24 in the world. Hargrave had already this season beaten two top world 26 ranked players and supporters were wondering whether he could pull off a hat-rick. The spectators enjoyed every moment with both players testing each other with a full variety of shots, chasing lost causes and hitting some great winners. Hargrave took the first 9-4 and was a little unlucky to see a 5-3 lead slip from his grasp in the second without taking any credit away from his opponent. The Derbyshire No 1 hit back to take the third 9-5 and edged his way to a 7-6 lead in the fourth. Just two points from another unexpected victory. The tension was unbearable for some but Matthew stood tall and held his nerve to level The Hallamshire man quickly built a 8-2 lead in the fifth but his opponent refused to concede clawing his way back to 8-7, helped with a couple of slightly generous decisions (according to Hedley but we were due a few going in our direction) before Matthew cruelly ended his brave fight back. Both served up some great entertainment, the noisy supportive crowd loved it- what a pity our man lost.
This is almost where I began; all on the shoulders of Alex Gough who gave earlier gave me a ticking off for not reserving his practise court for 5pm. I knew the signs looked good and I had earlier tipped Andy Booth of Broxbourne that he should back Duffield to win 3-2 when he placed his bet with Citibet (hopefully he got my email) The signs looked ominous when Gough, world 17, went 2-0 down to world No 7 Anthony Ricketts from Australia who was hitting some audacious winners. Jim the Ticket man was asked to leave in the hope that this would change things round. I still felt Gough could do it particularly when Ricketts took his foot off the pedal in the third and then found himself unable to change gear in the fourth as the pressure built up.
The deciding game of the deciding tie was a classic but Gough edged his way to an 8-5 lead. Jim appeared at the top of the stairs and blow me next minute Gough was 9-8 down as Ricketts forgot the script hitting another great winner which some spectators standing by me never saw. Jim retreated and only returned from outside the clubhouse when he heard very loud cheering. Well done Jim and the Welsh wizard and his opponent deserved their standing ovation.
Roll on next tie away on 18 February to title favourites and local East Midland rivals along the A52 at Nottingham. In order to satisfy the U23 lady regulation Duffield might well be fielding the youngest player ever to appear in the NL!” ]
Hertfordshire's TVS Broxbourne strengthened their hold on second position in Group B with a 4-1 home win over a significantly under-strength UK Packaging. Only club champion Jason Friend, brought in at the last minute to make his debut for the Connaught Club-based UK Packaging, came away with a point - resisting a spirited fightback by the hosts' Dave Morrish, the Gloucester Wycliffe College coach also making his league debut, to win 9-6 9-5 5-9 4-9 9-2. In the absence of injured No1 Mark Chaloner, Broxbourne's star turn was Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, in his first outing this season. The former European Junior Champion, now racing up the PSA world rankings, overwhelmed the visitors' top string Tim Garner 9-4 9-3 9-5.

In the other tie in Group B, UniSport Guildford gained a valuable 3-2 home win over Lee-on-Solent to lift themselves into fourth position in the table. The Surrey team's No1 Stephen Meads earned only his second win of the season after a valiant recovery from 2-1 down to beat the visitors' Bradley Ball 9-4 9-11 5-9 9-3 9-5. Guildford's generosity in allowing Lee No2 Mark Heather to play despite arriving an hour late ultimately worked against the home team when Stacey Ross failed to convert three matchballs against Heather before going down 9-7 7-9 9-4 1-9 13-11 in the second string clash.
[Guildford Team manager Ian Robinson reports for SquashNow: “Injured Paul Johnson, the former world number 4 and UniSport Guildford number 1, watched from the sidelines as his team mates squeezed the narrowest of victories against bottom of the table rivals Lee on Solent.
This avenged the defeat of the early part of the season and gave UniSport Guildford 3 wins for the season so far. Realistically the play off places are a distant dream but certainly a place in the middle of the table is now a healthy possibility and Paul Johnson is the first to agree that this has been a good performance after his long term absence has weakened the playing strength of the team.
Fiona Geaves was first on court after a long flight back from her recent tournament commitments in the States. She was confronted by Tina Rix, the Lee on Solent youngster. Fiona used her considerable experience to stay well in front of any challenge RIx was to mount and only briefly in the second game were there any real scares. RIx found some devastating winners to surprise Geaves, but it was not to last and after this little flurry of winners was over the home player was there to finish the job. A good point well earned in the circumstances. 1 - 0 to the Varsity.
