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Cannon Kirk Homes Irish Open 2010
30 Aug - 04 Sep, Dublin, $25k+$25k

04-Sep, Finals:

[1] Madeline Perry (Irl) bt [5] Vanessa Atkinson (Ned)
           13/11, 11/7, 11/6 (44m)
[1] Azlan Iskandar (Mas) bt [Q] Borja Golan (Esp)
            11/9, 8/11, 9/11, 13/11, 11/5 (100m)

Fourth Irish title for Madeline
Arthur Curran reports

I am finding it a little difficult to find words to describe this match – superb, excellent, fantastic – even these do not do justice to what was one of the best ladies matches I have seen for some time.

Vanessa, #14 in the rankings, but formerly #1 and World Champion, took an early lead of 3/0, both players showing us already a fine array of strokes, but Madeline, #6 in the world, and having won this trophy in 2005, 2006 and 2007, semi finalist in 2008 and losing the final last year here to Alison Waters, wanting eagerly to regain the title, stayed in touch, but Vanessa opened the lead to 8/4.

However, Madeline then went on a burst with some sublime strokes and great tactics, with Vanessa gaining only one more point, that for a stroke call, and Madeline was on game ball at 10/9. Vanessa saved that one and taking the next point had game ball herself, but Madeline was not finished, with some lovely dainty drop shots levelled then took the game 13/11.

Vanessa again led early in the second 2/0, then Madeline eased in front 4/3, Vanessa took the initiative once more to lead 7/6, but then Madeline started a magnificent run of points to take the game 11/7. The third started in a similar way, Vanessa taking the lead 3/1, but then she seemed to tire quite quickly and Madeline allowed her only one more point before reaching match fall at 10/4.

Although Vanessa saved two match balls with two really sweet whort drops, Madeline was not letting go, taking the next point to win the game 11/6 and the match 3 – 0.

Another great triumph for Madeline in her home country following her recent success in the Australian Open, her first win over Vanessa and her fourth Irish Open title.

Azlan survives marathon

With #1seed and world ranked 14 Azlan Iskandar from Malaysia trying to win this event after losing in the final in 2008 to John White, and qualifier and world ranked 61, on his way back after a career threatening injury, Borja Golan from Spain, the winner here in Dublin in 2006, this promised to be a really good battle, and it proved to be even more worthy of this description – it was a war, albeit friendly, of attrition.

Azlan started much the stronger, easing out to lead 6/3, then taking game ball at 10/5, and although Borja saved four game balls, Azlan won out in the end to take the game 11/9. With both players playing great squash, in a very physical match, neither one wanted the other to take command, and in the second it was 5/1 to Borja early on, then 8/5. Azlan pulled level at 8/8 but Borja stayed stronger and levelled the match with the game at 11/8.

The third game was very even with the scores level up to 8/8, Borja took the next two for game ball, Azlan saved one but Borja took the next to win the game 11/9 and lead the match 2 games to 1. At 2/2 in the second Borja caught Azlan on the hip bone going through to retrieve a ball and he went down heavily with obvious pain in his hip, but after a few minutes injury break he was back on court looking none the worse for wear, and taking the next two points to lead 4/2. Borja then went on a run of 5, Azlan followed up with 3, it was 7/7, point for point then to 9/9, Borja taking match ball at 10/9 with a lovely long drop shot but then gave a stroke away, took the next point for another match ball, however Azlan took the game 13/11 thanks to two tins from Borja at the end.

So it was to be a deciding game, who was to win this very physical match? Borja took an early lead 3/2, but then seeming to be visibly tiring he managed only two more points whilst Azlan stayed stronger to take the game 11/5 and the match 3 games to 2.

A fantastic match lasting 100 minutes, and a great win for Azlan, but on his form this week Borja will not be long before he is back amongst the top rankings. Well played to both of them.

Well that brings to an end a great week of squash here in Dublin, and I have enjoyed myself here tremendously, apart from the squash the hospitality at the Fitzwilliam Club has been most enjoyable, and I am already looking forward to returning next year, health permitting.

Cannon Kirk Homes Irish Open 2010
30 Aug - 04 Sep, Dublin, $25k
Round One
01 Sep
02 Sep
03 Sep
04 Sep
[1] Azlan Iskandar (Mas)
11/5, 11/8, 11/3 (28 m
John Rooney (Irl)
[1] Azlan Iskandar
 11/5, 11/9, 11/4 (36m)
[8] Chris Simpson
[1] Azlan Iskandar

11/8, 11/4, 11/2 (38m)

[5] Chris Ryder

[1] Azlan Iskandar

 11/9, 8/11, 9/11, 13/11, 11/5 (100m)

[Q] Borja Golan

[8] Chris Simpson (Eng)
 11/7,11/3,11/5 46m
[Q] Kristian Frost (Den)
[3] Joey Barrington (Eng)
11/8, 3/11, 11/7, 11/5 (59m)
Yann Perrin (Fra)
[3] Joey Barrington
11/8, 11/7, 9/11, 11/8 (77m)
[5] Chris Ryder
[5] Chris Ryder (Eng)
11/6, 11/7, 11/5 (43m)
Julien Balbo (Fra)
[Q] Greg Marche (Fra)
13/11, 11/3, 11/7. 40m
[6] Davide Bianchetti (Ita)
[Q] Greg Marche
 11/7, 11/8, 12/10
[Q] Bradley Hindle
[Q] Greg Marche

8/11, 11/0, 9/11, 11/1, 11/4 (67m)

