May 9, 2018, by brzmjb1
Premier Squash League Semi-Final | University of Nottingham narrowly miss out on chance to defend their PSL Title
Premier Squash League – University of Nottingham vs Luxfords St. George’s Hill
University of Nottingham headed into this Premier Squash League semi-final as favourites following a fantastic regular season which saw them feel defeat only once in the last home match of the season against Warwick.
Their opponents, Luxfords St George’s Hill, had a similarly strong campaign, finishing 2nd in Division B which landed them a spot in the final 4.
The tie set up a mouth-watering clash between two of the highest ranked players in the league, former world number 1 Nick Matthew and current world number one, the Egyptian king of squash, Mohammed Elshorbagy.
There was also a late boost for University of Nottingham after Spanish number 1 Borja Golan had to withdraw through injury meaning Carlos Cornes would come into the Luxfords St George’s Hill team to face Adam Auckland.
Richie Fallows vs Charlie Lee
Final Score: 6-11, 11-5, 6-11, rtd (5-11)
After weeks of anticipation, the sold-out crowd were treated to the first match of the night on the main court at the Nottingham Squash Rackets Club which matched Richie Fallows against Charlie Lee.
It was a nervy start for both players, with Fallows slipping to an early 6-11 loss after a number of unforced errors in the first set. Fallows regained his composure to take the second and third set and began to find his rhythm.
It was to be a sad ending to the tie as an injury in the 4th set meant that Lee had to concede the set and retire handing victory to Fallows and the first point of the evening went to the University of Nottingham.
Hana Ramadan vs Joelle King
Final Score: 5-11, 3-11, 7-11
Across from the show court, UoN scholar Hannah Ramdan was always going to be up against it as she lined up against world number 4 Joelle King. The 29-year-old New Zealander has just returned from the Gold Coast Commonwealth games having won2 gold medals (Singles, Doubles) and a bronze (mixed doubles).
King was put through her paces by the UoN student who showed flashes of brilliance throughout – an indication of her bright future in the game. In the end, it was the experience and power of King that shone through, wining the match in straight sets to put the first point on the board for Luxfords St George’s Hill and level the match at 1-1.
Adam Auckland vs Carlos Cornes
Final Score: 11-5, 9-11, 11-9, 4-11, 11-9
Cornes was a late addition to the Luxfords St George’s Hill team following a late injury to Spanish number 1 Borja Golan, but he proved he was a worthy replacement in this tie by taking Adam Auckland all the way only to lose narrowly over 5 sets.
In a match that swung back and forth, it was Auckland who got the better of the early exchanges, showing his physicality and strength on court and he looked to be in control of the match at 2-1.
A rejuvenated Cornes threw everything at the 4th set which he won comfortably and even though the momentum was well and truly with the Spanish number 2 going into the final set it was Auckland’s class that shone through, winning 9-11 in the last to secure the match.
Declan James vs Tom Richards
Final Score: 11-6, 8-11, 9-11, 11-9, 9-11
Declan James was next up against Tom Richards and it was the in-form, Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, who made an immediate impact winning the first set 11-6.
Richards showcased his talent thereafter, puling a set back and going on to take the lead by winning a closely contested 3rd set. The action didn’t relent and every point of the 4th set was cheered loudly by the crowd who were witnessing some sensational squash. When James narrowly won the set to level the game (and the match) the mixture of exhilaration and relief in the room was palpable.
With Aucklands game in the bag, and UoN 2-1 up on the night, victory in the final set for James would have meant as safe passage to the final before Nick Matthew had even struck a ball – but it wasn’t to be. Richards tenacity and delightful short game was too good in the final set and he just did enough to beat James and take the match to a decider.
Nick Matthew vs Mohammed Elshorbagy
Final Score: 11-8, 11-9, 11-13, 9-11, 8-11
With the scores level at 2-2 the scene was set for a showdown match between Nick Matthew and world number one Mohammed Elshorbagy and it was the Wolf who got off to a flying start racing through the first set and catching Elshorbagy cold.
Cracks began to appear in the Elshorbagy’s game and a verbal altercation between the match referee and Egyptian at the start of the 2nd set allowed Matthew to take advantage and rush to the take the 2nd set, putting the PSL final in touching distance.
What happened next will live long in the memory of everyone in attendance.
Elshorbaby dusted himself down and pulled out some sensational squash to level to the tie at 2-2 and set up a deciding set, showcasing not just his technical ability but his mental strength.
With the main court packed to rafters, both champions fought out the final set with breathless exchanges and lengthy rallies.
In the end, it was the rejuvenated Elshorbagy who just pipped the resplendent Matthew to the final set winning 8-11 to send Luxfords St George’s Hill to the PSL Final.
Both players and teams received a standing ovation for their toil and effort after delivering an exhibition of squash – it was a match the will be remembered for a very long time.
Congratulations to Luxford St’ George’s Hill who will enjoy home advantage as they progress through to the Premier Squash League Final at the end of May.