AFTER five years of travelling south for a shot at the Professional Squash Association Open title, composure, determination and sheer skill brought it home for New Zealander Evan Williams.
Evans, the fourth-seeded Kiwi, faced top seed Henry Leung, of Hong Kong, on Sunday evening in the ILT and Community Trust South 2019 NZ Southern Open PSA.
Hosted at Invercargill’s Squash City, the final was a first for both players as well as their first meeting on the tour – so the game was set to be tough.
Williams had his game face on from the start, playing with precision in the first half before Leung came back into the set with a run of points.
It was not quite enough from Leung with Williams taking the first set 11-8.
The second set had Williams still focused, composed and determined, gaining and maintaining a lead to give himself a 2-0 advantage.
Both players showed great patience in the third set, keeping the rallies going in the hope of forcing an error. Leung took the early lead but it was Williams who reached match-ball before Leung came back again to take the set to a tie-break and get game-ball.
Williams dug deep and took the next two points to win the match and his first PSA title in three years.
The tournament kicked-off at Squash City last week last Wednesday and ran through to the finals on Sunday.
Teams from around the world, including the United States, Ireland, France, Australia and Japan headed to Invercargill for a chance at a place in the finals.
On Saturday evening, Williams played the semi-finals against Connor Sheen, an eighth-seeded player from England.
Both Williams and Sheen played a fast-paced game, with Sheen showing early on that he was up for the challenge.
Williams took the first set 11-9 and managed to hold the lead over Sheen through most of the second set until Sheen found another gear and took this set 11-8.
Sheen continued his momentum into the third set, forcing errors from Williams before Williams pulled back to gain a 2-1 lead.
The fifth set saw experience come into play as Williams quickly took control of the set and despite a determined push from Sheen, was able to close out the match 11-7.
Squash City’s Simon Flett said the PSA tournament was a “stepping stone” for New Zealand squash players.
“We had squash champion Paul Kyle play in the tournament twice and he’s now ranked sixth in the world.”
He said it was an event which enabled players to have career progression, with this year being the third time a New Zealander had made it in to the finals in six years.