By ALAN THATCHER
Fans cheered to the rafters as Silver Fox Ben Ford and youngster Josh Masters made it a Kent double on home soil in the first round of the Select Gaming Kent Open at The Mote Squash Club in Maidstone.
The 39-year-old Ford produced an astonishing performance, defying a leg injury at the end of the second game to beat Yorkshire’s James Earles 15-13 in the fifth game.
And the 20-year-old wild card Masters, who has been coached by Ford for much of his career, delivered a stunning result by toppling the top seed, Germany’s Jens Schoor, with a blistering array of winners.
There was no hint of the shock that was to follow as world No.63 Schoor won the opening game 11-2, but Masters came out with more attacking intent in the second.
The rallies were brutal, but world No.215 Masters was rewarded for his attacking intentions as he squeezed home in the second and third.
He maintained the pressure in the fourth as a major contrast in fortunes became apparent. Masters buried a succession of nicks as Schoor’s backhand volleys and drops found the tin.
Masters moved from 3-3 to 8-3 ahead and he held his nerve to clinch victory 11-5 as a packed gallery at The Mote roared the Maidstone boy home.
Sadly for Josh, his mum Jacquie was not there to see the most momentous victory of his career. She chose to attend a Take That concert at the O2 Arena instead.
Ahead of the quarter-finals, Josh might be telling his mum “I Want You Back For Good.”
For Ben Ford, he might be singing another Take That hit, “When We Were Young” as he approaches his quarter-final with Richie Fallows, a young man he has coached for several years.
Ben showed “You Never Forget” the technique and style that he is currently passing on to his young charges, many of whom were in the crowd admitting how he performed under pressure in a PSA environment.
“We Can Rule The World” might be taking it a bit too far, but he and Masters certainly ruled this corner of Kent last night.
Ford’s result followed another five-setter in the qualifying finals the previous evening, when he overcame Joe Green in their third match in the space of nine days.
He still had plenty in the tank against the 22-year-old Hull-based Earles. The Yorkshireman won the opening game but Ford found his length and blitzed through the second game 11-2.
He strained a muscle in the top of his leg but still won the third game, but Earles fought back to win the fourth.
Ford found a new lease of life to power 7-2 ahead in the fifth but Earles fought back to level at 8-8. The score seesawed as Ford was first to match ball at 10-9 and, in an incredible finale, both held two more each before Ford closed out the match 15-13.
Fallows overcame another rising star of domestic squash, Ashley Davies, in a match of high quality that suggests that Egypt will not have it all their own way when England’s big five of Nick Matthew, James Willstrop, Peter Barker, Daryl Selby and Adrian Grant, all in their 30s, decide to call it a day.
On a night of high drama and long matches, No.2 seed Charles Sharpes almost followed Schoor out the door in a thrilling clash with qualifier Mike Harris, who attacked both front nicks with venom. Sharpes will be mightily relieved to escape with a narrow five-game victory in a match of phenomenal commitment and quality.
Sharpes now meets Denmark’s Kristian Frost, who overcame Londoner Reuben Phillips in four games.
The opening match on Court One featured No.5 seed Joel Hinds and Chris Fuller, who took the game to five before Hinds dominated the final passage, clinching victory after 76 minutes.
However, he will not be relishing his appointment with the fired-up Masters, who will be seeking to make his attacking the flair the decisive factor in another possible giant-killing attempt.
In one of the most astonishing comebacks since the PSA switched to the PAR 11 scoring system, George Parker fought back from 10-3 down in his second game against Pakistan’s Adil Maqbool to win it 12-10.
The 19-year-old qualifier from Leicester won in straight games to set up a quarter-final with experienced No.3 seed Jaymie Haycocks, who overcome Nathan Lake in four tight games lasting 63 minutes.
Select Gaming Kent Open, PSA Challenger 10 Tournament, The Mote Squash Club, Maidstone, Kent, England.
(WC) Josh Masters (Eng) beat (1) Jens Schoor (Ger) 2-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-5 (46 mins)
(6) Joel Hinds (Eng) beat Chris Fuller (Eng) 11-9, 10-12, 11-5, 7-11, 11-4 (76 mins)
(3) Jaymie Haycocks (Eng) beat Nathan Lake (Eng) 11-4, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9 (63 mins)
(Q) George Parker (Eng) bt (8) Adil Maqbool (Pak) 11-4, 12-10, 11-9 (29 mins)
(4) Richie Fallows (Eng) beat (Q) Ashley Davies (Eng) 11-9, 11-6, 11-8 (38 mins)
(Q) Ben Ford (Eng) beat James Earles (Eng) 6-11, 11-2, 11-5, 3-11, 15-13 (55 mins)
(5) Kristian Frost (Eng) beat Reuben Phillips (Eng) 11-7, 11-8, 2-11, 11-3 (46 mins)
(2) Charles Sharpes (Eng) beat (Q) Mike Harris (Eng) 11-3, 7-11, 10-12, 11-2, 11-7 (56 mins)
6.45pm: (6) Joel Hinds (Eng) v (WC) Josh Masters (Eng)
6pm: (3) Jaymie Haycocks (Eng) v (Q) George Parker (Eng)
7.45pm: (4) Richie Fallows (Eng) v Ben Ford (Eng)
8.30pm: (2) Charles Sharpes (Eng) v (5) Kristian Frost (Denmark)