We really could not have asked for any more. I am sure that the evening will be remembered by many for a long, long, time. As I watched the exhibition match between David Palmer and Thierry Lincou, it was interesting to hear the reactions of the crowd. The incredulous remarks at their retrieval ability, speed, fitness, touch… you name it. It blew people away.
Before I get into that wonderful performance, we do have some member matches to mention that was a part of this Hops Challenge. Just to get you working up a sweat and make you feel better about attacking the keg, two teams were put together: “Palmer’s Punishers” and “Lincou’s Liquidators”. There were no prizes for the wining team (pride?), simply a chance to beat up on each other.
And it was close. Only three of the 13 matches ended up 3-0. Four of them were 3-2. Kevin Prather couldn’t take advantage of a 2-0 lead he had against Joe Paglino as fitness became a larger issue towards the end. Kevin still hung tough, but Joe managed to keep the edge in the 5th game to complete the difficult comeback. Niko Ahee scraped through the tightest of the matches of the evening with a 5 set win over Glen Milligan. Three of the games were stretched to a tie-break, barely a couple of points separated the two all contest long. Despite the loss, Glen was quite satisfied with the result.
Sean Fossee somehow managed to keep Kevin Kennedy from wining the 5th game in their battle after the two traded the first four. Kevin looked a little less worse for wear, but Sean kept steady enough in the final stanza to stay ahead.
|David and Thierry pre-match|
Tom MacEachern continues to step it up. He took Rich Stimson in 5 demanding games and his comment afterwards: “That wasn’t easy.” No, I bet it wasn’t. But since Tom plays numerous times a week, and has started to work on his game with some lessons, these tough winning results shouldn’t be too much a surprise to anyone.
At the end of the member matches, “Palmer’s Punishers” had the unassailable 8 matches to 5 lead. The pro exhibition would unfortunately not be the deciding result (not that anyone cared – or probably even knew!) The showcase was upon us.
For many members watching, it was the first time they had seen professional squash. Being utterly made speechless by the athleticism is one thing, and a comment made to me the next morning was that even though it was unquestionably fantastic to watch, and certainly a opportunity to learn from them, emulating them would be impossible. Okay, sure. But remember you don’t need to play like them. Take some important tips and fundamentals away from it, practice those things and improve your game. It takes time and effort.
As a side note, I cornered our squash committee chairman – John Dunwoody – into refereeing the match. His initial reluctance quickly gave way when he realized he would be part of the spectacle. The PST
‘no-let’ rule was right up John’s alley since as the match wore on it seemed he didn’t know what a ‘let’ was anyway! He was the perfect fit for the occasion.
"You're asking for a what?"
Even though it was an exhibition, David and Thierry must have had some type of bet going on between them – these guys went hard. Don’t get me wrong – we had the fancy shots, the cracking nicks, wrist breaking deception, the head-fakes, drop-shot rallies… all that one would expect from two guys that just know how to do it properly. But they also ran their tails off. They wanted to win. Palmer took a close first game 11-9 before Thierry bounced back strongly in the second. A few careless unforced errors from Palmer helped that cause, and the 11-5 Lincou win was never in doubt.
The third game was much like the first as the players went toe-to-toe, point-for point, up until 6-all. Thierry then managed a small 2 point cushion that he never relinquished and ended up taking it 11-8 and a 2-1 game lead.
The fourth game… well… the fourth game had all the drama. David found his stride early to sprint to a 6-1 advantage and it looked like we were in for a quick game. But no. It appeared Thierry had little interest in playing a 5th. At 7-3 down, he went on a roll taking the next 6 rallies in a row for a 9-7 lead, two points from victory. At this stage, both players were having some furious exchanges. They were breathing very hard. Where their spare stores of energy came from was anyone’s guess, but the crowd was definitely feeling their pain!
And then came “The Rally”. It will be “The Rally” that will keep people’s tongue wagging, the one they will tell their friends about. I have seen a lot of pro squash in my time, and this rally would rank up there with the best of them. It included a David Palmer full length body dive into the left back corner, unbelievable retrieval after unbelievable retrieval, and it went on, and on, and on. Just as David looked on the verge of collapse, Thierry attempted a deceptive crosscourt from the front left corner that veered over his own head, and as David was running for the straight drive he managed to stick his racquet up enough to get the ‘stroke’ decision. Magical squash. And it deserved every second of the standing ovation it received.
The fact that Thierry ended up winning the 4th 17-15 was inconsequential. The crowd was buzzed. What a performance.
|Thierry and David post-match!|
Once the boys had regained their breath a little, they spent a good 20-30 minutes answering questions from the members – a first-class touch for everybody to listen and learn some more. Another comment to me from one of our members expressed that the time these two spent off court with the audience was even more impressive than the time they spent on. I’m sure many would agree.
It was an exciting evening. The lads will be back in the first weekend of May for the 2014 PST World Championship that we will be hosting (May 2-4). Make sure you make the effort to back this event – we need your support. Come and see me for all the information.