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PSA Challenger Tour Gibraltar

Gibraltar Squash once again hosted professional players on the Rock last week, with the main finals taking place this ast weekend. Exciting matches were seen throughout with local squash enthusiasts getting a close glimpse of some thrilling fast paced matches. We take a look back at how the tournament went culminating in the finals on Saturday.
Day One
Gibraltar welcomed back professional squash for the annual Gibraltar PSA event. Edmon Lopez looking to defend his title in the Men’s division whilst previous finalists Marta Dominguez Fernandez and James Peach were both looking to go one better.
In the Men’s division top seed Martin Svec played tournament regular Miles Jenkins. Svec took a comfortable first game 11-4 before Jenkins go into his rhythm. Jenkins however got in that rhythm in the following three games to cause the tournament’s first upset.
Number 7 seed Toufik Mekhalfi faced Velavan Senthilkumar on the other court but it was the unseeded Senthilkumar who drew first blood 11-7. Mekhalfi won the second by the same margin to level the game but Sentilkumar proved stronger on the day closing out the match to win 3-1 meaning another seed was out.
Number 5 seed Perry Malik was next on court to see if he could be the first seeded player to make the second round. In his way was the unseeded defending champion, Edmon Lopez. Lopez took the first game, but Malik levelled the game. Lopez was the superior player in final two games taking the match 3-1. Three seeds down in the first three games.
Emir Evans (3) was the first seed to make the second round in his game against Jakub Solnicky. The pair were level after the first two games but Evans proved the better player taking the final two games 11-7, 11-3.
Last year’s finalist, James Peach was seeded fourth for this year’s competition and faced fellow Englishman Stuart MacGregor. The first game went to a tie breaker with MacGregor edging Peach out 14-12. Peach responded well taking the next two games relatively comfortably. MacGregor made a battle of the fourth game, but this time Peach won the tie-break to take the match 3-1.
Daniel Mekbib (6) had a strong showing against Manu Paquemar taking all 3 games 11-6, 11-6, 11-4 to progress to the second round.
Court two saw an excellent battle between Welshmen Owain Taylor and Elliot Morris Devred. Taylor opened the scoring with the first game but Devred returned to win the next two games including a tight third game 12-10. The seeded Taylor managed to recover and take the final two games to book his ticket to the next round, winning 3-2.
The final men’s game of the day was between number 2 seed Ivan Perez and Robin Gadola. In a close fought game Gadola took the first game. The remaining games were all extremely tight and needed to be settled by tie breaks. Perez edged each one, recovering twice from 10-6 down to win the match and take the final spot in the second round as the highest remaining seed.
In the Women’s draw, Marta Dominguez Fernandez started in strong form winning the first game against Lowri Roberts 11-4. Roberts improved over the course of the next two games, but Dominguez Fernandez was too strong, taking the third game and the match on a tie break.
Number 7 seed, Lauren Baltayan put in a strong showing against Emilia Korhonen winning her game in three games. Korhonen tried to get back into the match with a tough battle for the second game (15-13), but Baltayan was too strong and booked her place in the second round.
Jacqueline Peychär and Sofia Mateos fought a hard game in their match. Mateos edged the first game in a tie break 13-11 only for Peychär to level the game. Mateos again took the lead in the third, but Peychär fought back again to level the match and the following game to see her through to the next round.
On the other court, Katriona Allen ad Klara Moller (8) had an equally tough battle. Moller took the lead, taking the first game 11-9. Allen fought back, winning a tie break 13-11 in the second only to lose the third in another tie break 15-13. Despite Moller being 2-1 ahead, Allen came out stronger in the fourth and fifth games, taking them 11-5, 11-7 to take the match.
Hana Ismail and Torrie Malik were last on court playing a gruelling five setter. Ismail looked comfortable at the start winning the first two games 11-9, 11-6 but lost her way, both with the ball and the referee resulting in Malik being awarded the third game. Malik capitalised on this to tie the match 2-2. The final game was close fought but Ismail recovered her game to take her spot in the second round winning 3-2.
Saran Nghiem , Au Yeong Wai Yhann and Kiera Marshall all had a convincing 3-0 wins over the respective opponents Caroline Lyng, Siena Hall and Marie Van Riet respectively.

Day Two
Play started on day 2 with Miles Jenkins (ENG) and 4th seed Velavan Sentilkumar (IND). Jenkins was looking to dispatch another seed having beaten number 1 seed Martin Svec yesterday. The play was really tight with the first two games going a tie breaks, Jenkins edging ahead in both games to take a 2-0 lead (13-11, 14-12). Sentilkumar improved that vital fraction in the following games to recover the deficit, levelling the match and then taking the final game and book his place in the semi finals.
On the other court, James Peach (4) (ENG) faced Daniel Mekbib (CZE) (6). Mekbib started out stronger, taking the first game 11-6. Peach closed the gap in the second and third but could not prevent Mekbib from recording a second 3-0 victory and a spot in the semi finals.
Fighting for a position to play Sentiilkumar in the semis were reigning champion Edmon Lopez (SPA) and number 3 seed Emyr Evans (WAL). Evans started strongly winning the first game 11-6 and kept the pressure onto take the following two games 11-9, 11-1.
Ivan Perez (SPA) and Owain Taylor battled for the final semi final position. The momentum see-sawed between the two. Perez, taking the lead, Taylor levelling, Perez taking the third, Taylor the fourth. In the fifth Perez was first to get match ball. Taylor recovered to force a tie break only for Perez to take the game 14-12 to win the match
In the Women’s draw, number one seed Marta Dominguez Fernandez faced 16 year old French 7th seed Lauren Baltayan. Baltayan was first out of the blocks taking the first game 11-8. Despite some excellent shots by Baltayan, Dominguez Fernandez took control over the next three games to book her spot in the semis.
Jacqueline Peychår (AUT) (4) was straight out the blocks in her game against Katriona Allen (SCO) taking the first game 11-1. Allen improved, but not enough to prevent Peychår from taking the match 3-0.
Saran Nghiem (ENG) (5) faced Au Yeong Wai Yhaam (SGP) (3). Nghiem continued her dominant form from yesterday taking the first two games 11-6, 11-1. Wai Yhamm closed the gap in the third to take the game to a tie break but Nghiem prevailed taking the final game 13-11.
Last up was Hana Ismail (EGY) against 6th seed Kiera Marshall (ENG). Ismail had knocked out number 2 seed Torrie Malik in the previous round and was now looking to progress against another seeded player. Ismail came out strongest in the first game taking the game 11-7. This set the pattern for the remainder of the match with Ismail taking the final two games 11-6, 11-8.

