Steve Coppinger (Rsa) bt [Q] Henrik Mustonen
11/5, 11/4, 11/6
Coppinger takes Leinster
Dan Zilic reports from Dublin
Men’s A-final between Derek Ryan and Niall Rooney
preceded the PSA final everyone had been waiting for. And Derek and
Niall did a fabulous job of warming up the enthusiastic crowd. I
only saw the last game but Derek was in full swing, using his
trademarks spins and cuts to frustrate Niall.
There were some fabulous rallies and Derek played the shot of the
match when he hit a disguised backhand top-spin drop into the nick.
The tall Irish Squash legend took the game, and therewith the match,
by three games to one.
We weren’t expecting too much audacious shot-making between Steve
Coppinger and Henrik Mustonen, but we were expecting
plenty of tough squash and fantastic retrieving.
Steve, on paper at least, started the match as favourite. There are
almost 50 places between them in the PSA ranking, and Henrik had to
endure two more matches in the tournament, as he had to go through
qualifying. However, judging on recent form – Henrik had beaten
Kashif Shuja, Alan Clyne, Dylan Bennett, as well as fellow
giant-killer Gregoire Marche, in recent tournaments.
The first few rallies were a bit scrappy and Henrik appeared a bit
jaded – Coppinger raced to a 5:1 lead. Then the action heated up and
the crowd witnessed some fantastic gets and rallies. Coppinger held
on to his lead though, stayed focused and took the first game 11:5.
It was quite a contrast to yesterday’s matches, which both featured
one more shot-making players each, but it was equally enjoyable.
Coppinger remained in charge at the beginning of game two and had
Mustonen under pressure. He was playing good hard-lengths and
beautiful volley drops to finish the rallies.
Mustonen's working boasts and dropshots had proved to be so lethal
in games before were not quite coming off and if they were not
hitting the tin, Coppinger had them covered and was paying some
fantastically tight dropshots off them. Even if Mustonen could
retrieve these, the big South African pounced on the Finn's gets
with some hard-driven crosscourts to finish off the rallies.
Mustonen scored his first point at 0:8 down, but three minutes later
the game was over – 11:4 to Steve.
Game three started in similar vain as the previous and Coppinger was
imperious. Mustonen just could not get past Steve, whose volleying
was remarkable. At 1:6 down we saw one of the best rallies of the
tournament so far with both Mustonen and Coppinger scrambling for
the ball, just about reaching them and causing disbelief amongst the
crowd. Mustonen staged a mini-comeback to 5:8 but Coppinger was not
to be outdone and finished the match with a stroke awarded to him.
I would say one has to be on top form to beat an in-form Coppinger
and Henrik, despite showing some of the irresistible retrieving he
had impressed us with all week, was lacking those extra ten percent
today. It looked like a mixture of a long and hard tournament week
and Steve’s prowess.
Derek Ryan, tournament director and A-Final winner, thanked the Fitz
William Lawn Tennis Club (and Mount Pleasant Lawn Tennis Club, where
some of the matches were played), the sponsors BYMAC, Leinster
Squash Committee, the tournament referees as well as the over 120
players who had made this is large and great tournament.
Derek, who took over as tournament director for the first year,
showed good form in his thank you speech – although this was
probably the 267th of his long career!
Well, Steve was
probably the worst opponent to get for me today. He is very hard to
play – he hits the ball very hard and very early and was denying me
to play my normal game. He kept getting the balls past me so I was
always on the back-foot and twisting and turning. Also, having
played so many games before does not help and Steve is not the type
player you would want to play when you are a bit tired.
This result still is a big deal for me – not quite as big as winning
my first tournament the other week – but still great. The players
here, except for Steve, were almost the same who played there
(there: the Austrian Open) so I did fancy my chances in getting
somewhere, but I obviously did not think I could go this far. My
preparation for this tournament also was not the best – I had
military service to do in Finland and we had to do training in the
woods, and I got a bit sick there.
Next up for me is Swedish League over the next few days and then I
am playing a Super-Satellite tournament in Tenerife as well as a
last week of military service. This time I am seeded fifth, so I
won’t have to go through qualifying again! This is thanks to my
improved ranking and I should now make the top hundred. It was not
exactly my defined goal for this year, but I am really happy about
I thought I played very well today. I felt on top of the match, on
top of him for the entire game. Though you have to be and that was
my plan, too. If you give him anything to work with he is very very
He has a really mean backhand drop and backhand boast and while he
did catch me out every now and then, I feel like I applied too much
pressure on him to make use of his strengths and I kept the ball
away from his danger area.
This is the biggest win of my career so far. It is the fourth PSA
tour win for myself. I started out to be quite good in finals and
win most of them, but I had lost the last four or five, so it is
great to stop that trend!
My next station is Edmonton, Canada, a $20k two star event. I am not
seeded and playing Amr Swelim, the fifth seed in the first round, so
the mindset going into that tournament is slightly different.
