It’s gold for Gina Kennedy and Paul Coll, and bronze for Sarah-Jane Perry and Saurav Ghosal
By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)
After five days of drama we are through to the finals of the singles with two gold medals up for grabs later today at the University of Birmingham.
Top seeds Joelle King and Sarah-Jane Perry did not expect to be meeting in the bronze medal play-off but that’s the first of the singles matches on the main showcourt at 4pm after a morning of doubles meant an early start for many of the players.
Great friends Saurav Ghosal and James Willstrop will be meeting in the men’s bronze medal play-off an hour later.
These two, at 35 and 38 years old, are senior statesmen of this wonderful game of ours and will want to entertain the crowd as well as pick up what could be a final Commonwealth Games medal.
From these two season campaigners we then turn our attention to two hugely talented newcomers to the top table when Georgina Kennedy and Hollie Naughton meet for the women’s singles gold medal.
Surrounded by family and friends, what a mixture of joy, anticipation and big-match nerves must be going through their minds. But both will know that they have a job to do this evening as they prepare for the biggest match of their careers, so far.
From their performances this week, it is reasonable to assume that we will be seeing many more high-profile events such as this lighting up their SquashInfo profiles.
The men’s final promises to be a huge battle between two phenomenal athletes in Paul Coll and Joel Makin.
The top seeds have similar styles of play based on risk-free, clinical accuracy and building relentless pressure through hitting their targets based on line and length.
Both, however, have added so much more to their game at the front of the court and that will be the deciding factor should any occasional shot stray from its intended target.
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Huge thanks to US No.1 Amanda Sobhy for the shout-out on Twitter!
4pm: Women’s Singles Bronze Medal Play-Off:
(2) Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) beats (1) Joelle King (NZL) 6-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-6, 14-12 (76m)
5pm: Men’s Singles Bronze Medal Play-Off:
3/4 Saurav Ghosal (IND) beats 5/8 James Willstrop (ENG) 11-6, 11-1, 11-4 (42m)
6pm: Women’s Singles Gold Medal Final:
(3/4) Gina Kennedy (ENG) beats Hollie Naughton (CAN) 11-7, 11-5, 12-14, 12-5 (56m)
7pm: Men’s Singles Gold Medal Final:
(1) Paul Coll (NZL) beats (2) Joel Makin (WAL) 3-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-8, 11-7 (102m)
Men’s Final has started.
Huge rally to begin the evening. Ends in a Let call from John Massarella!
Coll puts the ball down. First blood to Makin: 1-0
Coll hits another tin: 2-0
Another winner from Makin: 3-0
Big winner from Makin. He’s makin’ the perfect start: 4-0
First point for Coll with a tight forehand drop: 1-4
Superb backhand volley drop nick from Coll: 2-4
Coll hits the ball out: 5-2
Loose ball close to the middle from Makin. Coll expects a stroke but JM calls Let. No review from Coll.
Tight lines from Makin and a straight forehand makes it 6-2
Coll goes off court to change his socks in this incredible heat indoors in Birmingham.
Coll forehand boast into the tin: 7-2
Makin feathers in a superb counter drop to reach 8-2
Too tight for Coll on that right wall: 9-2
Beautiful Makin volley by Makin into the right wall takes him to game ball 10-2
Coll whips in a fast backhand crosscourt: 3-10
Coll’s crosscourt backhand smacks the tin and Joel Makin takes the first game 11-3!
Coll gains first point with a tight forehand drive: 1-0
Good length and width from Makin into back left corner: 1-1
Long rally ends with Coll mis-hit into the tin: 2-1
Stroke to Coll: 2-2
Fantastic forehand drop from Makin. Precision angle chopped straight into the nick: 3-2
Off balance, Makin hits a volley into the floor: 3-3
Stroke to Makin after ball followed Coll after a backhand drop: 4-3
Next drop from Coll is better as Makin scrapes the ball back to himself. Stroke to Coll: 4-4
Makin hits a service return off Coll’s racket into the roof. Stroke to Makin 5-4
Coll tight forehand drop: 5-5
Tight backhand too tight for Makin: Coll in front at 6-5
Let call by the ref
Coll dives into the back left corner and ref Massarella soon calls “stop” because of sweat on the floor
Huge opening for Coll but he slashes volley into the tin: 6-6
Superb volley kill into the front right nick! 7-6
Coll dives again by the right service box and once more the ref calls “Stop”
Makin’s backhand volley hits the tin: 7-7
Long, patient rally ends with Coll driving a crosscourt winner into the back left corner: 8-7
Amazing reflex shot by Makin, a genius backhand reverse angle off his toes into the front right corner: 8-8
TV close-up shows Coll’s shirt dripping
Coll’s tight backhand drive ends with a No Let for Makin: Coll ahead 9-8
Coll goes to game ball as Makin plays a boast into the tin: 10-8
Coll gets a No Let. He is trapped behind as Makin plays ball down the left wall. Coll reviews. No Let is upheld. 9-10.
