Gina Kennedy is within the remaining, and there’s a lot extra to come back from this decided, likeable Lioness of an athlete
By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)
Joel Makin and Paul Coll will meet in at present’s Commonwealth Video games males’s singles remaining, as predicted by the seedings. Nonetheless, the highest two girls’s seeds, Joelle King and Sarah-Jane Perry, will likely be assembly within the bronze medal play-off after dropping within the semi-finals to Hollie Naughton and Gina Kennedy.
Coll and Makin are the 2 fittest males in squash and each look in good condition coming into the ultimate.
Understanding their huge bodily reserves, it guarantees to be an extended, brutal battle.
Each have been coached in Birmingham by Robert Owen, with Makin selecting to depart the group when Coll arrived.
Makin might really feel he has a degree to show, however I believe each gamers are too skilled of their strategy to permit stuff like that to get in the way in which of their preparations.
In actuality the one level Makin will likely be eager to make is that he’s able to successful one of many sport’s main prizes. Though no PSA rating factors are on provide in Birmingham, private and nationwide pleasure come into play in a large, tribal style.
Not solely that, however a gold medal is at stake in entrance of the BBC cameras and the significance will produce echoes across the squash world.
Each gamers seemed spectacular within the semi-finals.
Makin grew to become the primary Welshman to achieve the ultimate courtesy after halting England’s defending champion and 5/8 seed James Willstrop.
Each had featured in lengthy matches the night time earlier than. Willstrop was clearly fatigued from his battle with Scotland’s excellent Rory Stewart, however Makin’s match with Eain Yow Ng (which was unnecessarily prolonged by Yow’s over-long, cold damage break) felt extra like Makin having fun with some additional court docket time to work on his line and size.
Willstrop’s 38-year-old physique was not responding at most capability and his motion was clearly restricted when required to make sudden adjustments of route.
The 6ft 4in Willstrop continues to be one of many sport’s best artists with a racket and he did the whole lot in his energy to create alternatives to win factors.
Nonetheless, Makin was completely happy to cowl each inch of the court docket to maintain the ball in play and preserve his opponent on the transfer.
After Makin received the opening two video games, every with an 11-5 scoreline, Willstrop got here out firing within the third sport.
He bought his nostril in entrance at 5-4, however some drained errors undid numerous the sensible work he was placing in and Makin was capable of power his means by to the ultimate with an 11-9 win.
Afterwards, Makin stated: “I knew he was hurting bodily, however he truly got here on stronger within the third sport than he did within the first.
“The help has been unbelievable. Everybody has booked a lot break day and my household has travelled from throughout.
“The Video games usher in individuals who wouldn’t usually watch the game. When it will get protection on the BBC, that’s the place we attain a wider viewers and folks realise what it’s about. It’s thrilling. It’s fast-paced. It’s so intense.”
New Zealand’s Paul Coll, who was runner-up to Willstrop within the 2018 remaining in Gold Coast, will likely be ready for Makin within the remaining after producing a grasp class in opposition to India’s 3/4 seed Saurav Ghosal.
Ghosal continues to be taking part in very good squash at 35 and is among the most clever gamers within the sport.
He labored Coll laborious within the opening sport and threatened a comeback after going 10-6 down, however Coll was relieved to squeeze by 11-9.
After that, Coll relaxed and bought into the groove of taking part in relentlessly high-paced attacking squash.
His accuracy was unerring and if that is his response to dropping his primary world rating then we’re in for some thrilling battles subsequent season when he’s again among the many high Egyptians.
Coll was at his sensible greatest as he received the ultimate two video games 11-4, 11-1 and he stated: “There’s no feeling to explain it. I’ve actually discovered my groove the previous two matches. I’ve skilled for 4 years to deliver a medal again to New Zealand and clearly I actually need it to be gold.”
Hollie Naughton grew to become the primary Canadian lady to achieve a Commonwealth Video games remaining after the 5/8 seed surprised New Zealand’s high seed and defending champion Joelle King on the College of Birmingham Hockey and Squash Centre.
Naughton, 27, had by no means taken a sport, not to mention crushed King, in 4 earlier conferences and even after her shock win over 3/4 seed Joshna Chinappa within the quarter-final, there have been doubts as as to whether she might persistently threaten the Kiwi.
