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Fiera Properties Bluenose Classic 2014
27-Oct to 01-Nov, Nova Scotia, $50k

01-Nov, FINAL:
[2] Peter Barker 3-0 [4] Miguel Rodriguez 11/6,11/7,11/8 (62m)

In this evening’s final, Peter Barker demonstrated precision and his clinical approach to the match served him well. Miguel Rodriguez put up a strong fight, demonstrating fantastic retrieving and quickness, and even when he was down two games, it appeared that the momentum could easily swing in Rodriguez’s favour.

In the end, Barker was able to finish the match in three games and was crowned 2014 Fiera Properties Bluenose Squash Classic Champion.

Blair Cook describes the match in detail below.
Thanks to Jim Neale for the photographs.

Photos by Jim Neale
and Farley MacLeod

Bluenose Classic 2014
27-Oct to 01-Nov, Nova Scotia, $50k
Round One
31 Oct
[1] Borja Golan (Esp)
 11/2, 11/9, 11/7 ( (45m)
Mohamed Abouelghar (Egy)
[1] Borja Golan
12/14, 11/7, 11/8, 11/2 (69m)
Tom Richards
[1] Borja Golan

11/4, 12/10, 13/11

[4] Miguel Rodriguez

[4] Miguel Rodriguez


11/6, 11/7, 11/8 (62m)


[2] Peter Barker

[7] Adrian Waller (Eng)
11/9, 11/8, 11/9 (49m)
Tom Richards (Eng)
[6] Steve Coppinger (Rsa)
11/6, 11/13, 11/9, 11/5 (67m)
[Q] Ryan Cuskelly (Aus)
[6] Steve Coppinger
5/11, 11/4, 11/8, 7/11, 11/5 (74m)
[4] Miguel Rodriguez
[4] Miguel Rodriguez (Col)
13/11, 11/8, 12/10 (52m)
Alan Clyne (Sco)
[Q] Chris Gordon (Usa)
11/6, 11/7, 11/9 (40m)
[3] Daryl Selby (Eng)
[3] Daryl Selby
 13/11, 6/11, 11/7, 8/11, 11/5 (102m)
[8] Alister Walker
[3] Daryl Selby

11/4, 11/4, 11/6 (40m)

[2] Peter Barker

[wc] Andrew Schnell (Can)
12/10, 11/6, 11/7 (34m)
[8] Alister Walker (Bot)
[Q] Diego Elias (Per)
11/9, 11/4, 11/5 (42m)
[5] Cameron Pilley (Aus)
[5] Cameron Pilley
11/6, 11/7, 9/11, 11/9 (66m)
[2] Peter Barker
[Q] Sebastiaan Weenink (Ned)
11/4, 11/6, 11/8 (42m)
[2] Peter Barker (Eng)
28-Oct, Qualifying Finals:

Ryan Cuskelly (Aus) 3-0 Shawn Delierre (Can)                     11-8, 11-5, 11-5 (50m)
Sebastiaan Weenink (Ned) 3-1 Muhd Asyraf Azan (Mas) 11-6, 11-9, 7-11, 11-6 (58m)
Diego Elias (Per) 3-2
Cesar Salazar (Mex)           8-11, 3-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-9 (80m)
Chris Gordon (Usa) 3-1 Shahier Razik (Can)                11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 11-6 (62m)

27-Oct, Qualifying Round One:

Ryan Cuskelly (Aus)   bye
Shawn Delierre (Can) 3-0 Mike Buchanan (Can)          
 11-8, 11-8, 11-3 (25m)
Muhd Asyraf Azan (Mas) 3-0 Matt Bishop (Can)             11-5, 11-6, 11-8 (24m)
Sebastiaan Weenink (Ned) 3-0 Alfredo Avila (Mex)        11-4, 11-5, 11-4 (39m)
Cesar Salazar (Mex) 3-1 Mike McCue (Can)        
11-7, 8-11, 11-5, 11-8 (46m)
Diego Elias (Per) 3-0 Josh Rudolph (Can)                     11-2, 11-4, 11-4 (21m)
Chris Gordon (Usa) 3-0 Graham Kerford (Can)           
11-4, 11-6, 11-5 (20m)
Shahier Razik (Can) 3-0 Martin Knight (Nzl)                 11-7, 11-5, 11-8 (54m)


And on the 6th day, let the two best players of the week face each other for one last match to determine who would be this year’s Fiera Properties Bluenose Squash Classic champion.

The first player to earn their way into the championship court was none other than the crowd’s favorite acrobat - Miguel Rodriguez, the returning champion. Rodriquez was coming off a huge upset last night over the tournament’s number one seed - Borja Golan. There is just something about the panel court that appeals to his game and many a player over the years have been stymied by an inability to put the ball away against the stealthy Columbian.

The second player earning their way into the night’s final was Peter Barker of England. He’s no stranger to be in this court or the finals at this event. In fact, he found himself in this very position back in 2009 against David Palmer, only this time he was hoping for a very different outcome. His play all week has been stellar. Aside from dropping a game to Cameron Pilley in the Quarter Finals, Barker’s record has been perfect. He also had a comparatively easier match last night against Daryl Selby who, rumour had it, was not playing at 100%.

At the outset of the match, the capacity crowd set the odds pretty evenly. For many of you readers, you are unlikely familiar with the setup of the Bluenose Squash Classic. Many professional squash venues utilize the mobile glass court to set up spectacular venues; however, in Halifax, we do things a little differently. We set our venue around the small and intimate venue, which represents the community that is squash in Nova Scotia. Our venue is at St. Mary’s University and at capacity, the fire marshal begins cringing when we start putting more than three digits of people inside the viewing area. But it’s a crowd of people from all over Eastern Canada, all of whom know one another, and does it get loud!

The professional players are treated as adopted members of this community for the week of the Bluenose Classic each year with many opting to stay with local families to enjoy the warm Maritime hospitality. The players get involved in various dinners, sponsor events, and junior clinics held throughout the week. Some players, particularly past champions like Therry Lincou and Laurens Jan Anjema, have been granted honorary residency status by the squash community.

As is tradition, the evening of the final starts off with a fun event. This year was a doubles event between local icons Matt Bishop and Chris Petropolis versus Cameron Pilley and newcomer Sebastiaan Weenink (who is quickly becoming another fan favorite around town). The scores from the match include Pilley blowing through two sets of strings, Weenink scored two points lying on his back, and Bishop and Petropolis won by a landslide, once the age handicaps were factored into the final tally.

With the seats warm and the refreshments at hand, the match between Rodriguez and Barker got underway within this backdrop. The early going of the match had the feel of something more tactical than physical. Neither player was pushing the pace, choosing instead to keep the ball deep and wait for opportunities. In the battle of attrition, Barker was the early benefactor running up a 6-2 lead as Rodriguez was trying unsuccessfully to hit those perfect nicks that had earned him his championship the prior year. Barker coughed up a couple of errant miscues letting Rodriguez narrow the gap to 5-8. But Rodriguez threw in a few of his own handing the first game to Barker 11-6.

The second game began with much the same feel of the first game. After the match, Barker later admitted that he was intentionally “playing boring squash…just trying to pin him [Rodriguez] to the wall to restrict his options, and increase my own.” “Boring squash” earned him an 8-4 lead midway through the second game. One shot that Barker used with recurring success was a deceptive little cross drop once he had set up the rally sufficiently to get a ball in the middle of the court.

The crowd began chanting “Vamos!” trying to rally Rodriguez. Rodriguez dug in under unrelenting pressure from Barker to earn two more points to narrow the gap to 6-8. But on the ensuing serve, Barker hit a perfect cross nick, silencing the Spanish and eliciting a pro-English cheer (we know a good shot when we see one). He followed that up with two more well set up drops that gave Barker the second game 11-7.

In the third game, the crowd was really pulling for Rodriguez to help extend the evening. Rodriguez came out all fired up and went on the full offensive hitting a drop shot and then charging the front reading Barker’s drives perfectly to hit the open winner running up a 5-2 advantage at that point.

But full credit to Barker, he just stuck to his “boring squash”, persistently putting the ball down the backhand line again, again, and again keeping Rodriguez retrieving from the back corner. Barker began trading two and three points for one against as he clawed his way back to 6-6.

Rodriguez was throwing everything he had at Barker, but Barker never flinched. After hitting a beautiful overhead nick to take a 9-8 lead, Barker was pumping his fist, finally sensing sustainable momentum. He followed that up with two more well-executed and setup drops to close the match with an 11-8 score in the third game.