Semi final line up for next day:

Senthilkumuar (IND) vs Evans (WAL)

Mekbib (CZE) vs Perez (SPA)

Dominguez Fernandez (SPA) vs Nghiem (ENG)

Peychår (AUT) vs Ismail (EGY)

Day 3 - Semi finals day – four players in each division fighting it out for a position in tomorrow’s final.

First up on court were Velavan Senthilkumar (IND) and Emyr Evans (WAL) (3). Senthilkumar got off to a good start immediately building a 4-0 lead. The players swapped points to 10-5. Evans saved all 5 game points to take the game to a tie break. Evans saved a further tie break before earning his own game point 12-11 converting it to take the first game.
Senthilkumar again started the second stronger building a 8-2 lead, taking and converting his first game at 10-4 ball to take the second game and level the match.
The third game started off more evenly, players swapping the lead to 6-6. Senthilkumar then took the remaining points to take the game 2-1.
Senthilkumar slowly crept away from Evans in the fourth developing a 8-5 lead finishing the match and booking his place in the final.
Next on court, number 1 seed Marta Dominguez Fernandez faced number 5 seed Saran Nghiem. Dominguez Fernandez developed an 8-2 lead with some excellent squash, converting the game 11-4.
Nghiem improved in the second game building a 6-4 lead. Dominguez Fernandez drew back to 6-6, stretching away to take the game 11-9. Dominguez Fernandez carried this form through to the final game to seal the match 3-0.
The second Men’s semi final featured Ivan Perez (SPA) and Daniel Mekbib (CZE). Perez opened the scoring with an 11-9 first game, folllowing that up in the second with 11-5 to give him a 2-0 headstart. Mekbib fought back to take the third in a tie break 12-10. Perez dominated the 4th game and booked his place in the final 11-5.
Last up was the unseeded Hana Ismail (EGY) who had been upsetting seeds on her route to the semis against Jacqueline Peychãr (AUT) (4). Ismail continued her good run of form taking the first game 11-7. She continued in the second taking a 10-8 lead. Peychãr recovered the game balls, getting her own at 11-10. Ismail saved the game point and took the following points to take the game 13-11.
Peychãr came out strongly in the third taking a 9-3 lead and a 10-4 first game ball. Ismail saved 3 game points before Peychãr converted her fourth to take the game 11-7. The fourth game was tight fought exchanging points to 9-9. Ismail getting her first match ball 10-9 which she converted to put her through to the final.

Images courtesy GSA

Day 4 - PSA Challenger Tour Finals Day

The Gibraltar PSA Challenger Tour finals started with Marta Dominguez Fernandez (ESP) against Hana Ismail (EGY). Top seed Dominguez Fernandez had had a reasonably untroubled route to the final, dropping a single game. Unseeded Ismail had needed to topple the second, fourth and sixth seed to earn her spot in the final, yet had still only dropped 3 games.
Dominguez Fernandez got off to the stronger start, quickly building an 8-1 lead. Dominguez Fernandez got her first game point at 10-4. Ismail successfully defended 4 game points, but tinned a volley to give Dominguez Fernandez the first game.
Dominguez Fernandez built a 5-2 lead in the second game, but Ismail drew back level, only for Dominguez Fernandez to pull away to get game ball at 10-6. Ismail saved one game ball but another error gave Dominguez Fernandez the game.
Ismail started the third game with some beautifully played shots, earning a 3-1 lead but the consistency, accuracy and pressure from Dominguez Fernandez soon converted that to a 7-4 lead. This developed into a 10-7 Championship ball for Dominguez Fernandez. She took it at the first time of asking, earning her her first Gibraltar PSA title.
The men’s draw featured Spain’s Ivan Perez against India’s Velavan Senthilkumar. Neither player had an easy route to the final with 4 or 5 game battles in every round.
Perez took an early lead 5-2 and after a gruelling rally 6-2. Senthilkumar drew back to 6-6 extracting a some errors from Perez. Senthilkumar had the first game ball 10-9 which Perez saved. They both exchanged game balls until Senthilkumar finally converted one in the 32nd minute 18-16.
An uncharacteristic run of errors from Perez gave Senthilkumar an early 5-1 lead in the second game which Senthilkumar extended to 8-1. Perez recovered to 8-6 only for Senthilkumar to earn his first game ball 10-6, converting the third to take the game 11-8 and a 2-0 lead.
Senthilkumar dominated the start of the third game earning an 8-2 lead. The players exchanged points until Senthilkumar earned Championship ball at 10-5. Perez saved two match points, but Senthilkumar took the third winning the Championship.

Images courtesy GSA

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