The ‘Legends of Squash’ tournament is a tournament featuring retired ex-professional squash players, and the event was held in the heart of the prestigious and picturesque surroundings of St George’s Hill Lawn Tennis Club. This is no ordinary club, as it is one of the few clubs in the UK to have an all-glass exhibition squash court installed permanently.
However, my much-anticipated day of squash started off badly as TFL decided to close the Northern Line at a moment’s notice and the Jubilee line was out of commission. However, I managed to get the train from Waterloo and thought I’d walk there from the train station. It was a bad mistake. A hot, sweaty and tiring 35 minutes later, I arrived! Did I mention I had my full squash kit on my back and I came from training? Well, thank you, Googlemaps!
I collected my ticket and the legendary Tim Garner himself greeted me. I was given the amazing opportunity to play on the glass court and it was certainly different to normal courts I am used to playing on. The floor felt much smoother and firmer than normal courts, which meant it provided elasticity for the ball to bounce and eliminating the possibility of broken floorboards.
Playing on a glass court requires a different squash ball, rather than the black ball with two dots they use a white ball instead. You have to hit much harder than normal as the glass absorbs more of the impact from the ball. Having to hit harder for an hour or so would kill us normal players!
After the court experience, the games were just about to start and luckily I got to video most of them. I even got to interview my idol, Jonathon Power in between games!
The afternoon I attended was the most anticipated night of the group matches. We were treated to classic rivalries, exhausting rallies, trick shots, ferocious hitting and crazy retrieval skills. All the games were played on a best of three, using the professional scoring method.
This year’s line-up in Surrey was mouth-watering as it included names such as Power / Nicol / Palmer / Garner / White / Parke / Meads / Ryan. Each individual was a remarkable squash player from the professional tour.
Parke v Meads – This classic encounter featured friends and rivals on-and-off the tour. It showcased the textbook game of dominating the T and attacking when the opportunity arose. The court coverage by both players was exceptional and they needed to converse with the referee so they could catch their breath! Parke won this encounter with a 2-0 victory.
Ryan v Garner – This game built on the basics from the previous game. Both players were playing good length but Ryan used his reach as an advantage to volley and cut the ball off on the ‘T’. Garner came back strongly in the highly contested second as they were level at 6-6 all the way to 9-9, with each point getting tougher but unfortunately Garner’s concentration broke and hit the tin twice to give the match to Ryan.
Palmer v White – I would classify this as the game of the powerhouses. It was mind-blowing how both players hit the ball so hard with pinpoint accuracy. The crowd oohed & aahhhed as we witnessed insanely fast and furious hitting with balls rolling out of the nicks, and boasts which were millimetre-perfect above the tin. A funny highlight of this encounter was John White needing a breather after a long rally, so he traded his racket for the towel and walked off the court, leaving the towel boy with Palmer on the court. On a serious note, both players were diving and sprawling over the court to retrieve impossible-looking balls. In the end Palmer won this insanely contested match with a 2-1 victory.
Nicol v Power – This classic rivalry was relived once more as the crowd witnessed more of a technical and illusory side of squash. Both players wrangled for the T-position by playing to a good length to create space and using their wrist to hold and flick shots to wrong foot their opponent. Power showed his arsenal of delicate shots including the bamboozling trick shot of being in the front left corner shaping up for the drop/drive but applying top-spin to try and push it into the opposite corner nick. Meanwhile, Nicol gave a master class demonstration of retrieving whilst playing incredibly supple drop shots into the front corners. Power battled in the first game but eased through the second game to take a 2-0 victory.
It was a fantastic day out, and it reminded me why I love squash so much. Where else can you mingle with the legends of the game and have a joke with them between games? Where else do you get a chance to try out the court before the games start? All of the players were friendly, approachable and were happy to pose for pictures and sign autographs. Simon Parke even lent his back so that John White could sign my shirt!
But the definite highlight of my day was meeting and interviewing Jonathon Power. I never thought I would ever get the opportunity to meet, let alone interview this legend of the game. He was incredibly friendly and easy to talk to. He seemed so calm and composed off the court but once he was on court he was a magician with a racket in his hand carving away at the ball.