[Q] Borja Golan

[Q] Bradley Hindle (Mlt)
12/10, 12/10, 3/11, 4/11, 11/5. 68m
[4] Nicolas Mueller (Sui)
[Q] Borja Golan (Esp)
11/7, 11/8, 11/5. 44m
[7] Mark Krajcsak (Hun)
[Q] Borja Golan
11/7, 11/9, 11/7 (46m)
Mathieu Castagnet
Mathieu Castagnet (Fra)
9/11, 4/11, 11/4, 11/4, 11/5. 72m
[2] Stewart Boswell (Aus)
Qualifying - Finals

Borja Golan (ESP) bt Joel Hinds (ENG)                               12/10, 11/1, 11/2 (42 mins)
Brandley Hindle (MLT) bt Shaun Le Roux (ENG)   11/6, 11/7, 5/11, 8/11, 11/8 (93 mins)
Kristian Frost Olesen (DEN) bt Matthew Karwalski (AUS) 11/4, 10/12, 11/2, 11/7 (48 m)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Jaymie Haycocks (ENG)                 11/9, 11/5, 11/6 (33 mins)

Qualifying - 1st round

(1) Borja Golan (ESP) beat Ben Ford (ENG) 11/4, 11/4, 11/2. (30 mins)
(5/8) Joel Hinds (ENG) beat Jens Schoor (GER) 12/10, 8/11, 11/5, 11/5. (50 mins)
(3/4) Shaun Le Roux (ENG) beat Derek Ryan (IRE) 11/7, 11/7, 11/7. (31 mins)
(5/8) Bradley Hindle (MLT) beat Arthur Gaskin (IRE) 11/9, 11/7, 11/4. (40 mins.)
(5/8) Kristian Frost (DEN) beat Neil Hitchens (ENG) 11/6, 11/7, 5/11, 12/10. (59mins)
(3/4) Matt Karwalski (AUS) beat Keith Moran (IRE) 11/8, 11/2, 11/2. (21 mins)
Jaymie Haycocks (ENG) beat (5/8) Pedro Schweetman (NED) 14/16, 11/4, 11/3, 8/11, 11/9. (69mins)
(2) Gregoire Marche (FRA) beat Niall Rooney (IRE) 11/7, 11/9, 11/7 (29 mins)

Cannon Kirk Homes Irish Open 2010
30 Aug - 04 Sep, Dublin, $25k
Round One
01 Sep
02 Sep
03 Sep
04 Sep
[1] Madeline Perry (Irl)
11/9, 11/4, 11/4 (25 mins)
[Q] Sina Wall (Ger)
[1] Madeline Perry
 11/7, 11/5, 11/2 (25m)
[Q] Victoria Lust
[1] Madeline Perry

8/11, 11/9, 13/11, 11/9 (66m)

[4] Laura Massaro

[1] Madeline Perry

13/11, 11/7, 11/6 (44m)

[5] Vanessa Atkinson

[8] Alana Miller (Can)
11/8, 11/6, 11/8. (37m)
[Q] Victoria Lust (Eng)
[4] Laura Massaro (Eng)
11/5, 11/2, 11/4 (25m)
Alexandra Norman (Can)
[4] Laura Massaro
 7/11, 11/2, 8/11, 11/3, 11/8. (60m)
[6] Sarah Kippax
[6] Sarah Kippax (Eng)
10/12,11/8, 11/7, 11/3, 44 m
[Q] Laura Hill (Eng)
[Q] Leonie Holt (Eng)
 11/7, 11/6, 9/11, 11/6. (45m)
[7] Aisling Blake (Irl)
[7] Aisling Blake
11/4, 11/4, 9/11, 11/3 (42m)
[3] Natalie Grinham
[7] Aisling Blake

11/8, 11/6, 12/10 (37m)

[5] Vanessa Atkinson

Annelize Naudé (Ned)
 11/8, 3/11, 11/5, 8/11, 11/5. (36m)
[3] Natalie Grinham (Ned)
Lauren Siddall (Eng)
11/3, 11/3, 117. (23m)
[5] Vanessa Atkinson (Ned)
[5] Vanessa Atkinson
11/7, 11/6, 11/7 (23m)
[2] Natalie Grainger
Sharon Wee (Mas)
 11/4, 11/6, 11/6. (20m)
[2] Natalie Grainger (Usa)

Qualifying Finals:

Sina Wall (GER) bt Maud Duplomb (FRA)           7/11, 12/10, 11/5, 11/6 (49 mins)
Leonie Holt (ENG) bt Laura Pomportes (FRA)                11/9, 11/2, 11/7 (27 mins)
Laura Hill (ENG) bt Samantha Cornett (CAN)                11/8, 11/9, 11/7 (28 mins)
Victoria Lust (ENG) bt Lotte Eriksen (NOR)                    11/4, 11/4, 11/5 (29 mins

Qualifying Round One:

Maud Duplomb (FRA) beat Sandra Polak (AUT) 11/7, 11/3, 11/8. (20 mins)
Sina Wall (GER) beat Emily Whitlock (ENG) 11/5, 11/7, 11/7. (32 mins)
Laura Pomportes (FRA) beat Carrie Ramsay (ENG) 11/8, 11/8, 11/8. (31 mins)
Leonie Holt (ENG) beat Celia Allamargot (FRA) 7/11, 6/11, 11/7, 12/10, 11/6. (43mins)
Samantha Cornett (CAN) beat Zephanie Curgenven (ENG) 13/11, 11/5, 8/11, 9/11, 11/5. (37mins)
Laura Hill (ENG) beat Coline Aumard (FRA) 11/4, 11/8, 11/2 (18 mins)
Lotte Erikson (NOR) beat Olga Ertlova (CZE) 11/4, 11/9, 11/9 (47 mins)
Victoria Lust (ENG) Bye.