I hadn’t exactly set a plan or goals for this year, but the next
step for me is breaking into the top 50 - have been there and
thereabout for a while. Winning this tournament probably won’t get
me there quite, but hopefully a good result in Edmonton will!
Now I am off to having a Guinness – have been looking forward to it
10-15 Nov, Dublin, Ireland, $10k
 Kashif Shuja (Nzl)
12/10, 11/9, 9,11, 11/5 (45m)
[LL] Bart Ravelli (Ned)
 Kashif Shuja
7/11, 11/3, 11/5, 5/11, 11/8 (57m)
 Steve Finitsis
 Kashif Shuja
13/11, 5/11, 8/11, 11/9, 11/9 (60m)
[Q] Henrik Mustonen
[Q] Henrik Mustonen
11/5, 11/4, 11/6
 Steve Coppinger
 Steve Finitsis (Aus)
11/3, 11/6, 11/8 (58m)
Kristian Frost Olesen (Den)
 Bradley Hindle (Mlt)
10/12, 11/5, 6/3 rtd (32m)
[Q] Henrik Mustonen (Fin)
[Q] Henrik Mustonen
11/9, 9/11, 11/2, 11/7 (42m)
Jaymie Haycocks (Eng)
11/6, 11/7, 11/13, 11/8 (42m)
Niall Rooney (Irl)
James Snell (Eng)
10/12, 11/4, 11,5, 11/8 (48m)
 Alan Clyne (Sco)
 Alan Clyne
1/11, 11/3, 3/11, 11/9, 11/8 (69m)
9/11, 11/5, 12/14,
11/4, 11/1 (64m)
 Steve Coppinger
11/6 10/12 11/9 11/5 (47mnn
 Dylan Bennett (Ned)
[Q] Aqeel Rehman (Aut)
11/7, 11/0, 11/9 (24m)
 Arthur Gaskin (Irl)
 Arthur Gaskin
11/1, 11/4, 9/11, 4/1 dsq
 Steve Coppinger
[Q] Joan Lezaud (Fra)
11/8, 11/6, 11/5 (33m)
 Steve Coppinger (Rsa)
11-Nov Qualifying finals:
(Aut) bt Phillip Nightingale (Eng) 4/11, 12/10,
11/4, 10/12, 11/8 (58m)
Henrik Mustonen (Fin) bt Bart Ravelli (Ned)
7/11, 11/7, 10/12, 11/6, 12/10 (49m)
Joan Lezaud (Fra) bt Stuart Crawford (Sco)
11/8, 8/11, 12/10, 5/11, 11/7 (67m)
Grégoire Marche (Fra) bt Fabien Verseille (Fra)
5/11, 11/8, 11/4, 11/7
10-Nov: Qualifying Round One:
Aqeel Rehman 3-1 Nigel Peyton (11/3, 4/11, 11/8,
Phillip Nightingale 3-1 Rory Byrne (5/11, 11/7,
Henrik Mustonen 3-0 Keith Moran (11/3, 11/8, 11/7)
Bart Ravelli 3-1 Richard Birks (11/8, 2/11, 8/11,
Andrew Birks 1-3 Joan Lezaud (7/11, 12/14, 11/4,
Neil Martin 1-3 Stuart Crawford (4/11, 11/6, 5/11,
Rory Pennell 1-3 Fabien Verseille (9/11, 11/8, 9/11,
Florent Pontiere 0-3 Gregoire Marche (8/11, 7/11,
Semi-Finals in Leinster
Dan Zilic reports from Dublin
Shuja vs Henrik Mustonen
I arrived middle of the first game and Mustonen seemed to have the
upper hand over Shuja, who did seem to have started a tad sharper
than in the previous games.
Against a player who retrieves as well as Mustonen does you cannot
afford to start slowly though and Kashif found himself 10:6 down.
The next four points were Shuja though and he finally started
hitting the ball as crisply and purposefully as we have become used
to it. Mustonen did use his sixth gameball though to take game
I have to stress at this point that while Mustonen’s speed is
probably his trademark, he was causing havoc with his excellent
backhand drops and working boasts.
Shuja has eleven years on Mustonen and he used his whole experience
in game two, where he focused on precision and delay and had
Mustonen cover more ground than I have seen him cover in the whole
tournament. It was masterful stuff with Shuja not giving Mustonen
any angles to develop his speed with. Shuja’s drops were
inch-perfect and even if Mustonen retrieved a hell of a lot Shuja
sent him right to the back with a wonderful lob – 11:5 Shuja.
The Kiwi kept a slight lead throughout game two but Mustonen kept
coming back at him – 3:0 – 3:3, 5:3 – 7:5. Shuja did go for some
cheap shots off Mustonen’s serve so he might have been feeling the
effect of Mustonen’s relentless retrieving. Nonetheless, Shuja
pulled away to 10:6 due to a combination of errors by Mustonen and
clever play, and penultimately took the game following a tin by
Mustonen by 11 points to 8.
