Jonathan Kemp brought the curtain down on a distinguished career in impressive style by winning the Select Gaming Kent Open final 3-1 against Australian top seed Steve Finitsis.
Reigning champion Kemp delighted the packed gallery at The Mote Squash Club in Maidstone with a devastating display of skill as he reeled off a succession of winners into the front corners.
Mote members had renamed the front right area of the court Kempy’s Corner in tribute to his cultured backhand drop shots, and had even stuck a sign on the front wall ahead of the final.
However, he was forced to battle hard throughout the match by his tenacious opponent, who frequently matched Kemp’s quality in that very same corner.
The opening rallies were full of intelligent, patient squash as Kemp built a 9-5 lead. Finitsis then enjoyed a purple patch to lead 11-10 before Kemp regained control to nick it 13-11.
Finitsis, the 32-year-old world No.50 who is based in The Hague, began the second game well to lead 5-2. Kemp drew level at 5-5 and 6-6 but Finitsis won four points in a row to hold game ball. Kemp hit back again to make it 10-10 but Finitsis hit two quick winners to level the match.
Kemp surged ahead in the third to lead 6-2 and then 9-4 and although Finitsis recovered to take four more points, the 33-year-old left hander from Ipswich closed out the game 11-8.
Finitsis won the first three of points of the fourth game constructed a run of six points to move within touching distance of his second Kent Open title. Finitsis fought back to draw level at 8-8 and 9-9, but Kemp won the final two points to end his career on a positive note.
He said: “Once I had made my decision to retire I almost felt like pulling out of the tournament but I am glad I didn’t. It’s great to go out on a high like this, and I’d like to thank Steve for making it such an enjoyable final. I’m glad it didn’t go to five.”
As well as receiving his trophy for a second year, the champion was presented with a special commemorative shirt (right) with the words “The Kemp Open” on the back.
Finitsis said: “I was trying my hardest to win that match but if I had to lose to anybody I’m glad it was Jonathan. He’s a great player and I wish him all the best in his coaching career.
“This is a fantastic tournament and all the players are grateful for the way they are looked after – not just the guys in the main draw, but all of the qualifiers as well.”
After the final Kemp held informal discussions with The Mote about a possible future coaching appointment, with the club planning to add an all-glass showcourt which would allow them to enhance the Kent Open and stage other major events.
The club are planning to make The Mote a major centre of excellence for squash, with a new international academy also being set up.
Earlier in the week, European junior champion Richie Fallows, who is based at Bexley, knocked out No.4 seed Greg Lobban of Scotland to set up a semi-final showdown with Kemp.
With a packed crowd roaring him on, the 18-year-old Fallows did well to take a game but Kemp’s quality and experience sent him through to the final.
Another quarter-final upset saw America’s No.7 seed Todd Harrity beat England’s Charles Sharpes, the British Under-23 champion and No.3 seed. But Harrity could not match Finitsis’ relentless accuracy in all four corners of the court.
The Mote squash chairman Dave Verga said: “It’s an honour and a privilege to host an event like this, which brings so many leading professionals to the club every year.
“The pros held coaching clinics for juniors every day throughout the tournament and this, together with some exceptional play on court all week long, makes for a really inspirational event.
“This year we’ve seen the future of squash with young Richie playing so well and we look forward to welcoming him back again, plus all of the other talented young players who make this tournament so exciting and entertaining.”
Eight days of entertaining squash had begun with local club players taking part in a pre-qualifying tournament.
The Mote’s James Evans entered the draw at the next stage and produced a blistering performance to beat Scotland’s Jonathan Geekie in straight games (above) before falling to Londoner Youssef Abdalla in the qualifying finals.
Maidstone’s Josh Masters fell at the first hurdle in qualifying to fellow England junior squad member George Parker, the European under-19 No.2. It was a tight, tough battle and Josh was very close in each of the games.
Following the final, the tournament’s main sponsors Select Gaming and Shepherd Neame confirmed their commitment to next year’s event.
PSA Challenger 10 Select Gaming Kent Open, The Mote Squash Club, Maidstone, England.
 Jonathan Kemp (ENG) bt [Q] James Earles (ENG) 1-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-9 (37m)
 Ben Coleman (ENG) bt [Q] George Parker (ENG) 11-7, 11-6, 11-6 (54m)
Richie Fallows (ENG) bt  Khawaja Adil Maqbool (PAK) 11-7, 11-8, 11-8 (24m)
 Greg Lobban (SCO) bt Tom Ford (ENG) 11-9, 1-11, 11-8, 11-4 (52m)
 Charles Sharpes (ENG) bt [WC] Steven London (ENG) 11-9, 11-3, 11-3 (32m)
 Todd Harrity (USA) bt [Q] Michael Harris (ENG) 11-4, 11-9, 11-9 (37m)
 Declan James (ENG) bt Chris Fuller (ENG) 5-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-6 (92m)
 Steven Finitsis (AUS) bt [Q] Youssef Abdalla (ENG) 11-6, 11-9, 11-7 (44m)
 Jonathan Kemp (ENG) bt  Ben Coleman (ENG) 8-11, 11-8, 15-13, 11-3 (48m)
Richie Fallows (ENG) bt  Greg Lobban (SCO) 11-4, 10-12, 11-8, 8-11, 11-3 (89m)
 Todd Harrity (USA) bt  Charles Sharpes (ENG) 11-13, 11-8, 2-11, 11-5, 11-9 (67m)
 Steven Finitsis (AUS) bt  Declan James (ENG) 11-5, 11-7, 11-5 (42m)
 Jonathan Kemp (ENG) bt Richie Fallows (ENG) 11-8, 11-8, 6-11, 11-7 (41m)
 Steven Finitsis (AUS) bt  Todd Harrity (USA) 11-5, 11-3, 11-6 (38m)
 Jonathan Kemp (ENG) bt  Steven Finitsis (AUS) 13-11, 10-12, 11-8, 11-9 (60m
HIGH FIVE FOR HARROW:
Jonathan Kemp made it five out out of five for Harrow as he won the Kent Open for the second time. The tournament celebrated five years as a PSA world-ranking event at The Mote, and each final has been won by a player using the Harrow brand. Previous winners were Alan Clyne, Chris Ryder and Chris Simpson.
A big thank you to all the spectators who travelled from far and wide for the finals weekend party, which involved a World Cup-themed 25-a-side friendly between Team England and Team Italy. Unlike the football, Team England just squeezed home to victory.
This was followed by the two PSA semi-finals, the tournament party with live music, followed by the World Cup match on TV at 11pm. After a sleepover, a Full English breakfast gave everyone a rousing start before the Hangover Doubles, followed by an outstanding main final in the afternoon.
Posted by Alan Thatcher on June 26, 2014 at 23:56 in Squash Chat