Coll chips a forehand drop across the front wall into the front left nick to win the game 11-9.
We are one game all!
Mid-court collision as Makin runs into Coll. Ref says Let. Makin reviews. Decision upheld. Let.
“I was looking for you to go more to the right, towards the ball says ref JM.”
Coll slips and fails to reach the ball by the left wall: 1-0 to Makin
Quick mistake by Coll: 2-0
Makin boast punished by Coll backhand drop: 1-2
Coll drop is lifted by Makin but Coll gets the stroke: 2-2
Coll sends the ball into the back right corner and Makin hits the tin: 3-2 to Coll
Makin puts a simple backhand volley into the tin: 4-2
Coll in fine form. He works Makin around the front to make it 5-2
Makin responds with a soft forehand drop: 3-5
Coll hits a backhand drop and Makin asks for a review on a Coll pick-up. Ref says he thinks it was OK. 6-3
Third dive by Coll and another safety call of “Stop” results in Makin opening the door to complain to John Massarella, who says “These are the rules and I am only applying the rules.”
Stroke to Makin after a cuddle by the left service box: 4-6
Coll puts a simple forehand drop into the tin: 5-6
Soft backhand drop by Makin: 6-6
Stroke given to Makin. Coll asks for Review. Stroke decision upheld. 7-6
Crucial phase of the match.
Coll backhand boast hits tin: 8-6
Coll straight drive. Makin runs in and collides. No let 7-8.
Makin superb backhand drop: 9-7.
Big smile from coach David Evans.
Coll plays a sublime backhand crosscourt volley nick! 8-9
Makin responds with a tight backhand volley drop: 10-8
Makin wins the game with a straight backhand drive and Coll puts a boast into the tin!
Makin leads two games to one: 11-3, 9-11, 11-8
Coll hard and low backhand: 1-0
Coll plays a tight forehand drop: 2-0
Coll forehand too tight for Makin: 3-0
Coll hits a crosscourt backhand volley into the tin: 1-3
Coll plays a backhand drop. Makin runs into his back but ref says No Let: 4-1
Long rally with lots of work by Makin finishes with the Welshman playing a quick boast in the front left corner: 2-4
Coll quickly wins the next point: 5-2
Coll hits the ball down the middle and Makin produces another winning reverse angle volley! 3-5
Coll plays the fast trickle boast in the front left 6-3.
Quick point for Coll: 7-3
Beautiful backhand drop by Coll: 8-3
Coll backhand drop. Let call. Makin wants a stroke. VR agrees with ref.
This time Makin slots a brilliant backhand volley drop into the nick. 4-8.
Makin wins in front right corner: 5-8
Identical backhand crosscourt volley from Makin into that front right nick: 6-8
Incredible rally. Makin wins it with a shot into the back left corner that Coll can’t dig out. Makin closes the gap to 7-8
Makin his a forehand drop into the tin! 9-7 to Coll
No! Makin hits the top of the tin with a forehand. Game ball to Coll, 10-7
Coll can’t scrape the ball off the left wall: 8-10
Coll wins it with a counter-counter-counter drop in the left corner! 11-8.
Two games all after 76 minutes!
Starting all over again with a long, long rally.
Coll finishes it with a sublime, soft forehand kill: 1-0
Incredible retrieving by both players with Makin doing most of the work.
Makin finally buries an incredible forehand kill to draw level at 1-1.
The crowd give him a huge cheer as he gives them the big fist bump.
Coll responds with a superb forehand drop: 2-1
Wow! Coll plays an identical drop, this time from the back of the court! 3-1.
Makin plays a backhand volley drop and Coll gets the stroke: 4-1.
Makin tins backhand drop: 5-1
Forehand switch from Makin as he slices the ball across court:2-5
This is the best non-Egyptian squash available on the planet!
Another forehand kill by Makin: 3-5 after 85 minutes
Perfect length by Coll into back right corner: 6-3
Amazing dive by Makin and Coll hits the ball down the middle and it hits Makin’s foot: 7-3
AGAIN! Makin slots that backhand volley crosscourt nick yet again: 4-7
Wow. What a rally! Coll shapes to play a drop and, as Makin rushes forward, Coll bashes it to the back left corner: 8-4
Coll slips as he moves into the front right corner and hits the ball down: 5-8
NO LET! Coll hits the ball down to the left corner and Makin rushes into the Kiwi, only to get a quick No Let from the ref: 9-5
Double dive in vain from Makin as Coll moves him all over the court. Off the second, Makin could only hit the ball into the tin as he slid across the floor: 10-5.