In the post-match interview, Rodriguez confirmed all the witness accounts of the match, “It was very difficult to play Peter because he is very precise and accurate. I found it difficult to read some of his shots.”

Barker’s interview gave a glimpse into how close Rodriguez had come to breaking the momentum, “Toward the end of the match I was hanging on a bit. His [Rodriguez] game has come on since working with David Palmer [interestingly to whom Barker lost to in 2009]. He’s disciplined and has speed and I give him full credit for the big win he had yesterday [over Borja Golan].”

Rob Roy, title sponsor of the event, congratulated Peter Barker on his victory, “You are one of us now.” Hopefully, this brings the Englishman back for years to come.

Zal Davar, the founder of this event, spent a few moments to single out the contribution of all those involved, but in particular this year to the referees. To pull off an event of this caliber takes world class referees and Zal and his comrade in arms Graham Waters of 35 years, are members of a lonely team of volunteers that wade through “the shades of gray and the layers of gray” to make split second judgments. One patron shared, “I don’t quite see the attraction of being a referee,” which quite aptly sums up the unique talents and dedication of this group.

Neil Harvey, another anointed member of the Nova Scotia squash community, began the night by posing a question, “What life skills can be learned by squash?” The lesson was brilliantly taught this evening by the likes of Peter Barker and Miguel Rodriguez - stay in the rallies, even those you are losing, and often you’ll come out ahead.
With those words spoken, the Bluenose Squash Classic of 2014 was written into the history books. And on the 7th day, may all the players, volunteers, spectators, and yes, referees, find rest.

By Blair Cook

Live Blog Bluenose Squash Classic 2014

31-Oct, Semis:

After an unseasonably warm, beautiful, sunny day, while many ghosts and goblins were out collecting treats and performing tricks, the faithful and determined squash fans of Halifax made their way to the Homburg Centre at St. Mary’s University see how their favourite squash players would fare this evening. Such faithful fans have been known to brave full-blown snowstorms to make it to the Bluenose (when held in February), so this was really not a challenge at all. A few of the pros even demonstrated their sporting ways by donning costumes to entertain the crowd in unexpected ways.

On the court, it was somewhat of a contrast to last evening. Tonight, both matches were over after three games, whereas this didn’t happen in any of the four matches last night. These things are likely correlated however, as it was clear that Selby didn’t survive the match the night before with Alister Walker unscathed. In fact, in his post game interview, Selby acknowledged “a few problems” physically other than simply being fatigued, but also credited Barker for keeping him under pressure at the back of the court, noting, “Pete was too strong”. Selby also credited Walker’s efforts the night before, and noted he was “delighted to come through that” and “today was a bit of a bonus”.

After all was said and done, the crowd was left with great anticipation for a battle royal tomorrow. Rodriguez and Barker met at the Bluenose in 2009, with that contest going to Barker, who has never lost to Rodriguez on the PSA Tour. However, Rodriguez will be defending his 2013 title, and with his frequent smile and endless energy on the court, he has made many fans in Halifax, and will most likely have the crowd on his side.

Although SquashTV isn’t covering this event, we are providing play-by-play analysis via Cover It Live. I would contend that our Cover It Live team of Patrick Kelly, Jill Moore, and David Westwood could match wits with Joey Barrignton and Paul Johnson any day of the week. We may not have video review, but they will share their opinions on the lets and strokes (and you will never have video evidence to prove them wrong). So if you are not able to make it to Halifax, follow us on Cover It Live through the link on SquashSite. You can even add your two cents in the commentary.

30-Oct, Quarters:
The fans at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia may have been wondering if Halloween had come early tonight, as they certainly were given a treat. The level of competition rose up again. There were certainly also some tricks to be seen, as players showed their deceptiveness, speed, and deft racquet skills to fool their opponents.

The shortest match of the night was over an hour in duration, with all matches being hard-fought battles for a spot in the semifinals. None of the challengers were able to upset the top four seeds, who all move on as predicted by their seedings.

29 Oct, Round One:

Halifax squash fans have already been treated to some impressive squash through the qualifying rounds of the 2014 Fiera Properties Bluenose Squash Classic.

One of the most fascinating aspects of watching a squash tournament from start to finish is the ascending level of play that occurs through the week, and seeing players who amazed us with spectacular play one night, lose the next night to an even more skilled player the next night. In fact, that is just what we saw tonight, as none of our qualifiers were able to secure a victory in the main round. There were no blowout victories tonight, but no marathons either.

Tom Richards of England pulled off the only upset of the night against his compatriot Adrian Waller. However, this isn’t as much of an upset as the rankings would suggest, given Richards’ PSA tour experience and previous world number 12 ranking.

Following the matches, our tournament MC Neil Harvey took the opportunity to single out the skill and prospective talent of youngster Diego Elias of Peru, despite his loss to Cameron Pilley. Harvey stated he had “not seen such a young, intelligent squash brain since Jansher Khan”. I don’t think there is a greater complement to be paid, and we very much look forward to seeing the talents of the young Peruvian grow at future Bluenose events.

27-Oct, Qualifying Finals:

Halifax squash fans were treated to a full night of high quality squash on the second day of qualifying for the 2014 Fiera Properties Bluenose Squash Classic.

There were no short matches tonight, as the competitors were all closely matched. Ryan Cuskelly, the top-ranked qualifier, took his predicted place in the main round with a win over former Bluenose champion Shawn Delierre. However, Cuskelly was the only one of the highest five ranked qualifiers to make it through to the main draw. Sebastiaan Weenink scored his second upset victory in as many nights.

It is quite likely that we had a glimpse of part of the future of PSA squash, as the 17-year-old World Junior Champion Diego Elias of Peru showed maturity beyond his years in a comeback victory over the higher ranked Cesar Salazaar of Mexico. Elias demonstrated a range of skills that is downright scary for someone his age.

In the end, our four qualifiers who move on to the main draw on Wednesday represent four continents, highlighting the high level international draw that Bluenose fans will get to enjoy over the next four days. 

27-Oct, Qualifying Round One:
The first round of qualifying of the 2014 Fiera Properties Bluenose Squash Classic saw an enthusiastic crowd on hand to watch squash players from near and far. Some matches saw local hopeful challenge PSA tour professionals.

Draw & Results

Photos by Jim Neale
and Farley MacLeod


[4] Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt [1] Borja Golan (ESP) 11-4, 12-10, 13-11 (66 m)

The crowd was slow to warm up on this All Hallows Eve, despite the presence of Cameron Pilley dressed as Moses and Sebastian Weenink dressed in a pink wig and very revealing skirt. Perhaps the Halifax squash fans were exhausted from the 6 hours of squash last night in the epic quarterfinal matches. In any event, energy began to build as Miguel Rodriguez, last year’s champion and absolute fan favourite, took to the court for the knock up. A rousing cheer also went up for long-time Bluenose competitor Borja Golan from Spain, the top seed in the tournament.

The first game went by very quickly, and in favour of the Colombian superstar 11-4. Golan was not hitting the corners with his usual precision, and he was victimized by several “strokes” despite his protests to the officials upstairs. Rodriguez, on the other hand, was incredibly steady, making at most one error in the opening game. A puzzled hush fell over the crowd between games, as fans tried to make sense of the lopsided score line.

The second game began much like the first, with Rodriguez storming to a 4-0 lead before fans had finished the first sip of their drinks. On the strength of a few more strokes against Golan it was quickly a deep 3-7 hole for the Spanish number one. Giving his head a metaphorical shake, Golan began to tighten up his shots and dialed up some additional power. He was able to trade points with Rodriguez up to 10-6 in favour of the Colombian. Then, something began to click for Golan as his feet began to move more quickly and he began to attack with more vim and vigor. Before long he had forced a tiebreak, and surely Rodriguez began to wonder if he had woken the beast. Instead of crumbling, however, Rodriguez shored up his own performance and closed out the game 12-10 on the strength of some impressive drops and deceptive flicks.

Now in a 0-2 hole, things looked rather grim for Golan as he was confronted with the very real possibility of exiting the tournament before taking his anticipated place in the finals. This realization seemed to light a fire under the Spaniard, and he quickly fired in five points to amass a solid lead for the first time in the match. However, Rodriguez fought back with four points of his own to keep Golan within striking distance. Back and forth with a dizzying array of drops, nicks, recoveries, lobs, and deceptive cross-court shots, the fans were treated to a taste of everything. Neither player able to gain a clear advantage, the score crept again to a tiebreak. This time it was Golan who earned the first game-ball at 11-10, only to let the lead slip as Rodriguez gained three points to close out the third game 13-11 and take the match 3 games to love in 66 minutes.

