Qualifying complete in Halifax
MD – Martin Dumas and BC – Blair Cook Reporting
Qualifying wrapped up Tuesday evening in the $55,000 Bluenose Squash Classic.
The qualifying tournament, which began on Monday night with 16 competitors vying for one of four spots available in the main draw, has now been completed.
Chris Simpson, Shawn Delierre, Cesar Salazar, and Jan Koukal with their victories tonight have booked their tickets to the big show on the glass court at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium starting Wednesday afternoon
By way of random draw, these four qualifiers were placed into their respective brackets in the main round. Chris Simpson will be in tough against number one seed Amr Shabana, Shawn Delierre will play Julian Illingworth, Cesar Salazar with face off with fourth seed Daryl Selby, and Jan Koukal, after two five setters in a row, will face Spaniard Borja Golan.
Main round play begins Wednesday at high noon at The Rebecca Cohn Auditorium.
With construction of the glass court now complete, this world class international field is ready to dazzle and amaze Halifax sports fans with their unbelievable athleticism.
Chris Simpson (ENG) bt Robbie Temple (ENG)
11-6, 11-3, 11-2 (42 mins)
The first game opened with some power-hitting which lead to a number of let calls for both players, until each player began to find their rhythm. While Temple preferred to pummel the ball low and hard, Simpson alternated power with higher, tighter shots to force Temple into the back corners. Simpson’s strategy gave him the early lead, going up 6-1.
Temple, meanwhile took issue with three different referee decisions but then re-directed his aggression at the ball, putting Simpson under pressure with a barrage of heavy shots. Simpson defended well until the power and deception of several of Temple’s two-handed backhands began to overwhelm him and Temple came back to make it 6-4. But Temple couldn’t keep up this level of pressure. Some looser play and an unforced error resulted in Simpson widening the gap to 9-5. Another mistake from Temple and a great cross-court drop from Simpson clinched the first game 11-6.
Game two opened with a long high-tempo rally culminating in an attacking boast from Simpson. At 2-1, Temple dropped one into the nick, then both players traded winners to make it 3-3. After losing a longer exchange, Temple flubbed one into the tin to make it 5-3 for Simpson. At this point Simpson began to take over and Temple again took issue with some calls. At 8-3, Temple miss-hit one, then Simpson put in a quick drop and after another tin from Temple the game was Simpson’s 11-3.
Game three began with two longer, tighter rallies eventually going to Simpson. A Simpson cross-court volley drop appeared to make it 3-0, but Temple contested the pickup. Simpson said he wasn’t sure and the refs agreed to a let, however Temple found no joy in the call, saying “it was down, ref.”
Possibly still distracted by the call, Temple lost the next three points. Down 6-0, Temple put in a burst of effort, throwing in a number of excellent drops and drives that kept Simpson scrambling to all four corners of the court. Finally Temple put Simpson away to the sound of cheers from the crowd. However from there on it was all Simpson, who took the final game 11-2. JC
Shawn Delierre (CAN) bt Matt Bishop (CAN)
11-6, 11-8, 11-7 (27 mins)
Almost every local squash enthusiast within a 100 miles of Halifax was in attendance this evening to see if Matt Bishop, the Bluenose’s unofficial player ambassador, could find greatness against one of Canada’s best and a former Bluenose Classic Champion- Shawn Delierre. Bishop ever the gentlemen player acknowledged the fans (and family) present after the match, “I’m always just thrilled to step on the court with all the hometown support to play against these guys.”
The first game opened up with Delierre reminding Bishop that the tin had been reset a few inches lower the day before hitting a couple of tight drops to take an early 3-0 lead. Bishop won two of the next three points with outright nicks that had the crowd cheering loud and proud. Delierre opened the gap further to take a 6-2 lead mixing drops with drives keeping Bishop scrambling. Bishop found another nick in his arsenal and then tried clawing his way back into the game down 6-9. Unfortunately for Bishop, it’s awfully tough to keep hitting nicks against world-class talent and Delierre closed out the first game 11-6.
It was Bishop who got the early lead in game two on a nice nick and a tight drop to go up 3-0. Delierre graciously coughed up a couple more points with miscues that gave Bishop the 5-2 lead midway through the game. Bishop patiently played the ball deep hoping for an opportunity to catch Delierre out of position. That just doesn’t happen at this level and Delierre rattled of six straight points to gain control of the game 8-5. The final six points of the second game were split evenly between the two cordial Canadians, which unfortunately left Bishop short a few points losing game two 11-8.
In the third game, a few sloppy hits on both sides left the score at 5-3 for Delierre midway. The two Bluenose veterans were moving freely and enjoying the match. Delierre caught Bishop going the wrong way and instructed him, “I always hit cross court off that shot.” A few rallies later, Delierre dropped the same shot catching Bishop going the wrong way to which Bishop objected, “You said you always go cross court?” Bishop was able to square the third game at 7, but that was as close as he was to get and Delierre took the third game 11-7 along with the match 3-0.
