Ashour & Matthew
Set Up Dream Tournament of Champions Final
The world's top two squash
players Ramy Ashour and Nick Matthew will contest a dream
JP Morgan Tournament of Champions final after prevailing in stunning
semi-final showdowns in the PSA World Series event - both of which
drew standing ovations from the packed crowd at Grand Central Terminal
in New York.
Current world No2 and two-time
title-holder Ramy Ashour delighted the crowd, and sometimes even his
opponent, with his unique brand of squash artistry on full display in his
semi-final match against fourth seed James Willstrop, the
title-holder from England.
"Ramy was superb tonight," said
Willstrop after losing to his Egyptian rival 11-4, 11-9, 11-8 in a reversal
of last year's final where the Yorkshireman defeated Ashour in three games.
"This was the best he's ever played against me."
The prodigiously-talented Ashour
at his best is an artist creating a canvas of squash shots that few have
ever seen before. His palette was of the highest order in the night's first
semi. The defending champion, who played a credible match but not his best,
had no answer for the magic coming off Ramy's racket.
Ashour pocketed the first game
quickly. Willstrop mounted a challenge in the second, getting to seven-all
before Ashour ran off three straight points to win the game. Down 5-9 in the
third, Willstrop edged back to 8-9, with the crowd roaring encouragement in
the hope of seeing the match extended. Ashour quelled that hope with two
winners to take the game and move into the final.
Before leaving the court, the
two players embraced, acknowledging their respect for each other.
"James is one of the most fair
and talented players," said the winner after the match. Referring to the
fact that the crowd got especially involved in third game - during which
both players applauded each other's great shots - Ashour continued: "It was
intense tonight but the last game especially was fun."
While the evening's first match
had its share of poetic moments, the second semi-final was drama of the
highest order. England's world No1 Nick Matthew got off to a
dominating start against Egypt's Amr Shabana; he led the first game
from start to finish. When Matthew won the second game, it looked as though
the sold-out crowd would be on their way home before the evening's snowstorm
was too far along. But two-time Tournament of Champions title-holder
Amr Shabana wasn't ready to call it a night.
Drawing Matthew into several
long points, the third game was all Shabana as he played himself back into
the match, winning the game. The fourth game saw the lead seesaw back and
forth as both players continually raised their level of play. Superb
technicians each, the players used every shot in their arsenal to fight for
Matthew had two match balls at
10-9 and 12-11; after being denied a let on the first one after catching the
back of Shabana's foot on his way to the ball, Matthew was understandably
perturbed. Nonetheless, he regained his composure to draw a rare unforced
error from Shabana to have a chance to win the match. But the player who is
acknowledged by most of his peers to be one of the great players of all time
showed why that is so; Shabana hit a feather drop shot to even the score at
12-all, followed by a cross court winner to go ahead 13-12. A tin by Matthew
evened the match at two games apiece, much to the crowd's roaring delight.
The fifth game was a masterpiece
of squash strategy and shot-making by both players. The 32-year-old Egyptian
was diving for balls, hitting the floor and still managing to stay in the
point. Matthew was stepping forward to volley the ball as far front as he
could to keep Shabana behind him. At eight-all, it was anybody's match; the
same was true at nine-all.
At 10 points apiece, Shabana had
to dive once more to scrape a forehand drop before it bounced twice; Matthew
was all over the weak return, sliding it down the backhand wall for a
winner. This time, Matthew did not let the match ball out of his grasp,
hitting a precise backhand drop that produced a rare tin from Shabana.
After 88 minutes of dramatic,
sometimes breathtaking, squash, Matthew reached his third Tournament of
"This match was a test at every
level, of physical and mental capacity," said Matthew after the match -
tired but satisfied. "But that wasn't surprising, considering I was playing
one of the best players of all time."
In the post-match on-court
interview that was part of the evening's live broadcast on espn3.com,
Tournament Director John Nimick asked Matthew how the evening's
marathon match would affect his readiness for the final against Ashour.
"This is what we train to do as professional athletes," said Matthew. "So
there is no reason not to be ready to do this again in 24 hours."
Ashour, looking ahead to the
final earlier in the evening before his opponent had been determined, said,
"Tomorrow is the toughest match. It is not so much about the squash; it is
about reaching the end of your destination. Tomorrow is about the pressure."