In the post-match interview with Master of Ceremonies Neil Harvey, Miguel commented that he drank “a lot of water” today in an effort to recover from yesterday’s five-game victory over Steve Coppinger. He went on to praise Golan for his tremendous skill and power, and noted, “I seem to play better when I face the top guys”. No doubt pleased to see his way through to a second consecutive final at the Bluenose Squash Classic, Miguel vowed to “bring his best game” tomorrow to the applause of the fans in attendance at the Homburg Centre.

By David Westwood

[2] Peter Barker (ENG) bt [3] Daryl Selby (ENG) 11-4, 11-4, 11-6 (40 mins)

The second semi-final for the evening featured two fellow countrymen very familiar with each other's games, having known each other since they were six years of age. Barker came out focused and determined in the first game, waiting for his opportunity to kill the ball, to take a quick 4-0 lead. During the middle portion of the game, Selby tried to get himself back into the game, but Barker tracked the ball well, using excellent footwork and shot selection to conserve his energy, going up 7-1, before making two unforced errors for a score of 7-3. Selby attempted to change the pace of the game, in efforts to shift Barker's momentum; however, Barker was equal to the task. He maintained his consistent play and closed out the first game with a precise drop shot in the front left corner for a final score of 11-4.

In the second game, Barker again started off with a 4-1 lead, capitalizing on loose returns from Selby with unretrievable shots. At the midpoint, Barker continued to control the play, demonstrating patience in drawing out the rallies. This appeared to wear Selby down, given his grueling 5-game match the evening before, resulting in several mistakes on which Barker could kill the ball. Selby appeared to get his second wind, increasing the pressure on Barker, resulting in two unforced errors, but Barker quickly regrouped with two quick powerful frontcourt nicks, followed by two perfect drop shots to win the game 11-4.

Barker maintained his focus in the third game, but Selby was up for the challenge, starting off with a 2-2 tie. Once again, Barker was hunting the ball well, making kill shots at the opportune moments, and though Selby made a few theatrical saves to keep the ball alive, he appeared to fatigue, allowing Barker to take a 7-3 lead. Selby tried to close the gap, tightening up his lengths along the wall for a score of 8-6; however, Barker was focused on the finish line, and continued to force Selby in the back court, closing out the match by controlling the business end of the game with three consecutive points, resulting in an 11-6 score, and taking the match 3-0.

In the post match interview, in response to a question of how he played knowing that Daryl was tired, Barker acknowledged “a few factors came into it today… the fact that he has beaten me the last four times, so I was due one”. He stated “I just had to play quite disciplined and slow it down, Daryl has such great hands, and if you give him anything at the front, he can put you and hold you and do whatever, so I always like to play a typical English boring squash to the back and just to try to keep him behind me”. (the crowd laughs) Barker went on to say that he felt that he has been allowing himself to play in a more relaxed fashion this week in Halifax, after a short vacation and looking forward to the World Championships, and is pleased and surprised by his play so far. He proceeded to complement his upcoming opponent (Rodriguez) and his recent improvements, noting that he has his work cut out for him in the finals.

By Brian Reid


[1] Borja Golan (ESP) bt Tom Richards (ENG) 12-14, 11-7, 11-8, 11-2 (69m)

The first match of the evening pitted the tournament’s number one seed Borja Golan against the 22nd world ranked player Tom Richards of England.

The first game started a little tentative for both players as they got a feel for the speed of the ball and the positioning of their opponent on the court. Golan uncharacteristically had three errors early, giving the patient Richards a 7-4 advantage midway through the first game. Richards was finding success just keeping the ball deep and sustaining the rally long enough for Golan to make a mistake. But Golan was in no mood to give up a game and fought his way back, eventually earning a game point at 10-9. Golan had the first game all but sealed when he missed a free opportunity to drive an errant volley into an open court. This gave Richards a second life and he capitalized on it a few points later, taking the first game 14-12. Hmm, this could be interesting.

The second game saw Richards jump out to another 3-1 lead. After a vicious rally of retrievals, Golan was pumping his fist even though he had only narrowed the gap to 2-3. Something had him fired up because he clearly took control of the momentum of the second game from that point forward running up a 7-4 lead. Then a shocking “no let” call favoring Richards had the crowd buzzing and Golan couldn’t believe it. Richards added two more counters to climb back within one. But Golan shut down any idea Richards had of pulling out another comeback. Golan quickly and confidently finished off the second game 11-7 from there.

Game three had the feel that Golan was in control, yet Richards never let him stray too far ahead. With the score 7-5 trending for Golan, another “no let” call had him wide eyed and arguing with the refs. But this time, Golan’s focus was laser sharp. In the ensuing rally, he blasted a drive by Richards who hadn’t witnessed that much pace on the ball in the match thus far. From there, it felt like an organized procession to a well-controlled 11-8 victory for Golan to take the third game.

In the fourth game, Golan’s superior seeding was beginning to shine. He was setting up rallies. He was moving Richards around to all four corners. He was forcing Richards to go for shots with lower percentages. Richards’ disciplined game strategy of just keeping Golan deep in the court and patiently waiting him out was gone. Golan was now completely controlling the game and cruised to an 11-2 victory, punching his ticket to the semi-finals tomorrow night.

By Blair Cook

[4] Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt [6] Stephen Coppinger (RSA) 5-11, 11-4, 11-8, 7-11, 11-5 (74 min)

The second match of the evening saw an influx of squash fans pile in to see what was lined up to be one of the closest of the night on paper.

A furious pace prevailed throughout the match, with the tall South African directing the flow in the first game with his low quick straight drives. Looking at only their feet, Rodriguez seemingly took twice the amount of steps than his opponent did to get to the same areas of the court – but he certainly makes up for it by being so incredibly swift! From 5-5 onward Coppinger ran away with it, making it quite apparent that Rodriguez needed a change of tactics to take the match to the strong South African. It was just the opening game, but at an 11-5 margin you could certainly sense the high potential for Coppinger’s first PSA win over Rodriguez.

Rodriguez got off to the start he wanted in the second, quickly going up 4-0 from a couple of impressive holds, a stroke decision and a tin from Coppinger. Now we’re seeing the reigning Bluenose champ come to form! Much more patient play from the Columbian at 5-2 up resulted in a second string of points from tins off the Coppinger racquet. Even with a mammoth 9-2 lead, Rodriguez continued to use remarkable capoeira-like movements to chase down that tiny rubber ball. Dropping only one game ball opportunity, the Columbian Cannonball leveled off the match taking the second 11-4.

The third was a replica of the previous game, with many early tins from Coppinger giving Rodriguez an enormous 6-0 lead. With so much tin from Coppinger, his frustration turned to disbelief, and an 8-2 lead for Rodriguez. With seven game balls sitting comfortably at 10-3, a massive momentum shift saw Coppinger return to the form he started off the match with. With every game ball saved, the cheers and jeers emanating from the audience below grew louder and louder. One can imagine a similar elevation of pressure Rodriguez must have been feeling to close it out. After five game balls saved, mostly by using Palmer-coached early volley drops to the opposing corner, it was the same shot that eventually cost him when one found the middle of the tin.

It really seemed like Coppinger’s match to win or lose as he flipped from making Miguel run circles around him by cutting off every ball, to catching the tin several times giving relatively easy points to his opponent. The fourth game saw the former Coppinger, taking a 5-1 lead. A great Bluenose moment midway through saw Rodriguez lob, Coppinger accidentally drop his racquet as he moved past Rodriguez, stick out his tongue in urgency, manage to pick it up and scramble back in the rally and go on to win the point! The crowd just loved every Coppinger reaction at this point. He rode this momentum to take the fourth 11-7 and push to a deciding fifth.

It was quite clear that Rodriguez’ tactic was to extend the rallies as long as possible, rely on his fast legs to retrieve, and wait for either an opportunity or a tin from his opponent. He got exactly what he wanted in the second rally, as it went well over two minutes. Even though he didn’t get the point, it may have been one of the major factors that caused so many tins from Coppinger in the latter stage of the match decider. Despite going up 3-0, Coppinger couldn't retain the form that he needed to win the match. A couple great taxis from both players brought the match to level at 5-5, but this is when the Coppinger tin affinity kicked in. Rodriguez used the opening to get a string of 6 points in seemingly no time - a slightly uncharacteristic end to an otherwise highly entertaining match.

By Jeff Scribner

[3] Daryl Selby (ENG) bt [8] Alister Walker (BOT) 13-11, 6-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-5 (102 mins)

Despite a significant gap between these two in the rankings, their head-to-head history is 2-2. Both of these players have played in the Bluenose Classic previously, with Selby being a three-time runner up.

