Champions Duffield Face Tough Test In PSL Title Defence
20 Apr 2007
Derbyshire club Benz-Bavarian Duffield face a tough test in the final stages of their defence of the Premier League (PSL) title when they host Surrey Health & Racquets Croydon in the first semi-final leg of the England Squash league sponsored by Clowes Insurance on Tuesday.
In the other semi-final, University of Birmingham entertain Redwood Probuild Bristol - with the second semi-final legs taking place two days later, at reverse fixtures, on Thursday.
Remarkably, only Duffield - who were also champions in 1998 - have reached the semi-finals before. Croydon and Birmingham are enjoying competition in the league's play-off stages in only their second season in the league - while Redwood Bristol are celebrating this achievement at the end of their debut season in the PSL!
Duffield, the only team unbeaten so far this season, will be led by England No1 Nick Matthew, the British Open champion from Sheffield. Matthew will face former England team-mate Peter Nicol, the now retired former world number one and four-times Commonwealth Games gold medallist who leads the Croydon club's attack.
"I am looking forward to playing the legend twice in three days," said Matthew of Nicol, whom he has only before beaten on two occasions in eight meetings over four years.
Telford-based Jonathan Kemp, who also came in behind Matthew in the Duffield squad which won the title in the final against Edgbaston Priory last May, will face Italian number one and world No29 Davide Bianchetti, ranked five places higher.
The women's battle in Duffield will see the host club's Laura Hill - the Derbyshire fire-fighter fresh from her sensational first round upset over world-top-twenty-ranked Isabelle Stoehr in the Irish Open in Dublin - take on Croydon's soon-to-be policewoman Stephanie Brind, the former world No4 from Bexleyheath in Kent.
After helping to take Edgbaston Priory through to last season's final, England international Adrian Grant is leading Redwood Probuild Bristol's bid for success in this year's semi-finals. The world No15 from London will face the University of Birmingham top string Joey Barrington, the world No27 who has led his squad in all but one tie this season.
The second string clash will see Birmingham's 19-year-old Joel Hinds take on the visitors' Joseph Kneipp, the former world No10 from Australia. Bristol's former British Open champion David Evans will test the home side's South African star Stephen Coppinger - winner of three PSA Tour titles already this year - in the third string encounter.