CAMBRIDGE DOUBLES, THE JIM BENTLEY CUP
Saturday report from Martin Bronstein
It must have been a terrific Black Tie Extravaganza on Friday night because when Matt Jenson and Scott Arnold took to the court to face the challenge of Randy Lim and Bassett Chaudhry, there were three spectators – and that included your correspondent. And 11 in the morning is a little early.
The higher ranked pair started as though they had been part of the celebrations- rusty is a word that comes to mind. Jenson was a little ambitious so early in the morning and made more errors than his ranking of 8 would suggest, while the Lim & Chaudhry machine continued their near-error free play. They deserved the 13 minute first game, winning 15-10.
In the second game Jenson tightened his game and kept the error rate down and despite trailing 6-10 he and Arnold kept their heads and pulled back to even the score at 12 and then 13 before losing 14-15.
A two game lead for the underdogs was not on the cards and the betting people were getting jittery. However, Jenson & Arnold asserted themselves in the third game and were leading 7-3 due to some fine winners and some good low drives. What happened next could have been a turning point: Jenson’s racquet hit Lim in the face on a follow-through and there was an immediate swelling on Lim’s eye. The blow had been hard enough crack the lens of his protective glasses. Ice was applied and within five minutes Lim was back in play. The blow had obviously affected him as the final game score of 15-6 indicates.
The fourth game saw a glorious array of reverse angles and nicks from the top pair which made
Chaudhry a little edgy causing him to slam some shots into the tin. Jenson & Arnold kept up the pressure and took the game 15-9 to tie the match.
Lim & Chaudhry were not downhearted and made their opponents fight all the way: level at 5, level at 8 level at 9 and level at eleven. Jenson & Arnold took the next point, and just to crank up the suspense the ball broke causing a suspension of play to warm up the new ball. (This is so boring. Keep some balls in the oven, mother!) When play resume Jenson hit a beautiful low drive for a winner, won the next and forced an error from Chaudhry on the final point to give them the victory after 75 very interesting minutes.
When asked what caused the turnaround at two games down, Jenson replied: “Hitting Randy in the face.” Then got serious saying that they kept their opponents in the back of the court to give them the openings for their many winners. Their reward is a semifinal meeting with favourites Damian Mudge and Manek Mathur who had a much easier time in overcoming Imran Khan and Gregory Park.
Mudge and Mathur are ranked one and two while their opponents are ranked 10 and 15. The difference was obvious as Mudge (who could be the winningest squash player ever if you counted all the doubles tournaments he has won) brought a new level of stroke play to the court with the experienced backing of Mathur, his new partner. The other team’s performance suffered from the errors that streamed off Khan’s racquet. He’s not the first player that, when faced with a superior player, would go for winners. If it comes off, you’re a hero, otherwise you walk off the court having lost. Which is what happened, Mudge & Mathur winning 15-9, 15-7, 15-12 in 41 minutes.
THE UNITED NATIONS COMES TO THE CAMBRIDGE CLUB
The match between Viktor Berg & Robin Clarke and Graham Bassett & Fred Reid had some contentious moments – perhaps that should be minutes. The teams did not see eye to eye with each other and both teams failed to agree with the marker on many decisions. Oh! So many decisions. Was the ball up? Was he obstructed? Was it a let? Was the serve good? How many angels can dance on a squash ball? (I made that last bit up).
At one time all four players were speaking at once with nobody seeming to listen anybody else. We came to watch squash and what we get is United Nations debates. And then Clarke accidentally drilled Bassett in the ribs with the ball causing him to fall like a Canadian Fir. (A terrific bruise, now on YouTube).
As expected Berg & Clarke took the first game 15-12 despite trailing 4-9. Berg finished the game with a superb long drop from the back of the court. What was not expected was that they would lose the second game despite being level at 12-12, Bassett showing his skill by closing out the game, also with a long drop from the back. The third game took 20 minutes due to injury time out and some lengthy debates; the steadiness of Bassett & Reid once more being the deciding factor – 15-11.
The fourth game seemed like a doddle for Bassett &Reid when they led 12-4 – yes 12-4! Berg & Clarke did not give up and fought hard to get back to 7-12 before their opponents took a point to bring their run to an end. Then came a long, long rally, with both teams realizing the importance of the next point; It went on forever before Clarke made the error to put the game at match point. Bassett & Reid took that point to put them in the semis where they will face Michael Ferreira & Yvain Badan
Jonny Smith and Raj Nanda were not expected to lose to Ferreira & Badan in the final match of the afternoon. And nor was the match expected to last 97 minutes, the longest of the tournament so far.
None of the four players showed a range of killer shots and long stretches of games were taken up with Smith on the left wall cross-courting high balls to Badan on the right wall, who would volley back to Smith who would repeated his shot. It began to look like a well-honed training routine instead of competitive squash play.
Smith& Nanda took the first game 15-7 due to Badan’s error rate, and then lost the second game 9-15 in just 11 minutes. They reasserted themselves by winning the third game in 18 minutes, 15-9, a session that included a thousand cross court volleys. (This could be an exaggeration.)
They were again expected to win the fourth game which they led 8-5 but their opponents wore them down to win 15-12 to force a decider.
The game was timed at 32 minutes, which included innumerable training routines and at least two broken balls. To be fair it had suspense: tied at 12 and then 13 and then 14-all, match ball. The gallery was full and nobody had left their seat for the entire match. The point finally went to Ferreira and Badan who must surely need a long ice bath and massages before Sunday’s semi-final.