Game four was tight – Kashif probably knew he had better win this
and it was the first time this tournament I heard a ‘Come on’ from
him at 7:7. It didn’t help and he was made to work hard and still
found himself 7:10 down. Kashif came back to 9:10 and looked to have
won the rally but Mustonen stunned the crowd with two sensational
pick-ups and won the rally after Shuja hit the tin.
Mustonen started the better in the final game but Kashif got back to
6:6, particularly impressive after he coolly slotted Henrik’s serve
in the nick after Shuja was convinced Mustonen’s pick-up wasn’t
good. Following a monster rally at 6:6 though Mustonen took the next
two points after Shuja hit a tin off the serve in an attempted
cross-court nick. Showing great composure though – he then just hit
the next return into the nick. A cruel no-let at 8:7 and a delicate
cross-court backhand kill got Mustonen three matchballs though. The
next rallies were the most tense of the tournament I would say:
Shuja got two quick points and we had a super-long rall at 9:10
which ended in a let. The replay was the longest rally of the
tournament. Both players eager to not make a silly mistake. It was
nail-biting stuff but a drop from Mustonen was too tight and Shuja’s
get hit the tin. Scintillating stuff!
Gregoire Marche vs Steve Coppinger
Coppinger of course is probably more South African than anything
else (is he?) but as I mentioned before, he was actually born in
Ireland and staying here with his Auntie (he is actually biking down
to the club!). The reason why I am saying this is because it fits
nicely with another big match taking place today – Ireland vs France
in the World Cup 2010 play-off, being played about one mile from
here in Croigh Park, being played in front of 70,000 people.
Not quite as many spectators here but a decent and well-educated
crowd – there is a large squash tournament going on at the same time
and many players are relishing the chance to see some professional
squash. Not to diminish the quality of the competition though – we
have Derek Ryan, Graeme Stuart and Niall Rooney all playing in the
A-section. As for Marche vs. Coppinger – the French took the better
start and won the first game 11:9. Marche actually plays similar to
the French XI (or the way they used to in their winning days) –
stylish and with flair, while Coppinger is the tough to beat
ball-hunting type player.
Coppinger took the better start in game two going 5:1 up, although
Marche hit a sublime backhand cross-court nick at full-stretch to
earn his first point. Coppinger was particularly impressive in
intercepting Marche’s cross-court with some deadly volley-drops. It
was enough to take the game 11:5, despite some audacious shots by
Game three was one of the most entertaining to have been witnessed
throughtout the tournament. Marche seemed to have no problems in
matching Coppinger for pace and played a high-risk high-pace game.
He was awarded three strokes to take a 3:1 lead and was 10:7 up
thanks to some audacious gets and spectacular shot-making.
Steve fought back and forced a tie-break, which featured a lengthy
break when Coppinger hit the ground and the floor needed cleaning.
Marche took the game 14:12. I was really impressed with Marche at
this point. Many players would have tried to focus on keeping it
tight to prevent Steve from volleying, but Marche just went for an
open game and use his shot-making skill and speed to beat Coppinger.
Coppinger learned his lesson though in game four, played a tad safer
and took the fourth game comfortably 11:4.
Those who had hoped for a tense fifth game would have been
disappointed. Gregoire tried hard but he took a bad start and
quickly found himself 6:1 down. Steve was not to be denied and took
the game and therewith the match comfortably.
"It was a really tough match, really
tough. I knew he was good and he has had two extra matches, but I
still was prepared that it would be tough. I wasn’t too surprised by
the way he played really – he can get away with playing an open and
attacking game against me because he is so incredibly quick to the
front. So if you do play to the front against him you have to play
good because otherwise he is bound to get it. Although it was tough
though, the games that I lost were very close, the ones I won were
"These young guys starting off on the PSA are really good. Mustonen
is 19, Marche is 19 or 20, I am 25. I was living in South Africa and
then went to university in Great Britain and only then did I realise
I could o pro. When living in South Africa I simply did not know
anyone who was playing professionally, so I never considered it as
an option. It was only after university that I realised this was a
real option because other people I knew were doing it.
"As for tomorrow – I do have a game plan against Mustonen, but I
will tell you after the match! He certainly has had a good run of
results, but every run has to come to an end and lets hope that is
Quarter-Finals in Leinster
Dan Zilic reports from Dublin
match of the day just over, and the first upset. I would say the
title "Mache marches on" has been used already ;) Gregoire said he
is providing Fram with quotes anyway so hopefully she can translate
them to English.
Marche managed to lose the first game 11:1, thereby scoring his only
point off a boast hit into the tin by Clyne. Luckily, the first game
was nothing to go by and the standard of play increased
It seemed that Marche realised that Clyne is tough to beat when
playing an open, fast-paced match, and so the Frenchman concentrated
on his precision and delay, and took his chances to finish the
rallies once he had played himself into an advantageous position.
