Champions Duffield & Newcomers Bristol Take Early Advantage In PSL Semis

24 Apr 07

Event newcomers Redwood Probuild Bristol and title-holders Benz-Bavarian Duffield hold the early advantage after tonight's first leg semi-finals in the Premier League (PSL) - the west country debutants securing a valuable 4/1 away win at University of Birmingham, while the Derbyshire club clinched a 3/2 home win over Surrey Health & Racquets Croydon.

The teams will meet again in reverse fixtures on Thursday in the second semi-final legs - to decide the line-up of the final of the England Squash league sponsored by Clowes Insurance on 15th May.

It was a night of pure drama in Duffield where the champions were hoping to maintain the unbeaten record which stretches back to last season. But Tim Garner, a last-minute stand in for Ben Ford, celebrated his 37th birthday in some style when he put Croydon into the lead with a 7-9, 9-6, 9-7, 9-5 win over former European Junior champion Laurence Delasaux. "I kept telling myself it was a long way to come to lose on my birthday!" said the Sussex champion afterwards.

Duffield bounced back when Jonathan Kemp - a stalwart of last season's title-winning squad - scored a notable win over Italian No1 Davide Bianchetti, twice coming from behind to beat the opponent ranked five places higher in the world 8-10, 9-3, 7-9, 9-7, 9-1 in 45 minutes.

"We're both a bit tired from playing three tournaments in a row, so I wanted to go out fast, step up the court and play at a fast pace," said Kemp. "It was working and not working equally, I was making too many errors, so I decided to try to slow it down, cut out the mistakes, and that was more effective."

Another stunning win came Duffield's way when part-timer Andrew Whipp came back from two games down to beat the Surrey club's world No32 Bradley Ball 6-9, 2-9, 9-2, 9-5, 9-3. "I can't really explain what happened," said Ball, candidly, later.

The delighted victor joked: "I'm a bit of a slow starter these days, someone suggested I should play a match before my match."

Duffield's lead was brief, however, as Croydon's soon-to-be policewoman Stephanie Brind showed that she still possesses some of the flair that took her to No4 in the world five years ago by beating the hosts' Vicky Hynes 9-6, 9-6, 9-7.

And so the top string clash between former England team-mates Nick Matthew, Duffield's reigning British Open champion, and the now retired former world number one Peter Nicol, was to be the decider. The packed crowd was treated to a gripping display of world-class squash as Nicol summoned every drop of skill and magic he could to keep at bay the 'youngster' whom he beat six times out of eight when on the Tour. Miraculously, Nicol clinched the third game - but victory came after 47 minutes to the home star as Matthew won 9-3, 9-3, 6-9, 11-9 to keep alive Duffield's chances of reaching a second successive final.

It was a much more one-sided affair in Birmingham where both sides were experiencing semi-final action for the first time. Bristol charged into the lead as team captain Hadrian Stiff and Germany's Daniela Schumann, making her debut for the visitors, beat the University side's Jaymie Haycocks and Leonie Holt, respectively.

Welshman David Evans, the former British Open champion, piled on the pressure by beating Birmingham's Stephen Coppinger 9-7, 9-7, 9-3 to clinch victory for the visitors - then Australian regular Joseph Kneipp stretched Bristol's lead with a 4-9, 10-8, 3-9, 9-4, 9-3 win over Joel Hinds.

Perhaps the most surprising result - but one which gave the home team some consolation - was when Birmingham number one Joey Barrington inflicted the first PSL defeat of the year on Adrian Grant. The former Birmingham student beat Bristol's world No15, ranked 12 places higher, 9-2, 5-9, 6-9, 10-9, 9-3 in 54 minutes - saving a match-ball in the fourth game.

Semi-Finals, 1st leg:

Benz-Bavarian Duffield 3 Surrey Health & Racquets Croydon 2
Nick Matthew bt Peter Nicol 9-3, 9-3, 6-9, 11-9 (47m)
Jonathan Kemp bt Davide Bianchetti 8-10, 9-3, 7-9, 9-7, 9-1 (45m)
Andrew Whipp bt Bradley Ball 6-9, 2-9, 9-2, 9-5, 9-3 (36m)
Laurence Delasaux lost to Tim Garner 9-7, 6-9, 7-9, 5-9 (35m)
Vicky Hynes lost to Stephanie Brind 6-9, 6-9, 7-9 (20m)

University of Birmingham 1 Redwood Probuild Bristol 4
Joey Barrington bt Adrian Grant 9-2, 5-9, 6-9, 10-9, 9-3 (54m)
Joel Hinds lost to Joseph Kneipp 9-4, 8-10, 9-3, 4-9, 3-9 (51m)
Stephen Coppinger lost to David Evans 7-9, 7-9, 3-9 (38m)
Jaymie Haycocks lost to Hadrian Stiff 6-9, 2-9, 2-9 (29m)
Leonie Holt lost to Daniela Schumann 5-9, 8-10, 9-6, 9-6, 3-9 (37m)