Be Personnel Loch Ness Challenger 2014
19-22 Jun, Inverness, Scotland, $15k
 Steve Finitsis (Aus) 3-1  Mahesh Mangaonkar (Ind)
11-2, 2-11, 11-5 (61m)
Finitsis takes Inverness title
The first Loch Ness $15K Challenger came to a pulsating climax today
in Inverness, as Australian Commonwealth Games team member Steve
Finitsis triumphed over rising Indian star Mahesh Mangaonkar.
The tournament’s culmination before a packed Inverness Court No. 1
was a predictably feisty affair, with both men squeezing one
another’s shotmaking and testing muscle recovery after some tough
matches this week.
The first game saw Steve race to 6-0, driving with power and pace to
put pressure on Mahesh’s forehand. Steve’s languid manner – his
touch exactly as he left off in the semi – suggested he had the game
in the bag at 9-3; but then Mahesh began a series of accurate drops
which stretched Steve uncomfortably.
A further delicate forehand drop pulled him up to 7-9, but a couple
of Mahesh errors in lengthy rallies finally yielded the game to
Steve 11-9. Steve’s superior courtcraft and ability to pace the
rallies by using loft and cross-court driving took him to a strong
position, winning the second to make it 2-0.
But Mahesh showed magisterial flair in the third, producing repeated
deep drives to take his tall opponent out of position before
finishing points with drops and stunning forehand drives into the
nick. 6-1 became 11-2 after a series of skilled shots – an exquisite
boast to the backhand side; a wide forehand drive down the wall
which Steve, stretching, tinned; and a forehand kill which found
Steve wanting at the front. 2-1 Finitsis: game on, or so it seemed.
But the resilient fox Finitsis, alternately languid between points,
and then urgent in his evident desire to claim the gorgeous Quaich
for the champion, upped the pace again in the fourth, and seized on
balls early to wrongfoot Mahesh.
The Indian player was unhappy with some calls, but was undermined by
his own error count at key moments. This time it was Steve who was
able to conjure up superb forehand drops – one in particular was for
the coaching manuals, when his cross-court deception in an exchange
of drops drew admiring applause from the rapt and knowledgeable
An increasingly frustrated Mahesh conceded a stroke to give Steve an
8-4 lead, then missed a backhand drop to make it 10-5. A final low
forehand drive beyond Mahesh’s reach gave Steve the match.
Afterwards Steve commented: “I congratulate Mahesh on a great match,
and look forward to his undoubted future success. I can speak on
behalf of the PSA players in thanking organisers, sponsors, referees
and everyone involved here in Inverness – including Nessie – for a
great tournament. I hope we are able to come back and enjoy your
Dave Massey of the organising committee said: “We really appreciate
the pros who have given a superb exhibition. It’s been a feast of
squash, and Be Personnel and our other sponsors deserve our huge
thanks. We wish all the best for Glasgow 2014 to Steve and Mahesh,
and all the Scots players involved.”
So the players exited the stage to an eruption of applause, soft
breaths of June air wafting the scent of summer from the hills and
Draws & Results
Ness Challenger 2014
18-22 Jul, Inverness, Scotland, $15k
 Alan Clyne (Sco)
11-8, 11-3, 11-5 (37m)
[Q] Youssef Abdalla (Eng)
 Alan Clyne
11-5, 11-8, 11-8 (50m)
 Raphael Kandra
 Alan Clyne
11-7, 11-4, 5-11,
 Mahesh Mangaonkar
 Mahesh Mangaonkar
11-9, 11-2, 2-11, 11-5 (61m)
 Steve Finitsis
 Raphael Kandra (Ger)
11-9, 9-11, 11-5, 11-8 (53m)
[Q] Kevin Moran (Sco)
 Mahesh Mangaonkar (Ind)
10-12, 11-6, 11-4, 7-11, 11-2 (67m)
[Q] Mike Harris (Eng)
 Mahesh Mangaonkar
11-13, 11-8, 3-11, 11-5, 11-6 (83m)
 Jaymie Haycocks
 Jaymie Haycocks (Eng)
11-5, 11-5, 13-11 (48m)
Arthur Gaskin (Irl)
Todd Harrity (Usa)
11-9, 11-3, 11-3 (42m)
 Steve Finitsis (Aus)
 Steve Finitsis
11-6, 12-10, 11-13, 11-7 (73m)
 Zahed Mohamed
