Matthew & Gaultier To Meet In
Surprise Egyptian-Free New York Final
England's tenth seed
Nick Matthew and fourth-seeded Frenchman Gregory Gaultier will
meet in a surprise final of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions
after the Europeans stunned higher-ranked Egyptians in the semi-finals of
the $117,500 PSA Tour Super Series Gold squash event at Grand
Central Terminal in New York.
The final is not only
the first PSA Super Series event climax not to feature an Egyptian since
last May's British Open, but it will also guarantee a new Tournament
of Champions' champion - the eighth since the inaugural championship in
Matthew took defending
champion Ramy Ashour out of his comfort zone to earn a second
appearance in the final since losing to twice champion Amr Shabana in
2006. The 28-year-old Englishman from Yorkshire took advantage of his
strength and stamina to keep the balls tight and deep on the wall, forcing
the third-seeded Egyptian to try to create his trademark shot-making from a
less favourable position than he is normally accustomed.
"I was changing the
pace, and the speed, sometimes hitting high and sometime hitting low,"
explained Matthew, a former British Open champion, after the match.
Early on, it looked
like it was going to be a close encounter when Matthew won the first game in
a 12-10 tiebreak and Ashour won the second 11-8. "I was annoyed that I let
the second game go," said the Englishman. "So I went back to basics in the
third and once I got a lead, Ramy seemed a bit disheartened."
Matthew, who was off
the Tour for nine months in 2008 with a shoulder injury, looked fresh and
strong throughout the match, while Ashour looked increasingly disconsolate.
Between games, England National Coach David Pearson was in Matthew’s
corner as they discussed strategy while the 21-year-old World Open
champion sat alone, his head in his hands. After play was done, all Ashour
had to say was: "I just didn’t think I was going to win the match."
Matthew won the third
game 11-6 and then easily closed out the match with an 11-2 victory in the
fourth. It wasn’t just length and width that earned the Englishman his
victory; he also occasionally and surprisingly displayed the kind of
shot-making for which his opponent is better known. "I don’t mind if people
underestimate that part of my game," he said, tongue-in-cheek!
Although he played to a
high standard, the winner - now in his 24th career final - noted: "It is
hard to be in the zone against Ramy because he changes the game all the
time. You have to be physically strong, but you also have to be mentally
focused on each shot."
In the final, Matthew
will play his good friend Gregory Gaultier, who ousted current world number
one Karim Darwish in the evening’s second match. The 26-year-old
Frenchman joyfully grabbed the side railings of the court in the players'
area after he came off court at the end of the match.
Gaultier said with a big grin. "This is my first ToC final and my fourth
final in a row."
It didn’t look as
though this would be Gaultier’s night at the start of the match when Darwish
won the first game 11-2 by playing consistent length and waiting for
Gaultier to make errors – which he did. Darwish used the same strategy in
the second game, but Gaultier made enough winners to offset his errors and
the game went to a tiebreak which Gaultier won 12-10.
The world No1 changed
his strategy in the third game and tried to play a more attacking game, much
to his detriment as he began making the errors. Still, the players were
keeping pace with each for the first half of the game. Midway through,
Gaultier had a heated exchange with the referee that seemed to energise him,
and he then broke the game open to take a 9-4, lead, ultimately winning the
game 11-5. The fourth game was all Gaultier as he led from start to finish
to reach the 32nd Tour final of his career.
"I just tried to stay
calm and focused," Gaultier observed after the match. "I think Karim might
have been feeling the pressure of being No1." Asked to what he attributed
his streak of four finals in a row, Gaultier responded: "I am so much
stronger physically and mentally, but especially stronger in the head."
Q/F Top Half
Matthew Upsets Willstrop To Reach
Tournament of Champions Semis
Tenth seed Nick
Matthew upset James Willstrop, the fifth seed, in the
quarter-finals of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions in a victory
which not only levelled Matthew's career head-to-head record over his
Yorkshire rival, but took the former world number five into the semi-finals
of the $117,500 PSA Tour Super Series Gold squash event at Grand
Central Terminal in New York for the first time for three years.
It was a seesaw match -
with underdog Matthews taking the first two games and world No5 Willstrop
fighting back to take the third for just a single point.
