Very contrasting semis for the GU13 both played on the glasscourt as French girl Lauren Baltayan – living breathing in Cairo though and member of BlackBall Club – dominated her opponent today in 3 games – while at 9/9 in the 5th, we didn’t know who from Farah or Retaj was going to take the spot in the final!
Lauren was pretty comfortable in game one, but a very good strong response from Jumana in the second, and we had a nice game on our hands, with Lauren still prevailing 11/7. Two games up, the third went rather quickly to the French girl, 11/3.
Followed on a nail bitting match. And as we say in French “le spectacle était dans la salle” “the show was in the audience”… The two words “no coaching” didn’t have much meaning for the two camps, and it would be interesting one day, to ban parents from matches and let the kids play squash…. Rather bold statement, I know but when each single point see a parent/coach call their player and tell them what to do, how to do it, and how they should feel, I find it difficult to enjoy the match. Moving on.
Farah was top seed but today didn’t seem to find her length at all. Maybe trying to finish the point too early, she opened the court to a very strong and calm opponent Retaj – who likes to bounce the ball before serving bless her, Cubs counted 20 bounces!. Farah went down 2/0, 8, 8, and it looked like a quick finish.
But Farah – strongly encouraged by her camp – never ever threw the towel. Taking the third very quickly and easily – Retaj letting go of that one at the end, she again went down 4/0 in the 4th, Retaj having found her powerful game again. Again, the top seed came back, 4/4, 6/6, 8/8, 9/9, and took that crucial game, 12/10 on her second attempt.
The 5th sees the top girl lead 3/1, only to be caught up by her opponent, 3/3, 4/4. But Farah now with her confidence back, was in front of Retaj and making her visit the four corners., 8/4, 9/6. Not her last word had Retaj spoken though, finding some lovely winners and we were back at 9/9.
A no let at the point was not of the taste of the Retaj camp, they made that position pretty clear, 10/9 Farah and it’s 11/9, out of nowhere, back from the dead!
Unfortunately, Cubs and I missed the USA/Egypt match completely as we were expecting it to be on the glasscourt, like the other semis had been so far – and after as well – but as it was played on a side court, we completely missed it! Hamdy Ehab Hamdy takes it 3/0 4, 6, 7 against Chris Capella, this year’s British Junior Open U11 runner up.
Now, it had been a while since I saw Flamboyant Ahmed Rashed on court. I know, I shouldn’t but I cannot help comparing him to Ramy. Not because of the shots as such, but for pretty much everything else. He is as photogenic as Ramy, moves like him, feline move, finds the perfect shot when he wants to, retrieves beautifully and goes into exhibition mode when it suits him.
But like him he has got spells of absence, bless him, and as his opponent, you have got to weather the storm and clinch the opportunity when it occurs. And that’s what Youssef Salah did today beautifully. He never let Ahmed run away with the points in the first two games and when he came back on the third, he seized the opportunity when Ahmed lost his focus for a few rallies.
Hamdy played very seriously sharp squash, containing Ahmed superbly and leading 4/0, 5/1, 8/2, 9/3. At that point it seemed very likely we were on for a 4th.
But that was the moment Ahmed, 2018 U11 British Open Junior Champ, decided that no, he didn’t fancy another game, and started a come back. Finding length and retrieving everything Hamdy was throwing at him, he strung the points, calmly, as if it didn’t matter that much, 7/9. A strong finish for Hamdy, game ball, 10/7….
Ahmed, not phased, kept pilling up winners, and on match ball, even saved a shot from playing it behind his back, as you would on match ball – to close it down on his first attempt, 12/10.