 Steve Finitsis
11-8, 8-11, 7-11,
11-8, 11-8 (116m)
[Q] Lewis Walters (Eng)
11-6, 11-5, 11-5 (39m)
 Zahed Mohamed (Egy)
[wc] Jamie Henderson (Sco)
11-8, 11-4, 11-8 (34m)
 Joel Hinds (Eng)
 Joel Hinds
11-6, 11-3, 11-4 (45m)
Greg Lobban (Sco)
11-6 rtd (23m)
 Omar Abdel Aziz (Egy)
Mike Harris (Eng) 3-1
Joel Makin (Wal)
11-9, 8-11, 11-5, 11-9 (84m)
Kevin Moran (Sco) 3-0
Chris Fuller (Eng)
11-9, 11-6, 13-11 (60m)
Youssef Abdalla (Eng) 3-1 Robert Downer (Eng) 11-6,
5-11, 11-4, 11-7 (35m)
Lewis Walters (Eng) 3-1
Reuben Phillips (Eng)
11-6, 5-11, 11-7, 11-9 (58m)
Joel Makin (Wal)
Adil Maqbool (Pak)
11-1, 11-5, 7-11, 11-5 (55m)
Mike Harris (Eng) 3-0 Taminder Gata-Aura (Eng)
11-9, 11-8, 11-7 (40m)
Kevin Moran (Sco) 3-0 Ewen Urquhart (Sco)
11-8, 11-0, 11-8
Chris Fuller (Eng) 3-0 Fraser MacDonald (Sco)
11-4, 11-7, 11-2 (40m)
Robert Downer (Eng)
Dougie Kempsell (Sco) 7-11,5-11,11-5,13-11,11-8 (79m)
(Eng) 3-1 Jan vd Herrwergen (Bel)
12-10, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9 (60m)
Reuben Phillips (Eng) 3-0 Jamie Mackay (Sco)
11-8, 11-3, 11-4 (40m)
Lewis Walters (Eng) 3-0 Garry McKay (Sco)
11-6, 11-3, 11-4 (30m)
Scots bow out in Inverness semis
A tumultuous evening of squash in Inverness: a packed house cheered
four heroes of their sport, battling away with zeal, passion and
phenomenal stamina in warm conditions.
At the end of the day, both Scots were eliminated, and we have a
Steve Finitsis v Mahesh Mangaonkar final in prospect.
a challenging sequence of matches, Mahesh brought a strong game to
his semi-final. He varied his game well from the start, bringing a
geometrical precision to his use of width and height, forcing the
indefatigable Alan Clyne to constantly turn and play from
unwelcome positions on the court. Gliding into a 2-0 lead, Mahesh
cut and carved, squeezing Alan’s game remorselessly. Then,
increasing the pace, Alan seized the third by the scruff of the
neck. His fierce attack saw him wielding his racket like a fencer
with his epée, dominating the T and constricting Mahesh’s ability to
The lower-ranked player eased up, yielding But the fourth saw Mahesh
fighting fire with fire, matching Alan at front and back and
producing a series of delightful angles to force errors. 3-1
the wily dingo Finitsis, Greg Lobban attacked from the start.
Playing with verve, lunging gymnastically, the Scot retrieved
energetically and used his trademark forehand caress to stretch the
But the 29-minute tight first game went Steve’s way, his painterly
backhand daubing the wall repeatedly to limit Greg’s attacking
After Greg battled back to seize a 2-1 lead, some controversial let
decisions frustrating Steve, it looked as if the younger man might
claim a place in the final. But the marathon rallies and the many
lunges and retrieves had taken their toll, and Greg’s tightness
dipped. Steve played great length in a patient game, working Greg
The performance of Greg Lobban was a revelation to many in
Inverness: although he has moved on to Edinburgh and the Scottish
squad, his progress through the Junior ranks is well remembered.
Although he lost his composure at the end of the fourth and fifth
games, this has been a successful event for Greg , who will continue
to rise in the rankings on this form.
Ultimately, although the match came down to just a few points, it
was Steve’s qualities, in particular his variety and distinctive,
elegant overhead play, which prevailed, to take him into the first
£15K Be Personnel Loch Ness Challenger final.
Steve commented afterwards: “I’ve really enjoyed the tournament. I
knew today’s match would be hard, and am just pleased to have made
Inverness Squash doyen Dave Humpage agreed: “It was an epic, and
both finalists have had to put plenty in to get to tomorrow’s final.
It’s been a bit of a Holy Grail for us, getting this tournament off
the ground. But now it’s there, we’d like to keep it going –
players, PSA and sponsors permitting.”