The fourth saw several
lengthy points in which both players moved the ball to the four corners of
the court, but Matthew had the upper hand as he moved Willstrop up and back
and side-to-side, forcing the higher-seeded player to retrieve the ball when
he would have preferred to be shooting it.
"I wanted to make him
play three or four extra shots on every rally," Matthew commented after
taking the pair's Tour head-to-head tally to eight-all. "In the end, James
made just a few more errors on the day."
Willstrop felt the
match was more level than the score suggested: "I actually felt like I
controlled a lot of points. But Nick was very patient and made it difficult
for me in the back of the court," explained the 25-year-old from Leeds.
The other quarter-final
featured the artistry of 21–year-old world champion Ramy Ashour and
the strength and tenacity of former world number one Thierry Lincou,
After losing the first
game, Ashour dominated in the second. "I think Thierry might have taken a
little rest there," commented the Egyptian later. Ahead 9-5 in the third,
Lincou had his first game ball at 10-6 and his fourth at 13-12 - but it was
Ashour who won the game 15-13.
The fourth was squash
at its best – with both players stretched to the corners. A fifth game
looked on the cards when the Frenchman went ahead 10-8. But Ashour’s
shot-making did not desert him and on a rare error by Lincou - a forehand
into the tin - the exuberant Egyptian earned his spot in the semi-finals.
"After this match, my
confidence improves," said the defending champion after his 12-14, 11-2,
15-13, 12-10 victory. "I really enjoyed playing out there tonight. When
you can feel the people enjoying your playing, it gives you extra energy."
Q/F Bottom Half
Gaultier & Darwish
Through To New York Semis
Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, the world No4, and Egypt's new
world number one Karim Darwish secured places in the semi-finals of
the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions after contrasting victories in
the $117,500 PSA Tour Super Series Gold squash event at Grand
Central Terminal in New York.
Gaultier let loose with an exultant yell as he entered the players’ area
after defeating Australia’s David Palmer in four games: "I had a
tough draw playing David in the quarter-finals. He doesn’t ever give up
from the first rally of the match to the very end. But I was ready to have
a good fight," said the 26-year-old from Aix-en-Provence.
Palmer got off to a strong start, taking a 10-2 lead in the first game. "He
was just playing better than me," admitted Gaultier later. "I was going too
short and hitting too many tins." Down game ball at 2-10, the mercurial
Frenchman started to dig deep and scored four points in succession to change
Although he lost the game, the fourth seed entered the second game with
renewed confidence and charged out to a 5-1 lead, winning the game at 11-6.
By the third, Gaultier was in complete control, winning 11-3.
Palmer, the four-time British Open champion, was not about to exit the one
tournament he has never previously won without one last effort - and stayed
even with Gaultier in the fourth game as they exchanged points to
seven-all. The Frenchman snatched three consecutive points to reach match
ball at 10-7 - but Palmer was still not about to be counted out and tied the
game at 10- 10 and 11-11 before Gaultier finally won two successive points
to win the game 6-11, 11-6, 11-3, 13-11 after 67 minutes.
am feeling strong physically and mentally," Gaultier commented as he looked
ahead to his semi-final encounter with the second seed.
Darwish was surprised at the ease with which he defeated thirteenth seed
Mohd Azlan Iskandar in the last quarter-final match. "I was expecting
much more from him," said the Egyptian after the 11-5, 11-6, 11-2 victory
which took just 26 minutes.
"But I am quite happy to get to the semi-finals without having lost a
game." The 27-year-old, who assumed the top spot in the PSA rankings this
month after being ranked No8 just a year ago, attributes his recent success
to being more relaxed and confident. In particular, he credits some of the
turnaround to his marriage to Engy Kheirallah, also a professional
squash player, who won the deciding match this past December to clinch the
Women’s World Team Championship for Egypt.
Shabana Bows Out As
Matthew Progresses In New York
Egypt's Amr Shabana, seeded to win his third title in four years,
bowed out of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions after sustaining a
knee injury during his match against England's Nick Matthew in the
$117,500 PSA Tour Super Series Gold squash event at Grand Central
Terminal in New York.