The first game began with the players taking a conservative approach, with most shots being played in the back of the court. The pace was fairly gentle and steady. Neither player was able to carve out a lead, and the score remained close through the game. They picked up the pace as the game went on, with both getting somewhat more aggressive. Walker hit some tight drops throughout the game. Selby closed out the game with a winning drop and a 13-11 score.

In the second game, Walker brought more winning drops to take a 3-0 lead. At 4-3 for Walker, after three let calls in a row, they played a ferocious rally, with Walker coming out on the better end of it. Walker was able to maintain his lead through the rest of the game, with some assistance from Selby in hitting tin on a couple of occasions. At game ball, Selby went for the cross-court winner, but missed, giving Walker a loose ball, which he dropped nicely into the nick. 11-6 Walker. Games are tied 1-1.

Selby went out to a 6-2 lead at the start of the third game, thanks to some good length. He demonstrated tight shots that Walker wasn’t able to return. At 10-7, Selby hit Walker's racquet with a shot to the front wall, sending the racquet flying to the front of the court, with Selby being awarded a penalty stroke and the game 11-7.

Both players demonstrated excellent retrieving to begin the fourth game, but Walker tinned two shots to give Selby a 3-1 lead. Selby managed a 5-2 lead with good length and tight shots, but Walker fought back to tie the game 5-5. This game, as well as much of the match saw quite a few rallies ending in let calls, with many being replayed as a result of Yes Let decisions. The score didn’t wander too far from a tie, until Walker managed a 10-8 lead, proceeding to hit a perfect drop shot for the win.

After the fourth game, it appeared as though this was anyone’s match. Both players were playing great, and not showing negative effects of the longest match of the evening. The fifth game started out with the score remaining close until 3-3, but from that point forward, Selby climbed into a lead and Walker proceeded to hit three tins in a row to extend Selby’s lead to 9-5. A winning drop by Selby and an error by Walker ended this match sending Selby further into the draw in a chase for his elusive first Bluenose Classic title.
By Farley MacLeod

[2] Peter Barker (ENG) bt. [5] Cameron Pilley (AUS) 11-6, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9 (66 mins)

The last quarterfinal of the evening featured second-seed Barker (WR #8) against the fifth-seed Pilley (WR #22).

Both players came out strong, hitting the ball crisply into the back corners. Pilley played his signature power-shots down the lines, hitting several winners, but Barker was up to the challenge, with his consistent play leading to a 4-4 tie. Barker's excellent shot selection and steady pressure led to an 8-4 lead. Pilley was able to pull close with a couple of nicks in the front court and off the service return, but some unforced errors and a final “stroke” call allowed Barker to close out the first game 11-6.

The second game started with Pilley using his power to his advantage, jumping out to a 4-1 lead; however, Barker began to control the pace of the game to pull even at 4-4. Barker then gained the lead with a quick drop, followed by a powerful frontcourt nick. Pilley appeared to be rattled by a subsequent “stroke” call, making two unforced errors, before regaining his composure for a beautiful powerful left front court nick, mirroring Barker's earlier shot. The players traded points with nicks being the winning shots of choice, but another “stroke” call on game ball resulted in an 11-7 victory for Barker.

In the third game, a number of let calls appeared to faze Barker, allowing Pilley to capitalize on his opportunities, demonstrating great shot selection with a variety of winning shots, for a 5-1 lead. Barker seemed to regroup and the players traded points for a fast and furious few minutes, resulting in a score of 10-5, with game ball for Pilley. Barker then slowed the pace of the rallies and was able to save 4 game points, including a beautiful sequence in which he returned Pilley's cross-court nick with a stellar drop shot; however, Pilley replied with a trickle boast to take the third 11-9.

Pilley continued his pattern of quick starts in the fourth, again jumping out to a 4-0 lead. Both players seemed to shorten their rallies, attempting winning shots more frequently, and trading points back and forth to a score of 9-5; however, again, Barker slowed the tempo of the match, moving Pilley around the court and changing directionality of the ball, with the game drawing even at 9-9. Barker continued his momentum with two great lengths to finish the final game 11-9.

By Brian Reid


28-Oct, Round One:                                 more photos

[1] Borja Golan (ESP) bt Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 11-2, 11-9, 11-7 (45m)

Golan, the 31-year-old from Spain, is a perennial Bluenose contender. This is his sixth appearance at the Bluenose Classic, and while he has not yet been the champion, he has twice been runner-up. Abouelghar, the 21-year-old from Giza, Egypt was making his first appearance in Halifax. This was a classic youth vs. experience matchup. Golan was the heavy favourite going in to this match, having won the only two previous PSA head-to-head matches, both played in August of this year in Hong Kong and Malaysia.

The first game saw Golan exert dominance over the younger Abouelghar, with a swift victory for the Spaniard. He was hitting tight drops and good length and the young Egyptian didn't have time to orient himself to the pace before the game was over 11-2.

In the second game, Abouelghar got a better start, going up 4-1. It is apparent that one of his favorite shots is a cross-court drop, however, he never seemed to hit the nick he was looking for, and Golan stormed back to take a 5-4 lead. Abouelghar brought out a potent smash which earned him two points to tie the game at 7, before Golan unleashed a smash into the nick to go up 8-7. They traded points before Golan put Abouelghar under pressure such that he was forced to play a ball off the back wall on game ball, and he hit it too high on the front wall, giving Golan the game with a score of 11-9.

Just like in the second game, Abouelghar took an early 4-1 lead in the third, with his cross-court nick finally paying dividends. However, Golan's experience and patience resulted in him working himself back into the lead at 6-5. Golan's mix of tight shots, good length, and mostly precise drops allowed him to keep the Egyptian under pressure and run out to an 11-7 victory in 45 minutes.

In his post match interview, when asked about his game plan, Golan described Mohamed as “a really young player, but also really talented”, he said “I know I have to play really serious, and concentrate, I know he is really dangerous, as he has so many shots in the front…I just have to keep my length very good and I just have to be serious every point”.

When asked about returning to Halifax, Golan noted, “It is really nice to be back…the tournament is great, the people are great. I always stay with Sandy and Gail…I come and see them because they always treat me very nice…all the players are happy to come to this tournament”.

by Farley MacLeod

Tom Richards (ENG) bt [7] Adrian Waller (ENG) 11-9, 11-8, 11-9 (49m)

The first game saw both players coming out fired up, both going for kill shots. They were volleying, cutting the ball off whenever possible, and not letting the ball reach the back wall. At every opportunity they were going for cross-court nicks and drops. Each player was making winning shots, bringing the score to 4-4 to start the game. It was Waller that seemed to be the more aggressive player in the mid portion of the game, but Richards’ retrieving managed to weather the storm, and he hade some great shots of his own to take the lead at 9-8.

During the business end of the game, it was Richards that turned it around and became the aggressor, putting Waller in all four corners, hitting three winning shots in a row to win the game 11-9.

This second game started out the same as the first as both players came out firing winning drives deep into the back corners and hitting nicks in the front corners as they started out 4-4 again. Waller managed to build a small lead to 8-6, but Richards picked up the pace and started to put pressure back on Waller, causing him to make several unforced errors to tie the game back up at 8-8. Richards kept this pace up for the remaining rallies, winning the next three points with winning drives into the back corners and finished the game with a fake drive to the back and hit a gaming-winning boast.

In the third, Richards started off right where he left off in the second game, being aggressive and keeping the ball in the back corners, and built a quick 7-2 lead. Both players were consistent throughout the middle portion of the game but it was Richards who was up 10-6. That's when Waller picked up the pace and was putting the pressure on Richards, forcing him to hit several loose shots that Waller capitalized on and closed the gap to 9-10. During the final rally, Waller had the pressure on Richards once again, hitting several drop shots in a row, but when he tried to cross-court Richards counter drop, Richards read the play and was ready for the crosscourt, and hit a winning length down the left sidewall to win the game at 11-9.

By Brian Reid

[7] Steve Coppinger (RSA) bt Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 11-6, 11-13, 11-9, 11-5 (67m)
Quite contrasting matches kicked off the first round of the 2014 Bluenose Squash Classic. With an Egyptian & Spaniard on Court 3, and two players from countries in the British Commonwealth on Court 2, the majority of the crowd chose to watch the only Egyptian in the draw for the flare potential he might bring. The start of the Court 2 match played out as one might expect, with long patient rallies all in the back of the court, but at 5-4 for Coppinger, the players started moving the ball around to all four corners. It was the tall South African that took the ball earlier and dictated the pace of the game. With several hold attacking boasts that caught Cuskelly flatfooted, Coppinger raced away with the game 11-6.