03-Sep, Semis:
Top seed to face qualifier in final
Arthur Curran reports (first match by Daniel Flower)

First match for the semi finals of the men was Azlan Iskandar vs Chris Ryder. From the beginning you could see Iskandar was the dominant player, forcing himself onto the T and not letting any balls get past him. Chris was forced to put in a lot of work in the first game and eventually losing out 11/8.

The next 2 games proved to difficult for Chris with Iskandar striking the ball with accuracy and finesse. Chris looked to tired after his marathon of a game yesterday. Iskandar took the next two games with ease and eventually won the match 11/8, 11/4, 11/2 in 38 minutes.

The second semi final in the men’s competition was between the two qualifiers, #61 in the world rankings, but once as high as 10, Borja Golan from Spain, still on his come back from a career threatening injury, against # 80 in the world, the rapidly rising 20 year old Gregoire Marche from France.

This match really did pit the up and coming youngster against the more mature and experienced Spaniard, and what a pleasure it was to watch such a good match. The first game started off very evenly, Marche covering every square inch of the court and Golan showing his majestic strokes whilst holding the T. 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, 6/6 – it could not have been any closer, with both players giving nothing away. But then the younger player found a little extra energy to squeeze in front, and finally took the game 11/8.

The second game was completely different, and the score of 11/0 to Golan says enough – Marche seemed to have run out of steam. He came back strongly in the next, keeping slightly in front up to9/6, Golan pulled one back, Marche had game ball at 10/7, Golan saved one but lost out on the next point, game to Marche 11/9. So, the young Frenchman was ahead 2 – 0, and deservedly so with the great squash he was playing, recovering some wonderful shots from all over the court, but could he sustain this form? Certainly not in the fourth game, as Golan raced away again to take this game 11/1.

Marche started well in the decider, taking an early 3/1 lead, but then Golan showed his experience and maturity, slowed the play down and went on to take the game 11/4, and the match 3 – 2 after an amazing 67 minutes of squash. So all credit to Golan for a fine win as he continues his comeback, but also great credit to young Marche for playing so well throughout this tournament, and I certainly look forward to seeing this young man again in the near future.

No all-Irish final

The obvious hope for the tournament and the club tonight was that both the Irish girls could get through to the final, but two other players were there to try and ensure that did not happen.

First up was No 1 seed, WR 6, favourite Irish player Madeline Perry, fresh from a fantastic victory in the Australian Open, playing No 4 seed WR 8 Laura Massaro from England, just coming back from a short lay off with an ankle injury, and the figures showed that this was going to be a very close match.

In the first, from 1/1, Madeline raced away to 6/1, Laura then went on a burst of her own to lead 7/6, only a tin from herself stopping that run, then despite Madeline levelling at 8/8 Laura seemed the stronger to take the game 11/8. Madeline eased into a 5/1 lead in the second then with Laura scoring points in pairs and Madeline singles, she just managed to hold out to win the game 11/9.

In the next it was Laura who went into an early lead 5/2, Madeline pulled back to 6/5, Laura then came in strong to lead 10/7, Madeline saved 3 game balls to level at 10/10, Laura had a fourth match point at 11/10, but then Madeline levelled and went on to win the game 13/11. This time Madeline took an early lead 5/1 and despite a great fight back by Laura to stay in the game Madeline led 10/6 match ball.

Laura saved 3 but could do no more as Madeline took the next point to win the game 11/9 and the match 3 – 1, to the satisfaction of the large crowd who showed their appreciation for a good win for the Irish girl.

The crowd was now hoping for a second Irish victory, with local player and No7 seed Aisling Blake playing No 5 seed and former No 1 ranked player Vanessa Atkinson.

Slowly Aisling moved ahead to lead 7/5, with both ladies playing excellent squash, but Vanessa finished much the stronger and won the game 11/8. This time Vanessa pulled out a 5/0 lead , Aisling fought back bravely to 6/8, but could not stop Vanessa taking the game 11/6.

The third game went backwards and forwards, with Aisling taking the first 3 points, Vanessa taking 2, Aisling taking another 2, Vanessa 3 and Aisling 2 to leave Aisling in the lead at 8/5, but Vanessa then took 5 points straight to lead 10/6 match ball, Aisling held on to level at 10/10, but Vanessa showed her strength to finish it off at 12/10 and take the match 3 – 2.

Another great game of squash with the crowd completely in favour of local girl Aisling, but Vanessa showing some of the old sparkle she had when she was No 1 in the World.

So now we are set for a great final between Madeline Perry and Vanessa Atkinson at 2.00 pm.

02-Sep, Quarters:
A qualifier in the final, for sure ...

First up for the men today was #1seed Azlan Iskandar from Malaysia, against #8 seed Chris Simpson from England. With Iskandar ranked at 14 and Simpson at 52, the difference was quite clear in the play, and although Simpson fought very bravely to stay in the match, particularly in the second game, Iskandar won the match 11/5, 11/9, 11/4 in 36 minutes.

The second men’s match on court turned out to be a marathon, as most people here expected it to be, between two Englishmen, #3 seed Joey Barrington and #5 seed Chris Ryder. The first game was one of attrition, with long rallies along the walls, and the score kept fairly level but with Ryder slightly ahead all the time, until he finished the game at 11/8. In the second, Barrington got off to a good start leading 3/0 then 6/3, but Ryder with two good hands in took the game 11/7. Again Barrington got off to an early lead, Ryder got back in slowly and levelled at 6/6, then 8/8, but remained the stronger this time and won 11/9. Fourth game started in the same way, level up to 6/6, Barrington took two points but then Ryder finished very strongly to take the game 11/8 and the match 3 – 0 in a long 77 minutes.