Matthew, who won his first round by a walkover, was on court for just 15
minutes before Shabana retired with the score at 11-3, 6-1 in the
The 12th seed will be well rested for his quarter-final encounter with
fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop. The fifth seed played a relaxed
match against Yasser El Halaby, the Princeton University graduate who
had a roaring fan contingent in the stands.
But the 24-year-old Egyptian did not have the experience to mount a
significant challenge to Willstrop, who won 11-7, 11-9, 11-7 in 29 minutes -
and will now hope to extend his 8-7 Tour head-to-head count against his
Third seed Ramy Ashour narrowly escaped with a victory at Grand
Central Terminal to hold onto the opportunity to defend the title that he
won for the first time last year. The 21-year-old Egyptian found himself in
a real battle against 16th seed Laurens Jans Anjema who elevated his
game to take the reigning World Champion to the brink of defeat.
After winning the first game 11-9, Ashour quickly lost the second 3-11. The
26-year-old Dutchman jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second, but Ashour
evened the score at four all. After several lead exchanges, the third seed
secured the third game 12-10. Anjema responded by winning the fourth
13-11. Down 7-9 in the fifth, the Egyptian found his touch, winning four
straight points to stay in the tournament.
feel like I have lost my technique, which is the worst thing that can happen
to a squash player," said Ashour, perhaps feeling the pressure of being the
sport’s young superstar and world champion. "When I got out on the court
today, I felt like everything was happening all at once."
Ashour’s quarter-final opponent will be former world number one Thierry
Lincou, the only player to claim two consecutive victories over Ashour
in the past year. The 32-year-old Frenchman had to make a big comeback in
his match against England’s Peter Barker to reach the last eight.
After losing the first two games to the ninth seed, 2-11, 7-11, Lincou was
energised to turn the tide when his fellow Frenchman Renan Lavigne
admonished him: "You cannot lose this match 3-0," said his French
team-mate. Lincou’s response: "I decided I just had to hit the ball
properly." And he proceeded to do so – adding power and length to his
hitting, and also throwing in some drop shots to win the next three games
11-7, 11-2, 11-8.
Walker Takes Golan In
Tournament of Champions Upset
Unseeded Englishman Alister Walker confounded the seedings in the
JP Morgan Tournament of Champions when he upset Borja Golan, the
14th seed from Spain, to reach the second round of the $117,500 PSA Tour
Super Series Gold squash event at Grand Central Terminal in
"This is the tournament that gets you most excited," said Walker after his
9-11, 14-12, 11-1, 11-3 victory in 61 minutes. "And I think I was
over-excited at the start of the match."
The Botswana-born 26-year-old now faces Frenchman Gregory Gaultier,
the fourth seed who took just 19 minutes to book his place in the second
round when English qualifier Daryl Selby retired injured midway
through the third game.
The newly-installed world number one Karim Darwish, from Egypt,
played with tremendous confidence in defeating Canada’s Shahier Razik
11-3, 11-8, 11-2.
The evening’s final match went the distance as Malaysia’s Mohd Azlan
Iskandar needed five games to secure victory over Hungary's Mark
Krajcsak. "I’m relieved," said the 13th seed. "This is my first match
back after injury and illness and it was a scrappy, win-at-all-costs
El Halaby Ousts White In First Tournament of
Qualifier Yasser El
Halaby pulled off the first upset on the opening day of main round
action in the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions when he battled to a
five-game win over 15th seed John White in the $117,500 PSA Tour
Super Series Gold squash event at Grand Central Terminal in
Although he plays under
the Egyptian flag, the Princeton University graduate was the hometown
favourite in his opening round match and he rewarded his local fans with a
12-10, 4-11, 12-10, 8-11, 11-7 victory over former White, a former world
El Halaby, who now
makes his home in New York City, was nervous going into the match: "Last
year, I think I played my worst match ever right here." The 24-year-old
knew he had an opportunity to improve on his 2008 performance when he drew
the veteran John White, who was playing in his final Tournament of Champions
having announced his retirement from the PSA Tour to devote all his energy
to coaching the Franklin & Marshall College squash team.