The second game saw a similar trading of points up until the halfway mark, when it was Cuskelly’s turn to pull ahead. He seemed to be hitting much harder and much tighter drives – I can tell you from experience these rarely go together for amateur players! Desperately trying to close up the 6-8 deficit and get back to the track he was on in the first, Coppinger used his effective hold and made attacking boasts to throw off the Australian. Cuskelly remained composed and looked to be closing out the game at 9-7. A harsh no let decision at 9-8 stirred the beast within Coppinger, who then channeled it into the next two rallies by hammering cross court kills to bring the game to a tiebreak. At this point I wouldn’t have been surprised if Coppinger broke the sound barrier with how hard he was hitting. It wasn’t enough to take the 2nd though, as Cuskelly converted a quick winner and a deceptive boast after saving one game ball to take it 13-11 and level the match off at one game apiece.

To the unfamiliar it might seem like Coppinger jumped in a lake with how much he was sweating on this humid Halifax evening – but this is a familiar sight for squashies. The third game saw Cuskelly off to a great start at 4-0, continuing the quality from the previous game, but Coppinger’s blistering pace brought him right back into the match and before you knew it we had a tense 8-8 situation. Devastating errors decided the next string of points, the majority of which came off the left handed Australian’s racquet giving Coppinger the crucial third game 11-9.

From the start of the fourth you could tell there was no stopping the Coppinger train to clench the match in four. He is so deadly in the front of the court when given a high ball with his deceptive holds and low hard drives. It didn’t take too much longer for the South African to close out the match 11-5 in the fourth.

By Jeff Scribner

[4] Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt Alan Clyne (SCO) 13-11,11-8, 12-10 (52m)

As this match began, it appeared there was much less separating these two players than the 24 ranking points in the difference would suggest. The two players are of similar stature and both demonstrated their quickness early on. Neither player was able to mount a sizable lead, and the game was tied up at 3-3, 7-7, and 10-10. Throughout the game, there were some massive rallies, with both players demonstrating patience. Rodriguez mixed in some variety with his signature flair, including a reverse angle shot (locally known as the "Pat Kelly" or the “Kevin Byrne”), catching Clyne off balance. He also displayed a seldom-seem high reverse angle shot to the back, but Clyne was able to catch up to it and win the rally. The game ended in dramatic fashion, as Clyne had his opponent on the run, with the Columbian making impressive pick-ups in diagonal corners, before putting a loose ball into the left side nick to Clyne's dismay, for a 13-11 victory.

In the second game, the score remained close, with 2-2, 4-4, 5-5, 7-7, and 8-8 scores. Clyne was using a deceptive hold to try to catch Rodriguez off balance, and Rodriguez was showing off his "extra gear" of explosive speed to get to balls that seemed unreachable. On at least one occasion, this took Clyne by surprise, as he appeared to think the rally was soon to be over when Rodriguez sped up like Wile Coyote and fetched a ball from the back, with Clyne responding with a drop to the tin. Rodriguez finished the game 11-8 with a winning cross-court drop.

Early in the third game, Rodriguez showcased his leaping ability, suggesting his vertical jump is about half of his height. In doing so, he jumped out to a 5-2 lead, with both players displaying impressive tight drop shots and equally impressive quickness and soft hands to get the ball back despite seemingly being glued to the sidewall. Rodriguez added some variety by utilizing a flick of his wrist to deceive Clyne on a number of drop shots in the middle of the game and some rewarded him with points. Clyne was more apt to make a straight drop, which he did repeatedly with precision, and occasionally Rodriguez failed to pull them off the wall successfully. The game got knotted up at 10-10, before Rodriguez pushed Clyne to the back, and in a full-out effort, Clyne attempted a "Go Go Gadget Arms" maneuver, but lost the grip of his racquet, sending it flying to the front of the court. Rodriguez sealed his place in the quarterfinals of the tournament with a perfect drop into the front right nick. Baffled, Clyne appealed to the marker if the ball was good, and when he indicated it was, Clyne replied, "Are you sure? You can't see much from up there". It was to no avail, as the marker was sure about the call, and Clyne was surely disappointed with the result.

By Farley MacLeod

[3] Daryl Selby (ENG) bt [Q] Chris Gordon (USA) 11-6, 11-7, 11-9 (40m)

The sixth match of the night saw third seed and world number nine Daryl Selby take on top American and Bluenose qualifier Chris Gordon. With Selby 50 ranks above Gordon it didn’t seem to be a likely victory for the qualifier, but being the first time these competitors matched each other on the PSA tour, anything could happen. The match started with long rallies as the players tested the waters, but we soon saw that dissipate into short, fast-paced exchanges that took the players all around the court. It was difficult to discern any structure from how the rallies played out, but Selby always remained at least two points ahead of his younger opponent. Selby closed out the opener by a comfortable 11-6 margin.

The second game was an almost repeat of the first as Selby consistently stayed one step ahead of Gordon. During a long rally midway through the game, Gordon pulled out the same shot he’s nominated for in the October Shot of The Month for PSA TV: a deceptive flick crosscourt drop from the back right corner. The crowd responded and really backed Gordon to take it to the Englishman. He was working quite hard as you could tell from the beet red color of his face. By contrast, Selby looks like he hasn’t even broken sweat! This writer suspects it may have something to do with Selby’s main sponsor being a renewable energy heating company. In any case, he motored on to close out the second 11-7.

With the prospect of his Bluenose campaign coming to an end, the American dug deep and fought even harder in the third. With legendary squash coach Neil Harvey in his corner between games, you can bet he gathered invaluable insight and encouragement to help propel him. A common exchange that unfolded in the third game saw Gordon going for a crosscourt nick off the serve, followed by Selby playing a ridiculous topspin crosscourt drop, then a Gordon counter drop, then Selby would slam the ball crosscourt and Gordon then retrieved to reset the rally. As always, Selby maintained his lead thoughout, and looked to be finishing off the match at 10-7, but Gordon played a series of unbelievable rallies to save two match balls. It was ultimately a perfect length shot from Selby that finished off the match 3-0.

By Jeff Scribner

[8] Alister Walker (BOT) bt Andrew Schnell (CAN) 12-10, 11-6, 11-7 (34m)

The second match on hallowed court 3 at the Homburg Centre featured Alister Walker, ranked 25 in the world from Botswana, versus the Canadian Wild Card for the tournament Andrew Schnell (ranked 101 in the world). The crowd was somewhat subdued to begin the evening as fans trickled in to enjoy this match in the round of 16. The first match was a tight affair, requiring a tiebreak before Walker left the court 12-10. It was clear that Walker was just a bit faster, and his shots just a margin tighter than Schnell in the opening game, but it was also clear that the lone remaining Canadian in the draw had a realistic chance of doing some damage in the match.

The second game was back and forth to 6-6, before Walker began to show his superiority, reeling off the next five points to take the game 11-6. Much like the first game, the difference seemed to be Walker’s ability to drop the ball a millimeter above the tin at will from virtually any location on the court. Schnell showed signs of brilliance, catching Walker heading the wrong direction on more than a few occasions.

Game 3 saw Walker race ahead to a 5-2 lead and hometown hopes began to fade that Schnell might be able to eke out an upset victory. Indeed, a string of points punctuated by gorgeous fading crosscourt drop shots and effortless movement saw Walker accumulate a 9-3 lead before much longer. Schnell mounted some energy for a final push, getting as far as 6-10 before ultimately falling 7-11 in the third and final game of the match. Walker seemed pleased to see his way through to the quarterfinals of the Bluenose Squash Classic in three games, looking to make it deep into the tournament draw.

By David Westwood

[5] Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt [Q] Diego Elias (PER) 11-9, 11-4, 11-5 (42m)

Diego game out with a quick start at the beginning of the match, and built a 6-2 lead. Pilley seemed unfazed and started to tighten up his shots, which saw him hit several winning shots in the front left corner and closed the lead to 5-6. During the middle portion of the game they traded points, going back and forth, until Pilley evened it up at 9-9. It was there that Pilley picked up the pace and hit a winning shot into the mid sidewall nick and then at 10-9, put the game-winning nick into the front left corner taking the first game 11-9.

The second went back and forth at first as they were tied at 3-3 to start the game. Again, Pilley started to put the pressure back on Diego as he was starting to look fatigued from his match the night before against Salazar that went to 5 games.
It was 7-4 Pilley when Diego started to try and slow down the pace of the ball but it didn't have any effect on Pilley, as he continued to hit the ball consistently into the back corners until he finally hit the last three shots into the front right hand corner nick to win the game 11-4.

