Chichester have a Hill to climb in Premier League squash opener

Chichester’s Premier Squash League team opened their 2011-12 campaign with a defeat when they travelled to Weybridge to play the very strong St George’s Hill squad, last year’s runners-up.

Chichester’s squad has a new look and the team comprised the top four men’s players, including the new number one, and Annabelle Collins-Ballands.

First Collins-Ballands competed well against former Chichester player and former world No18 Dominique Lloyd-Walter.

Lloyd-Walter had the upper hand throughout the 11-5, 11-3, 11-5 win but Collins-Ballands hit several extremely tight drives and at times had her opponent under pressure with her volleying.

Chichester’s Max Lee, playing at No3 and world-ranked 58, took on Joe Lee, world No70.

Max struggled to find his form early on and soon found himself 2-0 down. Max fought back and despite being down in both the third and fourth games, he pulled back to level the score at 2-2.

Fatigue began to set in for Max and Joe came through 11-8 to put the home side 2-0 up.

Chichester’s Olly Pett, Sussex No1 and world No87, played Charles Sharpes (world No99) and kept Chichester in the running with a hard-fought win. The first four sets went 11-9, 3-11, 11-7, 6-11, with Pett holding his game together in the fifth to take it 11-5.

Chichester’s Robbie Temple (world No64) battled well against world No8 Nick Mueller. Temple won the first game 11-6 but the Swiss star was always in control and won the big points to take the next three 11-6, 11-6, 11-9 and secure the match for St George’s Hill.

Chichester’s new No1 string, Nafiizwan Adnan from Malaysia, who played for St. George’s Hill last season, played his old team-mate Tom Richards.

Although it was a dead rubber it was very entertaining. Richards took the first game 11-7 and Adnan took the second 11-8 to level the score. Richards took a strong early lead in the third and never looked back to win it 11-6.

The fourth was nip and tuck and went to a tie break before Richards came through 12-10 to give St George’s Hill a 4-1 victory.

Chichester’s first home match at Chichester Racquets & Fitness Club is next Tuesday and they will field the same top four men players against Exeter Diamonds. Tickets are on sale – call 01243 785664.

Meanwhile, Chichester Racquets & Fitness Club’s Hannah Wright-Davies overcame tough opposition to be crowned Sussex champion for the first time.

Chichester dominated proceedings at the Sussex Squash ladies’ closed championships in Hove, providing three out of the top four finishers.

There were only six entrants, but though numbers were small, competition was fierce.

In the first matches, Chichester’s Zoe Shardlow proved too strong for Corals’ Wendy Simpson, while talented teenager Martha Possegger, also from Corals, outclassed Suzie Larkin of Hastings.

Shardlow and Possegger then came up against Chichester’s Hannah Wright-Davies and Hannah Ockwell.

Shardlow went 1-0 up and took a good lead in the second, but the more experienced player ground her way back to level at 1-1. In the third, Wright-Davies took an 8-2 lead, and it was Shardlow’s turn to fight her way back, bringing the score all the way back to 8-8 before two errors gave the game away, with Wright-Davies going on to close out the match 3-1.

Ockwell rallied impressively against Possegger, but claimed only four points overall. Wright-Davies defeated Simpson and Ockwell beat Larkin to set up a final between former Welsh international Wright-Davies and Possegger, currently on the fringes of the England squad.

The Chichester No1 stepped up to lift the title with a 3-0 win. In the play-off for third and fourth places, Shardlow beat Ockwell 3-0 while Simpson beat Larkin for fifth.