He took the second game 11:9 to set up a tense third game, which
featured an epically long rally at 10:9 to Clyne, which the Scot
will be happy to have won and therewith take the game. At this
point, the crowd were thoroughly impressed with Marche’s maturity of
play and excellent technique. Clyne on the other hand was his
relentless all-volleying counter-dropping self.
Game four remained close but Marche was constantly trailing (despite
hitting an absolutely fabulous forhand volley kill out of mid-air).But
at 6:8 down he started a run of four points to get gameball at 10:8.
I had written him off at the beginning of the game as he had begun
trying to beat Clyne at his own game again, but he regrouped and
settled back in. It paid dividends and he took the fourth 11:9.
The fifth game was absolutely superb with both players playing at
their limit. Gregoire was 3:6 down but took an 8:6 lead but lost the
ralley despite a terrific dive. At 7:8 Alan was, much to his
frustration, not given a let and a simple boast in the tin gave Greg
three matchballs, and he converted the second to win the last game
This was by far the best match I have seen this tournament so far.
There were at least five rallies that people will be talking about
at the bar. Including myself, as I am off to get myself a pint of
the black stuff now.
Kashif Shuja vs Steve Finitsis
Another thoroughly enjoyable match between two hard-hitters. Kashif
had another, lets say, comfortable start and conceded the first game
to the tall Finitsis, who impressed with hard shots and great court
coverage. Kashif took control for the next two games distributing
the ball beautifully and using great skill and deception. Kashif’s
drops were incredibly good and so short but Finitsis miraculously
returned most of them with interest, catching Shuja off guard every
once in a while. I
t was this dogged determination that kept Finitsis in the game.
Couple this with a willingness to take risks and you have a deadly
combination – this was Finitsis in the fourth – which he won.
The fifth was relatively open until Shuja pulled away mid-game. It
was a great match, somewhat different to the first between Marche
and Clyne, but certainly just as memorable.
"It was tough as Steve is my training
partner in Holland, where I moved to eight months ago. He is a great
player and has a great reach and I thought I could hurt him with my
short game, but he read my shots well and picked so many balls up.
In any case, I am happy to go through but it certainly was a hard
As for whom I play tomorrow? Well, I first of all hope that these
two young guys have a long match. I don’t really know either of them
but both of them look strong. Since I have moved to Holland I have
realised what an incredible depth is within the PSA tour. It really
makes a difference from being based in New Zealand.
The main reason why I moved is because of the travelling. It is so
much easier being based in Holland compared to New Zealand, though I
really do miss it. I think though I will remain in Holland for the
rest of my squash career and then probably move back to New Zealand
sometime after that."
Henrik Mustonen continued his run by
beating a resilient Jaymie Haycocks, who had his Birthday yesterday.
Henrik showed today that he is not only incredibly mobile, but has
an exquisite backhand dropshot from half-court. The first two games
were tight with each player taking one each, but Mustonen applied
too much pressure with his relentless retrieving.
Haycocks played some great dropshots and won countless rallies with
them, but in the end he was not to outdo the Finn, who had a flight
booked for tonight at 1am to get back to Finland. There was a
national tournament on with some decent prize money Henrik tells me,
but obviously he is equally happy standing in another semifinal
facing Kashif. Should be a hell of a match.
Steve Coppinger against Arthur Gaskin started as a very one-sided
affair. Coppinger is one tough guy and controls the T thanks to his
height and great volleys. His groundstrokes are powerful and put
Gaskin under pressure from the word go and the Irishman only
conjured a single point in game one. Derek Ryan was coaching Arthur
inbetween games and he faired a little better in game two, but he
just had nothing to hurt the South African with.
I actually played BUSA (the British University competition) at the
same time as Steve and while he was already then a good player
(playing at third string for Birmingham), I never thought he would
be ahead of all the other players who played at the same time: Phil
Barker, Andy Whipp, Ben Garner, Johnny Harford... But when you see
him now you can see why he only recently beat Amir Atlas Khan in the
Worlds and has risen so rapidly.
Anyway, he lost the third thanks to Arthur playing with more purpose
and cutting out his unforced errors. Arthur was 10:6 up and got
upset with a refereeing decision, for which he earned a conduct
warning and he lost the next three points in a row, but ultimately
took the game 11:9. It looked like winning that game had cost him a
lot of energy but he stuck in beginning of the fourth and there was
only a slight margin between both players.
Following a no-let by the referee, Arthur answered back with an (to
me) inaudible remark, for which the referee awarded conduct stroke
against him. Unfortunately for Arthur the referee was in no mood for
messing around and when Arthur turned around in disgust at this
decision and uttered his frustration directly at the referee, the
ref awarded a conduct game and therewith match to Coppinger.
