Wednesday, May 8, 2013


PST World Championship May 3-5

This year’s line-up for the PST World Championship had a very different look than 2012’s. Only David Palmer was a repeat performer, and he came in to the event as the hot favorite. Seven new challengers were desperate to prevent the big Australian from claiming his first PST title and we witnessed some unbelievable squash that left the membership picking up their jaws trying to figure out just how the players do what they do. Shots that appear irretrievable are not, angles that seem physically impossible are found, reactions give the impression of something out of the movie ‘Matrix’, and fitness levels that must be inhuman.
David Palmer and a humbled Doug
"I-have-no-mirrors-in-the-house" Troszak
after their hit around
Just like in 2012, the PST crew becomes integrated into the DAC squash family for the time they are here. From Joe McManus and David Palmer coming in a day early to referee the Club Championship final and then joining us the presentation dinner, the Saturday morning hit around with the sponsors and the Racquet Up Detroit kids, to the Saturday night chaperoning that Doug Troszak, Britt-Marie Olofsson and a couple of other members did, taking the players out for dinner and late night activities! Friendships are forged, memories are lasered into the brain, and most importantly the endless smiles from everybody make the whole thing worth the effort.

Not to be overlooked are the promotional efforts of Georgetta Morque, PST’s one-women marketing department. Georgetta works extremely diligently making sure the tournament and the DAC receive as much exposure as possible through the local television, radio, newspapers and on-line sites. It is a wonderful ‘extra’ that the PST put into their events.
Brad Thompson and Josh Cardwell with the
kids from Racquet Up Detroit

The first round of matches on the Friday was not as close as I anticipated. I expected David Palmer to win 3-0 and he did over Greece’s Fabian Kalaitzis, although initially it looked like at least a 4-setter. Fabian sprinted out of the blocks and caught Palmer flat-footed and a little dazed. It was 10-3 before any of us knew what was happening. Instead of rolling over and concentrating on the second game, Palmer knuckled down and refused to let Fabian simply take the game. He picked up his length, stepped forward another step to the ‘t’ and proceeded to run his opponent from corner to corner. He saved 7 game balls to initiate the tie-break before eventually taking it 14-12. Fabian was cooked. For the next two games he was in survival squash mode as his legs couldn’t keep up. A few decent winners made the 11-7 score lines look rather respectable. The other 3 matches also resulted in 3-0 white-washes. While it was high-quality squash, there was always the one player in control and they weren’t really threatened.  
Some of the players and members
in the DAC bowling alley

Then came the semi-finals. And the spectators were in for real treat. First up we saw David Palmer and Stefano Galifi. Stefano is a very interesting player. Incredibly smooth around the court, he has a remarkable lunge and stretch and add on the fact he holds his racquet very low on the handle, his retrievable abilities are astounding. He is also Italian, and like many of his countrymen, is a passionate and emotional person. Sometimes, it gets in his way. The two played very close to each other. A drawn out first game had Palmer taking it 12-10 and then Galifi came back to win the second 11-8. Up to this point there had been a number of ‘let’ calls and if you remember, the PST rarely replays a rally (or awards a ‘let’), the point is awarded to one of the two players instead. In other words, it’s either a ‘stroke’ or a ‘no-let’. Palmer and Galifi had numerous interference situations that called on the referee. And many of the referee’s calls were consequently challenged. Galifi thought he was getting hard done by with most of the decisions and he was finding increasin
gly difficult to concentrate. Palmer on the other hand could sense the emotions getting the better of his Italian opponent and stepped up even further to place even more pressure on him. A tense filled third game, more challenges, a little banter starting to creep into it, Palmer eked it out 11-9. That was enough to pop the Italian balloon. A deflated Galifi couldn’t muster up a decent challenge in the fourth and Palmer stormed home 11-2 to take the 3-1 win and a place in the final.

