TODAY at the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic
Tue 24th March, Round One, Bottom Half:

En Bref #1

Gaultier, Milton, Eventis


Alan Thatcher's
Canary Wharf BLOG

Round One, take two

Well, no upsets tonight, but no walkovers either, as Wael El Hindi finished the evening off at 11.45 with what he described as a "short" match, just the 80 minutes against sparring partner Joey Barrington.

Earlier docklands resident Peter Barker had beaten his long-time friend Daryl Selby in a marathon 94 minutes, and Super Series champion Gregory Gaultier had reversed last year's early loss, but not without a few scares against Cameron Pilley, last year's surprise finalist.

Wildcard Tom Richards was getting stronger and stronger against David Palmer, but the Aussie's experience pulled him through in the quickest match of the day.

[8] Peter Barker (Eng) bt Daryl Selby (Eng)
        11/13, 11/8, 11/4, 11/9 (94m)
[2] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt Cameron Pilley (Aus)
        11/9, 11/5, 8/11, 11/9 (70m)
[4] David Palmer (Aus) bt Tom Richards (Eng)
        11/5, 11/8, 11/9 (41m)
[6] Wael El Hindi (Egy) bt Joey Barrington (Eng)
         9/11, 12/10, 11/5, 11/5 (80m)


[8] Peter Barker (Eng) bt Daryl Selby (Eng)
        11/13, 11/8, 11/4, 11/9 (94m)

Framboise reports

Peter didn’t start well, that’s an understatement. He was slamming the ball in the tin far too often, wasn’t settled, soon starting questioning the ref… That’s my Peter not being in the game.

And did Daryl know how to capitalise on that to start with. He was playing fluid, stress-less, pressure-less squash, finding some superb width preventing his opponent from settling down and finding his mark.

In 23 minutes of long and gruelling rallies, Daryl got his first game ball, 10/7, suddenly, seem to relax a bit. Peter got a few points in no time, 10/10. Now he was back level, Daryl relaxed again to finally take the first game, 13/11.

And he went on with his momentum, leading 6/3 against a Peter who honestly, I didn’t see winning the match, as he seemed a bit lost at sea really. But as it often happens, Daryl started to think. Oh my Lord, I could see in his eyes, I’m leading, 1/0, and Peter doesn’t look good in that one, and if I take this one, and lead 2/0, I’ve got a good chance to beat him…

And zoom, the concentration went out the window, his shots got shorter, less accurate, less precise, allowing Peter to get the ball at the front, and as he was not moving that well either, we came to a stop start game, with Peter not getting out of the way that well, Daryl, happy to be able to chat a bit with the refs instead of focusing on his game, and 68 decisions later, it was Peter again that closed it down in the fourth.

He got close did Peter, if not score wise, but mental wise. He knows it, Daryl knows it. And he was happy Peter was, and relieved. He can be….

"That was a bit of a lengthy game, I’m sorry, it must have been very boring for everybody….

"Daryl has gone up the rankings recently, and he is playing top ten at the moment, he was top qualifier, it doesn’t get tougher than that, and I knew it was going to be a bit of a slog, as I didn’t feel that great to start with!

"To beat Daryl, I had to be at the top of my game, and I wasn’t at time. I’m so relieved to win it, but I didn’t enjoy it at all, too many friends, too much of a good mate. I was so nervous, always in the first round, a bit wiggly, I had nothing to win, nothing to gain, et everything to lose…

"I know I got in the way, it was a classic case, he was moving very well, and I wasn’t. He has such a great movement, I was trying to break it a bit!!!!! ONLY JOKING!!!!! It was a bit scrappy, I admit it, not a vintage squash…

"I would love to play Greg, I never done well against him. And I’ve been playing well recently, well, apart from tonight, and I would love to test myself against him, that’s why we train. I think that Greg is the number one at the moment, he is playing the best squash. And playing him in my home town, with a lot of support, I would be really looking forward to that…"

"It was a brutal game, we were both physical, and I don’t think it was the best squash we ever played…

"Peter is a real good mate, but boy did he get in the way today! I was trying not to give him anything away, but he was not giving me space, and I’m sorry to say the referees didn’t do anything about it.