No one had wanted this outcome of course, even Steve seemed not
wanting to finish the match in this style, and I won't comment on it
more than that :)
"Well, here I am in the semis. And if
somebody told me I would be at the start of the tournament, I would
have signed immediately, as I was not at the top of my form. But as
the tournament unfold, I'm feeling better match after match. And I
have to say it's nice to be a winner again!
"I still had a lot of difficulties getting into the match. I take a
severe 11/1 in the first, honestly I have no idea what happened. But
after that, I was more or less in control... Dédé [André Delhoste,
French National Coach] to me to play tight, to be patient, and not
to go for too much, and it paid off!
"Well, now tomorrow, the level will be up several notches, but it's
all pleasure from now on, and I feel good, so would be nice to go
till the end..."
12-Nov, Round One:
Down to the quarters in Leinster
Dan Zilic reports from Dublin
Clyne vs James Snell
Unfortunately I missed the entire match bar the last couple of
rallies. It certainly looked competitive but Alan did not seem to be
playing his usual high-pace game that I had seen him play before.
Gregoire Marche vs. Dylan Bennett
to the second game, with Dylan 0:1 down and 8:10. The Dutchman
recovered well and took the game 12:10, thanks to some ever-so-tight
backhand drop-shots that were clinging to the ball. When Greg went
for a couple of cross-court nicks off Dylan’s serve it certainly
looked like the match was Dylan’s to take, but Greg stayed with
Dylan, retrieved well and played some great squash, taking the game
closely with Dylan visibly upset.
The fourth game was the most contentious, Dylan got some calls by
the referee that he was clearly disappointed with and the players
were get more in each other's way. Greg stuck in though and wowed
the crowd with an awesome trickle boast. At 9:5 up to Greg Dylan’s
resistance was gone and the Frenchman took the match 3:1 – therewith
causing the first real upset of the tournament.
Kashif Shuja vs Bart Ravelli
Kashif did not exactly start too dynamically and was 0:5 and 5:9
down, before he found his swing and took the game in the tie-break.
Game 2 was similar with Bart again taking a lead but Shuja staying
calm and winning 11:9 again.
When Bart was 8:6 up in the third I thought the same thing would
happen, but despite a late resurgence by the number one seed Ravelli
won the game. It was an all-round enjoyable game – Bart is a very
good player: moves well, thinks well and hits the ball nicely, while
Shuja likes to hit the ball with pace and predominantly in straight
lines. He moves exceptionally smooth and plays with great
intelligence, and is not afraid to slam in a few nicks. All in all
it was a real gentlemen’s game that Shuja saw out 3:1 thanks to a
convincing fourth game.
of all the club is looking after us very well and this is a well-run
tournament. I am also happy to be back in Dublin once again.
"I had never played Bart before, I only just met him before the
match. He certainly is a good young player and he took full
advantage of my slight sluggishness in the third.
"As to whether I prefer to be the top seed or prefer being the
underdog qualifier – well, you still need to win the matches, don’t
you? It is probably different as a qualifier than perhaps being a
non-seeded player in the main draw, but I don’t really mind.
Nowadays the guys are all so good that every match is tough! "
Mustonen vs Hindle
Unfortunately Brad had to retire from the match, which I did not
watch. He managed to win the first game in a tie-break but retired
later in the third.
draw always looks nice after getting past one of the top four seeds
– I am going to play Jaymie or Niall next. The thing is I have a
flight booked for tomorrow night and it is the Finnish Championships
on the weekend, so if I win…
"Despite winning my first PSA tournament two weeks ago I really
can’t say I am expecting these kind of results, it actually came as
a total shock to me. During the tournament I had to re-book my
flight twice – that is probably proof enough that I didn’t believe I
could get that far.
"Currently I live in Lahti. Olli lives in Helsinki and I try and
arrange a hit with him every now and then but he is away about 200
days a year for PSA tournaments. I do have three coaches there
though and while the standard of club players is of course no where
near the same as here, I do enjoy playing them.
"Other than training on court I don’t really do anything else [Dan:
I suspected, based on his fitness levels, he was into biathlon or
some crazy fitness winter sport]. I used to play volleyball
before Squash and now I have started doing some gym work, too."
Gaskin vs Rehman
I missed the first game, which local man Gaskin won 11:7. Aqeel will
want to forget the second quickly since he made so many mistakes
that it was a stroll in the park for Gaskin, who had lost to Aqeel a
few weeks ago. Aqeel pulled himself together in game three and it
was close, he took a 9:7 lead. Both players received warnings, one
for conduct and one for contact. Gaskin got back to 9:9 and took the
game 11:9. He will be happy to go through 3:0, since I would imagine
him feeling under pressure to put in a good result when playing in
front of his home crowd, especially when facing lower-seeded
is true I lost to Aqeel recently in league but I have beaten him 3:0
before, too, so that loss really was not in the back of my mind at
all, to be honest. But I did know he is a tough and quick player so
I am delighted to go through 3:0.