Shabana & Matthew
Make Tournament of Champions Semis
Two-time champion Amr Shabana
and twice runner-up Nick Matthew claimed their anticipated places in
the semi-finals of the 2011 JP Morgan Tournament of Champions after
prevailing in the quarter-finals of the PSA World Series squash event
at Grand Central Terminal in New York.
Shabana, the fourth seed from
Egypt, gave his opponent Laurens Jan Anjema a lesson in the art of
the sport as he moved his Dutch opponent to all four corners of the court,
and then some, in his 11-7, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8 victory.
"I played my heart out," said
Anjema after the match. "But tonight you could see why Amr's been a
four-time world champion. He can attack from the most difficult positions
and when you are on the receiving end, it is brutal."
In all but the second game, the
31-year-old from Giza jumped out to an early lead, giving him a cushion of
several points from which to play a controlled attacking game. Routinely
throughout the match Anjema was left guessing as to which way to turn to
retrieve a Shabana shot; the Egyptian's sterling and consistent stroke
technique enabled him to hold his shot until the very last moment, forcing
the Dutchman to scramble for balls.
Although Anjema snared the
second game 11-9, it was the Egyptian's night from start to finish. He even
offered up some theatrical humour as he fell to the court floor with an
exaggerated flourish when midway through the match the strapping Dutchman's
racquet came perilously close to Shabana's head. After the match, when asked
if he was happy with the evening's result, Shabana replied: "I am not sad."
Sometime training partners and
good friends Peter Barker and Nick Matthew contested the
evening's second match with current world No1 Matthew in control from start
to finish. In each successive round of play at these championship, Matthew
has continued to punctuate his top ranking status with strong, confident
play that has left no doubt in his competitor's minds as to his rightful
position at the top of the sport.
"I thought I played OK tonight,"
said Barker after the match won by his English compatriot 11-9, 11-4, 11-6.
"But Nick showed why he's world champion." Barker went on to explain that
Matthew's attention to detail, strong work ethic and additional weapons in
his squash shot-making arsenal have combined to make the Yorkshireman the
top professional in the game.
While the lead exchanged hands a
few times in the first game before Matthew finished it out, the next two
games were all Matthew's. In the second, the No2 seed jumped out to a 4-1
lead and allowed Barker to tally a mere four points. Barker enjoyed a
momentary lead at 2-1 and 3-2 in the third, but once again the lad from
Leeds took up his game a notch to win the third.
After the match when a spectator
commented that Matthew made the game look easy, the wry 30-year-old replied:
"Oh no. I am the one who makes the game look hard. Shabana makes it look
easy." The Matthew/Shabana showdown in the last four will be preceded by
another Anglo/Egyptian semi-final clash between Ramy Ashour and
James Willstrop. Both matches will be telecast live on espn3.com.
Willstrop Slip Into Grand Central Semis
Reigning champion James
Willstrop and former champion Ramy Ashour set up a mouth-watering
semi-final clash in the 2011 JP Morgan Tournament of Champions
after becoming the first two players to come through the last eight of the
PSA World Series squash event at Grand Central Terminal in
First up on the iconic glass
court was top seed Ramy Ashour against eighth seed David Palmer.
Going into the night's match, Ashour enjoyed a 9-1 winning record against
the 34-year-old Australian. However, with the Egyptian having been off his
game at year end due to a hamstring injury, and Palmer playing superb squash
in the opening rounds of play, there was a sense of possibility that perhaps
Palmer might register the tournament's first real upset.
The first game saw the lead
exchanging hands on almost every point until veteran Palmer pulled ahead at
10-9 and then won the next point to take an early match lead.
With that positive opening
gambit, the sense of a possible upset was heightened for the crowd, but not
for Ashour. "Even when I was losing that first game, I was feeling good on
the court," Ashour said after the match. "Maybe I was bit concerned, but it
made me push myself harder."
The extra Ashour effort in
subsequent games was immediately apparent; in games two and three Ashour
never relinquished the lead. The US-based Aussie got himself back in the mix
early in game four, first taking a 3-1 lead and then a 6-4 edge; one of
those leading points was awarded to Palmer off a disciplinary stroke called
against the animated Ashour when he stepped off court at 3-4 to have a
discussion with the referee.
