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BSPA Boston Open report

PIC: 2013 winners - Jaclyn Kemp and Tom Richards

As a purple skyline illuminated Boston on Sunday 8th December 2013, the sun set on the BSPA Boston Open for a 17th consecutive year, as top seeds Tom Richards and Jaclyn Kemp took the men’s and women’s titles respectively.

The action began on Friday with the men’s round of 32. The top four seeds all had byes and the 5/8 seeds all progressed. Although he lost 3-1, Boston’s Mark Hildred put in a good performance to take the third game on a tie-break against Keith Timms in what was, at 41 minutes long, the joint-longest match of the round.

At the other end of the spectrum, Scott Handley – making his seventh appearance at Boston, swept aside his opponent in 14 minutes, and took just three minutes longer to win his second round match on Friday evening, after the draw for the 2014 football World Cup had taken place between the sessions. All the seeds again progressed from the round of 16, but the top two seeds dropped one game each as they secured their passages with 3-1 wins.

Indeed, the round of 16 saw the losers in half of the matches win at least a game. Notably, Dave Wardle ran the previous year’s runner-up Greg Lobban close, having held the momentum (if not the 2-1 lead in games) ahead of a tight fourth. Chris Shinnie took Tristan Eysele to five sets. Eysele, the 5/8 seed, won the fifth game without much trouble, but only after a hard-fought first four games, during which Shinnie managed to win a rally despite having to recover from diving onto the floor halfway through it.

On Saturday the quarter-finals took place. In the ladies’ event top two seeds Jaclyn Kemp and Victoria Temple-Murray progressed comfortably in straight sets against Mari Taylor and Alison Hemmingway, who had both won qualifiers the previous evening. Alison Thomson beat Taylor Flavell, while Lily Taylor overcame Roxanna Keshavarz.

In the men’s quarters Tom Richards beat Tristan Eysele 3-0, while number two seed Jonathan Kemp eroded the lead that Ben Ford had held late in the fourth game to avoid being taken to a fifth - winning the match 3-1. Defending champion and ¾ seed Eddie Charlton beat Doug Kempsell in straight sets, but the upset of the round saw 5/8 seed Scott Handley progress at the expense of Greg Lobban. Handley was in clinical form to win 11/7, 11/9, 11/4 in 25 minutes. At 10/9 down in the second game, Lobban played a shot which he insisted was up, but the referee disagreed and awarded the game to Handley.

In the women’s semis, Victoria Temple-Murray beat Lily Taylor 11/8, 11/2, 11/5. Alison Thomson was beaten 11/2, 11/0, 11/2 by Jaclyn Kemp, but the score was not indicative of the match which plenty of long rallies – hence the match time was 24 minutes despite Thomson only winning four points.

The competition then began for a place in the men’s final. Tom Richards had to come from a game down to beat Scott Handley 3-1. The latter had led 8/7 in the second game too, but was then denied a let by the referees, who judged him not to have made enough effort to get to the ball on the forehand. That was surely a crucial turning point in the match, as Richards went on to win the game and match.

Boston town centre may have been dampened over the weekend, but Handley’s spirits never were. Early in the third game he hit a forehand cross-court drop shot into the tin, and joked, “It must have hit him [Tom] on the way through.” He later jokingly asked for what would have been the most outrageous let in the history of the sport.

Jonathan Kemp beat Eddie Charlton in the other semi-final 11/8, 11/6, 11/13, 11/8. After the crowd had, in unison, exclaimed ‘awwhh’ following a rally that led to the third game hanging in the balance at 9-9, Eddie won the game on his third gameball after his backhand drive hit a dead floorboard (the one next to the side wall and not usually encountered by club members).

Sunday’s finals were set up perfectly, with the world’s #22 and #44 in the men’s, and a Commonwealth gold medallist against the European under-19 champion in the ladies’. Experience was the winner in the women’s showpiece, as Jaclyn Kemp beat Victoria Temple-Murray 11/4, 8/11, 12/10, 11/6. The crucial turning point was when Jaclyn Kemp saved three gameballs in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. Temple-Murray was left to rue what might have been had her drop shot not clipped the tin on her first gameball.

The men’s final was the first to go to five sets for three years, as Tom Richards won 3/11, 11/6, 12/10, 5/11, 11/6. It was a fitting climax to a tournament that had had only one other five-set match. The final was played in a great spirit, with the referee having remarkably few decisions to make. Kemp had been close to taking a 2-1 lead rather than conceding it, but couldn’t capitalise on having the first gameball of the third set.

Speaking at the end of another weekend of crowd-pleasing squash, tournament organiser Mark Hildred said: “It was fantastic to watch both finals. Both of them were clean and it was superb squash. Well done to all the players.”

The two winners thanked the tournament’s organisers and sponsors for putting the event on, as well as the tournament’s referees. “It was nice to be able to play a match and have proper referees come down and not have to do it ourselves,” said women’s winner Jaclyn Kemp.

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