The gallery was packed a full 40 minutes before the start of the championship match of the 2011 EBS Dayton Open.
Tournament promoter Charlie Johnson, a classically trained trumpet player who plays professionally with area symphony orchestras when not coaching squash, played the national anthems of Pakistan and Botswana as the spectators eagerly anticipated the beginning of the match …
Charlie Johnson reports
Butt won the first three points, much to the cheering delight of the partisan crowd of local squash supporters with Pakistani connections. Chatting last night after his semi-final, Walker had stressed the importance of getting off to a strong start in order to avoid the trap Butt set for # 1 seed Adrian Grant of England in the upset semi-final last night, and it looked like he forgot this game plan for the first 3 rallies.
Then he remembered, raised his level, ran off 5 straight points, got back out front, and never looked back. Although there were many long and incredibly athletic rallies, Butt only scored one more point in the opening game.
Game two of the championship match was a different story and the pivotal game of the match. Both players knew the importance of the second game of a championship match and with the large crowd cheering great rallies and winning shots from both players, they traded points back and forth until the score was tied at 10-all.
In the opening rally of the tie-break, both players attacked and retrieved punishing lengths with dogged determination but a crucial cross-court kill from Butt found the tin as the strings in his racquet broke on shot. Walker went up 11-10 but was denied the win as Butt stretched to reach every length that Walker through at him trying to get the ball past him. The torturous play from both players, attacking, driving, moving each other around the entire court was furious and feverous over the next 4 points as they traded rallies to 12-all.
All through the match, Walker had been mixing attacking power from both sides with incredibly tight control on the slower paced back-hand drives and drops when faced with potential problems and it paid off in these last two rallies of the second game: the point won to go up 2-0 at 13-12 in the game was a back-hand drop that was painted on the wall.
Although Butt fought hard in the third and final game, 48 minutes after it started, the players were shaking hands and Alister Walker, in his first appearance in Dayton at the EBS Dayton Open was the champion, winning 11-4 in the third.
PSA $25k Dayton Open, Final:
 Alister Walker (Bot) bt [Q] Yasir Butt (Pak) 11-4, 14-12, 11-4 (48m)
After the matches Butt admitted that the physical toll of making it all the way from opening qualifying round to the finals was just too much. He said he started tired, evident in the first game, for the second game, the moment and the local support helped him raise himself up to fight hard, but tinning that ball when his strings broke seemed to break him also. In the third game, the physical and mental fatigue of the week got the best of him.
In the awards ceremony, Butt was gracious in defeat and congratulated Walker for his strong performance. He thanked the sponsors and promoter for a fabulous event that gave him the opportunity to showcase his talent, and he attributed his strong showing this week to the work he’s put in with his coach and trainer at home, Zahid Butt, and Ajaz Azmat with whom he’s trained recently in New York.
After accepting the winner’s trophy, Walker also thanked the sponsors and promoter for bringing PSA squash back to Dayton, Ohio after a 3 year lay-off and said he felt honored to have his name added to the trophy that includes some of the greatest players of the modern game: Peter Nicol, John White, Ramy Ashour, Thierry Lincou, and Karim Darwish.
He also thanked his coach David Pearson who is a friend of promoter Charlie Johnson, his physical trainer Rob Marra who has helped raised his fitness level to new heights, and Richard Wade for being his recent training partner.
Alister was also a crowd favorite for his introspective conversations during the week with the Dayton Squash Center members and this was evident as he also thanked, during the awards ceremony, Jim Odrich for helping him recently with the mental aspects of playing competitive sports at the world class level and he thanked Annette Pilling for all her support.
OK in Ohio:
By all accounts, the return of PSA squash to Dayton and the Miami Valley area was a huge success.
This could not have been accomplished without the support of all of our sponsors and patrons, but the product delivered, the high calibre of impressive play, and the conduct on and off the court of all the players equaled the events Dayton has hosted in the past.
Look for a bigger and (if possible) better PSA event next year in Dayton Ohio.