Squash: Marshall moves closer to Jansher: Englishman on brink of breakthrough

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ENGLAND had two men in the semi-finals of the Hi-Tec British Open for the first time for 45 years yesterday at Wembley, but neither advanced further. Chris Walker was probably the closer to reaching the final, leading 7-3 in the first game and 6-5 in the third in a 9-7, 7-9, 9-7, 9-4 defeat against the second-seeded Australian Brett Martin, but Peter Marshall was perhaps the more heroic, as he extended the top-seeded title holder, Jansher Khan, to a contest of an hour and a half before losing, 9-2, 7-9, 9-4, 9-3.

Indeed in the second and third games there were moments when the favourite was flagging. Marshall had kept Jansher rallying hard for 45 minutes but was 2-7 down in the second game when the Pakistani appeared to tire a little. 'I was feeling the pressure. I was a bit scared,' Jansher admitted.

The British national champion then came back to 7-7 with some fantastic retrieving that helped produce some Jansher errors. But when Jansher appeared to tire a second time, at 4-0 in the fourth, Marshall could only respond as far as 3-4. By the end he had little left. 'I think the gap may be closing,' Marshall said.

The other semi-final was an utter contrast to the mesmerising rallying of Marshall and Jansher, for Walker and Martin produced a maze of dropshots and volley drops, tins and service return winners. Walker had decided to take Martin on at the front. It produced a strange atmosphere and some odd decisions, with the three officials three times giving different decisions to the same appeal. 'I really feel referees decide the outcome of matches sometimes,' Walker said afterwards. 'I do feel a bit hard done by.'

One could understand that, for in patches Walker had often played brilliantly. But the referees were not crucial. Rather it was Martin's extra experience and his heavily flicked drives to a length which could punctuate the front-court exchanges.

Martin kept alive the possibility that a brother and a sister might win the titles for the first time. Michelle Martin plays in the women's final against her Australian compatriot, Liz Irving, who won 7-9, 9-7, 9-2, 9-1 against England's only woman survivor, Suzanne Horner.