The 23-year-old Egyptian
proceeded to quash any possibility of an upset when he ran off a string of
seven straight points to earn a place in the Tournament of Champions
semi-finals; in his four Tournament of Champions appearances, Ashour
has made the semis all four times, the finals twice and has held the Trophy
After the match, the voluble
Ashour shared his enthusiasm for his progress in the championships. "It is
so great to be in the semis after missing two big tournaments at the end of
last year because of injuries," he said. "I am getting better day by day,
but it is not easy.
"The injuries are still in my
mind - those are my demons," continued the favourite. "I used to be thinking
of only two things on court - where and how I am going to hit a shot. Now I
am thinking of three things because I am also thinking about my body."
Ashour's semi-final challenger
will be none other than Englishman James Willstrop, who defeated
rising Egyptian star Mohamed El Shorbagy in three straight games. In
classic Egyptian style, the 20-year-old challenger, already a top ten
player, came out of the starting blocks at full shooting speed to register
an opening 5-0 lead. Willstrop countered with well-paced wide cross courts
to fend off his challenger and edge out to a 6-5 lead, and then win the game
The outcome of the second game
was never in doubt as Willstrop led from start to finish. Although Willstrop
also held the lead all the way through the third, El Shorbagy looked like he
might extend the match when he tied the score at seven-all after having been
down 4-7. But the 20-year-old seventh seed tinned the ball 8-10 down,
sending Willstrop into the last four.
The Ashour/Willstrop pairing
will be the third time the two have played each other in the Tournament
of Champions. In his 2007 Tournament of Champions' debut, Ashour
beat Willstrop in the quarter-finals in a match for the ages. In 2008,
Ashour again defeated Willstrop, this time in the finals to win the title.
Last year was the Yorkshireman's
turn; he defeated Ashour in the finals to take the champion's crown. When
asked if he looked forward to playing Ashour, the usually taciturn Willstrop
replied with Ashour-like enthusiasm: "I do, I do, I do," he said. "Ramy is
one of the great racquet players to ever hit the ball. Right now I feel I am
on a par with him and could beat him on any given day. Our matches always
offer the possibility of being quite exciting and entertaining. Plus I
really like the guy."
Seeds Advance To
Tournament of Champions Quarters
The top eight seeds will contest
the quarter-finals of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions after
contrasting successes in the second round of the PSA World Series
squash event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.
Veteran David Palmer, the
Australian who has played in every Tournament of Champions since
1995, reproduced the form that kept him in the PSA top ten for a full
decade. "David takes everything early," said Palmer's opponent Tom
Richards after the match. "He is always in front, taking your game
The players exchanged the lead
several times in the first game until Palmer snatched victory at 12-10. As
they played further into the match, Palmer's precision forced the English
qualifier back on his heels. Unable to get ahead of Palmer, both literally
and figuratively, Richards' Tournament of Champions debut ended as
Palmer went on to win 12-10, 11-9, 11-8.
"I played pretty well at the end
of the games," said a satisfied Palmer after the match. Referring to the
fact that his next opponent is top seed Ramy Ashour, the 34-year-old
he continued. "It is nice to make it to the quarter-finals - there's no
pressure now going forward."
Egyptian favourite Ashour
dropped the first game to Australia's Stewart Boswell. "He went for a
lot of shots in the first game and missed," said Boswell after the match.
"But I l knew that he was only going to get better as the match progressed."
The creative, shot-making
Egyptian did find his stride in the second game and, for the remainder of
the match, the 32-year-old Australian only held the lead once more at 7-6 in
the fourth. "I really enjoyed playing today," said Ashour, who struggled
with injuries at the end of 2010. "I haven't been enjoying myself for the
past two or three months. But this court and these fans and this atmosphere
give you the energy to produce better squash."
Ramy's older brother Hisham was
not as happy at evening's end when he found himself on the losing end of a
five-game, physical barnburner with England's Peter Barker, the
tournament's fifth seed. With the first four games being decided by a mere
two point margin (three in tie-breaks), it was truly either player's match
"Hisham has been playing awesome
squash in the past few months, and I was thinking too much about winning and
losing in the first two games," said Londoner Barker. "When I was down 0/2,
I had to dig deep and just focus on not losing." The 27-year-old left-hander
used solid, straight length to counter Ashour's dynamic shot-making and
broke open the match in the fifth game, winning it 11-2.