"That’s one of the major problems of the three refs system, which is a good system, but there is a flaw, he doesn’t get penalised…

"Pete is such a good mover, you get closer and closer to the tin, and finally make the error… And his forehand is so dangerous, a bit like Shabana, you don’t want to play on there, because anything loose will get put away… And if you succeed to twist and turn him a bit, you may get a shot at it, but then again, his defence is so good, he doesn’t allow you to attack…

"I thought I played well for a game and a half, I think I had a good chance to beat him, but it’s so hard to play such a great friend…"

After the final in Queen’s last week, I went back to Aix, to try and get some recovery, a few physio treatments to make sure the body was fine, but to be honest, my muscles were not at their best!

I’m lucky that I was playing only today, as yesterday, I wasn’t working properly, and a wheelchair would have been in order! I know how Thierry must have felt, and as it happens, when I was up 2/0 today, I thought about him, the way he was leading, and that he had a big drop of energy…

So in the third, instead of keeping playing relaxed and controlling like I was in the first two games, I started going for shorts, and that didn’t work well at all! Cameron dug in, and that was it…

In the fourth, I had to make sure I was closing down the game, still I made a few too many errors, as Cameron was still applying a lot of pressure. He was leading 9/7, I was lucky to get back 9/9 and to then score the two last points. I think I played the end of the 1st and 4th very well, but in the end, when you are at 9/9, luck is always playing a great part…

Still, I just want to thank Tim and Peter for letting me play on the second day!!!!!!!

[2] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt Cameron Pilley (Aus)
        11/9, 11/5, 8/11, 11/9 (70m)

Framboise reports

Wherever Greg’s team is around him, I can hear those words, “Allez Greg, tranquille”… I’m sure that you don’t need a translation for that one…

And if the Frenchman was “tranquille” in the first two games, funnily enough like Thierry yesterday, he started to look like a lion in a glass cage from the third onwards. He started going too short far too early, trying to finish the point quickly, and going for high percentage shots he normally doesn’t go for.

Cameron seemed to suddenly wake up! It was like the noise of the ball, the suddenly increased pace gave him, 1. more opportunities to attack. 2. it got him into the rhythm of the match. He started moving much better, and started to find solutions to the questions Greg was asking him.

In the fourth, Greg was kind enough to give him 7 points, how kind those Frenchmen, especially 4 in a row at the start of the game. After that awful start, Greg seemed to put his squash brain on, and lengthen the rallies again, trying to get Cameron in that false rhythm he achieved in the first two games. Cameron would have none of that, and it all ended on the toss of a coin, 9/9, a kill for Greg, and a tin from Cameron…

He was putting away a lot of my shots, much more than he normally does when we play. But that’s maybe something to do with the fact that my shots were stopping at mid court, giving him more opportunities to go for winners…

It was the same thing when we played in Virginia, we were close up to 7/7, and then he would just play the end of the game better. And I did try to change what I was doing then, I pushed up the court a bit more, but his low cross court kills, plus a few dodgy bounces didn’t help…

[4] David Palmer (Aus) bt Tom Richards (Eng)
        11/5, 11/8, 11/9 (41m)

Tom getting closer
Steve reports

It was a daunting task for Tom Richards, the wildcard pitted against the ultimate professional on unfamiliar surroundings - he doesn't get to play on glass courts that often, and although he'd played David Palmer last month in Novia Scotia, that wan on plaster courts and scant preparation for this test.

He started well though accepting the first two point from a tin and a stroke, playing two winners of his own to go 4-1 ahead.

For the rest of the first two games though he was on the receiving end as Palmer buried him into the back corners, time and again putting the ball so tight the young Englishman couldn't dig it out. Richards wasn't making any unforced errors, but he wasn't making any headway either, as Palmer took the first and went 10-4 up in the second, never looking rushed and in truth never seriously troubled.

