Coll claims a second CW title

Canary Wharf Squash Classic 2021 : FINAL

18.00: Wildcard Challenge:

 Josh Masters (WR116) 2-1 Tom Walsh (WR127)    9-11, 11-6, 11-7 (40m)


 [2] Paul Coll (Nzl) 3-1 [1] Ali Farag (Egy)  7-11, 13-11, 11-5, 11-6 (69m)

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Coll claims a second CW title

New Zealand’s Paul Coll claimed the Canary Wharf Classic title for the second time in his career after he prevailed in a thrilling final against Egypt’s Ali Farag at the spectacular East Wintergarden in London.

The pair were meeting for the 18th time in their careers, with Farag holding a lofty advantage at 15-2 in the head-to-head. However, it was Coll who triumphed for the second time in a final over the Egyptian this year, backing up his 2021 Allam British Open victory to clinch the PSA World Tour Gold title in front of a packed-out crowd.

A best-of-three games format was used up to and including the quarter finals in Canary Wharf with scoring reverting to best of five for the semis and final and it was World No.1 Farag who got off to the better start, finding his length early on and moving Coll into all four corners of the court before converting the first game, 11-7.

Coll responded in emphatic style in the second, cutting down Farag’s angles and restricting his creativity to race into a 10-5 lead, but it took seven game balls before he was able to draw back level.

The final two games were a perfect display of concentration from Coll as he stuck to his game plan to successfully convert the 7-11, 13-11, 11-5, 11-6 victory and win his second major title of the year.

Paul Coll : “I’m very happy. I have so much respect for Ali, he’s such a great champion, he’s a top player. For me to beat him in the final is extra special, he’s such a top and fair player and everyone should look up to as a quality champion. I’m so happy to take two titles off him, no offence Ali.

“I’m very proud of that, it’s so tough to beat him. You’ve got to put so many things together, get a game plan and then execute a game plan from start to finish, I’m very proud of this win. I want to thank the crowd, it’s my favourite venue to come to, Tim garner, you do an amazing thing here. Thanks Canary Wharf, the crowd make it but to even have the event in such a special location and I know all the players are so privileged to come here and play this tournament.

“Diving is definitely something that put me on the map, but as my coach says for the wrong reasons as he hates me diving. Now that’s out my game for the best part. Thanks to my whole team for coming on this journey since I was a junior, teamed up with Rob Owen and he’s changed my game, taught me how to play the game and I’m just so grateful to share his time and his commitment to me and all his players, so massive thank you to him.

“I also want to the thank the rest of my team, Bart Wijnhoven, my mental coach, we work really hard and have come up with what we think is a good plan for me to compete every tournament. Relaxed but also hunting the ball. To all my sponsors, they make my life so much easier travelling, if you see them on my shirt, I love them all.”

Ali Farag : “He’s the worthy winner, he played a lot better than I did, the ball was a flyer again, I couldn’t control it from the get go, he was taking better portions I the middle and hitting his corners better than I was so definitely didn’t deserve to win today.

“I don’t think I deserved to win it, I was 10-5 down and loosened up my arm and went for some shots and they went in and that bloody shot at the end where he hit the frame. I have nothing but respect for Paul and his coach Rob Owen whatever they did together is paying off, they do a lot of work I’m sure, there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes, there’s so much you don’t see, all the team behind us supports us all the way, so I’d like to congratulate them and everyone behind them,

“Thank you very much guys for coming every night and making it special. Thanks to Tim Garner, he does a thankless job and thanks to the referees, we don’t make it easy for you but you do an amazing job.”

Masters wins the Wild Card Challenge

Josh Masters finally earned a win in the Wild Card Challenge to book his place in the first round draw when the tournament returns to its traditional March dates next year.

He hit back from 6-2 down in the third with a run of points to snatch victory from Tom Walsh, who had played excellent squash throughout.

Masters admitted: “It’s a relief to finally get the win! I want to thank Tim for giving me an opportunity, especially after the injury issues I have had. I have had two hip operations.”

Masters, who is now coaching at the Park Langley club in Beckenham, added: “Tom and I played a Surrey League match earlier this week and I managed to sneak that one as well.”

Dream final coming up


Canary Wharf fans will be treated to a dream final tonight as the top two seeds, Ali Farag and Paul Coll, take to the court at a packed East Wintergarden.

Both played exceptional squash to end the challenges of Tarek Momen and Diego Elias last night.

Many fans were expecting two five-setters but the fact that Farag and Coll both won in straight games means they arrive for the final day without having dropped a single game between them all week.

That means they will be fresh and hungry for the battle, with Coll keen to add to the title he won in 2019 and Farag aiming to get his hands on the trophy for a first time.

The spectators at Canary Wharf are a knowledgeable bunch of squash lovers and they have clearly warmed to the way these two guys play the game.

Last night, Farag very sportingly agreed to play a let ball after an odd bounce followed a drop shot in the front left, even though it looked perfectly good from my seat inches away from the glass in that corner.

I mentioned to him after the match that “no good deed goes unpunished” because he quickly lost six points in a row as Momen gained some momentum.

However, Farag regained control to clinch the first game 12-10. From then on, it was one-way traffic as Farag won the next two games 11-2, 11-4. He wrapped up the match in 33 minutes, meaning that he has spent just 80 minutes on court for three matches.

Coll beat Elias 11-9, 11-6, 11-3 in 50 minutes, meaning that he has enjoyed 126 minutes in front of the most responsive crowd anywhere in squash.

The sequence of those scores shows how Coll’s control increased game by game. Losing to his friend in the Qatar final clearly stung, and he took to the court in businesslike fashion, with a solid game plan to impose his aggressive style of play on the proceedings.

Elias threatened throughout the first game but he found his attacking options were restricted as Coll took a stranglehold on the match. As Coll pounded the ball down the side walls, Elias reacted with shots that smacked of desperation. One or two came off in spectacular style but far too many hit the tin. Coll, growing in confidence, was the one finding winners with laser-like precision.

Tonight we can expect to see two master craftsmen at the peak of their powers.

Farag knows that he needs to back up his second World Championship victory with more regular tournament triumphs.

However, he knows that Coll is getting closer all the time to becoming the finished article.

The guy whose Canary Wharf journey was launched with him diving around the court against James Willstrop five years ago is now expecting to win every tournament he enters.

True, we did see a couple of dives in the opening game against Elias, but that fighting spirit helped him to weather the storm and gave him the platform to dictate the rest of the match.

After the match I mentioned the number of times he played through some unintentional, minimal interference. It reminded me of Peter Nicol in his prime. Paul replied: “I think that’s the way everyone wants to watch squash. It’s more entertaining and free-flowing, and it comes down to good squash then.

“Me and Diego both play like that and we’re friends so it’s harder to block and it’s just better to watch. So the more matches like that, the better for me.”

For Farag, his overwhelming desire is to win his first title in the UK.

He said: “I’m very pleased. Believe it or not I was lucky enough to win a lot of titles across the globe but never on British soil. I’ve made semis here and the final, so I hope the trend continues.

“I hope I can go one further this time. It’s a joy to play on this amazing stage, in front of this amazing crowd. I can’t wait to play for you again tomorrow.”

Regardless of any favouritism from supporters of either player, genuine squash fans know they will be in for a treat this evening.

Before the final gets under way, this year’s Wild Card Challenge features Tom Walsh (Sussex) against Kent’s Josh Masters.