The second semi saw Aussie Wade Johnstone and the young 20-year old Egyptian Mohamed El Sherbini, It was a fast paced encounter and Mohamed showed on occasion a typical Egyptian style with the ability to crack the ball with a surprising angle for a winner. Wade did very well to keep up and he had to rely on his retrieval skills and steadiness. It’s a wonder with the pace of hitting and the speed of the player’s movement that any opportunity to attack the ball would ever present itself, but the excellent ball control and quick reactions – and plenty of patience – the two players seemed to be able to attack regularly. Lots of volley drops, nick attempts, they used all four corners rather effectively. Wade was too steady for Mohamed in the first taking it 11-5, with the second game being a lot closer. Unfortunately for El Sherbini, he lost that 12-10 and was now looking at an exceedingly difficult hill to climb. But he knew he could still beat Wade as he had done so just two weeks before. And he fought back. The long third was taxing and the Egyptian sneaked it 11-9 which must have been a huge confidence booster. Wade also looked like he was starting to get tired. It was the Australian’s turn to change the tide in the fourth and with extra effort the Aussie just managed to hold off El Sherbini to take the game 11-8 and the match 3-1.

Finals day. The 3rd and 4th play-off is great for the spectators. An extra match to watch, they very much appreciate  that. It is, however, mentally difficult for the semi-final losers to front up the next day for this duel, motivated and desperate to win. Stefano and Mohamed maybe did not play with quite the same intensity as the day before, but it was a entertaining affair, comical at times with the quick wit of Galifi. There were still the occasional interference issues, but this match went down to the wire. El Sherbini claimed the victory here 11-8 in the 5th.

Wade Johnstone and David Palmer
The first-class final was a clean a match as I have seen. There were minimal ‘let’ calls, and not one single challenge. Wade jumped out to a quick start – much like Fabian did in round 1 – with exceptional length, and catching Palmer off guard with the pace. Unlike Fabian, Wade was able to take advantage of the lead and closed out the game 11-9. Were we in for a major upset? Not quite. There is a reason that Palmer is one of the legends of the game owning PSA World titles and number one ranking. The ability to change his game to gain the upper hand.  It’s the ability to win. With improved, softer length, Palmer was able to take better control of the middle and that is where he is at hid deadliest best. He cuts the ball off so well and moves you into the front corners mercilessly with pinpoint accurate drops and volleys. Wade was like a little doggy after a ball at times, but I have to give him credit – he hung in there extraordinarily well and proved on many occasions that scrambling enough can pay dividends. The question was, could Wade scramble enough? Palmer knew this and was relentless. He won the second and third games 11-5, 11-6 and could keep his Australian compatriot at a short arm-length away for the fourth as well. Exhausted, Wade would not give up. He found some energy reserve to save a couple of match-balls. A full-length body-dive into the back left corner (which tore off skin and left a nasty size bump on his elbow) was his last ditch effort to save the match… but it failed. A spectacular ending to a spectacular match. Palmer in four games. And his first PST World Championship title!

Before I go, I cannot forget about the generosity of our sponsors. Without them, the event can’t run. We need them. I cannot thank all of them enough – please thank them as well when you see them: Tiffany Douglas / Mike Ottaway with Bank of America; Sean Moran with Morgan Stanley; Bob Garvey – Racquet Up Detroit; Patrick Petz – Skidmore Studios; DJ Boyd – Edward Jones; James Van Dyke – Roxbury Group; Paul Silva – Franklin Templeton; Kevin Prather – Baker Tilly; Glen Milligan – Ameriprise;  Doug Troszak – Troszak North America; Tom MacFarlane – Clark Hill; Tom Fabbri – Aaro Companies; Alan Howard – Burroughs; Tom Shafer – Talmer Bank;  John Dunwoody, Mark Hayduk, Chris Terry and Paul Aubrey – 4 Men in a Box Syndicate. 

Left to right: Bob Garvey, Brad Thompson, Tom MacFarlane, Mohamed El Sherbini
Doug Troszak, Fabian Kalaitzis, Stefano Galifi, Wade Johnstone,
Elliot Shafer, David Palmer, Shahid Khan, Josh Cardwell

We are scheduled to host the PST World Championship in 2014 and 2015. If you are interested in being a part of the prestigious above mentioned group, please come and see me! We need to make this bigger and better. Help us achieve that goal!

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