A brand-new season of high octane, heart-thumping, racket-smashing squash. I don’t know about you but I’m excited!
The first fixture of the season was by no means a doozy. Swavesey SC brought a stacked-to-the-rafters team with players including coach Ali and ex-blues captain David Roper to battle the brand-new Cambridge 1s in what was a positive spectacle of squash. Not only was the quality sky-high, but there was history. We have fuel. We have matches. Let the fire begin.
#5 Max vs Arran
Returning to his much-ridden steed, Max opened at #5 with a very sturdy performance that set the tone for the rest of the evening. Though similar in racket skills, it was clear that Max had the fitness edge over Arran and surely made the most of it, not letting himself get picked off by Arran’s clever though at times sloppy offensives. 11-7. 1/0
In the second game, with renewed energy and confidence to boot onlookers saw Max cut some very neat dropshots from the back of the court that court Arran off guard. Good use of height to slow things down. 11-6. 2/0
I’d like to write that with almost Amr Shabana-like grace rallies were built up, positional high-grounds taken, and weak returns swiftly dispatched to lead to a clean 3-0 win but in truth the third game was very scrappy. A seemingly total lack of game plan from Max. Arran owned the initiative and eventually clinch the third. 11-8. 2/1
With such talent on later in the evening though, there was no space for shoddy squash. The third game was a comprehensive return to boil for Max, with clear intent to target Arran’s backhand (his forehand) and make the most of the loose balls. Quite anticlimactic with a very quick 5-point lead for Max. Arran was feeling more fatigued also which compounded the situation and lead to a speedy victory for Max and the first win of the season for the Men’s side! 11-3. 3/1
#4 Matthew vs Nick
Last season, Matthew got into the habit of trouncing #3 seed players and staying unbeaten for several months. Playing #4 seed this evening therefore was a testament to the strength of this new squad. In a characteristic no-nonsense fashion then, he played accurate considered squash, relying on experience and control rather than brute force and power to craft a lead and capitalize. Very clean. 3/0 (11-7, 11-8, 11-6)
#3 Gustav vs Tom
Playing his debut match for CUSRC, the Swiss sensation took no time at all to deliver his first dub of the season. While this supporter was otherwise indisposed, by all accounts this was a very promising first outing indeed. Good deception and a solid foundational game were rewarded with a calmly confident 3/0 victory. (11-7, 11-3, 11-9)
#2 Alex vs David
This match was in some ways the event of the night. Unlike the first seed game it was bigger than the individual players. This was the CUSRC of old taking on the CURSC of today. Before long we had a fast-paced attacking game of squash on our hands with the poor ball scarcely reaching the back wall before it was craftily thwacked back. There was no doubting the experience of the players both in the maturity of their rallies and their honesty with lets and strokes, a very classy game indeed. David seemed to be getting the upper hand with some poignantly placed boasts though at the business end of the first it could have gone either way. Less experienced players would have learnt plenty on how to slow down the pace to your advantage, as Alex did in between the rhythmic length hitting down the walls. After a closely fought 15 mins, Alex edged out and took the first game. 11-7. 1/0
The second game was, while still entertaining, much shorter. Rallies that would have been reset in the first were more lazily finished with several balls hitting the tin. Alex’s constancy in knowing when to take on the attack and when to play more positionally really shone through with a dominant robot-like game of few errors. He was rewarded with an early lead that he pounded homeward to take the second 11-2. 2/0
The third sought to drive the point home. In squash it’s not enough to be able to play all the shots. It’s being able to play them 2-0 down after 30 mins of powerful, energy-sapping rallies. With few exceptions Alex played a lovely balance of attacking/defending squash and came through the gates sprinting, taking the 3rdand final game 11-2. 3/0. A statement for this season.
#1 Benjamin vs Ali
This was one of the most mentally taxing squash games I’ve witnessed in a while, for both players and supporters. It was not victory that each player sought - at 4-0 up Cambridge had already taken the win - but total squash dominance.
The first point was an omen of what was to come. Benjamin characteristically leapt onto a tight backhand drive from Ali and in attempting to reach the ball, moved into her. A very standard let scenario was made into much more of a fiasco than either side wanted to see with Ali taking a break to massage her back, clearly feeling Benjamin had tried to go through her rather than around her. The ref would be earning their bread tonight.
In contrast to the #2 seed game, this was a very explicitly tactical game with heavy hitting being used sparingly to capitalize on positional advantage. Dead-tight dropshots were a known adversary going in, so Benjamin did a brilliant job neutralizing and counterattacking. Lots of lobs, some nice wrist work, good retrievals from both players. Benjamin narrowly took the first. 11-7. 1/0
The second game saw the grim tension build to a climax. Ali left the court on a number of occasions to discuss decisions that had been made and to ask clarification on strokes and lets given. Four serves were retaken because they’d been taken too quickly. As one onlooker eloquently put it, the vibes were off. Sometimes you get fish pie for dinner, other times it’s plain pasta. C’est la vie. However, retaining an impressive mental fortitude Benjamin was able to close an early point deficit, take the lead and just about convert the game. 11-9. 2/0
The third saw a cleaner fight, with the pressure having already been released in the second. A characteristically brilliant serve from Ali was met with a very good-looking three wall boast nick. It was as if the ball was celebrating getting out of the second game alive. I know I was. This was not a typical gam, so it was fantastic to see Benjamin play his squash and come out on top. 11-1. 3/0.
Sore legs all around but a very successful night. Rest up. We go again next week.