White - at 35, the
oldest player in the field - extended his opponent for 51 minutes, but El
Halaby controlled his nerves sufficiently to seize the victory. The
lowest-ranked player in the tournament will now meet Englishman James
The fifth seed
prevailed in a scrappy match against tenacious Finn Olli Tuominen.
Willstrop’s all court game ultimately gave him the winning edge and he
closed out the match 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-8.
Amr Shabana, who had missed last year’s championship for the birth of
his first child, was happy to be back on the glass court under the
chandeliers in Vanderbilt Hall. "I missed the atmosphere here - it’s like a
great party," said the Egyptian.
The top seed made it
his party with a straightforward 11-8, 11-7, 11-5 win in 31 minutes over
France’s Renan Lavigne, who may have been a bit tired from his
113-minute marathon qualifying match the previous night. Shabana’s next
opponent, however, will be more rested: England’s Nick Matthew
advanced in the draw without having to play when Australia’s Stewart
Boswell had to withdraw due to a groin injury.
The opening day of the
JP Morgan Tournament of Champions got off to a rollicking start in Grand
Central Terminal with sell-out crowds and solid play. "When I walked in
here tonight, it looked like it was the finals," said defending champion
Ramy Ashour, referring to the capacity crowd which was buzzing with
energy and enthusiasm.
Although he dropped the
first game, the consummately gifted Egyptian shot-maker got his game back on
track in the second and comfortably beat Australian Cameron Pilley in
"I started strong,"
said Pilley after the match. "But as soon as I got a little tired, Ramy
just put the ball away." Ashour will next face Laurens Jan Anjema of
the Netherlands who defeated qualifier Amr Swelim of Egypt in
Egyptians Storm Into Tournament of Champions In
Egyptians will dominate the main draw of the JP Morgan Tournament of
Champions after four players from Cairo came through the qualifying
finals to join a further five compatriots in the first round of the $117,500
PSA Tour Super Series Gold squash event in its 15th year at Grand
Central Terminal in New York.
Yasser El Halaby,
the world No53 from Cairo, took out Australian Wade Johnstone 9-11,
11-3, 11-6, 10-12, 11-4 in a 61-minute marathon to become the lowest-ranked
player in the draw. The 24-year-old now faces
Scotland's US-based former world number one John White.
His fellow countryman Omar Abdel Aziz ended the brave run of
41-year-old Chris Walker, beating the former England captain
11-8, 11-8, 11-7 to set up a first round clash with England's
the 11th seed
survived a 113-minute marathon
against fellow Frenchman Julien Balbo - his 5-11, 11-7, 11-8, 6-11,
17-15 victory taking the 34-year-old into a first round clash with top seed
Amr Shabana, the former world number one who is looking for his third
title in four years.
New York Grand Central
Terminal Hosts Year's First Major Event
The world-famous Grand Central Terminal in New York hosts the
first major international squash tournament of the year when the world's
leading players compete in the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, a
$117,500 PSA Tour Super Series Gold event in its 15th year, from
Egypt's Amr Shabana is seeded to win the title for the third time in
four years - and expected to meet Karim Darwish, the compatriot who
ended his 33-month reign as world number this month, in next Thursday's
But defending champion Ramy Ashour, a third Egyptian who followed his
maiden Tournament of Champions success last year by becoming World Open
champion in October, is seeded three - and expected to meet Shabana in the
Rounding out the top six are Gregory Gaultier of France; Englishman
James Willstrop; and Australian David Palmer, the four-time
British Open champion now residing in Boston. John White, head
coach of the Franklin & Marshall College squash team and a former world No1,
will also compete - as will wild card entry Julian Illingworth, the
USA's best-ever international touring pro, currently ranked 40 in the world.
the first qualifying round, former England captain Chris Walker, now
41 and based in the USA, pulled off a sensational upset over Mexican number
one Eric Galvez. Left-hander Walker - a semi-finalist in the 1994
and 2002 championships - beat the 25-year-old world No41 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 to
earn a surprise place in the qualifying finals.
managed to frustrate him in the end," said Walker of the tight, controlled
game he used to neutralise Galvez. The former world No4, who is now a
squash coach in Connecticut, added: "I would dearly love to get on the
glass court one last time," referring to the sparkling four walled glass
court constructed under the chandeliers in Grand Central Terminal for the