Semifinal 1: Patrick Chifunda bt. Lekgotla Mosope (7-11, 11-7, 12-10, 11-4)
by Zee Shaan
The Rochester crowd was treated to an all-African semi-final tonight. The two gladiators in the squash arena were Patrick Chifunda from Zambia, the #1 seed and Lekgotla Mosope from Botswana, who earned a spot in the semi final by emerging victorious in the qualifying rounds and then upsetting the #4 seed, Fernando Lopez.
The unranked Mosope, making his PSA tour debut, grew up playing squash in Botswana following the ranks of other successful squash professionals from the continent such as Lefika Ragontse and his opponent, Chifunda.
The first game saw Mosope come out of the gates with guns blazing. He got off to a great start scoring four unanswered points before Chifunda gave proof of his presence on the court by registering his first point on the board. Mosope displayed his attacking skills and had Chifunda on the back-foot for most of the game and weaved some magic as well with some volley crosscourt backhand nicks in reply to respectable serves by Chifunda. A few tins by Mosope let Chifunda back in a little bit but Mosope closed it out 11-7 when Chifunda tinned at 10-7.
Chifunda stayed on the court throughout the 2 minute interval and kept practicing his touch shots. As expected, Chifunda started in an entirely different gear as compared to the first game and though Mosope was hanging with him till 6-6, Chifunda raced to eleven.
Undoubtedly, whoever won the third game would be in a commanding position in the match. The players knew this all too well and fought off each other’s ferocious attacks to stay in rallies which they had no right to stay in. Each kept the other in check until 8-8 and then Chifunda flew away with two winners to hold game ball. Mosope was not to be denied so easily and with the help of a stroke and a tin from Chifunda after a captivating rally, the match witnessed its first tie-break. 10-all the electronic scoreboard displayed at the top of the front wall and the crowd braced themselves for the moments to come. Chifunda displaying why he was the no.1 seed, played these points carefully and sensibly. He created his first down the line winner by playing the tightest of drops in the front forehand corner, which Mosope did very well to get to and then after another long rally, he played a forehand reverse boast as such lightning pace that Mosope saw it after it had bounced thrice. Game 3 to Chifunda 11-10 (2-0).
At this point, the match stood 50 minutes old, which is a testament to the consistency of quality these players displayed for the crowd. Unfortunately Mosope couldn’t gather himself to sustain this high quality in the 4th game and went down convincingly as Chifunda really picked up the pace and started going for all kinds of winners from all over the court. He wanted to close the match out and everyone in the crowd knew it. To his credit, he carried out his plan well and with the help of a few consecutive tins from Mosope at the middle stages of the game, ran away with the 4th and thus final game with a score of 11- 4, with the total duration of the match being 59 minutes.
These players competed in the true spirit of the game as there were no arguments with the referee (only four calls during the entire match, out of which only two were strokes) and the respect they held for each other on the court was there for everyone to see. Such a delight to watch such a quality match in the presence of the enthusiastic Rochester squash fans.
Semifinal 2: Ahmed Maged Hamza bt. Andrew McDougall (11-8, 11-8, 11-4)
(by Thomson Chew)
The second semifinal of the evening went quickly to Ahmed Maged Hamza of Egypt. He won 3-0 (11-8, 11-8, 11-4) over Andrew McDougall of Canada. Ahmed controlled the game with patience and with several put-away shots that nicked in the front right corner. In game one the points started going to Ahmed quickly due to several rails that got away from Andrew and a few unforced errors from Andrew trying to end the point too close to the tin. Ahmed held on to the first game despite providing Andrew with the opportunity to tie the game at 5-5. He continued to stay patient with each rally and let Andrew create the opportunities for him to place the ball out of Andrewâ€™s reach.
Game two saw a focused Andrew pressure Ahmed more and force him to hit some loose shots. Andrew used his front left drop to push Ahmed forward and then placed his retrieval deep into the opposite back corner. At 5-1 it looked like Andrew was heading to a good lead over Ahmed until a few long points started going Ahmedâ€™s way. He pulled up to 5-5 thanks to a some unforced errors from Andrew. Both players exchange points up to 8-8 where Ahmed took it to 11-8 with his nicks and excellent length on the left side rail.
The momentum started with Ahmed in game three and did not stop until the end of the match. He gained a strong lead to 7-1. Both players put on some fantastic rallies that involved fully extended retrievals and well placed volleys and drop shots. Ahmedâ€™s â€œextra longâ€ reach allowed him to stay relax and to pull many balls from behind him back into play. Andrew had a difficult time getting the hot ball to settle down which taxed his patience and wore him down eventually. Ahmed closed the game out 11-4 and earned his place in Sundayâ€™s finals.