I used to think about playing PSAs in Ireland too much and would go
into matches with nerves and felt under pressure. Nowadays I don’t
feel that way, it is kind of like according to the law of averages
you know, you will win some here and you will lose some, too.
Tomorrow I am either playing Lezaud or Coppinger – I don’t really
mind if I play Coppinger and be the underdog or play Lezaud and be
the favourite, as long as I move well and play my best I am pretty
much happy playing anybody!"
Rooney vs Haycocks
Rooney used to play PSA and got to a career-high of 86 at one point,
and he is currently number 3 or 4 in the Irish ranking. He just
started a new job he tells me so he is not exactly in the shape of
his life, but he is always great to watch and showed flashes of
exceptional talent in this game, too.
He lost the first game 11:5 but it was well-contended and then, at
6:7 in the second game, I had to leave for football [Dan plays
for the Google XI]
Gaskin through to quarters
Carlow's Arthur Gaskin is the last Irish man standing in the Bymac
Leinster Squash Open after a comprehensive three nil win against
Austria's Aqeel Rehman.
The world number 93 took control early on in the match, playing a
high tempo that his opponent couldn't match.
He now faces second seed, Stephen Coppinger from South Africa in the
quarter-finals in Fitzwilliam tomorrow at 20.00.
The only other Irish man to make it into the main draw was Galway's
Niall Rooney who went down three one to England's Jaymie Haycocks.
Dan takes no credit or responsibility for the photos, they are
all self-portraits taken by the players themselves ...
Coppinger bt Lezaud 3/0
"He certainly started very very strongly in the first but after that
he got a little tired. I was happy with the game anyway.
"The reason I am playing this tournament, by the way, is because I
am Irish. Well, I was born here, anyway, and actually close to where
Arthur is from, so I will be trying to claim some local support
tomorrow! As for being the second seed – I really do not mind, it
makes a change from being a qualifier for some of the Super Series
"I have played a few of those this year so I thought it would be
good to play a tournament in which I am actually seeded high. It is
true that you probably have more to lose as second seed, but it
works both ways, you know, and if I do well here it will be good for
my ranking, too."
11-Nov, Qualifying Finals:
Down to the main draw in Leinster
Dan Zilic reports from Dublin
left work a little early today in order to try and get most of the
first match between Phil Nightingale and Aqeel Rehman. Aqeel
is the number one qualifying seed so somewhat expected to win the
match against Phil.
I arrived to a tense second game which Aqeel managed to win 12:10,
thanks to some great hard and flat killshots. He was a bit lucky to
take it though but showed courage when going for a crosscourt nick
off the service at 9:10 down.
Game three saw Aqeel play to his full potential, hitting the ball
very hard and flat and showing some entrepreneurial shotmaking too.
Phil stuck in there with some relentless retrieving and got back
from 0:6 down to 4:7. Aqeel also struggled time and time again to
find away past Phil when it was his turn retrieving, but the referee
did an okay job in rewarding lets when Aqeel could have gotten the
balls and no lets when Phil's shots were too good. Third game went
to Aqeel who seemed to have tanked some confidence after winning the
second - 11:4.
I thought Aqeel would wrap things up in game four but he didn't and
Phil took the game 11:9. There was a controversial call at 9:9 when
Aqeel hit Phil in his swing and was denied a stroke - I think it
probably should have been one.
Game five was really tense - Phil used his momentum and garnered a
5:3 lead thanks to four mistakes of Aqeel's. The young Austrian kept
his calm though and fought back playing better and more patient
Squash. The retrieving was brilliant in this game, Aqeel matched
Phil for it and impressed the crowd with some incredible gets and
despite some anxiety at the end he won the game 11:8.
Phil was visibly disappointed and although Aqeel uttered his
displeasure with his match, it was a battle he will have been happy
to have won. It is never easy playing players who retrieve as well
as as Phil, and Aqeel gave Phil too many reasons to believe that he
had a good chance of winning early on.
Personally I am relieved to see Aqeel go through - for lunch he came
to my canteen, and had he lost he might have blamed it on the food
(which admittedly was pretty good though).
Next match: Mustonen vs Ravelli
Mustonen looks unfazeable - he just gets on with business no matter
what. Hit a great ball? Go over and make the next serve! Ref calls
your ball down although it was good? Next rally, please! Opponent
hits an outrageous nick shot? Just get on with the match. Top that
with being very fair and a generally good player and you have my new
favourite player! Well, not quite, but Mustonen's retrieving
definitely is remarkable - though he still needs to work on his
precision and shot selection.
He also lost the first game against Bart Ravelli, who went 4:1 down
but staged a good comeback thanks to some great shots, especially to
the front of thou court. The court on which the games are being
played definitely favours players who hot a tight drop-shot - the
walls seem a bit damp and the ball really clings to the sidewall.