The third quarter final in the men’s event was between two qualifiers, Frenchman Gregoire Marche and Bradley Hindle from Malta. Some great squash from these two who I personally had never watched before, and each game was very tight score-wise, particularly in the third, with Marche just keeping slightly ahead throughout to take the match 11/8, 11/8, 12/10 in 47 minutes.

He'll meet fellow qualifier Borja Golan for a place in the final after the Spaniard beat Mathieu Castagnet is straight games, 11/7, 11/9, 11/7.

All-Irish finals a possibility ...

First up in the women's event were No 1 seed and Irish favourite Madeline Perry against the young English player Victoria Lust, the only qualifier to make her way through to the quarter finals. Victoria is not yet used to playing against top ranked players, but she is certainly learning very quickly, and seems to improve every time I see her play. Madeline showed her experience and skill to take a 10/4 lead in the first with Victoria, although fighting hard, seeming to find the pace a little too quick, but she did save 3 game balls before Madeline took the game 11/7. In the second Victoria picked up the odd single point in between some short breaks from Madeline, and Madeline served out to take the game 11/5. With Victoria visibly tiring, Madeline worked hard into a 9/1 lead, Victoria managed to take two points at this stage but Madeline then served out to take the game 11/3 and the match 3 games to nil in 25 minutes.

Second ladies match up was between two England team mates, #4 seed Laura Massaro and #6 seed Sarah Kippax, so this was expected to be quite a close encounter, which it proved to be. Laura seemed a little out of sorts in the first game and Sarah, 16 places below her in the rankings, took advantage of this, playing some great squash, and won the game 11/7. Laura came out much more determined in the second, and flew into a 7/0 lead, Sarah stopped the flow slightly with 2 points, but then Laura carried on to win the game 11/2. Laura moved out to an early 5/3 lead but Sarah slowly pulled back to 6/5, then 9/7, and finally took the game 11/8 to lead 2 – 1. In the fourth, from 3/3 Laura put in a great run of points to take the game 11/3 and level the match. Laura scored the first point of the deciding game, before Sarah galloped in to a 6/1 lead, but with a beautiful cross court drop Laura stopped that gallop and went on a good run of her own to move into the lead 7/6. Although Sarah fought back to lead 8/7, with both players playing some lovely shots, Laura came back at the end with a run of 4 points to win the game 11/8 and the match 3 – 2 after just on an hour of very enjoyable squash.

Third quarter final saw local favourite and #7 seed Aisling Blake take on new mum #3 seed Natalie Grinham from Holland. The gallery was quite full for this one with plenty of support for their local player Aisling, and as the match progressed it got fuller and fuller. Natalie did appear to be a little out of sorts but Aisling was in scintillating form and played probably the best squash of her career. To the delight of the crowd she took the first two games 11/4, 11/4 and club members seemed to be appearing from everywhere. Natalie was determined not to let her have all her own way however, starting to show some of her natural skills, taking a 6/2 lead, but Aisling pulled back to level at 6/6, then they stayed level to 9/9, and Natalie showed her strength to take the game 11/9. But that was to be the end of any possible comeback, Aisling with some beautiful stroke play went into a 7/0 lead, slowed only by giving Natalie two points with mistakes, one tin and one out of court, then at 10/2 match ball, with the crowd really buzzing, Natalie saved one match ball with a lovely cross court drop, but Aisling took the next point to win 11/7 and the match 3 – 0. The crowd went wild with applause, and deservedly so. How about that then?? And it was not the luck of the Irish, Aisling played brilliantly and really deserved this win, which she describes as the best win of her career.

She was so happy afterwards, with her parents there to congratulate her, and the whole club (her local club here at Fitzwilliam) was and still is buzzing. A great result not just for Aisling but for the tournament itself, with her being a local girl. Natalie had no complaints and certainly no excuses, although not back to full fitness since having baby Kieran, she told me “ I was beaten by a better player on the day".

In the last quarter final match there was another albeit minor shock to the seedings when #5 seed Vanessa Atkinson from Holland played #2 seed Natalie Grainger of the USA. With Natalie sparkling only in patches, and not looking really back to full fitness after her 12 month long lay off with a foot injury, Vanessa took advantage playing some really good squash, and won the match 11/7, 11/6, 11/7 in just 23 minutes.

So here in Dublin, with an Irish player in each semi final there is the possibility of an all Irish Final. How good would that be for this tournament and for Irish Squash? But we will have to wait and see, because Laura and Vanessa will definitely have some say in the matter.

Round One in Dublin
Arthur Curran reports

Seeds tumble in the Men's

First up in the men’s competition caused a little upset in the seedings, with a Franco/Italian match up. 20 year old Frenchman Gregoire Marche was up against Italian veteran Davide Bianchetti, a player 40 places higher in the world rankings. Bianchetti started off strongly taking an early 8/2 lead, Marche pulled back to 6/8, but Bianchetti pulled out to 10/7 game ball. However, the younger man proved stronger, taking four straight points for game ball at 11/10, but Bianchetti took the next to level up. On the next point Bianchetti got very upset over a no-let call, and while he was angry with the referee Marche serve out to take the game 13/11. Bianchetti continued to vent his anger at the referee throughout the game break, and on resumption was still showing his upset, allowing Marche to take a 5/3 lead, and then carry on to serve out the game 11/3. Although Bianchetti took the lead 7/4 in the third, he then suddenly seemed to give up on the game, and Marche served out to take the game 11/7 and the match 3 – 0. A good result for the youngster.