Draws & Results
Top Scots through to Inverness semis
This evening the Inverness club hosted not only the Quarter-finals
of the hugely successful £15K Loch Ness Challenger – with local
interest burning brightly – but also an important launch for the
£10K Big Lottery-funded Development project for Squash in the North
The Celebrate! Fund enabled a junior Hot Shots coaching and
competitive event for Under-12s today – this to be followed over the
coming months by a dedicated programme introducing youngsters to the
sport across a wide geographical area. “We’re really excited about
this programme,” said Coach Allan McKay, “and it will help the North
in the long term, building a legacy on the foundations of the
2014 Commonwealth Games.”
(1) Alan Clyne (Sco) bt (6) Raphael Kandra (Ger)
As the energetic Scot bounded around the court, it was easy to see
the level of intensity and sharp athleticism he brings to every
match he plays. Raphael was a calm and focussed presence, able to
challenge in every aspect of the game; but Alan’s steadiness ensured
a 3-0 win and a place in Saturday’s semi-finals.
(8) Mahesh Mangaonkar (Ind) bt (5) Jaymie Haycocks (Eng)
Great match, in which Mumbai’s Mahesh showed wit and guile as he
sparkled to a semi-final berth. Salopian Jaymie’s line and tight
straight play put pressure on Mahesh throughout, but he failed to
find an answer to his opponent’s imaginative and entertaining play.
(3) Steve Finitsis (Aus) bt (6) Zahed Mohamed (Egy)
The young Egyptian showed real flair and variety in his play,
testing the tall Aussie’s resolution. The two players were evenly
matched, and despite rallying strongly in the middle stages, Zahed
was unable to put sufficient pressure on Steve when lobbed or driven
to the back. It was the Aussie’s ability to play length and lift
which proved crucial.
Greg Lobban (Sco) bt (8) Joel Hinds (Eng)
Greg Lobban was in commanding form this evening, working his
opponent with a combination of deft tight play and astonishing
agility and reach.
“I’m pleased with the match tonight, everything seemed to go right,
and I was happy to handle whatever came back at me.”
Veteran Welsh coach Phil Williams commented: “It was nice to see how
well Greg is killing the ball. The Scots boys are certainly pleasing
the organisers and the crowds, and the weekend will make a fitting
climax to a great tournament.”
This was a great win for the Scot, who ensured both semi-finals will
feature a home-grown player.
As night fell in the Highlands, a heron swooped gracefully down,
plundering the riches of the fast-flowing River Ness. But only four
from a rich array of talent were able to plunder a semi-final place.
Draws & Results
19-Jun, Round One:
Top Scots through to Inverness quarters
Round one of the Main draw in the Be Personnel Loch Ness Challenger
proved a dramatic evening indeed.
A packed Inverness Tennis & Squash Club witnessed North Kessock’s
Commonwealth Games hopeful Greg Lobban gain a significant
victory over No. 2 seed Egypt’s Omar Abdel Aziz, after the
experienced Egyptian retired with an injury.
The young Scot pressurised his higher-ranked opponent with a
sustained performance of excellent squash, showing the superb
fitness levels he has reached in his successful season as a top-100
pro player, climbing the rankings. Omar’s injury – which appeared
lumbar - came at the end of a hard first game, and disappointed the
fans who were enjoying a really competitive match on Inverness’
bright show court.
Solid performances, too, from Steven Finitsis, Zahed
Mohamed and Joel Hinds, who played controlled squash to
overcome gallant opposition. Joel showed real quality of touch in
defeating young Jamie Henderson of Thurso, who put up a good fight
against the fluent Englishman.
Zahed’s length was admired by many; and Finitsis’ controlled game,
with a deceptively relaxed style, will make him a tough opponent in
tomorrow’s quarter-finals. American Todd Harrity pressed Steve
enough to make the experienced Australian up the pace to see him
Germany’s Raphael Kandra had to overcome a fierce effort by
Kevin Moran of Scotland, but the left-hander’s greater variety of
shot and sustained quality saw him through, even when faced by a
major onslaught in the 4th, when Kevin led 7-2 at one point.
Top seed and Scots No. 1 Alan Clyne had too much intensity
and stamina for the talented Londoner Youssef Abdalla. And superior
courtcraft ensured Mahesh Mangaonkar’s victory over
Englishman Michael Harris, who had pulled the match back to 2-2 with
a skilled and determined display.
As Tournament Manager Garry McKay commented: “We were
delighted with the quality again today, and are very pleased so many
players and supporters are staying and enjoying the club this week.
The quarter-finals have again set up some intriguing matches, with
the excitement of the Scots’ presence and success adding to the
feverish but appreciative atmosphere. The Football World Cup, though
available, has mostly been second choice for a knowledgeable and
18-Jun, Qualifying Finals:
Qualifying complete in Inverness
As Qualifying concludes in the £15k Be Personnel Loch Ness
Challenger – the biggest squash tournament in Scotland for 25 years
– the intensity and drama are building by the minute.
Scots players are vying with international talents for the generous
prize fund, and crowds and media interest are unmatched.