Cleaners are on to mop up the skid marks.
Match Ball. Makin saves it with a solid drive into the back right corner and Coll can’t get it back: 6-10
Another crosscourt volley from Makin ends with Coll hitting the tin: 7-10
It’s in the tin. Main hits a forehand drop down and Coll wins the gold medal: 11-7.
Coll rushes to the stand to hug girlfriend Nele Gilis and Wales coach David Evans is quick to shake his hand.
Gina Kennedy takes gold in her first Commonwealth Games
Hollie serves but Gina wins the first point with a simple backhand drop: 1-0.
Forehand cross court makes it 2-0
Kennedy backhand boast hits the tin. Naughton 1-2.
Naughton forehand is out: 3-1.
Kennedy backhand volley hits the tin: 2-3.
GK backhand croscourt is down: 3-3
Kennedy shot called down and Naughton is in front for the first time at 4-3.
Kennedy soon level and a stroke puts her 5-4 up
Straight forehand from Gina is beyond Holli: 6-4
Naughtoin scrapes one up from the back right: 5-6
Perfect forehand length from Naughton makes it 6-6
Stroke to Kennedy: 7-6
Mishit from Naughton on her forehand: 8-6
Naughton gets a No Let on the left wall. Instant review. No Let upheld. Commentators not impressed: 9-6
Naughton backhand boast into the tin gives Kennedy game ball: 10-6
Big backhand from Naugfhton: 7-10
Winng backhand from Kennedy into the back left corner is beyond Naughton’s reach. First game 11-7
Four quick points from Kennedy at the start of the second game before Naughton finds a good length: 4-1
Stroke to Kennedy: 5-1
Naughton slams a backhand into the tin: 6-1
Kennedy shot called Not Up: 2-6
Naughton lobs the ball out: 7-2
Naughton hits service return into the tin 8-2
Another ball out from Naughton: 9-2
Brilliant combination from Naughton as she wins with a quick volley: 3-9
Out again: 10-3
Naughton hits tight shots into each corner and she is back to 5-10
Big forehand crosscourt from Kennedy wins the game 11-5
Nick Matthew is offering words of wisdom between games her regular coach Ben Ford watches nervously from the stands.
Naughton wins first point with a forehand cropscourt: 1-0
Hollie buries a volley nick: 2-0
Kennedy slams it in the tin: 3-0
Stroke to Naughton: 4-0
Good lnegth into the back left corner and Kennedy an’t dig it out: 5-0
Kennedy burise a nick off the serve: 1-5
Down from Kennedy: 6-1
Kennedy drop into the tin: 7-1
Great crosscourt length from Kennedy: 2-7
Same again: 3-7
Long rally ends with Naughton hitting the tin under pressure: 4-7
Kennedy puts a forehand in the tin: 8-4
Straight forehand drive from Naughton: 9-4
Backhand tin from Gina: 10-4
Better drop Kennedy: 5-10
Kennedy tight in the front right: 6-10
Naughton gets a No Let: 7-10
Clash in front right corner after a Kennedy drop: Ref asks for VR decision
VR Decision is No Let: 8-10
Kennedy hits a loose volley and Naughton gets a No Let call!
Amazing: Naughton called Not Up at the front and Kennedy draws level at 10-10.
It’s tiebreak time!
Let Ball. Naughton backs into Kennedy, who reviews and wants a stroke.
Let Ball upheld.
Naughton hits the tin and Kennedy is on match ball at 11-10
Kennedy slams the tin as the ball stuck to the right wall and it’s level again at 11-11
Kennedy backhand boast hits the tin: 12-11
Naughton forehand volley in the tin: 12-12
Kennedy makes contact with Naughton and asks for a Let, which is given
Tight backhand drop by Naughton: 13-12
Naughton hits a winning length in the back right corner and wins the game 14-12
It’s two games to one and Naughton is back in it!
Kennedy wins first point with a simple backhand drop: 1-0
Gina smashes a big forehand crosscourt: 2-0
Naughton No Let: Kennedy leads 3-0
Naughton slams a forehand into the tin after a huge rally: 4-0
Kennedy winning drive into back right corner: 5-0
Kennedy hits the tin: 1-5
Naughton tins a boast: 6-1
Kennedy plays a drop and Naughton rushes in: Let says ref
Tight boast from Naughton: 2-6
Kennedy chases a ball across the front and her drop makes it 7-2
Beautiful drop from Naughton: 3-7
Let. Kennedy reviews. Decision upheld.