The second match saw another qualifier, Bradley Hindle from Malta playing the 21 year old No 4 seed Nicolas Mueller from Switzerland. Both players looked fresh and strong from the start and the first two games were very level right through up to a tie breaker in each, with Hindle taking them both 12/10. In the third Hindle took an early 5/1 lead, but then the younger player Mueller took over, allowing his opponent only one more point, and won the game 11/6. Again Mueller proved the stronger and took an early lead 4/0, and although Hindle pulled back to 4/5 Mueller took six straight points to win the game, and take the match to a decider. After taking an early lead 3/1, Mueller then seemed to run out of steam and the older player rolled out the points to take the game 11/5, and the match 3 games to 2. Another match against the seedings.

Third match saw another qualifier, Borja Golan from Spain, against No 7 seed Mark Krajscak from Hungary, ranked 14 places above him in the rankings. The general feeling here is that Golan is getting back near his best after a long injury lay off, and this proved correct in this match, which he won in 3 games 11/7, 11/8, 11/5, although it took a very tough 44 minutes to do so.

Fourth match turned out to be quite an upset to the seedings, despite No 2 seed and WR 18 Stewart Boswell taking a 2 – 0 lead over WR 53 Mathieu Castagnet from France, then in 9 and 14 minutes respectively Castagnet came back and took the next two games 11/4 each. Was this to be an upset? It certainly was, because although he was down 4/5, Castagnet found a fresh wind and took the next 7 points straight to win the game 11/5 and the match 3 – 2, in a tremendous match lasting 72 minutes.

Next up was Englishman Joey Barrington, No 3 seed, WR 29, against unseeded Frenchman Yann Perrin, WR 58. Early points see- sawed up to 4/4, but then Barrington took a run of 4 points, Perrin took a run of 4 with Barrington taking 1, then Barrington served out to take the game 11/8. Perrin really came strongly into the match in the second, with some good short bursts of points to take the game 11/3. The third was a decider, Perrin leading at 4/2, Barrington fighting back to 5/4, and then slowly, two points at a time he moved ahead to take the game 11/7. Barrington then took control and although Perrin put up a brave fight Barrington took the game 11/5 finally, and the match 3 – 1.

And so we come to another English/French contest, this time between No 6 seed, WR 39, Englishman Chris Ryder and Frenchman Julien Balbo, WR 56. Expecting a close contest, it was surprising to see Ryder take an early lead 10/2, and although Balbo saved 4 game points, Ryder took the game 11/6. Although the next was much closer, the players sharing the points evenly up to 6/6, Ryder eased away to win the game 11/7. In the third, Ryder took an early 3/0 lead, Balbo pulled back to 4/3, Ryder again took the lead at 6/4, and although Balbo took the next point, Ryder took 5 straight to win 11/5 and the match 3 – 0 in 43 minutes.

Next up was the last Irish hope in the men’s competition, John Rooney, against the No 1 seed and favourite for the tournament Azlan Iskandar from Malaysia. In the first Iskandar was much too strong for Rooney, taking the game 11/5. The second game started much better for Rooney, cheered on by the small but vociferous crowd, he took a 5/1 lead but then Iskandar eased himself back in to the game to 6/8, then eased away with 5 straight points to win the game 11/8. The third was much easier for Iskandar, with Rooney very visibly tiring in his last match before moving to the USA to start a coaching career (more of which later) and he eased comfortably through to win the game 11/3 and the match 3 – 0 in 28 minutes.

The last match on the men’s court pitched No 8 seed Englishman Chris Simpson from Guernsey against qualifier Kristian Frost Olesen from Denmark. In a very hard fought close first game lasting 15 minutes Simpson managed to hold out for a win, despite Olesen saving 3 game balls, at 11/9. In the next two Simpson eased away gradually to take them 11/3 and 11/5 and the match 3 – 0 in 46 minutes.

So that was the men’s first round completed, with a few surprises against the seedings in the bottom half of the draw, but the top half going in favour of the seeds. Some good matches to look forward to tomorrow (or later today).

Dutch doing well, seeds strong ...

The first two matches in the women’s draw were over rather quickly, with first former World No 1 Vanessa Atkinson of Holland defeating her friend and Pontefract club mate Lauren Siddall quite comfortably 11/3, 11/3, 11/7 in 28 minutes.

Then another former World No1 Natalie Grainger defeating Sharon Wee of Malaysia 11/4, 11/6, 11/6 in the even shorter time of 20 minutes.

The third match between No 8 seed Alana Miller, just named in Canada’s squad for the Commonwealth games, and qualifier Vicky Lust of England turned out to be much more of a battle. The first game was really a battle, both ladies playing very strongly, the score moved up slowly and evenly up to 8/8, then Lust eased away to serve out 11/8. The second started a little slower up to 3/3, but then Lust put in a charge to go to 8/3. Despite Miller taking two points back at this stage, and saving one match ball at 10/5, Lust hung on to win 11/6. In the third the lead changed hands several times with both players doing their best to take control, which Lust did in the end to win 11/8 and the match 3 – 0. A really good win for young Victoria against a player ranked 24 places higher in the world.

The fourth match up was between the two Dutch compatriots Annelize Naude and Natalie Grinham, in her first match since having baby Kieran (he is already the star of the tournament here, more about that later). Natalie looked very fit and took a good early lead 8/2, playing her usual lovely squash, but Annelize stayed in the game and pulled it back to 8/9, then Natalie took he next two points and the game 11/8. Annelize led 4/1 in the second, Natalie pulled back to level, Annelize took the next point but that was to be her last in this game, Natalie taking 7 straight points to win the game 11/5.