After the tough match yesterday, Delierre sounded more upbeat after today’s match, “Yesterday I had no shots, but today felt much better. I’m feeling good about my game heading into the main draw tomorrow.” Anyone want to guess, which day he has his flight booked for? It’s not for a while yet. BC
Cesar Salazar (MEX) bt Joe Lee (ENG)
7-11, 11-4, 11-6, 3-11, 11-6 (78 min)
Both of these players came into tonight’s match fresh after last night’s relatively light action. Lee brought a nice tight game of sharp drives mixed with tight drops. Salazar was assigned the role of patient retriever, waiting for an opportunity to step in and hit a quick drive when possible.
In the first game, the rallies were sharp down both walls and many of the early points were only traded on account of self-inflicted error. Lee made fewer errors in the first part of the game taking a comfortable 7-4 lead, but you can never count Salazar out. After a winner, a stroke, and a back wall-hugging lob, he squared the game at seven with Lee. In the very next rally, after 51 strokes, Lee prevailed pounding a drive by Salazar. He was able to carry this momentum for several more points and was successful in winning the first game 11-7.
The momentum that Lee found at the end of the first game was short lived though, as Salazar quickly went up 5-1 early in the second game on a series of winning drives. Lee tried to stop the bleeding, closing the gap to 3-6, but that was as close as he got and Salazar stubbornly refused to let him back any further with fantastic retrieving. Salazar seemed to have picked up some body cues as he managed to anticipate a few shots even before Lee hit them. At one point, Lee complained to the referee- Zal Davar- that Salazar was calling a let before he had even hit the ball. Momentum is a funny thing that way and Salazar was able to cruise to an 11-4 victory in the game.
Salazar picked up game three where game two left off, that is, with momentum and savvy instincts. Lee seemed to have lost some of his earlier focus allowing Salazar to rack up a 7-1 lead before he regained his concentration. Lee did manage to play out the remainder of the third game strongly, but the deficit was too much to overcome and Salazar took the game 11-6.
Interestingly, it was Salazar who came out a little flat in the fourth game. On a couple of occasions, his uncanny instincts, which had earned the critical points in earlier games, began failing him, and Lee caught Salazar going the wrong way. Compounding Salazar’s problems were the five unforced errors he made during the fourth game giving Lee a decisive 11-3 victory.
This brought us to the crucial fifth game. It was clear that both players wanted to win this match, at all costs, to advance to the main draw tomorrow. Points became hard fought with many rallies ending in let calls. Lee took the early advantage 2-0 with a nice boast, however; the ensuing five points went to Salazar, though each was a battle in and of itself. Referee Davar, forced to make a couple of no let calls, broke the logjam that was forming between the two players. With a bit of breathing room Salavar made a spectacular diving reverse boast, which Lee misplayed giving Salazar a 7-3 lead. After the match Salazar commented, “that point was very important to win for me.” Indeed it proved to be the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back as from there, Salazar confidently finished off the match winning the fifth game 11-6. BC
Jan Koukal (CZE) bt Charles Sharpes (ENG)
9-11 12-14 12-10 11-4 11-4 (73 mins)
Both players had been in five-set matches the night before, but that didn’t stop them from coming out with guns blazing. Each rally was a furious exchange of low, hard shots and this style didn’t seem to let up until the fifth game. Early in the first both players struggled to find their length and width as they each tried to out-attack the other.
The score ratcheted up quickly to 5-5 as lets, drops, nicks, and contested calls were exchanged. Sharpes then blasted a backhand into the nick, and later dropped Koukal’s cross-court attempt to go up 7-5. Sharpes maintained the lead as both players found tin too often to make it 9-7. Finally, the pace settled down on a long backhand rally where both players found the back of the court. Sharpes initiated the attacks from here and took the first game 11-9.
Points were won and lost as quickly in the second game, which seemed to start at 3-3. Sharpes then contested a let call stating that Koukal “creates his own interference.” Throughout this game the front backhand side of the court appeared to be a focal point for a constant stream of outrageous nick and drop attempts from both sides. Sharpes had the edge as he went on to build a 6-3 lead. At 8-6 there was again an interlude of good tight length before the cross-court attacks resumed, leading to a no-let call where Sharpes assured the ref he “would’ve got that, 100%.” Sharpes then found the tin twice in a row to give Koukal the lead 10-9 before using good length to draw even at 10-10. At 12-12 Koukal made a quick error and then hit the tin to give Sharpes the second game 14-12.
Koukal raced to a 2-0 lead on two nice drop shots in the third, before a stroke call and a great length from Sharpes evened the score. Rallies were short and points awarded evenly up to 7-6 Koukal, at which point both players exchanged perfect drop shots to make it 8-7. Another drop and a stroke to Koukal made it 10-8. Sharpes came back on two tins from Koukal to make it 10-10 before Koukal closed the game out with a drop into the backhand nick 12-10.
Sharpes took the first two points in the fourth before finding the tin twice and then breathlessly arguing with the refs. At 4-3, Sharpes sportingly called his own ball down, before again finding the tin. This time he had a few choice words for himself. While the crowd laughed, the ref had no choice but to issue a conduct warning for language, to which Sharpes replied “I didn’t say it out loud! I whispered it!” But the refs had heard enough. Sharpes was clearly battling fatigue at this point and gave up the remaining points to lose 11-4.
Game 5 went no better for Sharpes as Koukal continued to attack well while Sharpes could only find tin. The game and match was wrapped up quickly at 11-4. JC
Tournament Page: www.squashsite.co.uk/2009/bluenose2012.htm