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Glasgow 2014: Squash minnows overawed by big stage

England's Nick Matthew in action against Mauritius' Xavier Koenig at Scotstoun Sports Campus. Picture: PA

England's Nick Matthew in action against Mauritius' Xavier Koenig at Scotstoun Sports Campus. Picture: PA

DEFENDING champion Nick Matthew eased to a routine victory in the opening squash session at Scotstoun but for others it was clearly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Matthew took just 21 minutes to triumph 11-3 11-3 11-1 against unranked Xavier Koenig of Mauritius, who squeezes his sport between shifts as an insolvency practitioner on the island.

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The three-time world champion and hot gold medal favourite was followed on court by a 17-year-old from Lesotho, Ntholeng Lechesa, for whom a single point in an 11-0 11-0 11-1 defeat to Jamaica’s Chris Binnie exceeded his modest expectations.

Lechesa learned the game at one of only six squash facilities in his country and had never previously played on a glass-backed court. His solitary point - after 29 in succession for his opponent - was greeted with raucous acclaim by the crowd.

Lechesa said: “I am very happy. I did not expect to win even a point. I was very nervous because I have never played on a court like this or in front of a crowd.”

If Matthew’s ability to get his own job done in double-quick time was ever in doubt it was quickly assuaged when a star-struck Koenig wandered onto court without his racquet.

“I didn’t realise we were coming straight onto court,” he said. “I thought we were coming out to have a walk around first.”

The one-sided nature of the first round continued when Scotland’s world number 35 Alan Clyne pushed aside Kevin Hannaway of St Vincent and the Grenadines 11-1 11-2 11-2 in only 14 minutes.

“When I first came out I got goosebumps and I just knew I had to concentrate on my performance,” said Edinburgh-born 27-year-old Clyne.

“I didn’t really know much about my opponent and it’s great that players from smaller nations get an opportunity to play in a place like this. These nations are not the ones I usually play and it’s great that they are given the chance.”

Clyne’s Scotland team-mates Greg Lobban and Kevin Moran moved through along with Peter Creed and Joel Makin, and England’s Peter Barker was an 11-4 11-1 11-3 winner over Manda Chilambwe of Zambia.

Northern Ireland teenager Michael Craig lost 11-9 11-5 11-5 to Harinder Sandu of India.

 

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