In the fourth, Natalie looked not quite back to full match fitness and Annelize took advantage of this with some great squash and after a four point sequence to go 9/5 up, held on to win 11/8. 2 games each and a decider to play. Natalie came back with her usual bouncy style, led 5/2 and 9/4 then served out to win the game 11/5 and the match 3 – 2.

A great match between two really nice women, and a good workout for Natalie, who told me she just needs to play more top level games, but unfortunately may not be able to before the World Open.

Next on the ladies court was local player and local favourite Aisling Blake, seeded No 7 and WR 26, up against the English qualifier WR 155 Leonie Holt. Leonie, despite her much lower ranking, showed to be a really gutsy player as she did in qualifying, kept fairly close to Aisling on the score card, but Aisling with her lovely dainty drop shots and her Irish grit eased away to win the first two games 11/7 and 11/6. But Leonie was not to be outdone, and in a gruelling third game she managed to win 11/9. This really was a great effort from Leonie, considering the difference in their rankings, but despite keeping fairly close to Aisling in the fourth, experience showed through in the end with Aisling taking the game 11/6 and the match 3 – 1 in a long 45 minutes. This was probably the biggest match of Leonie’s career and her coach Chris Ryder, just managing time to watch her before he took to the court in the men’s competition, was really happy with her performance.

Now we come to the No 1 seed and favourite for this tournament, Irish player Madeline Perry, WR 6, who was up against a young up and coming qualifier from Germany, qualifier Sina Wall, WR 212 (yes that is correct), who had fought so well through the qualifying rounds. She carried on that fighting spirit her in the first game and whilst never heading Madeline, she kept very close to her in the scoring, just losing out 11/9. Then Madeline showed her experience and skills, easing through 11/4 and 11/4 in the next two games. But keep an eye out for this youngster from Germany, I think she could go far in the next few years. But at least that pleased the local supporters, with now 2 Irish ladies through to the next round.

Still a couple more matches to go, with No 4 seed Laura Massaro from England easing through fairly comfortably against the young Canadian player Alexandra Norman, who is ranked 50 places below her, 11/5, 11/2, 11/4, despite a knock in the eye which could come up fairly black tomorrow. If it does nobody can blame husband Danny for causing it!!

Last up were two English ladies, No 6 seed Sarah Kippax, recently married to England coach David Campion, and full time fire fighter and part time, but very experienced, squash player Laura Hill from Derbyshire in England. Laura started out like a house on fire (pardon the pun) taking a great 10/2 lead, and despite Sarah pulling back to level at 10/10 she served out to take the game 12/10. However, Sarah then showed her much more tournament experience, along with her great racquet skills, to take the next 3 games 11/8, 11/7 and 11/3.
And so we came to the end of a really exciting and entertaining day of Squash, with some great matches to look forward to later today.

Qualifying complete in Dublin
Arthur Curran reports

Here we were back at the Fitzwilliam Club in Dublin for the second day of qualifying, with 8 men and 8 women fighting for four places each in tomorrow’s main draw first round.

The day opened with the first men’s match between qualifier favourite Borja Golan against the young English player Joel Hinds. Despite Borja being much more experienced Joel battled to an early 8/5 lead and a game ball at 10/9, but could not sustain it and Borja served out 12/10. The experience of Borja certainly showed in the second, taking the game comfortably 11/1. Borja took an early 5/2 lead in the third, Joel levelled out to 6/6, but then only took one more point before Borja served out to take the game 11/7 and the match 3 – 0 in 47 minutes.

Up next in the men’s was Shaun Le Roux of England against the Malta born player Bradley Hindle, recently based in Holland, and this turned out to be a battle of attrition lasting 93 minutes. Hindle led early at 3/0, La Roux took 9 straight points to lead 9/3, Hindle pulled back to 7/9, but la Roux got to game ball first at 10/9. However Hindle fought to level up at 10/10 and a very evenly played tie break finished with Hindle taking the game 14/12. La Roux was a little slow starting in the second and was soon 3/8 down and despite pulling four points back Hindle served out to take the game 11/7. La Roux really started fighting back then, both players getting frustrated with the referee, and he took the next two games 11/5 and 11/9. Neither player was willing to concede this match easily, and the decider went evenly to 5/5, but then Hindle took four straight points to lead 9/5, La Roux pulled back 3 points, but Hindle served out to take the game 11/8 and the match 3 – 2 after over an hour and a half.

Next up on the men’s court saw Kristian Frost Olesen from Denmark against Matthew Kawalski from Australia. Olesen, ranked 90 in the world, proved much too strong for the young Australian, although Kawalski hung in to take the second game 12/10 Olesen took the match 11/4, 10/12, 11/2, 11/7 in 48minutes. Last up was Frenchman Gregoire Marche playing against Englishman Jamie Haycocks, a player 21 places below him in the world rankings. Although Jamie put up a great fight he lost out to the higher ranked player, Marche winning 11/9, 11/5, 11/6 in 33 minutes.

The first ladies match was Maud Duplomb of France (world ranking 67) against Sina Wall of Germany (WR 85). The first game found both ladies playing very long and strong, and were very level up to 7/7, but then Maud played a few short shots and won the game 11/7 with three very good drop shots. The second game was very even again playing long up to 9/9, Maud took the first game ball at 10/9 but Sina then produced some lovely shots to take the game 12/10. Sina then stormed into a 9/3 lead in the third with Maud seeming to tire, and despite Maud taking another 3 points Sina won the game 11/5. Again in the fourth Maud seemed to be tiring and Sina took the game 11/6 and the match 3 – 1 in 49 minutes.