But Richards started to feel more and more at ease, finally started to dominate some rallies and finally forced some errors out of the Australian as he came back to within two points. Typically though, Palmer buried one deep into the back corner to take the game and a two-love lead.

The third was a real contest. Never more than a couple of points between them, and Tom was really starting to make his opponent rush now. The crowd was willing Tom to extend the match - despite being already being way behind schedule - but at 9-all Tom made his first unforced error for a long time to set up match ball.

The final rally was one of the best of the match, and Palmer's fist pump and cry of "yes" as he slotted away a dropshot told us what we already knew, that Tom was getting closer and closer.

He'll take great heart from this, while David will be pleased to be through to the quarters in the quickest time yet, but it wasn't easy, not at all ...

At the end of the second and during the third, I really enjoyed it, I was able to handle the conditions better, shame I couldn’t snatch the 3rd…

The difference on the glass court is the quality of the shots. On a traditional court, I know I can get pretty much everything back, whereas here, I know I need the quality of my shots to be perfect if I want to be able to have any role in the rallies…

I was trying to do more than just defending, defending, so I was taking the ball early, trying also to learn as much as I could from playing him, to try and learn what he does, because that’s how I would like to play…

I wish I could have relaxed more from the start, because of course, the quality of my shots would have improved, and that’s what I needed badly. And I’m not your relaxed player naturally, I’m more of a “right in the face” kind of player!

What really impresses me in David’s game is how early he takes the ball, and I think it’s got a lot to do with how well he reads the ball.

Tom Richards

"At the end of the third, I was slowing down, and he was getter better!!!

"Always a bit of pressure in the first round, and he stuck in there, and he is a good player. He needs a bit more practice on the glass court, but once he gets it, he is young, he is keen, he is doing all the right things, he is close to the top 30, after that, who knows..

"I’m happy with my new life in Boston, family is good, club is good, I’m still trying and compete with those young kids, it’s not easy, but I still enjoy it, and that’s why I’m doing it…"



I know that Tom was very tense today. “I didn’t want to let the crowd down”, he said, “all the players here are top people, I really wanted to be worthy of them, worthy of the wild card that was offered to me.”

And Tom played his role to perfection once he got a bit more in the groove of the event, instead of just the pressure of it.

David, well… You may think of David as the Marine, but for me, he is that player who works so hard and makes it look so easy. The weight on the ball is just perfect, he moves so fast, sooo fast, in a few tenths of a second, he is ready to play a perfectly on balance shot, while you just finished playing yours…. He moves as if he had wheels, smoothly, and at the front, the delicate touch he places his backhand volley drop shots is just second to none. Just top of the pack….

Tom admires David a great deal. He should, and when he says that he gets inspiration from the Australian’s game, he could have made a worse choice.

[6] Wael El Hindi (Egy) bt Joey Barrington (Eng)
         9/11, 12/10, 11/5, 11/5 (80m)

Framboise reports

I truly believe that Joey had a chance to beat Wael for the first time tonight. The Egyptian, coming back from injury and feeling no pain for the first time in a long time, just couldn’t find his marks, as funny as it sounds! His racquet felt too light, his grip felt funny, you see the drill…

On the other side of the court, a very determined and aggressive Joey, whose accuracy, initiative and stamina was really pushing Wael to the back. Add to that the lack of length from the Egyptian whose shots were barely finding the service line, and you had all the right ingredients for an upset.

But once again, Joey’s body let him down. First his quad seem to cause him trouble in the third, and in the fourth he made a “self inflicted” injury when he appeared to have twisted his ankle.

After a quick break – the three minutes allowed – he came back with a black strap around his foot, and tried and played as fast, as hard and as accurately as he could on one foot.

But you do realise that against a top eight players, having two legs is an element of success. Joey could only shake his mate's hand. Not happy, he was, and no wonder…