On Friday evening, the 10th of November 2017, club coach Chris Bentley played Taminder Gata-Aura in a racket ball exhibition match. Many members will know Chris as he played at the club as a junior and up and coming squash player. In fact a couple of members bragged to me that they had beaten him in the past, although he was 9 years old at the time. As they say, a win’s a win! Taminder is also known to us as he has played here before and took a few Monday evening squash coaching sessions earlier in the year.
It was a greatly anticipated event. Watching Chris in action it was evident that no one at the club can really stretch him so it would be interesting to see him play a world ranked squash player to see just how good he is. Taminder appeared to have all the advantages – 15 kilos lighter, 8 years younger, match sharp from being on the international circuit, coached by Malcolm Willstrop at Pontefract, better looking – everything seemed to be in his favour. The match was an absolute cracker. It couldn’t have been scripted better but it was for real, almost no quarter given by the players. Right from the first game there were some stunning rallies and just a little bit of show-boating. Chris was scoring with his deadly boasts whereas Tamninder’s nicked drop shots were millimetre perfect. Chris ran out the winner by 11 to 7 but it had been a hard game and he was already blowing a bit. He took the longest between games whereas Taminder got back on very quickly to hit the ball.
The second and third games went to Taminder 11-7 and 11-9. In both he took an early lead but Chris came back at him to make both games very physical. As he clawed his way back into contention in each game Chris got a great deal of encouragement from an increasingly excited and vocal crowd. But now 1-2 down in games it looked like the writing was on the wall as he seemed to have burnt all his matches. In the 4th game he managed to get a good start and pull out a 2 point lead. It was then that it became evident that Taminder was also looking tired and was clearly blowing a bit. This was another hard gruelling game. As he sniffed the finishing line Chris seemed to find renewed energy and re-found his Duracell bunny form to take the game 11-9, both players looking as if they’d given their all. None-the-less, they both had to return for the decider at 2 games all.
Both had a longer break this time and spent a little time engaged in a bit of banter (time wasting). But the look in their eyes showed this was no joking matter. The 5th and final game had everything as two punch drunk racketball players tried to deliver the crucial blow. Chris again got a slender lead but mistakes due to tiredness were beginning to creep in. After a series of extended rallies that repeatedly sent each player into all four corners of the court and produced some wonderful if desperate retrieving Chris managed to preserve just enough of his lead to reach match ball at 10-9. We felt he had to make this count as he was now visibly more tired than Taminder. An uncharacteristic weak service return from Taminder set up the match winner which Chris promptly tinned! The groan from the crowd said it all. Two clear points now required. Taminder won the next rally to give him match ball at 11-10. But the pressure and tiredness were getting to him too and what would have been a winning boast with Chris out of position at the back of the court, after another desperate retrieval, clipped the tin. 11 all and Chris was still in the match. Taminder then failed to convert his second match point at 12-11 just failing to get to another gut wrenching attacking boast.The atmosphere was electric and I’m sure all the advice from the crowd was much appreciated by the players. Now it was 12 all and both our glistening gladiators looked out on their feet. Miraculously Chris won the next point and, after one of the longest and cagiest rallies of the match, eventually played a perfect irretrievable length to take the match 14-12 in the final game.The crowd went wild!
This was a tremendous evening’s entertainment and the good news is that Chris is planning to put on these exhibition matches against top players on a regular basis. Taminder has already demanded a rematch to get his revenge. If you couldn’t make it, don’t miss out next time. Watch this space, look at the notices at the club and read your club emails. Some of them are interesting.