By Morissa Lindsay
It was double delight for Englishman Joe Green as he won his first Professional Squash Association (PSA) title at the inaugural Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.-sponsored Barbados Open, with US$5 000 at stake.
Squash enthusiasts at the Barbados Squash Club in Marine Garden, Hastings, Christ Church, were treated to a phenomenal match-up yesterday evening between Green with a world ranking of 128 and Micah Franklin of Bermuda at 182.
Playing in his second PSA final, Green showed a high level of fitness and resilience to capture the best of five set showdown 11-8, 10-12, 11-9 and 11-6. He dedicated the win to the memory of his close friend and former England squash player Harry Faulkner who passed away a few years ago.
The entire match lasted for 64 minutes with Green taking a 1-0 lead in the first set when Franklin played well to equalize 1-1 to stay in the game. The Englishman actually had a one-point advantage at 10-9 when Franklin in his first professional final came from behind to level the scores 10-10 and went on to claim the next two points and sets.
The penultimate set was crucial for both men and at this stage of the game it was clear what kind of shots both players favoured. Franklin took a liking for the back-arm shots, which was his downfall at times when he tried to smash too hard and hit down on the tin. Whereas Green enjoyed opening up his forearm to hit the ball hard in order to push Franklin deep into back court and then looked to finish him off in the frontcourt with some fantastic drop shots.
After the long rallies Green had the momentum at 10-6 when Franklin scored three vital points to threaten what would have been a remarkable comeback but Green recovered well to take a 2-1 lead and put Franklin on the back foot once more.
In the fourth set Green with the serve to start and Franklin going for the back- hand shot yet again missed it completely to give his opponent an early lead. It would appear Franklin was tired when he requested a few seconds to catch his breath but soon after being down 3-0 Franklin smashed two great shots to cut the deficit by one. But Green had more stamina and with championship ball in sight at 10-6 he went on to claim the title in front of a very appreciative crowd.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY after the match Green who trains under Paul Carter, an English-born high performance coach, thanked Barbados Squash Association and president Monty Cumberbatch for putting on such a great tournament. He said after reaching two PSA finals in his career with the first being in Newcastle, England, it was quite fitting to win his first PSA trophy in Barbados where he actually began playing squash.
Green described Barbados as a second home and explained that it could not have gotten any better because his younger brother Lawrence Green also played great squash to reach the semifinal where he lost to Franklin 11-6, 11-3 and 11-2 while the victorious Green secured his place in the final with a 11-9, 13-11 and 11-3 win over Fernando Magdaleno of Mexico.
“I just had to push really hard. Micah is very fit, he gave me nothing at all. I don’t think he made a single mistake. I just tried to push the pace in the beginning and towards the end I found that I was winning from slowing the game down and controlling it better,” Green explained.
Meanwhile 24-year-old Franklin, coached by Cameron Stafford of the Cayman Islands, said this had been his best professional tournament to date and noted there were lots of positives he took away.
“Joe is an incredible athlete I knew that going into the game that he is an incredibly fit guy, strong player and I knew that no matter what the score was, it was going to be tough. I went in with a game plan to wait for my opportunities and take them but I underestimated his abilities to keep the ball going and not make as many errors. I think that he played really well and I am happy for him,” said Franklin, who now has his eyes set on the Senior Caribbean Championship scheduled for Trinidad in August.