Boast in the tin from Kennedy: 4-7
Great backhand drop Kennedy makes it 8-4
Followed by a tight forehand drop: 9-4
Naughton tins the service return 10-4
Naughton boast makes it 5-10
Gina Kennedy wins it with a soft backhand drop from deep in the court.
What an astonishing achievement from the world No.8.
Hugs all round from the England bench.
Hugs mum Jill and holds her head in disbelief as she finds more people to hug!
She does a lap round the court with the England flag!
Then she hugs her boyfriend and coach Ben Ford!
Men’s Bronze Medal Play-Off: 3/4 Saurav Ghosal (IND) v 5/8 James Willstrop (ENG)
Huge respect and friendship shared by these two players, with Saurav spending a lot of his earlier career at Pontefract being coached by James’s father Malcolm.
Saurav Ghosal wins the bronze medal
We are behind schedule already after that 76-minute battle for bronze. Mr Willstrop and Mr Ghosal will soon be on court.
We are under way and the first point has a familiar feel as Willstrop feathers in a delicate backhand volley drop.
Ghosal, still favouring his two-handed backhand, a rarity in the pro game, leads 4-2.
Stroke given to Ghosal as he runs into JW’s back instead of going for the ball wide on the left wall. Instant appeal by JW. VR says Let.
Ghosal playing a more solid, direct game, but a soft backhand drop puts Willstrop back in at 3-6.
Ghosal then leads 8-3 but a soft, straight drive from JW results in Ghosal hitting the tin (4-8).
Willstrop then buries a fast crosscourt after an exchange of drops in the front right (5-8).
JW tins a drop fom the back left corner. 9-5 to Ghosal.
Stroke to JW: 6-9.
Tin from JW: Game ball 10-6 and Ghosal buries a backhand crosscourt to take the first game.
Willstrop is slow-balling a lot and his lob-drop routine will serve him well in Masters competitions.
Ghosal on top early in the second. He volleys a counter drop to make it 4-0 and quickly makes it 5-0.
JW straight kill 1-5.
Ghosal straight back to 6-1 with a soft volley drop and a JW tin makes it 7-1. Another makes it 8-1. Boast into the tin from JW makes it v9-1.
Crosscourt flick from JW is down. 10-1 game ball.
Tight ball from Ghosal leads to a tin from JW and Ghosal wins the game 11-1.
Ghosal races through the third game and a stroke puts him 7-3 up. Cheeky crosscourt flick makes it 8-3.
Tin from JW makes it 9-3.
Ghosal drop is called down but VR overturns it and gives Ghosal the point. Willstrop argues that the referee’s call stopped the rally and that it should be a let.
10-3 match ball.
Should be a Let.
JW hits a tight backhand drop 4-10.
Ghosal wins it with a deep backhand drive.
Result: 11-6, 11-1, 11-4
Tears from Ghosal as he leaves the court after beating his great friend and reigning champion.
Good to see the applause from each bench for each player, showing the enormous respect in which both of these players are held.
Ghosal then races into the audience to give his wife a hug!
Huge respect for James Willstrop, who will soon be 39.
Women’s Bronze Medal Play-Off: (2) Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) beats (1) Joelle King (NZL) 6-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-6, 14-12 (76 mins)
The first bronze medal is up for grabs in the women’s singles.
King seemed to have recovered from the difficulties she experienced yesterday when she lost to Hollie Naughton in the semi-finals, and was moving smoothly around the court.
Every time Perry threatened to fight back, King responded strongly, especially towards the end of the crucial second game, which she took to lead by two gams to love.
She looked relaxed and was creating a variety of attacking options, including hitting winners off Perry’s serve.
King led 8-4 in the third but Perry conjured up an astonishing recovery when just three points from defeat.
Perry hit a precision length to get back to 5-8 in the fifth, and then whipped in a wide crosscourt that was beyond King’s reach to make it 6-8.
King then sent a backhand boast into the tin (7-8) and then did not bother to chase a backhand drop from Perry that made it level at 8-8.
King tinned a forehand drop to give Perry the lead (9-8) and Perry reached game ball with a dying forehand length.
To compound King’s misery, she surrendered a stroke to give Perry her seventh point in a row and the third game, 11-9.
As I posted the update to Twitter, Perry was racing to a 7-2 lead in the fourth.
Perry hit the ball out to give her a point but Perry hit back with a winning crosscourt after a long rally to lead 8-3.
King forehand volley drop (4-8). Perry responds with a tight forehand boast (9-4).