Next up for the ladies were Laura Pomportes of France (WR 75) and Leonie Holt of England (WR 97). The first game up was a very even battle with both players taking point for point, but at 9/9 Leonie served out for the game at 11/9. Leonie proved much stronger and better in the second winning quite comfortably 11/2. The third was again very even up to 6/5 for Laura, but then Leonie again took charge taking six of the next seven points to take the game 11/7 and the match 3 – 0.

A great win for Leonie against a player more than 20 places above her in the rankings, and her coach, PSA player Chris Ryder, who arrived here just in time to watch his charge, said afterwards “That was the best game I have ever seen her play”. And Leonie followed up with “ That was my best win ever”. Well done to her. That win now gives her a first round match against local player and local favourite Aisling Blake.

Up next was Samantha Cornett of Canada (WR 89) v Laura Hill of England (WR 117) and despite the ranking difference it was felt that Laura, the full time firefighter from Derbyshire in England, would be too strong for the young Canadian. And so it proved, although Samantha gave a really good showing for such a youngster, but lost out to the much more experienced Laura 11/8, 11/9, 11/7.

Last up for the ladies was Victoria Lust of England (WR 61) against Lotte Eriksen of Norway (WR 106), with a difference of 45 places in the rankings surely Victoria would prove much too strong for Lotte, and so it proved, with Victoria winning fairly comfortably 11/4, 11/4, 11/5 in 29 minutes. She now plays Alana Miller in the main draw.

Some really good matches today, with the English ladies coming out on top with three players out of the four going through to the first round main draw.

Under way at last in Dublin
Arthur Curran reports

Men's Qualifying:

The men’s competition here in Dublin started off with Borja Golan, a former winner here in Dublin, and the favourite to go through qualifying, taking a fairly comfortable win over Ben Ford from England 11/4, 11/4, 11/2 in 30 minutes.

England’s Joel Hinds found it a little more difficult to dispose of Jens Schoor from Germany, winning the first on a tie break 12/10,losing the second game 8/11, but then fought back strongly to take the next two games 11/5,11/5, for a 3 – 0 win. The times of some of the matches were then changed to allow some of the local players to play at a time when hopefully more local supporters may be at the club.

Next up was the first of the local players, Keith Moran, up against Australian Matthew Kawalski, who has recently based himself in Manchester. Although Keith held on defiantly in the first game, Matt took that 11/8, then took the next two games 11/2, 11/2 to win quite comfortably.

The next match paired Englishman Neil Hitchens against Kristian Frost Olesen from Denmark, and this was much more a match of attrition, with neither player wanting to give much ground, but Olesen took the first two games 11/6, 11/7, but Hitchens came back to take the third 11/5 and hopefully make a fight of it, but although taking the fourth to a tie break he lost out in the end, Olesen winning the game 12/10 and the match 3 – 0.

Next came another of the Irish players, Arthur Gaskin, and although he again fought valiantly as all Irish men will do he lost out in the end to Bradley Hindle from Malta, who won 11/9, 11/7, 11/4 in a very exciting 40 minutes.

Yet another Irishman followed, this time Niall Rooney was up against Gregoire Marche from France and although all the games were very close up to the closing stages the Frenchman won 11/7, 11/9, 11/7 in 29 minutes.

Yet again another Irishman, local boy Derek Ryan freshly back only yesterday from his resounding success in winning the World Masters Open Championship Men’s Over 40’s title in Cologne, Germany. Unfortunately the week’s exertions must have taken too much out of him, because although he fought well he lost out to Shaun Le Roux 11/7, 11/7, 11/7 in 31 minutes.

The last match proved to be a marathon, with Jamie Haycocks of England winning out in the end over Dutchman Pedro Schweetman in a match lasting 69 minutes.

Women's Qualifying:

The women’s matches, being played on an adjacent court to the men’s, caused a few problems for the writer, because there were quite a few stairs to negotiate between the two courts, but he soldiered on bravely. There were good contingents representing England, with six players, and France with four, along with five other nationalities, and honours came out fairly even.

First up was one of the French favourites Maud Duplomb, who held off a strong challenge from Austrian Sandra Polak to win 11/7, 11/3, 11/8 in 20 minutes.

Next up was Emily Whitlock, the 16 year old from England against the rather more experienced Sina Wall of Germany, and despite Emily taking an early lead in each of her three games she was not strong enough to hold off the challenge, and Sina went on to win 11/5, 11/7, 11/7 in 32 minutes.

Next the first of the France/England clashes, of which there were three.

Young Carrie Ramsey from England, up against more experienced Laura Pomportes, fought very bravely, leading 8/5 in the first but Pomportes coming back in great style to take the game 11/8. The second game was very even up to 5/5, but then Pomportes zoomed ahead to 10/5, and despite Carrie saving 3 game balls, she took the second 11/8 again. In the third Carrie took a 7/4 lead but Laura took 7 of the next 8 points to win again 11/8, taking the match 3 – 0 in 31 minutes.

The third match was another France/England clash, and this turned out to be a sizzler. Celia Allamargot from France took a 5/2 lead against Leonie Holt of England in the first game, Leonie pulled back to 5/5, Celia then took 5 straight points to go 10/5. Although Leonie saved 2 game balls Celia took the next to win the game 11/7.

In the second from 3/3 Celia stormed up to 9/3 and although Leonie pulled back three points Celia went on to win the game 11/6. Was this to be another 3 – 0 to France over England? Well not if Leonie had anything to do with it, she was certainly not going down without a fight. Pulling back from 3/1 down in the third to lead 4/3 then 7/4, they traded point for point up to 11/7, game to Leonie.

The small crowd, made up mainly of the other English and French players, were very noisy in their support for their own players, and they both fought valiantly, with long hard rallies and a few mistakes. Leonie took a 4/0 lead, Celia pulled back to lead 5/4, again Leonie pulled back to lead 7/5, Celia levelled at 7/7, then 8/8, 9/9 and 10/10, tie breaker. Leonie then took the next two points and the game 12/10.

