TWP St George’s Hill put up a great fight before succumbing to Premier Squash League leaders Surrey Health and Rackets Club. Surrey Health fielded two men in the World’s top ten and Vicky Botwright who recently reached the final of the World Championships in Manchester.
Botwright took to the court first against TWP youngster Rachel Willmott, who is studying law at Guildford University. Willmott fought hard and rallied strongly but there were hardly any chinks in the experienced Botwright’s armour and she produced a near faultless display to win comfortably 3-0.
Joe Lee 19, who trains at St George’s Hill, has climbed to a respectable 108 in the World rankings. He faced the daunting task of playing World no 34, Italian Champion Davide Bianchetti. The Italian used his height to great advantage to dominate in the first game and take it 11-5. Lee clawed his way back into the match with some controlled play and to the delight of the packed home crowd won the second game 12-10, He led 4-2 in the third before Bianchetti surged ahead as Lee tired. Lee led all the way to 7-5 in the fourth game and nearly took the match to a deciding fifth but Bianchetti closed out in fine style. Lee should be pleased with his performance and the part he played in an entertaining spectacle.
On the adjoining court TWP’s Neil Hitchens was struggling against Joe Lee’s successor as England Junior number 1 Adrian Waller. Waller took the first two games as Hitchens struggled to get a length. It was a long haul back but Hitchens narrowly won the third game giving himself real hope as Waller started to get disgruntled with a few of the referee’s decisions. Hitchens kept the pressure up in the fourth to win it 11-7 and managed to keep ahead in the fifth as Waller became increasingly frustrated, taking the game 11-8. A fine win for Hitchens who also won a crucial match at Exeter before Christmas.
TWP’s Malaysian import Mohamed Nafizwan Adnan or Wan for short was outclassed by England International Peter Barker who has risen to the dizzy heights of number 9 in the world. Barker produced a classy display of controlled hitting to win comfortably 3-0.
When the final pairing walked on court the match was already won by Surrey Health and Rackets but in this league every game won counts as a point so both Wael El Hindi and Tom Richards were ready for a tough battle at number one. El Hindi ranked 8 in the World was the clear favourite but local man Richards sensed he had a fighting chance in front of his home crowd. El Hindi had a confident swagger about him as he swept to victory in the first game with Richards unable to find his form. After his emphatic start El Hindi was perhaps a little overconfident in the second and he nervously pulled the game up several times in the second to berate the referee Clare Baker as Richards matched him point for point. El Hindi held game ball at 10-9 but Richards finally prevailed 13-11 leaving El Hindi remonstrating helplessly. Richards was by now playing some of the best squash of his life against a talented shotmaker who gives his opponents no rhythm. He took the third game 11-9 as the TWP fans behind the court roared him on. El Hindi was awarded a few suspect decisions as he sought strokes and the match almost decended into a farce as referee Baker struggled with his constant interuptions and strange rule interpretations. She kept her composure well and managed to keep the match going although Richards suffered a slight loss of concentration as El Hindi won the fourth 11-9. The fifth game had everything including exquisite shotmaking and some breathtaking retrieving. Unfortunately the controversy continued with Richards dragged into the fray and vociferously giving his point of view as Baker faced more tough decisions due in part to the tenseness of the situation. Richards stood poised at 10-9 on the edge of a famous victory. It was not to be as El Hindi levelled and then rallied out to take the match 12-10 after 68 minutes of a squash match that entertained in the manner of a McEnroe tennis match of yesteryear.
The 19-6 win for Surrey Health and Rackets leaves on top of The Premier Squash League with TWP St George’s still in 4th place with an outside chance of making the play-offs. TWP travel to Bristol on February 3rd for the next match.