Top Scots Alan Clyne and Greg Lobban, both local boys, will be eager
to do well as their Commonwealth Games challenge approaches, and
after a successful season in which they led the Scots team to 4th be
keen to have a say in the final destiny of the trophies.
Four players made it through tough Qualifying today - Lewis
Walters, Youssef Abdalla and Mike Harris (England)
and Scotland’s own Kevin Moran.
Patriotic crowds were especially pleased to see Paisley’s Moran
battle to a lung-bursting win in Inverness this evening. As one of
the key members of the Scots Commonwealth Games team, his was a
morale-boosting victory indeed.
Club Squash Coach and Manager Malcolm MacKay said, “We are delighted
to be hosting this event, which is a real marker of how successful
the Inverness club has become.
The Organisers and sponsors have really put the Be Personnel Loch
Ness Challenger on the world squash map, and we’re really looking
forward to the Main event starting on Thursday.”
Mike Harris (Eng) beat Joel
A long match saw Harris playing the more attacking squash with
his younger opponent Makin trying to extend the rallies.
Overall, Harris was the more clinical player, showing greater
creativity and initiative, taking the match in four.
Harris said later: “I was happy to push through to win 3-1 –
Joel was very solid and I had to play well to close out the
Kevin Moran (Sco) beat Chris Fuller (Eng)
The second match of the night saw Scotland’s Kevin Moran win a
high-tempo match with some incredible retrieving, resulting in a
3-0 win in a close, competitive match. Some controversial
decisions upset the Englishman’s momentum when 9-5 up in the
third Moran’s ability to maintain tight play and pace saw him
This win confirms three of Scotland’s Commonwealth Games team
(Clyne, Lobban and Moran) in the Main draw for Thursday.
happy to get through that, it's not easy playing Chris. We've
played once before and it was a long, tough match, so I knew
that going in.
He was more accurate than me tonight but I felt I moved a bit
better, although I needed to retrieve an awful lot tonight.
"Looking forward to tomorrow now, need to recover well so I can
have a good pop at my old rival from my junior days, Raphy
Youssef Abdalla (Eng) beat
Robert Downer (Eng)
of the day. Downer’s stubborn and skilled play proved unequal to
the flair and unpredictability of Abdalla, who used cross-court
and a range of incredible crowd-pleasing shots to great
advantage, and forced occasional looseness and poor shot
selection from his opponent.
In the event both players were feeling the effects of their
previous difficult matches, and the combination of two powerful
and very individual players made this match a real treat for a
Youssef commented: “I really had to rely on my shot-making,
as Robert’s punishing play, his pace, and ability to play the
unexpected shot placed great demands on my fitness after
yesterday’s hard match with Jan van den Herrewegen.”
Robert paid tribute to his opponent: “Not meant to be for me
tonight – credit to Youssef who, like me, had a hard match
yesterday but saw it through today in four. I really wanted to
go to a 5th but it wasn't to be.”
Lewis Walters (Eng) beat Reuben Phillips (Eng)
The last match of the evening was a tough battle, lasting just
under an hour. Both players showed a combination of power and
finesse, with Walters coming out on top in four.
In the end Walters’ ability to conclude rallies took its toll on
his opponent, who struggled to gain the initiative as the third
and fourth games wore on.
Top Scots head home to Inverness
The $15k Be Personnel Loch Ness Challenger, taking place from
19-22 June in the heart of Inverness, sees squash stars from near
and far converge on the Highland capital for what looks set to be a
Top Scots Alan Clyne and
Greg Lobban, both local boys,
will be eager to do well as their Commonwealth Games challenge
approaches, and after a successful season in which they led the
Scots team to fourth place in the European Team Championships.
Others looking to hit form pre-Glasgow 2014 include Netherlands -
based Aussie Steve Finitsis and young Indian Mahesh
But we shouldn’t discount Raphael Kandra, part of the German
team which achieved third in the European Teams in Riccione.
In-form Egyptian Omar Abdel Aziz, fresh from winning the
Norwegian Open in Oslo, will want to maintain that good form which
has seen the 30-year-old really hitting his stride.
His younger compatriot
Zahed Mohamed, seeded 6, could be a
dark horse, with the draw throwing up intriguing possibilities at
each end. With top Irishman Arthur Gaskin and skilled UK
practitioners Jaymie Haycocks and Joel Hinds plus US
star Todd Harrity all in the mix, this is an intriguing
Qualifying begins on Tuesday: up-and-coming Scots Dougie Kempsell
and Kevin Moran will push hard to reach the final 16.
Public and media interest is bubbling up and organisers and sponsors
hope this - the biggest pro tournament to be held in Scotland in 25
years - will put the Inverness club on the squash map.
Moray Firth radio preview