Barker's next opponent is world
number one Nick Matthew, who defeated friend and training partner
Alister Walker 11-5, 11-8, 11-5. As Walker was cooling down on the
training bicycle after the match, Matthew walked by and Walker called him
over: "Your length was amazing tonight," Walker said to the Yorkshireman.
"That is the best you have ever played against me - it was pure measured
Another player who felt he had
an especially good showing was fourth seed Amr Shabana. "I played
three games as well as I could play," said the two-time Tournament of
Champions title-holder after defeating England's Daryl Selby
11-6, 11-8, 11-8.
His opponent concurred: "Today
Amr showed why he was world number one," said Selby. "Any ball that I hit
loose, he put in the nick." The 31-year-old Egyptian will next face Dutchman
Laurens Jan Anjema who defeated Swiss qualifier Nicolas Mueller
11-9, 11-4, 11-3.
Anjema attributed a bit of a
sluggish start to jet lag and waiting for the 81-minute Ashour-Barker match
to end. "The first game was a good shock to my system to get me going," he
said with a wry smile after the match.
Seventh seed Mohamed El
Shorbagy rounds out the trio of Egyptians in the quarter-finals after
defeating Canada's Shahier Razik 11-9, 11-5, 11-6. He will contend
with defending champion James Willstrop, who defeated qualifier
Borja Golan 11-6, 11-4, 11-6.
Nicolas & Hisham
Ease Through In New York
Qualifiers Nicolas Mueller
and Hisham Mohd Ashour secured unexpected places in the last 16 of
the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions after major upsets in
the first round of the PSA World Series squash event at Grand
Central Terminal in New York.
Egyptian Hisham Mohd Ashour
punctuated the day's play with a dramatic come from behind victory over
Australia's Cameron Pilley.
Ashour senior was anything but
relaxed in the evening's last match. "I have been playing so well for the
past two or three months; sometimes I would feel I was floating on court,"
said the Egyptian.
"But tonight I was so stressed."
With Pilley enjoying a 2/1 lead, Ashour defended against four match balls
after Pilley went up 10-6 in the fourth. Both the fans in the stands and the
spectators who watched the match on the closed circuit TV feed were on the
edge of their seats and cheering as Ashour used a variety of shots to keep
himself alive in the match.
"All I kept thinking then was
that I know I am strong. I cannot lose here at the Tournament of
Champions in the first round," he said. After winning the fourth 14-12,
Ashour was clearly not going to be denied. Jumping out to a 10-4 lead in the
fifth, Ashour kept up the pace and the shotmaking to beat his Australian
opponent 8-11, 11-7, 8-11, 14-12, 11-6 after 70 minutes.
Switzerland's Nicolas Mueller
eliminated England's higher-ranked Adrian Grant 11-7, 11-5, 7-11,
11-8. In the only match of the day that did not involve an Englishman or an
Egyptian, Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema defeated Miguel Angel
Rodriguez of Colombia 11-5, 11-8, 11-6.
"Last year was one of my best
years," said Anjema, referring to the fact that he cracked the top ten for
the first time in his career. "But I went out on the court without any
expectations and felt very relaxed today."
England's Daryl Selby
started off the day's play with a three game victory over Australian
qualifier Ryan Cuskelly. The 4-11, 11-1, 11-2, 11-4 match scores
belied the competitiveness of the match which lasted 63 minutes.
"Even though I lost the first
game, I was moving well. I played with more conviction in the second," said
Selby. "He's a gutsy, dangerous player and I didn't want to give him any
chances." When reminded of the lopsided scores in the second and third
games, Selby smiled and said, "The rallies were long, but I won them all."
Although fourth seed Amr
Shabana defeated his Egyptian colleague Mohammed Abbas 7-11,
11-8, 11-9, 11-7, he did not sound like a happy winner after the match.
"I wasn't comfortable today,"
said the four-time world champion. "I didn't feel sharp and I feel lucky to
Ong Beng Hee In New York Upset
English qualifier Tom
Richards advanced to the second round of the JP Morgan Tournament of
Champions after eliminating Malaysia's world No21 Ong Beng Hee in
straight games in the first round of the first PSA World Series
squash event of the year at Grand Central Terminal in New York.
