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Bymac Leinster Open 2009
10-15 Nov, Dublin, Ireland, $10k

15-Nov, Final:

[2] Steve Coppinger
(Rsa) bt [Q] Henrik Mustonen (Fin)
           11/5, 11/4, 11/6

Coppinger takes Leinster title
Dan Zilic reports from Dublin

The 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 it anyway!

Derek Ryan
Tournament Director

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 dangerous.

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 all week!

Bymac Leinster Open 2009
10-15 Nov, Dublin, Ireland, $10k
Round One
12 Nov
13 Nov
14 Nov
15 Nov
[1] Kashif Shuja (Nzl)
12/10, 11/9, 9,11, 11/5 (45m)
[LL] Bart Ravelli (Ned)
[1] Kashif Shuja
7/11, 11/3, 11/5, 5/11, 11/8 (57m)
[6] Steve Finitsis
[1] 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

[2] Steve Coppinger

[6] Steve Finitsis (Aus)
11/3, 11/6, 11/8 (58m)
Kristian Frost Olesen (Den)
[3] 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
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)
[7] Alan Clyne (Sco)
[7] Alan Clyne
1/11, 11/3, 3/11, 11/9, 11/8 (69m)
[Q] Grégoire Marche
[Q] Grégoire Marche

9/11, 11/5, 12/14, 11/4, 11/1 (64m)

[2] Steve Coppinger

[Q] Grégoire Marche (Fra)
11/6 10/12 11/9 11/5 (47mnn
[4] Dylan Bennett (Ned)
[Q] Aqeel Rehman (Aut)
11/7, 11/0, 11/9 (24m)
[8] Arthur Gaskin (Irl)
[8] Arthur Gaskin
11/1, 11/4, 9/11, 4/1 dsq
[2] Steve Coppinger
[Q] Joan Lezaud (Fra)
11/8, 11/6, 11/5 (33m)
[2] Steve Coppinger (Rsa)

11-Nov Qualifying finals:

Aqeel Rehman (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, 11/7)
Phillip Nightingale 3-1 Rory Byrne (5/11, 11/7, 12/10, 11/6)
Henrik Mustonen 3-0 Keith Moran (11/3, 11/8, 11/7)
Bart Ravelli 3-1 Richard Birks (11/8, 2/11, 8/11, 5/11)
Andrew Birks 1-3 Joan Lezaud (7/11, 12/14, 11/4, 6/11)
Neil Martin 1-3 Stuart Crawford (4/11, 11/6, 5/11, 10/12)
Rory Pennell 1-3 Fabien Verseille (9/11, 11/8, 9/11, 4/11)
Florent Pontiere 0-3 Gregoire Marche (8/11, 7/11, 8/11)

14-Nov, Semis:
Semi-Finals in Leinster
Dan Zilic reports from Dublin

Kashif 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 13:11.

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 Monsieur Marche.

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 relatively clear.

"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 tomorrow!"

13-Nov, Quarters:
Quarter-Finals in Leinster
Dan Zilic reports from Dublin

First 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 dramatically.

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 11:8.

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 match.

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

Alan 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

Arrived 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.

"First 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.

"The 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 players.

"It 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

Niall 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 tournaments.

"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

I 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 great match.
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 than Kashif.

Oh, and Lezaud faces Coppinger - not a nice prospect!


10-Nov, Qualifying Round One:
Loving it in Leinster
Dan Zilic reports from Dublin

One 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 number 1.

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.

Rory 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 second.

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 drops though.

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, too.

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!)


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