Jul 24, 2017 Sports
By Sean Devers
Another efficiently run annual Digicel Senior National Squash Tournament produced a high standard of Squash and climaxed at the Georgetown Club on Saturday night with Alex Arjoon successfully defending his Men’s Open title and Nicolette Fernandes dethroning Ashely Khalil to take the Women’s Open crown. Joe Mekdeci captured the Veterans 35 – 49 and Over-50 titles.
Watched by a partisan turn out which included renowned Guyana Singer Dave Martin, Arjoon, with most in the large crown urging him on, beat 47-year-old Richard Chin, regarded as Guyana’s best Squash player ever, in a repeat of last year’s final as both players produced a stunning exhibition of high class Squash and provided a ‘Squash Education Clinic’ for the National Junior players who were all present.
In a tournament which included Guyana’s best Male and Female players returning home to participate, most of the others stepped up to plate with Mary Fung-a-Fat, who recently turned pro also returning to participate, while it also saw the emergence at the Senior level of the immensely gifted Caribbean U-15 Champion 13-year-old Shomari Wilshire.
Caribbean Girls U-19 Champion Taylor Fernandes and the likes of the Khalil siblings (Ashley and Jason Ray), Ben Mekdeci, Kristian Jeffery and super fit Nyron Joseph ensured the tournament produced an entertaining show piece throughout the five nights of pulsating action.
A tired Fernandes, who missed the last two National Championships, then lost to Ashley’s brother, Jason Ray11-4, 10-12, 11 – 7, 11 – 6 in the Men’s category, in the next match of the night in a highly competitive first classic plate playoff.
The 34-year-old Fernandes, who disclosed that she will not available be to represent Guyana in next month’s senior Caribbean Squash Championship in St Vincent, participated in both the Men’s and Women’s categories and played back-to-back matches in the two divisions on Saturday night; beat defending Women’s Champions Ashley Khalil in the Women’s final, which was brought forward at Fernandes’ request.
In fast paced Women’s final, the first game was evenly contested, Ashley Khalil putting up plenty of fight against Fernandes, who was ranked 19 in the world last year. At 9 – 7 Khalil was two points away from taking a confidence boosting first game but Fernandes took the next four points to win 11 – 9.
The second game was also close but Nicolette always seemed in control and won it 11 – 8 and with two games down Khalil seemed to give up and was destroyed 11-1 as a new National Women’s Champion was crowned.
But the match of the night was the Men’s final which lived up to all expectations as a battle of attrition from the vastly experienced, slim and trim Guyanese Squash icon Chin and the tenacious younger Arjoon, back from a self imposed sabbatical after taking last year’s title.
If you were seeing the 25-year-old Arjoon for the first time you would have never guessed that he was out of Squash for a while due to his outstanding performance which left both players soaked in perspiration.
Both players displayed excellent court coverage while executing shots with clinical precision but it was the veteran Chin who looked the more crafty of the pair using the angles and drop shots to win points after several very long rallies, but as his legs began to tire. Arjoon, who exhibited brilliant Squash, sneaked ahead much to the delight of his young female supporters.
The action ebbed and flowed as Chin switched tactics and forced Arjoon to do the running until he ran out of gas in the fourth game.
Arjoon won the first game 12 – 10 before winning second game 12 – 10. This game was highlighted by very long rallies as both players refused to concede easy points. Chin used his vast experience to bring him back into the fray and the local icon eventually won the third game 11 – 6. These three games had taken its toll on both players and Arjoon galloped to an early 4-0 lead and at 8 – 4 Arjoon seemed well on course to take the fourth game.
However, Chin was not done yet and conjured up a sensational fight-back to bring down the deficit to a single point at 7 – 8 before leveling the score at 10 all. But the dripped wet Arjoon maintained the pressure and closed out the match by winning the next two points to win the game 12 – 10.
In the Men’s third place playoff, Nyron Joseph and Kristian Jeffrey fought it out for five hard games. Nyron won the first game 13 – 11, but Kristian bounced back to take the second game 11 – 5, and then the third game 12 – 10. The win of the third game seemed to sap all of Kristian’s energy as he lost the fourth game 0 – 11 and then after leading 4 – 2 in the fifth lost the next nine points as Nyron won the fifth game 11 – 4.
In the Women’s third place match former national champion Mary Fung-A-Fat secured the victory against Caribbean U- 19 champion Taylor Fernandes. Fernandes won the first game 11 – 8 and then had game ball 11 – 10 to take a two games to love lead but just could not win the next point as Fung-a-Fat won the game 14 – 12. The loss of this second game seemed to take the fight out of Fernandes as Fung-a-Fat always seemed in control after that as she won the third game 11 – 4 and then the fourth game 11 – 5.
In the next classic plate playoff Shomari Wiltshire was matched against Jean Claude Jeffrey. Jeffery easily won the first game 11 – 4 but then dropped a close second game 8 – 11. Jeffery again went one game up when he won the third game 11 – 5, but Wilshire rebounded to win the fourth game 11 – 9. The fifth game went right down to the wire with Wilshire eventually winning the game 11 – 9.
In the Men’s Plate final Ben Mekdeci had a straight set win against Nicholas Narain. Scores were 11 – 4, 11 – 2, 11 – 2, while Steven Xavier beat Javed Rahaman 11 – 9, 11 – 7, 11 – 4 to finish third.
In the Veterans 35 – 49, Joe Mekdeci captured this category when he beat Allan Downes in straight games 11 – 4, 11 – 8, 11 – 8.
Finals results: Men’s Open: Alex Arjoon – Winner, Richard Chin – Second, Nyron Joseph – Third, Kristian Jeffrey – Fourth.
Women’s Open: Nicolette Fernandes – Winner, Ashley Khalil – Second, Mary Fung-A-Fat – Third, Taylor Fernandes – Fourth.
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