Again, they game out to a 3-3 tie to start the third game. However, it was Pilley who managed to take the lead, as he was picking up the pace and putting more pressure on Diego, and Pilley gathered a 4-point lead to go to 7-3. Diego tried to keep up the pace and put the pressure back on Pilley, but the tall Australian was too strong and hitting nick after nick to go up 10-5. Then Pilley forced Diego to hit a loose shot back at himself, which resulted in a penalty stroke and the game to Pilley 11-5.
By Brian Reid

[2] Peter Barker (ENG) bt [Q] Sebastiaan Weenink (NED) 11-4, 11-6, 11-8 (42m)

From the outset it was clear the lefthander from England had come to play. The decibel meter spiked with each shot, and despite the best efforts of Weenink to control the pace of play, he fell quickly 11-4 in the first game. Barker’s power was matched by his ability to hit pinpoint drop shots, and Weenink was made to do tremendous work on every rally.
The storyline was repeated in the second game, although it was clear Weenink had adjusted his tactics, attempting to cut off more of Barker’s cross-courts and to hit with more purpose. Losing 11-6, things were beginning to look desperate for the Dutchman who had appeared so strong coming through the qualification rounds.

The third game was a more even affair, with Weenink beginning to find the right blend of power and control to keep pace with Barker in the early going. Indeed, Barker was caught going the wrong way more than a few times, although he showed a remarkable ability to recover and gain the advantage on his returns. Points were traded to 8-8 before Barker locked up the match 11-8 on the strength of some punishing rallies that ended with precise attacking boasts and a few timely nicks.
By David Westwood


27-Oct, Qualifying Finals:                           more photos

Halifax squash fans were treated to a full night of high quality squash on the second day of qualifying for the 2014 Fiera Properties Bluenose Squash Classic. There were no short matches tonight, as the competitors were all closely matched. Ryan Cuskelly, the top-ranked qualifier, took his predicted place in the main round with a win over former Bluenose champion Shawn Delierre. However, Cuskelly was the only one of the highest five ranked qualifiers to make it through to the main draw. Sebastiaan Weenink scored his second upset victory in as many nights.

It is quite likely that we had a glimpse of part of the future of PSA squash, as the 17-year-old World Junior Champion Diego Elias of Peru showed maturity beyond his years in a comeback victory over the higher ranked Cesar Salazaar of Mexico. Elias demonstrated a range of skills that is downright scary for someone his age.

In the end, our four qualifiers who move on to the main draw on Wednesday represent four continents, highlighting the high level international draw that Bluenose fans will get to enjoy over the next four days.

Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Shawn Delierre (CAN) 11-8, 11-5, 11-6 (50 mins)

The first match of the night started with Delierre hitting the ball well, earning him a 4-1 lead. Both Delierre and Cuskelly picked up the pace and traded the next several points to make it 7-3 for Delierre. Due to two quick stroke calls, Cuskelly managed to close the gap to 5-7; however at 6-8, the momentum shifted when Delierre broke his strings, and following a racquet switch, Cuskelly finished the game with 6 straight points to win the first 11-8.

In the second game, Cuskelly continued where he left off, driving the ball to the back corners, and hitting winning drop shots when the opportunities arose, jumping to a 9-2 start. Delierre made a valiant attempt to bring the score to 10-5; however Cuskelly's shot selection was too good, leading to an 11-5 victory.

The third game saw both players come out strong, making quality shots to lead to a 4-4 tie. Cuskelly began to increase the pressure on Delierre, leading to several unforced errors, and a subsequent 9-4 lead. Delierre was able to win 2 more points, but Cuskelly was on his game, making minimal mistakes and hitting great lengths to take the game 11-6, and the match 3-0.

By Brian Reid

Sebastiaan Weenink (NED) bt Asyraf Azan (MAS) 11-6,11-9,7-11,11-6 (58m)
The crowd was electric tonight, having just enjoyed a thoroughly entertaining 60-minute match between Shawn Delierre and Ryan Cuskelly. Not to mention it was free pizza, and free squash, for all in attendance! Spotted in the crowd tonight, Ms. Orshy Torok chatting about Miguel Angel Rodriguez and his clothing preferences, Ms. Sara Lafrance enquiring as to the mood amongst the players and sharing stories about Chris Gordon’s food preferences and quantities, the Gifted Typist herself, Ms. Gail Lethbridge waxing poetic about the virtues of muscle memory, and of course Mr. Tim Roberts looking positively ravishing in a mauve collared shirt. But enough about the crowd, let’s get to the action.

Two lanky players with very contrasting styles, Weenink very deliberate in the pre-match knock-up, hitting all four corners, while Azan seemed more keen to impress the crowd with his racquet skills, hitting between-the leg shots and topspin drops. This theme pervaded much of the competition, with Weenink playing a strong, consistent game with some occasional flair, whereas Azan went for more glory with his crosscourt nick attempts, deceptive holds, and attacking drives.

In the first game Azan opened with two quick points on crosscourt nicks, giving a taste of what was to come. Weenink gained the points back on two Azan tins, before reeling off six straight points through a mixture of steady, tight drives, the occasional working boast, and wonderful volley work. Azan was flicking his wrist and trying to catch Weenink off guard but the man from the Netherlands was having none of it. Every flashy shot was followed up by a routine straight drive or volley drop, and Azan appeared to be getting frustrated with the lack of success.

“Is that even allowed?” wondered someone behind me, as Azan faked six shots before putting away a hard low crosscourt for a winner. Azan began to look for interference on the tighter shots, but the referees were having none of it. Several no lets were given, and Azan was given a conduct warning for excessive contact when down 6-10. Appropriately, it seemed, Weenink took the first game 11-6 on a decisive No Let call by the upstairs officials. Voices in the crowd wondered aloud if the pattern of play would decay to the level seen last year in Azan’s qualification match, an affair marred by excessive interference and conduct issues.

The second game began with a faster pace, Azan seemed to recognize he needed to change tactics after the opening game loss. Several lets punctuated the first point, and the crowd heaved a collective sigh. “Here we go again” said someone near the back of the grandstands. A stroke to Weenink followed by two No Lets gave the Dutchman the early 3-0 lead. Unlike his opponent, Weenink made every effort to play each ball despite occasional interference from Azan, earning congratulatory applause from the appreciative fans in attendance. Furious hitting by Azan earned him a point, but Weenink took the next two with steady length shots and another No Let, pulling ahead 6-1.

Some ridiculous short work by both players had the audience on the edge of their collective seat, with some polite golf clapping for a delightful nick by Azan. The Malaysian stormed back to 6-6 on the strength of aggressive play and some impeccable precision. The players pushed forward to 8-8 as they traded decisive crosscourts and tight drops. A quick stroke to Weenink followed by an incredible hold and flick, and Azan was suddenly down game ball at 8-10. One game ball was saved with a drop shot that found a comfortable resting place in the nick, but a disappointing tin spelled the end of Azan in the second game 11-9.

Here we go for the third game, the crowd firmly rooting for Weenink largely because of his workmanlike attitude, but also his enormous lumberjack style beard, which resonated with the Canuck locals. Azan came to play in this game, however, pulling ahead 2-0 with some tight drives followed by devastating drop shots. Weenink began to work the lob to the forehand back corner, catching Azan several times en route to a 2-2 scoreline. Azan raced forward to 7-3 as he began to find some form and began to play through some minor interference.

Weenink’s level was clearly slipping a bit, perhaps correlated with the increased redness of his face due to the extreme effort. Picking up his energy level a bit, Weenink won back two points on a deceptive trickle boast and a stroke on his approach to the front left which was prevented by the presence of Azan’s body. 9-5 now for Azan despite being tackled to the floor by the enthusiastic Weenink, who was only too keen to re-enact Azan’s theatrics to the delight of the viewing audience. At 10-6, Azan earned his first gameball as Weenink levitated his lob out of court, saving the next point on an extremely fast cutoff volley. Not willing to concede this game, Azan closed it out 11-7 after winning a prolonged counterdrop battle. According to local sports authority Tim Roberts, this was a spicy win for the Malaysian.

After some yeoman’s service by none other than local squash celebrity Mr. Carl Helmick mopping up the court floors, the crowd settled in for one more piece of free pizza and some entertaining squash. Azan seemed keen to build on his success in the preceding game, exerting his immense skill and constructing a 3-0 lead. A few minutes later we were level at 4-4 as Azan found the tin and Weenink began to regain some precision and footwork.