Two games each, and both girls fighting really hard to win the match with some great rallies and fantastic shots. The decider was fairly even up to 5/5, Leonie then took 4 points in a row to lead 9/5, Celia pulled one back but Leonie took the next two to win the game 11/6 and the match 3 – 2.

What a fantastic comeback and a fabulous match played as usual in a great spirit.

Zephanie Curgenven of England only got notification of her place in the qualifying round on Saturday whilst she was on holiday in her birthplace of Guernsey, travelled over to Ireland yesterday, Sunday, and went straight into action against a much more experienced Samantha Cornett from Canada.

Both ladies started off very evenly, going up to 8/8, then Samantha took 2 points, 10/8game ball, but Zephanie took the next 3 points to lead 11/10 game ball, however Samantha took the next 3 and won the game 13/11. A very lively opening game to follow the previous match. In the second Samantha seemed the stronger, led 5/2 and although Zephanie took another three points Samantha served out to take the game 11/5 and a 2 – 0 lead.

Samantha then took a 4/0 lead in the third and it looked all over for Zephanie, but she was determined to show that she had not come all the way here to be beaten easily. She took the next 6 points to lead 6/4, Samantha levelled to 6/6, 7/7 and 8/8 but Zephanie then served out to take the game 11/8 and stay in the match. She then took a 5/1 then a 7/3 lead in the fourth, Samantha pulled back to level 7/7, but after some great rallies and shots from both girls Zephanie took the game 11/9 and the match to a decider. Unfortunately Zephanie then ran out of steam after her fight back, and although she did not stop battling, Samantha took the decider 11/5 and the match 3 – 2. Another great match from the ladies.

The last two matches seemed a bit of an anti climax after these two, but Laura Hill, the fulltime fire fighter from England had a very convincing win over another French player, Coline Aumard, winning comfortably 3 – 0 in just 18 minutes.

In the last match of the night for the ladies, Lotte Eriksen from Norway, who recently got her degree at Birmingham University and has now moved to Amsterdam to train under the major coaching force of Liz Irving, got a 3 – 0 victory over Olga Ertlova of the Czech Republic, although she had to battle to take the last two games 11/9 and 11/9. With Victoria Lust of England getting a bye because no reserves turned up, that was the women’s qualification first day complete.

Let’s look forward to some great matches on Tuesday ...

Thanks to
Célia Allamargot
for the early results

Looking forward to Fitzwilliam
Preview from Arthur Curran

Starting to look forward now to the re-scheduled Cannon Kirk Homes Irish Open to be held at the Fitzwilliam Club in Dublin from 30th August to 4th September and ensure that it does not go unseen, sandwiched as it is between the PSA/WISPA Hong Kong Open starting next week, and the WISPA Women’s World Open to be held in Sharm El-Sheikh from the 15th September.

There will be a very good line up of top players in both the men’s and the women’s events, and all squash fans around Ireland in particular should come along and enjoy the great games and the fantastic friendly atmosphere at the Fitzwilliam Club, especially as admission throughout the tournament is COMPLETELY FREE -- YES, COMPLETELY FREE !!!

In the men’s tournament, after two days of qualifying, which will include some local Irish players, the First Round of the Main Draw starts with a fascinating match up of the No 1 Seed Azlan Iskandar, world ranked No 14, fresh from his recent success in his homeland Malaysian Open Tournament, playing the man who I am sure will be the crowd’s favourite, the well liked Irish No 1, recently married John Rooney. No 2 Seed Stewart Boswell, world ranked 18 from Australia, currently living in England with lovely wife Vicky (Botwright) and their beautiful new son, and several other top 50 players will be fighting Azlan all the way to win the title.

The women’s tournament promises even better matches, with No 1 Seed, world ranked No 6 and No 1 Irish player Madeline Perry returning to Ireland after her tremendous recent success in winning the Australian Open, and possibly after repeating that success in Hong Kong before arriving here in Dublin. Not only favourite in the seedings, she will certainly be a huge favourite with the Irish fans, and starts off her attempt to regain this title, after winning in 2005, 2006 and 2007, losing in the semi final in 2008, and losing a great final match against Alison Waters last year, with an opening match against a qualifier.

Madeline will certainly not have an easy passage through the tournament, since American Natalie Grainger, the No 2 Seed, returns to play in Ireland on her way back to the top after a long injury lay off, and the Irish Open sees the return to tournament play of the lovely Natalie Grinham, after a 10 month lay off to have her baby son Kieran, who hopefully we shall see at the tournament, who opens with a fascinating match up against her fellow nationalised Dutch player Annelize Naudé. The remaining seeds range from No 4 Laura Massaro, world ranked 8, to No 8 seed Aisling Blake, world ranked 26, and another huge favourite here in her home country of Ireland, so there are some great matches to look forward to.

So, just another reminder to all squash fans in Ireland and elsewhere, please come along to the Fitzwilliam Club, just south of Dublin City centre, and enjoy the squash and the convivial atmosphere ---- AND ALL COMPLETELY FREE !!!!

Seating in the glass backed court, where all the later rounds will be played, is limited and comes on a first come first seated basis, so make sure you get there in plenty of time ... I will be there to report it all for squashsite fans.

Thanks to
Célia Allamargot
for the early results

Back on in Dublin

The 2010 edition of the Irish Open was postponed from its original April dates because the Ash Cloud crisis prevented most of the players from getting to Dublin.

But it's back on the calendar, and the Fitzwilliam Club will play host to many of the world's top players in early September ...

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