Mustonen took the second game and I thought this would be the
turning point. He mixed some good deception in with his retrieving
and had Ravelli covering a lot of corners too. He took the second
game but Ravelli showed great composure in the third, getting a lot
joy out of his tight drop shots and volleys and generally adapting
well to the Finn's game, only for Henrik to run away with game four
11:6 in a couple of action-packed minutes.
The fifth game was dramatic: Mustonen continued his run and took a
10:5 lead, but amazingly Ravelli came back to 10:10 thanks to some
fantastic rallying and some easy mistakes by Mustonen. Mustonen
managed to win the next point to get to his sixth (!!) matchball.
Ravelli played a crosscourt from the front to the backhand corner,
where it hit the nick. The ball, in my eyes and that of all people
around me, definitely rolled out but play continued and Ravelli lost
the rally a little later. He was absolutely shocked the ball hadn't
been called out and it put a really sour mark to an otherwise really
It was a great example of a clean and fair squash game and it is
unfortunate that it will be remembered for the single bad call on
the last rally.
Unfortunately I did not get to see the whole match between Stuart
Crawford and Joan Lezaud, but I did see the Frenchman take a 1:0
lead. I was thinking to myself that he has a far stronger forehand
than backhand, at which point he hit a sublime crosscourt backhand
nick. But generally he does generate more pressure via his forehand.
Stuart on the other hand is a good allround player with good
technique and understanding of the game - if there is one thing he
lacks it may be that, well, he is a very good allrounder with no
particular weaknesses, but perhaps he lacks a devastating shot such
as Lezaud's crosscourt nicks.
Anyway, it was a contentious match with plenty of refereeing
decisions - most of them being contested by both players. Crawford
was a bit more respectful towards the referee, while Lezaud tended
to comment on the decisions in French. All in all the referee might
have gotten a couple of decisions wrong (as close as they were), but
it was generally tough pleasing these two players, who were both
eager to win.
In the end Lezaud won the longest match of the day in five games. He
hit Stuart once with the ball in the fifth game, Stuart questioning
the referee whether he didn't think it was intentional. Well, Lezaud
played a crosscourt where most others would have probably played a
length, but whether it was intended or not - who knows? In any case,
Lezaud finished the match in style with a fabulous cross-court nick,
much to the pleasure of Ciaron McCoy, an Irish squash veteran
watching the game with me, who told me that that was the way to
finish every match.
As I had to play my first game of the A-round today I missed
virtually the entire match between Verseille and Marche.
Marche won 3:1 and the last few rallies that I saw showed two very
good squash players fighting for the last remaining spot in
qualifying. Marche looks very confident and very professional while
Verseille, as good as he is, was utterly frustrated by the end of
the match. He lost 3:1 in almost an hour and he seemed pretty upset
afterwards, but then again he faced a very good opponent.
Anyway, the qualifying draw took place afterwards and the big news
is that John Rooney had to pull-out. He was actually going to face
his brother Nial, a former PSA player who got the wildcard this
year, so at least one Rooney remains in the tournament.
I was also happy to see that Bart Ravelli got the lucky loser spot -
which is fair enough after the rather tragic end to his match
against Mustonen. Ravelli will be playing the number one seed
Kashif, while Mustonen faces Hindle and Marche is playing Dylan.
Aqeel is playing against local hope Arthur Gaskin and Nial was
redrawn to play against Haycocks, who is probably the happiest
player, since Nial Rooney is probably a slightly better prospect
Oh, and Lezaud faces Coppinger - not a nice prospect!
10-Nov, Qualifying Round One:
Loving it in Leinster
Dan Zilic reports from Dublin
of my favourite things about living in Ireland is that twice or even
three times a year (including Galway) I get to attend a professional
squash tournament, be it the Irish Open, or in this case, the
slightly smaller Leinster Open.
This is a $10k tournament, so you tend to see a couple of up and
coming youngsters and a good contingent of players based in England.
In this case we are treated to a great international line-up
featuring the classy Kiwi Kashif Shuja as well as Steve Coppinger,
who lately showed what he was made of when beating the Pakistani
Anyway, today we will have a look at the qualifiers – a nice mix of
local talent and young contenders. Keep in mind that this may only
bet the qualifiers – but for many it is vital to get to the main
draw – not only for some important world ranking points, but also to
get some prize money.
Byrne vs Phil Nightingale
I arrived here at 1:1, Rory won the first game and Derek Ryan (the
tournament director this year) was refereeing! Keith Moran tells me
that Phil started nervously and Rory played to the front with a lot
of confidence in the first, but then began making mistakes in the
Phil is probably one of the fittest players in the qualifying draw,
but then again Rory certainly has grinded out plenty of matches.
Rory, in comparison to Phil though, is a full-time student and had
taken a small slip in the Irish ranking over the last year.