“He should do that all the time” remarked one young squash fan as Azan casually deposited another serve to the forehand nick. Azan fell to 5-6 down on a no-let followed immediately by a conduct stroke for abuse of equipment, extracting some degree of satisfaction by striking the offending floor with his racquet. The wheels started to come off Azan’s wagon as he continued to self-destruct, with Weenink enjoying a 9-6 lead on the strength of little more than steady play. The crowd erupted at Weenink’s lucky nick on that fading drive that took him to match ball at 10-6. Azan pirouettes to the front trying to avoid Weenink, but only receives a no let for his efforts as Weenink claims the final game 11-6 and the match 3 games to 1. The crowd seemed suitably pleased with this result.

By David Westwood

Diego Elias (PER) bt Cesar Salazar (MEX)  8-11, 3-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-9 (80m)

Despite less than two years of experience on the PSA World Tour and being lower in rank, those in the ‘squash-know’ would have favoured the rising star Diego Elias, having won the past two encounters against Cesar Salazar earlier this year. Those wins were far from one sided though (3-2 & 3-1), and from the first rally the squash crowd knew they were about to witness the unfolding of a battle between walls.

Salazar started solid, picking up all of Elias’ millimetre tight drops and took a 7-3 lead. Elias retaliated with slugger drive variations from the frontcourt directed straight at Salazar, which took ‘Matrix’ dodges to stay alive in the rally more than once. Elias didn't manage to get closer than within two points though, with the first game going to Salazar 11-8 after some outlandish rallies.

The second game saw Salazar run away quickly to a strong lead by exploiting loose cross courts and front court shots from Diego that Salazar read and pounced on early. With a dip in concentration resulting in two errors, Elias chose to tank the 2nd at 8-3, leading to an 11-3 and 2-0 for the Mexican.

The third and fourth saw both players demonstrating their expertise in varying the pace as the shots ranged from beautiful soft straight lobs and feather drops to bludgeoning drives and low kills on each side. It was Salazar’s turn to tank a game in the third as Elias rode a wave of energy to take it 11-5. The fourth also saw several strings of points from the Peruvian Puma to push the well-contested match into a nail biting fifth game.

After solid tight play from Elias to take the lead at 5-4, several close call appeals in Elias’s favour saw the animated Salazar vent his frustration to the squash gods above (the referees upstairs). Not a dull moment as the match became tied up at 7-7. “Absolutely nothing between them!” Tense rallies saw them level again at 9-9, but two decisive errors from the Salazar racquet gave the closest match of the night to Diego Elias.

By Jeff Scribner

Chris Gordon (USA) bt Shahir Razik (CAN) 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 11-6 (62m)

In the last match of qualifying which lasted 62 minutes, we saw a clash of North America. American and world #59 Chris Gordon played Canadian PSA veteran and world #108, Shahier Razik. This was their third time competing against each other. Gordon appeared determine to be on the winning side after losing last week in Montreal to Razik in 5.

Gordon came out on top winning the first game 11-9. Gordon started the second game strong taking a 4-0 lead but Razik fought back to tie it 5-5. There were some good rallies back and fourth but Razik's patience helped him win the game 11-6. The third game was another close one, with Gordon taking it 11-9. In the fourth, Gordon went up to a quick 7-2 lead after Shahier threw his racket in frustration and received a conduct stroke.

A last push by Razik to shorten the gap got him to 6-8. A let call for contact between the two lead to Gordon being rammed to the floor in Razik's attempt to keep the rally going. Gordon kept his focus on the main draw and took the game 11-6.

By Martin Dumas                                                            
more photos
                                                          Photos by Jim Neale and Farley MacLeod


27-Oct, Qualifying Round One:                   more photos

The first round of qualifying of the 2014 Fiera Properties Bluenose Squash Classic saw an enthusiastic crowd on hand to watch squash players from near and far. Some matches saw local hopeful challenge PSA tour professionals.

Other matches had professional players representing five continents dueling for an opportunity to move toward the main draw, which begins on Wednesday. Our four maritime hopefuls gave it their best efforts, but none were able to knock off the pros.

Former Bluenose champions, and Canadians, Shawn Delierre and Shahier Razik both successfully moved on to the second round of qualifying, while Sebastiaan Weeniink of the Netherlands pulled off a significant upset to move on as well.

Our team of reporters tell the stories ...

Shawn Delierre (CAN) bt Mike Buchanan (CAN) 11-8, 11-8, 11-3 (25m)

The first match saw PSA #60 Shawn Delierre play Prince Edward Island’s top player Mike Buchanan. This was Mike's second straight year being invited as a local qualifier. Mike was hoping to build on his experience last year and his goal this year was "to stay in the rally".

Accompanied by his mother, wife and 8-month-old daughter, Mike was excited to play Canada's top squash player. There was some great rallies between the two during the 25-minute match. Mike did his best to keep it close during the first two games, losing 11-8 both times, but Shawn took control in the third with some fancy front court boasting to take the third 11-3.

By Martin Dumas

Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS) bt Matt Bishop (CAN) 11-5, 11-6, 11-8 (24m)

Fresh from a big tournament win over the weekend, hometown favourite Matt Bishop was up for the challenge playing the enigmatic Muhd Asyraf Azan on storied court 3 at the Homburg Centre.

The long-time Nova Scotia #1 presented the best chance of an upset victory in the first round of qualification, and the local crowd was up for the challenge, quickly getting behind their champion. Bishop was in tough, falling quickly into a 0-4 hole as Azan controlled the play in the early going, much to the chagrin of the 20 or so Bishop family members in the front row. Shaking his head and looking down at his watch with a grimace, Bishop turned the heat up a few degrees and started pounding the ball with more confidence and authority, hitting a furious nick to earn a delighted roar from the crowd.

Azan fought back with his patented backhand cross-court nick, racking up two quick winners to jump ahead 6-1. Back and forth for a few rallies, Bishop pushed Azan with some penetrating lengths and pinpoint drops. Azan’s unorthodox racquet technique proved too much for Bishop’s defence as the world #63 surged to an 11-5 victory in the first game.

After some exquisite glass cleaning by the local crew of Kristian Lethbridge-Hall and Zach Petropolis, the play resumed with much encouragement from the crowd. Visibly buoyed by the support, Bishop came out firing, objecting to what he perceived was a missed ‘out’ call by the referees by slamming the ball past Azan to jump ahead 1-0. Azan fought back with some unretrievable nicks of his own, pulling ahead quickly 2-1. Down 5-1, Bishop passed up the opportunity to earn a stroke, opting instead to play the ball but ending up on the short end of the rally.

Not to be kept down, Bishop turned to his short game to win a few points with some millimetre precision shots that Azan could not excavate. Pulling close at 5-7, Bishop caught Azan wrong-footed and the Malaysian fell to the floor leaving a sweaty profile that quickly evaporated. Down 8-5 Bishop was called for a conduct warning after tapping the floor with his racquet a bit aggressively after failing to reach a drop shot in time. The crowd seemed puzzled by the harsh penalty for the relatively minor infraction and a buzz began to grow. Pulling ahead to 10-6, Azan quieted the crowd by putting the second game away with yet another backhand cross-court nick.

The third game saw the closest competition of the match, with Bishop and Azan trading points with some stunning holds, drops, and boasts, until Azan got his nose in front by two points at 8-6. The crowd was going wild with Bishop’s frantic efforts and attacking squash, and he fed off the energy by pulling to 8-9. After tinning a volley drop, Bishop stood at the precipice down match ball at 8-10. An Azan drop to the front left was just out of Bishop’s reach as the ‘not up’ call put an end to his dream of a second-round qualification match. The appreciate crowd gave Bishop a well-deserved roar as he exited the court, acknowledging his valiant effort against the deceptive and lethal Azan.

By David Westwood

Sebastiaan Weenink (NED) bt Alfredo Avila (MEX) 11-4, 11-5, 11-4 (39m)

One of the first round match-ups in the qualification phase, Weenink got the first few points early using his astounding retrieval skills in all four corners, bringing him to a 5-0 start. Avila replied with two drops in rapid succession, but Weenink remained consistent in applying pressure, forcing Avila to make a number of errors, with a final score of 11-4.

In the second game, Weenink maintained this intensity, playing aggressively, and making several winning drop shots for a quick 3-1 score. They traded points back and forth to make it a 7-3 game, before Weenink turned up the pace, resulting in an 11-5 result.

