Duffield Retain PSL Title In Nottingham

15 May 07

Derbyshire club Benz Bavarian Duffield beat event newcomers Redwood Probuild Bristol 3/2 in tonight's Premier League (PSL) final at Nottingham Squash Club to not only extend their unbeaten run to 15 ties, but also became the first club for ten years to successfully defend the title.

Both teams were at full strength for the climax of the England Squash league sponsored by Clowes Insurance: Duffield fielded three players who clinched the 2006 title in Manchester - England number ones Nick Matthew and Tania Bailey, and Jonathan Kemp - while the Bristol squad featured two players making their fourth appearances in PSL finals, Adrian Grant, a former Edgbaston Priory player, and David Evans who appeared in the 1999 final for 2007 final hosts Nottingham!

Lincolnshire's Tania Bailey put the champions ahead with a 9-6, 9-6, 10-8 defeat of rising Australian star Kasey Brown. "She's a really good player, so I knew I'd have to play well to beat her," said the world No4 of her opponent, ranked 12 places lower.

On an adjacent court, Duffield stalwart Andrew Whipp beat Bristol captain Hadrian Stiff 10-12, 9-6, 9-5, 9-6 to give the title-holders a 2/0 lead.

But PSL veteran David Evans, the former British Open champion from Wales who has represented the mid-order strength of league debutants Bristol, pulled back the deficit when he despatched Duffield's newly-married Lee Drew 9-4, 9-2, 9-5.

However, squad No2 Jonathan Kemp - in his 10th appearance for Duffield this season - clinched the title for his club when he edged out Australian Joseph Kneipp 9-6, 9-4, 7-9, 10-8.

England team-mates Nick Matthew and Adrian Grant faced each other in the best-of-three 'dead rubber' which completed the evening - Grant securing a further consolation point for the west country side by dismissing his higher-ranked national team-mate Matthew 9-6, 9-5 in just 17 minutes.

"I'm glad my team did the important work before I got on court, as Adrian was on fire tonight," said Matthew later.

The Yorkshireman went on to pay tribute to Duffield team manager Brian Hargrave, who was celebrating his third Premier League title for the club since 1998. "Brian does an amazing job - he seems not only to run our club, but the league and the rest of the clubs too - it's a fantastic effort."

Hargrave put his team's success down "a real squad effort."

"Throughout the season, if one player didn't quite perform, others would excel and lead the team to overall success. It is a team in every sense of the word.

"And the supporters have been outstanding too. They have been with us throughout the season, home and away, and this encourages the players - and is probably worth a couple of extra points for each match," Hargrave explained.

The manager also paid tribute to long-time sponsors Benz-Bavarian: "Company owner Felix Frixou has been with us for ten years now - he is very generous. We couldn't have done it without him," added Hargrave.

Despite narrowly losing out, Bristol driving force Hadrian Stiff also had much to be proud of - helping his club become the first ever to reach the final in its debut season: "Our secret was having a squad of players mainly based in the UK - and comprising a nucleus of players who are not playing on the international tour and can therefore focus on our league commitment," said the Devonian who recently set up his base at Redwood Lodge in Bristol.

"But, despite having eight courts at Redwood, we desperately need a glass-back court at the club if we are going to capitalise on this fantastic first season in the PSL," explained the England No19.

"For some time, my aim has been to build a strong squad of elite players here in Bristol - and it would be good to think that this success will help us achieve this soon and attract more top-level squash to the south west," added Stiff.

Benz Bavarian Duffield 3 Redwood Probuild Bristol 2
Nick Matthew lost to Adrian Grant 6-9, 5-9 (17m)
Jonathan Kemp bt Joseph Kneipp 9-6, 9-4, 7-9, 10-8 (32m)
Lee Drew lost to David Evans 4-9, 2-9, 5-9 (24m)
Andrew Whipp bt Hadrian Stiff 10-12, 9-6, 9-5, 9-6 (44m)
Tania Bailey bt Kasey Brown 9-6, 9-6, 10-8 (43m)