Nonetheless, he is an excellent mover and took command of the game,
taking a 6:3 lead. Phil got back to 6:6 and Rory began working
harder than he would have liked, but stayed with Phil to 9:9. The
Irishman went 10:9 down but defended the gameball with a good
forehand kill. Phil took the game in the end thanks to two tight
Game four saw a lot lets (Phil is one of the tallest players around)
and also Phil play with a bit more confidence. I think to some
extent this match pretty much can be taken as a typical strong local
vs. qualifier match.
The locals often enough are equal in terms of shot-making and
awareness, and the pros can start a bit nervously – after all, they
have so much more to lose.
So they stick to a more basic game instead of playing to their
strengths, allowing the locals at first to contend equally. In the
end though, when fitness levels of the locals dwindle, the pros
become more commanding and end up winning comfortably.
Obviously this varies with the strength of local and pro – but in
this case it certainly was tight enough. Rory played fine and
certainly was no pushover, but on the day he needed to be that much
sharper and fitter.
Phil wins 5:11, 11:7, 12:10, 11:6
Bart Ravelli vs Andrew Birks
I couldn't watch this match but Bart said he started a bit anxiously
but started to play his game and take control of the match in game
2. He was the higher seeded qualifier so somewhat expected to win,
Tomorrow he faces the in-form Mustonen, whom he has never played
before, but knows he is a terribly fit and has some nice and tricky
boasts. Bart finished fourth at the Dutch Championships but did not
quite make the national team for the Worlds. Nice chap and he was
the first to take a picture via my built-in webcam.
In his words: „Beatiful! Can you send it to me?“ (add slight
sarcastic tone here).
Ravelli wins 3:1
Nigel Peyton vs Aqeel Rehman
I remember watching Nigel here two years ago when he almost took my
favourite player Johnny Harford to five games, playing some of the
most outrageous shots of the tournament. I didn’t expect him to do
the same thing again, especially after losing a somewhat lack-lustre
first game 11:3.
However, things totally turned around in game two, which Aqeel
starting in surprisingly nonchalant mood. Nigel played the way he
likes to – hard, fast and risky and his shots came off beautifully.
He hit a superb cross-court nick and went ahead 8:2, much to the
frustration of Aqeel, who became unhappier by the rally.
Third game was a little more to Aqeel’s liking and features the
rally of the game at 7:2 – Nigel won it thanks to some good
deception. Aqeel managed to win the match 3:1 in the end, after
winning the third I thought Nigel would falter so I left to watch
the other game.
Only later Aqeel informed me that he was in fact 6:1 down in the
fourth but managed to turn things around for a 3:1 win.
Rehman wins 3:1
Richard Birks vs Joan Lezaud
The match that I went over to watch was between Richard Birks and
Joan Lezaud. Initially I thought Lezaud had injured himself because
he went for cross-court nicks off every serve, plenty of which came
off by the way.
But turns out he was just really doing so because he was down by too
high a margin in game three. When looking at the scoreboard I
realised though that he had won the first two games so he had
probably just taken a bad start and resigned early. Game four was
pretty different in any case and the match between these two fine
players was pretty heated.
There were plenty of incidents in which one player demanded a stroke
and the other a no-let, normally the referee went fort he
middle-ground. Birks certainly controlled the ball well and did
little wrong, but Lezaud is one speedy player and likes to go in for
kills with his forehand – he is left-handed, too.
It was never easy fort the French man and it seemed like there was
little love lost between the two, but in the end Lezaud’s speed and
agility proved too much for Birks.
Lezaud wins 3:1
Keith Moran vs Henrik Mustonen
Henrik Mustonen was said to be rather fit and nimble by Bart
Ravelli. And the Dutchman’s short summary seems more than adequate
fort the young Fin, who only recently celebrated his first PSA win.
He was never in danger against local hope Keith Moran, who earned
his first cap at the World Championships in Denmark a few weeks ago.
Henrik just kept on going at full speed and while Keith was able to
establish a 6:3 lead in the second and 8:6 in the third, that was as
good as it got for the Sligo-man.
Henrik finished the match convincingly and definitely looks like a
tough man to beat.
Mustonen wins 3:0
Gregoire March v Florent Pontiere
On court two Gregoire Marche, the number two seed in qualifying,
played his countryman Florent Pontiere, number 283 in the world.
What many deemed to be a one-sided and quick affair turned out to be
a well-contested match, despite Marche winning it 3:0.
I don’t think he would have felt too threatened to lose, but Florent
certainly contested fiercely and impressed with his good court
coverage. Marche looks like he belongs in the main-draw, but he will
need to most likely overcome Fabien Verseille, that is if Verseille
was able to overcome Rory Pennel (I had to leave before).
I also did’t see the end between Irish junior Neil Martin and Stuart
Crawford. Martin took the second game surprisingly 11:6, but
Crawford seemed to be regaining control in the third game by the
time I left.
Marche wins 3:0
More reports hopefully tomorrow.
I took three pictures - first of Bart Ravelli, second of Aqeel,
third of Lezaud. I didn't really take them, I just had them hold my
laptop and hit the photo-button (I love my Macbook!)