Weenink's hot streak continued in the third game, rapidly reaching a score of 6-2. The next rally was a long one, resulting in a let call, to Avila's dismay. He attempted to use this to his advantage, becoming more aggressive in the next few points, with a service return nick into the front left corner, followed by another kill shot into the back left corner. Ultimately however, Weenink remained unphased and triumphed with an 11-4 victory to take the match 3-0.

By Brian Reid

Cesar Salazar (MEX) bt Mike McCue (CAN) 11-7, 8-11, 11-5, 11-8 (46m)

You wouldn't have guessed that 87 world ranking positions separate the two players with how the match played out, but that just goes to show how competitive the world tour is at the moment. McCue started strong in every game, but it was the more experienced Salazar that kept calm and rallied on to gradually take apart his younger opponent.

Well-timed drops from the front of the court were McCue's strongest point converting shots. Unphased, Salazar fought through and in the late stages of the match finally started to play his trademark hold drops and flicks that put McCue scrambling to stay in the match. That didn't stop the Canadian's fighting spirit, and at the business end of the fourth game really looked like he would push to a fifth. It wasn't to be though, as Salazar outmanoeuvred his opponent and closed out the match at 46min. in the fourth.

By Jeff Scribner

Diego Elias (PER) bt Josh Rudolph (CAN) 11-2, 11-4, 11-4 (21m)

Diego Elias, the reigning World Junior Squash Champion, has had some significant upset victories on the PSA tour in recent months. Josh Rudolph, a native of Liscombe, Nova Scotia, now makes his home in Halifax. He represented Nova Scotia at the 1999 Canada Games.

In the first game, Elias’ play would best be described as steady and patient. Rudolph was often under pressure and forced into making errors. The first game was 11-2 for Elias. The second game began with the players trading points, and a 2-2 score, before Elias reeled off seven straight points to a 9-2 lead. Elias seemed to keep the pressure on Rudolph through the second, before taking it 11-4.

In the third game, Elias was more aggressive, hitting three nick winners in the front right corner, and appearing comfortable throughout, as he took the third game 11-4.

By Farley MacLeod

Chris Gordon (USA) bt [Q] Graham Kerford (CAN) 11-4, 11-6, 11-5 (20m)

One of the last matches of the night showcased another local player. The match was fast and furious, with Kerford jumping to a 2-0 lead in the first game. Gordon was able to close the gap to a 4-4 tie, and as he rapidly adjusted to the court, and scored 7 quick points to take the first game 11-4.

The pace continued with another solid start for Kerford, leading to a 3-3 score midway through the second game. The rallies were short and intense, as Gordon tightened up his game to pull away 10-4. Kerford fought back with 2 fast points, but Gordon closed it out with a front right drop for an 11-6 score.

Gordon maintained his momentum in the third game, going up 8-3. They traded points for the next few rallies but Gordon capitalized on his opportunities, preventing any comeback for Kerford, with Gordon winning the last game 11-5.

By Brian Reid

Shahier Razik (CAN) bt Martin Knight (NZL) 11-7, 11-5, 11-8 (54m)

Energy had been building all evening for what looked on paper to be one of the most intriguing first-round qualification matches. Local fan favourite and honorary Haligonian Martin Knight had been spotted earlier in the day noshing on some delicious carbohydrate glazed snacks at a local Tim Hortons, so he surely had the energy for the ever-patient Shahier Razik.

Coming off some injury trouble in recent tournaments, Razik was rumoured to be regaining his passion for the sport and posed a serious challenge for the higher-ranked Knight. The match began with a series of steady rallies, highlighting the precision and control of these talented athletes. Heads began shaking in the crowd as each successive drive came closer and closer to the sidewalls. Razik was gaining the advantage steadily, catching Knight moving the wrong way a few times, and floating some perfect lobs to the back corners. To the surprise of many, Razik surged out to an early 4-0 lead in the first as Knight struggled to gain control of the match.

The Canadian continued to control the play with some deceptive boasts that just cleared the top of the tin, catching Knight a few centimetres short. Razik captured a decisive 8-4 lead on an 80+ shot rally that had the crowd mesmerized and running out of superlatives. The play was remarkably clean, with no more than a few decisions asked of the referees, as both competitors were quick to clear their shots and allow their opponent access to the ball. Razik continued to move Knight to the front left corner with impeccable drop shots that put the New Zealander under tremendous pressure, often following up by floating cross-court lobs that caught Knight out of a position for easy winners. 11-7, and the crowd began to buzz as the underdog Razik captured the first game in a mere 22 minutes.

After the break, Knight brought in a new game plan and tried to stamp his seal on the match with more aggressive play, but the result was the same as Razik countered with deliberate, controlled drives and precise drops earning point after point until he held a 6-1 lead. Knight was simply unable to outmaneuver Razik on this occasion, as the Canadian continued to hit the corners and exert pressure on Knight even as the Kiwi crept to 5-8. The crowd continued to approve of the quality of shots by both players, delighting in the effortless movement of Razik and the explosive acceleration of Knight. Working the drop-lob sequence to perfection, Razik wrapped up the second game 11-5 and it seemed clear an upset was in the making.

The third game saw Knight forge his first lead of the match, pulling ahead 4-1 as Razik’s precision and control lapsed ever so slightly. Perhaps a comeback was on the way? Razik steadily worked his way back into the game with his traditional, patient approach, finding once more the form that served him so well in the first two games. At 7-7 it appeared that both players were gaining energy and enthusiasm, and the crowd was firmly behind Knight as they looked to extend this first evening of qualification matches.

At 8-all Razik pushed into Knight moving to the front left, earning a stroke despite Knight’s protests about the physical contact. Tinning the next shot, Knight surrendered the lead he had held all game, falling to 8-9 then 8-10 on a no-let that had the crowd debating the definition of a ‘retrievable’ ball. Completing the upset, Razik squeezed a ‘not up’ from Knight to take the third game 11-8 and the match 3 games to love.

By David Westwood

more photos
Photos by Jim Neale and Farley MacLeod

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Bluenose attracts world-class
squash players to Halifax

The Fiera Properties Bluenose Squash Classic has attracted one of the best line-ups of professional squash players in the tournament’s nine-year history.

Three world top-ten and two top-20 players will headline a contingent of 28 players from around the world. They will compete for a prize of $50K at the Homburg Centre for Health and Wellness at Saint Mary’s University, Oct. 27-Nov. 1.

“This line-up will produce some of the best squash ever seen here in Halifax,” said tournament chair and founder Zal Davar.

“We have upped the prize this year to $50,000 from $35,000 last year. This has generated a lot of interest on the Professional Squash Association tour. I am ecstatic about this draw.”

Headlining this year’s tournament will be Bluenose champion Miguel Angel Rodriguez of Columbia who will be defending his 2013 title. He is currently ranked world 13th.

Also competing will be top-seeded and world No. six ranked Borja Golan from Spain, Peter Barker, eighth, and Daryl Selby, tenth, both from England. All are veterans of the Bluenose tournament.

This year’s line-up also includes world top-30 players, including Cameron Pilley, Australia, 22nd, Stephen Coppinger, South Africa, 23rd, Adrian Waller, England, 27th and Alister Walker, Botswana, 30th.

Rounding out the 12 main draw entries are Tom Richards, England, 33rd, Mohamed Mohamed Abouelghar, Egypt, 38th.

Canadian Andrew Schnell is the wildcard entry. He is ranked 98th.

Sixteen qualifiers will compete to join the Main Round entries; four of them will complete the field.

Bluenose Classic gets boost

Fiera Properties Bluenose Squash Classic is pleased to announce that it is upgrading to a $50K International event on the PSA circuit.

This will make the Bluenose one of the biggest professional squash events in Canada.

The tournament, scheduled for Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, October 27 - November 1, will attract top professional squash athletes from all over the world.

“This is hugely exciting for the squash community and Halifax,” said Zal Davar, founder of the Bluenose. “There are few other sports that can attract the world’s top professionals to compete in Halifax each year.”

The jump from a $35K to a $50K purse is due to increased sponsorship from Halifax-based offshore services company Welaptega Marine and through on-going support from title sponsor Fiera Properties, also of Halifax, in addition to the core group of loyal sponsors.

Davar said the increased purse gets the attention of squash athletes planning their tournament schedules for the 2014-15 season.

This year the Bluenose will also launch a local charity modelled on the hugely successful Street Squash program which targets “under-represented” youth to participate in the sport of squash.

The Bluenose Tournament, now in its 9th year, is a favourite of PSA athletes because of its reputation for friendliness from the local squash community of enthusiasts, sponsors and volunteers.

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