Tough Days of Qualifying

Cambridge Doubles/ Jim Bentley Cup

Martin Bronstein Reports

There were two upsets in the 2016 Cambridge Doubles qualifying rounds on Thursday afternoon. The first came when the young pair of Randy Lim and Baset Chaudhry knocked out the experienced team of Will Hosey and Michael Pirnak 3/1 in a 56-minute battle that was probably affected by the shotmaking of Lim and the power of Chaudhry.

The first point was fought point-for-point until the Malaysian/Pakistani pair finally opened a three point lead at 13-10. Hosey, still beaming after becoming world Over 55 champion at the world championships in South Africa last month, and Pirnak, fought back to reach 13-14 before  Lim hit the winner to take first blood 15-13.

The second game saw the pair use their experience to dictate play and run out 15-11 winners. If we thought the natural order had righted itself, we were wrong. Hosey and Pirnak imploded into a series of errors which helped hand the third game to their opponents for a remarkable 15-4 scoreline.

The fourth game promised a real battle as each pair tried to gain the upper hand and build a lead but it was again point-for-point until 8-all. But then Lim’s speed at the front of the court and his ability to hit cross-court nicks helped his team pull away to 15-10 and earn a berth in the qualifying finals, to face Carl Baglio and Travis Judson on Friday for a place in the main draw.

In the other upset Tyler Hamilton and Robert Nigro faced Robert Burns (USA) and Omar El Kashef (Egypt) in a huge 90-minute tussle that raged through five battering games before Hamilton and Nigro edged the fifth 15-12. They had the hardest road to hoe having had to beat Strachan Jarvis and Mark Porter in preliminary round before their first match proper. This they did with a 3/0 scoreline and in their next match they showed a consistency that will stand them in good stead when their other attributes fail them.

They won the first game against Burns and El Kashef 15-12, but that was no indication of superiority as their opponents responded by taking the second game 15-8. That scoreline too was deceiving because the third game was close, reaching 13-all before Burns and El Kashef  took the two final points to lead 2/1.

There were some questionable calls from the marker; most memorable when a player had both opponents blocking his shot to the front wall, normally a certain stroke which the marker, in his trained wisdom, decided was a let.

Burns was now showing distinct signs of fatigue on the left wall and his error rate mounted while Hamilton and Nigro showed no signs of let-up. Nevertheless, the fourth game was still close and Burns/El Kashef almost pulled it off when they fought back from 10-13 to 13-14, but failed to stop their opponents from taking the final point to even the match at two games all. In the fifth game Burns and El Kashef actually led 8-6 but the steadiness and low error rate of Hamilton and Nigro finally saw them through 15-12 to end the 89 minute match. They would face Graham Bassett and Freddie Reid on the final qualifying final on Friday.

 

FRIDAY. NOVEMBER 18

 

Lim and Chaudhry continued their winning ways at lunchtime on Friday against Carl Baglio and Travis Judson in a 50-minute match which they won 3/1. The first game however suggested that the match would run into next week as both sides participated in a ‘I can hit the ball harder than you’ contest. In fact one rally went on for so long, I was hoping they had scheduled an intermission so I could get to the bathroom.  Lim and Chaudhry won that game 15-10 and I hoped against hope that Lim would rediscover his racquet skills and hit a few winners. The sparse winners that did appear came from Chaudhry who hit a few wonderful straight nicks and was always dangerous because of his sheer power.

Baglio/Judson threatened to make a match of it by taking the second game 15-11 but then fell behind in the third to lose it 9-15. They put up a real fight in the fourth, level at 7-all, then 10-all, and then fighting back to 13-14 but Lim and Chaudhry would not be denied and Chaudhry closed out proceedings with a superb shot to length that neither Baglio or Judson could return.

It will be interesting to see how this pair fares in the main draw where they face the Australian pair of Matt Jenson and Scott Arnold.

In the final qualifying match Hamilton & Nigro finally found their way blocked by Graham Bassett and Freddy Reid, although in the first game it seemed as though as the latter pair would pay for their lack of playing, while  Hamilton and Nigro were fully run in and motoring on all cylinders. Bassett was prone to errors and trailing 4-11 he and his partner had little hope of a comeback. And so it was, their opponents winning 10-15 in an unremarkable game.

All four players made up for this lack of flair in the second game when winners started flowing from all the rackets. The sort of flair and shot making that had seemed absent from the other qualifying matches now sprouted all over the place. With the score at 7-7, I had counted seven outright winners. Bassett seemed particularly determined not to allow the squash to descend into a slamming contest and mixed up his shots with entertaining regularity bringing his team back into the match with a 15-11 score.

In the third game Bassett and Reid continued to attack at every opportunity to lead 8-4, but Hamilton, who was capable of pulling out winners at surprising moments, worked hard to even the game at 9-9. Valiant, but he and his opponent could not stop the onslaught and Bassett and
Reid took the 13 minute game 15-11.

I wondered if the hometown favourites could work out a strategy to confound their opponents, but there was simply no stopping Graham and Freddie who took just ten minutes to win the game  15-6 – the final shot, fittingly , on a reverse angle winner.

I spoke to Tyler Hamilton after the game and he agreed that his opponents had been just too good.

“Every time we felt that had got ahead, they would pull out a winner,” he said.

So, after 58 minutes Bassett and Reid had earned their spot in the main draw where they will meeting Robin Clarke and Viktor Berg.

Come Saturday, the games begin in earnest.