Naughton quickly answered these questions. The Barnsley-born star seemed quietly threatening in an 11-7 defeat within the first sport and got here out flying within the second, the place she moved larger up the court docket and seemed to volley at any time when doable. This proved efficient, with Naughton taking the second sport 11-3 as King seemed rattled.
The third sport was a good one and at 8-8 might have gone both means. Naughton, nonetheless, seemed more and more assured because the match went on, and was capable of draw back to take a 2-1 lead into the fourth sport.
The efforts of the third sport, and maybe the brutal 85-minute battle in opposition to England’s Lucy Turmel the day prior to this, appeared to empty King and there was a rising sense of inevitability within the fourth sport as Naughton quickly rattled off factors.
The onslaught from Naughton continued in opposition to an more and more dejected King, and the World No.20 was capable of report a historic victory with a snug 11-1 win.
“I don’t actually know what occurred there,” a surprised Naughton stated afterwards.
“That is my first Commonwealth Video games and I’m tremendous proud of how I’ve handled the feelings and the ambiance.
“I hope I’m doing [my family and supporters] proud. I wish to try to encourage that subsequent technology to comply with in my footsteps. Hopefully that’s doable.”
Naughton’s opponent at present will likely be England’s Georgina Kennedy after the three/4 seed beat No.2 seed and 2018 silver medallist Sarah-Jane Perry in an all-English semi-final.
Kennedy, who has climbed 162 locations to World No.8 up to now yr, has proven few nerves in her debut Commonwealth Video games and performed her traditional harrying squash from the start as she took the primary sport 11-6.
Perry responded by slowing the ball down within the second and took the primary 5 factors on the way in which to an 11-8 win.
Kennedy, although, had ended that second sport strongly and took that momentum into the third sport, which she took 11-5 to revive her benefit.
In an exciting remaining sport, Kennedy earned three match balls when she went 10-7 up. The resilient Perry performed courageously and continued to assault, brilliantly saving all three factors to power a tiebreak.
Perry got here near forcing Kennedy right into a fifth sport when she took a 12-11 lead, just for Kennedy to get better earlier than lastly making the breakthrough to seal a memorable victory 14-12.
An emotional Kennedy stated: “It’s the very best feeling I’ve had, ever! Sport is all about position fashions, and SJ’s sportsmanship and her graciousness are superb, and everyone seems to be impressed by her on court docket and off it.
“I simply didn’t need it to go to a fifth as a result of her psychological power is her greatest asset. I believe that if it had gone to a fifth I actually would have struggled.”
As we speak’s remaining will likely be a profession spotlight for each gamers and Kennedy goes into the match because the favorite to win gold.
It’s most likely not the place she anticipated to be 18 months in the past, however her fearless willpower and continuously evolving racket abilities are turning her right into a formidable participant.
In some ways, the progress she has made because the PSA World Tour reopened after lockdown is simply the beginning.
There’s a lot extra to come back from this decided, likeable Lioness of an an athlete.
The bronze medal matches of squash on the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Video games start at present at 4pm.
The gold medal matches will start at 6pm with the ladies’s remaining, adopted by the boys’s remaining at 7pm .
Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Video games, College of Birmingham, England.
 Paul Coll (NZL) beat [3/4] Saurav Ghosal (IND) 3-0: 11-9, 11-4, 11-1 (43m)
 Joel Makin (WAL) beat [5/8] James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-5, 11-9 (50m)
[5/8] Hollie Naughton (CAN) beat  Joelle King (NZL) 3-1: 7-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-1 (37m)
[3/4] Georgina Kennedy (ENG) beat  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-1: 11-6, 8-11, 11-5, 14-12 (55m)
4pm: Ladies’s Singles Bronze Medal Play-Off:
(1) Joelle King (NZL) v (2) Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
5pm: Males’s Singles Bronze Medal Play-Off:
3/4 Saurav Ghosal (IND) v 5/8 James Willstrop (ENG)
6pm: Ladies’s Singles Gold Medal Ultimate:
(3/4) Gina Kennedy (ENG) v Hollie Naughton (CAN)
7pm: Males’s Singles Gold Medal Ultimate:
(1) Paul Coll (NZL) v (2) Joel Makin (WAL)
Photos courtesy of World Squash Federation