The unassuming 24-year-old from
Surrey secured the first game without too much difficulty. Although pushed
to a tie-break in the second and third games by the more experienced
Malaysian - who had defeated Richards in their prior two outings - the
English outsider remained calm en-route to securing his 11-6, 12-10, 12-10
"Our other matches were close,
so I knew I had a shot to win today," said Richards after the match.
Although it was his first time on the iconic glass court in Grand Central
Terminal, Richards was remarkably composed. "I was a little bit nervous,
which is a good sign for me," he added.
Richard was most surprised by
the size of the mid-afternoon crowd: "Having a full crowd for a first round
match like we had today is pretty amazing," he explained. "It really helped
lift my game."
Richards will next face the
oldest player in the draw, David Palmer, the 34-year-old from
Australia who has played in every Tournament of Champions since it
was first staged in Grand Central Terminal in 1995. Palmer eliminated
Julian Illingworth, the lone American in the draw. With the crowd
enthusiastically applauding every point, the 24-year-old from New York drew
even with his seasoned opponent at nine-all in the third game, but the
veteran shut the door on the match by winning the next two points.
"I felt in control for most of
the match, but I did struggle to pull away," said Palmer after his 11-8,
11-7, 11-9 win. "I definitely did not want to go into a fourth game."
The evening prior to his
Tournament of Champions debut, 20-year-old Mohamed El Shorbagy
was recognised as the 2010 PSA Young Player of the Year at the World Squash
Awards. El Shorbagy, who had been unable to compete in the Tournament of
Champions in prior years because the tournament dates conflicted with
school exams, made sure to finish his University exams a week early this
year so he could make it to New York City for the tournament so revered by
The young Egyptian lived up to
his award-winning status in his 11-8, 11-8, 12-10 first round win over the
more experienced Malaysian Mohd Azlan Iskandar.
"I was really excited to be
playing my first match here in Grand Central and in the first game I was
trying to hit a lot of winners to please the crowd," the fast-talking El
Shorbagy said after the match. "Then I realised I needed to focus and vary
the pace." Like his fellow Tournament of Champions rookie Richards,
El Shorbagy was amazed by the capacity crowd at his evening match. "You
never see a crowd like this at a first round match," he said. "It makes a
player want to be his very best."
El Shorbagy will next play his
good friend Shahier Razik. The Cairo-born 33-year-old Canadian needed
five games to overcome English qualifier Chris Ryder to make it to
the second round. The two had never met in competition before. "I am always
a little nervous playing someone I have never played, because you don't know
quite what to expect," said Razik.
"I started pretty well and
thought I was going to make it through, but then Chris changed his game and
I didn't adjust right away."
After his 11-6, 6-11, 8-11,
11-7, 11-5 win, the veteran Canadian reflected on the appeal of the JP
Morgan Tournament of Champions for the players. "The Grand Central
venue, which is amazing, stays the same, but every year the tournament gets
bigger and better," Razik said. "There is always a big build up to this
event for the players starting in December; as we go on our December holiday
break, everyone says 'I'll see you at the ToC.'"
Defending champion James
Willstrop limited his time on court in his first round match against
fellow Englishman Jonathan Kemp to just under 30 minutes. It was a
commanding performance by the 27-year-old; he did not fall behind in the
entire match, winning 11-5, 11-7, 11-5.
"My dad has said that you are
most likely to perform well in the places in which you are most
comfortable," said Willstrop, who is coached by his father Malcolm, after
the match. "That is certainly true for me here at the Tournament of
Champions. Coming here is special, even more so this year after having
won last year."
Willstrop's next opponent
Borja Golan must be feeling comfortable in New York City. After winning
two qualifying matches to make it into the main draw, the Spaniard defeated
fellow qualifier Tarek Momen 11-9, 11-7, 11-8. "I have never won so
many matches in New York City," the exuberant Golan said after the match.
Although Momen took an early
lead in all three games, Golan caught up to tie the score at the midway mark
of each. The players exchanged the lead over the next few points in each
game until Golan surged ahead to secure victory.
Australian Stewart Boswell
and India's Saurav Ghosal played the first and the longest match of
the opening day of play. Boswell won the first game by a five point margin
after which the 24-year-old Ghosal jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the second.