King elects to play the ball instead of taking what may have been a simple stroke but wins the rally anyway with a tight ball on the right wall (5-9).
Perry hits a tight straight backhand drive that King boasts into the tin (10-5). Perry puts a drop into the tin (6-10).
Perry wins the fourth game 11-6 with a tight backhand counter drop and conducts the crowd into a chorus of noise as she leaves the court for a breather.
Fifth game: It starts with a VR handing King a penalty stroke. Perry responds with a backhand crosscourt that dies in the nick (1-1).
Perry tins it (2-1 to King).
Backhand boast from King makes it 3-1 and she screams with delight.
King loses VR appeal and then looses her footing as a Perry drop dies in the front right corner. (2-3)
Stroke to Perry and King has lost her review! (3-3)
King backhand crosscourt leaves SJP stuck on the T (4-3)
King can’t reach the ball at the front (4-4)
King blocks herself behind Perry (5-4)
Tight backhand from King and Perry hits it into the floor (5-5)
King perfect forehand length (6-5)
Perry winning crosscourt (6-6)
Perry backhand boast leaves King stranded (7-6)
King solid backhand length (7-7)
King in front with a tight, straight backhand drive (8-7)
Both players on the floor!
King played a winning backhand drop (9-7) and as Perry puts the ball down King runs in to her back and both players hit the deck.
King instantly helps her opponent.
King hits the ball out (8-9) and Perry wins with a solid forehand into the back left corner (9-9)
King backhand crosscourt gives her match ball at 10-9 after 60 minutes.
Perry levels when King’s backwall boast hits the out of court line (10-10)
King tins a backhand after contact with SJP and VR gives her a stroke. Second match ball at 11-10.
Another collision and King just get a let. No appeal this time.
King sends up a lob from the front right corner and Perry nails a backhand volley drop into the nick (11-11)
King hits the ball out! Match ball to Perry 12-11
Perry has so much time but boasts into the tin (12-12).
Perry winning backhand drop (13-12 match ball again)
Perry gets a No Let as she bumps into King on the way to the right wall. Instant VR appeal.
Yes Let, says VR.
Perry wins it with a simple forehand drop! 14-12.
First medal to England.
Full official schedule for today:
Women’s Plate Final:
Sunayna Sara Kuruvilla (IND) beat Mary Fung-A-Fat (GUY) 11-7, 13-11, 11-2 (19m)
Men’s Plate Final:
Kundanji Kalengo (ZAM) beat Muqtadir Nimji (KEN) 11-8, 11-9, 11-3 (29m)
Battle Of The Beards
In what will surely go down in folklore as the Battle of the Beards, CWG head of squash news and Squash Player editor Mike Dale took on England No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy on the mini court outside the arena.
As Mr Squash Mike Harris took a break from promoting the sport, and the crowd were distracted by the departure of HRH William and Kate from the adjacent hockey arena just 10 yards away, Dale took the opportunity to whip the former world No1 into a humiliating defeat.
The day got worse for the former Egyptian when his partner Joelle King suffered a shock defeat to Hollie Naughton in the women’s semi-finals.
Lichfield Squash Club donates equipment to Uganda
Lichfield Squash Club has made links with players from the Ugandan team currently competing in Birmingham. This has led to the generous donation of surplus squash equipment to help develop the game in Uganda.
Club member James Roberts initially linked up with Ugandan No.1 player Mike Kawooya, who is making his fourth Games appearance this year.
Mike is busy trying to grow the game by running free coaching sessions in his home city of Kampala.
However, Mike’s biggest challenge has been the lack of suitable squash equipment, with rackets, balls, shoes and clothing all being hard to come by.
After conversations between James and Mike on social media, Lichfield decided to donate some of its own surplus equipment, consisting of a complete Karakal squash and racketball coaching set provided by England Squash during the 2019 World Squash Day.
This set consists of six junior squash rackets, six adult rackets and six racketball rackets, all contained within a Karakal racket bag, which by happy coincidence is in yellow, black and red, the colours of the Ugandan national flag!
James and fellow Lichfield player Mark Davey handed over the bag to Mike at the Birmingham 2022 squash venue this week.
James said: “Mike is so passionate about developing squash in Uganda so we are delighted to be able to help him as much as we could.”
Kawooya made it to the second round of the singles, where he met tonight’s finalist from Wales, No.2 seed, Joel Makin.
This Saturday (August 6) Lichfield Squash Club are holding a ‘Discover Squash’ event as part of the Lichfield Festival of Sport running throughout the Games.
Pictures courtesy of James Roberts and Canary Wharf Squash Classic