While this was exercising the attention of the main crowd, on the outside court local hero Mick Biggs was putting his 2 game winning run on the line. However he looked tense and never got into his routine until the third game. Littered with mistakes and loose shots, he was picked off at will by the workmanlike Fitzgerald, the Welsh number 4. Biggs was then surprisingly to start playing something like his normal self in the third and for a brief period rescuing the match looked a possibility. Sadly it was not to be as Fitzgerald regained his momentum and that saw him through to a comfortable 9 - 3 in the fourth game. Disappointingly this match slipped away from the Guildford youngster at too fast a rate and no doubt on reflection he will make a note to relax and cut down on his error count, when he did that he was well in contention.
The pivotal matches of the night saw Neil Frankland looking to avenge his defeat in the first half of the season, when he was below par against Ben Howell. On the championship court, there was a necessary alteration to scheduling as Mark Heather made a late arrival at the university, mistaken in the belief that it was a home fixture for Lee on Solent and therefore having to rush up the A3 to take his place in the visitor's team. Inevitably, the number 1 string match was brought forward to allow the number 2 string match to take place on his arrival.
Meads was also looking to gain some measure of ascendancy over the Lee on Solent number 1. Bradley Ball is tall and a massive presence on the court. He was also not moving at his best and after Meads took the initiative by driving hard to the back corners Ball began to edge his way back into contention narrowly winning the second game to level the scores. Meads became increasingly tentative and gave Ball plenty of opportunity to hit his winners from half court, thus the third game slipped away from Meads and the result looked inevitable. However after this scrappy third game where the referee intervened to the detriment of the home player, the fourth saw a fired up Meads stormed into a lead which was the result of some harder driving into the back corners and a tiring but large body on the other side of the court. There were some uncharacteristic errors to aid the cause as well. The UniSport man got off to a good start in the fifth and always had a little lead as a cushion. It was a game where fortunes had changed around and where refereeing decisions had gone against the home player earlier on but now the decisions were turning around his way. Add to that some useful winners and the match went to Meads and UniSport with Ball tiring badly at the end. 2 - 1 for UniSport.
While Meads was playing a captain's match for his team, news was filtering through of a tough struggle on the outside court, where Frankland had got off to a good start and had taken the first game comfortably 9 - 4. However playing patchily is not helpful and just when it seemed the home player might take a 2 - 0 lead his concentration slipped and Howell surged back to claim the second. Howell who is one of the most improved players in the league this season, was then pegged back as Frankland started to get in front, driving his opponent relentlessly to the back before finishing in the front corners. The third game gave the advantage back to Guildford. Again Frankland lost his way and back came Howell but only by the slight margin of 9 - 7, which meant that the visitor was having to work hard to get back on terms. At 2 - 2 however Frankland regained the initiative and took the game to Howell running out a comfortable winner at 9 - 3 and claiming the match giving Guildford a 3 - 1 winning lead.
Ross had the job of trying to claim the extra point for Guildford against Mark Heather. The match in the first half of the season had been a close 4 setter and the fans were not to be disappointed this time either. This was a strange match which lurched between a tie that had the feel of a definite dead rubber to one where winners were traded blow for blow and considerable breathtaking retrieving was displayed to all corners of the court. The first 4 games were the warm up act for the fifth. Games were traded with reckless abandon. Ross in particular was erratic, which probably cost him the match.The first two games although close in terms of points scored were never so competitive. Heather put together some good squash to take the third as did Ross to take the fourth, but they were both aided and abetted by some slack concentration. But the fifth saw the players retrieving unbelievably at breakneck speed, then playing slow and tight down the backhand wall and finally as the match neared the end both players found some outrageous winners from seemingly impossible positions on the court. Ross had 3 match balls 3 but Heather took his second match ball more clinically, which probably summed up the difference between the two players on the night. A 3 - 2 result was a happy night's work for the depleted Guildford team and saw their position in the table rise a place to fourth after all results were taken into account.” ]

Back to almost full-strength after their 0-5 Group A drubbing at Hallamshire last week, Nottingham took maximum points from their visit to Wolverhampton, with Lincolnshire's England No1 Tania Bailey leading the way with a 9-3 9-0 9-4 win over her England team-mate Stephanie Brind - her sixth successive 3/0 league win in a match which is a possible semi-final in next week's Nationals. Former Irish champion Liam Kenny was making his debut for Wolverhampton after surgery ruled him out of action for the last three months of last year. The 25-year-old took the opening game against the visitors' Renan Lavigne, but the Frenchman then took control to win 3-9 9-4 9-6 9-7. Nottingham-based Yorkshireman Simon Parke, now elevated to squad No2, comprehensively overpowered the home team's Scott Handley 9-6 9-6 9-4 in the Nottingham rout.