The 32-year-old Aussie surged back to secure the game 11-8.
Boswell was unable to convert
two game balls in the third, which was tallied 16-14 in Ghosal's favour. The
fourth was all Boswell, who took the lead at 2/1 and then didn't relinquish
it, winning the game 11-5 to seal the match after 70 minutes of play. The
veteran Australian was pleased with the victory. "For as long as I play
squash, I want to be here at the Tournament of Champions and make the
most of it."
Boswell will face top-seeded
Ramy Ashour in the second round. The 23-year-old Egyptian defeated
34-year-old Olli Tuominen of Finland in straight games. "It was a
good first round match," Ashour said, "It was a balanced test - not too easy
and not too hard."
The 2008 titleholder was
determined be playing for the 2011 title, despite some injuries in the
latter part of last year. "I am really excited to be here," he said. "I did
not want to miss this tournament." The prodigiously talented Ashour even put
a positive spin on his recent injuries. "Being injured has had some
advantages," he noted. "It has made me more mature on court and it has put
me in touch with how to really take care of my body."
Richards & Ryder
To Make Grand Central Debut
England's Tom Richards
and Chris Ryder will both make their Grand Central Terminal
debuts in the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions while the
remaining six qualifying spots were earned by players who will be making
return trips to the first Professional Squash Association World Series
squash event of the year in New York.
Richards earned his main draw
appearance by defeating Australia's Raj Nanda in four games. "I have
seen the pictures of the court here in Grand Central in the magazines and
playing here is something I have always wanted to do," said the satisfied
24-year-old from Surrey after his match.
Ryder had an even more
straightforward victory to get him to Grand Central. Exchanging the lead on
every point to six-all in the first game, the Englishman pulled ahead of New
Zealander Martin Knight at the midway mark to win the game and never
looked back. His 3/0 victory sends him to a first round clash with Canada's
Switzerland's Nicolas Mueller
outlasted England's Bradley Ball to return to Grand Central Terminal
for the second consecutive year for a main draw berth against Adrian
Grant, another Englishman. In a match marked by multiple shifts in
momentum and moments of remarkable athleticism, Mueller needed five games to
secure his stay in New York City.
Ball, a PSA Tour veteran
who now resides and coaches in New York City, snatched the first game 11-9.
After winning the next two games 11-6, 11-6, the Swiss player seemingly had
the match in hand when he had a couple of game balls in the fourth. Ball
wasn't ready to get off the court, though, and forced a fifth game decider
after winning the game 13-11. Mueller steadied himself win the deciding game
11-5. "It was a tough match and Bradley didn't let me play my game," said
Mueller. "I had a couple of match balls that I gave away, but it was good to
come back and win in the fifth."
In a physical and
fiercely-contested match, Egypt's Mohammed Abbas retrieving capacity
and superior shot-making carried the day against Canada's Shawn Delierre,
who was defeated in four games. Relegated to the qualifying draw because of
a series of injuries in the past two years, Abbas was delighted to earn his
fifth trip to the glass court in Grand Central. "It is one of the best
places to play. It is amazing," said the 30-year-old Egyptian who will face
countryman and friend Amr Shabana, the fourth seed, in Saturday's
first round match.
Playing error-free squash,
Spain's Borja Golan wore down Germany's Simon Rosner in four
games to also earn his fifth trip to the Grand Central glass court where he
will face another qualifier, Tarek Momen. The 22-year-old Egyptian -
who was too strong, too quick and had too many shots for Canadian David
Phillips - cruised to a 3/0 victory.
In a fast-paced match marked by
great retrieving, Australian Ryan Cuskelly's hustle and attacking,
offensive play carried the day against France's Gregoire Marche.
Cuskelly's four game victory earned him a first round encounter with
England's Daryl Selby.
Hisham Mohd Ashour
abounded with confidence as he schooled Princeton University standout
David Letourneau in the finer points of the professional game with a
27-minute 11-3, 11-7, 11-6 victory. "I feel this is where I should be," said
Ashour of his main draw berth, referring to the fact that he was ranked 29
when the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions main draw was made
in December, but now stands at 18 in the world rankings. Ashour joins eight
other Egyptian players, including his younger brother Ramy, seeded one, in
the 32-player championship draw.
While the qualifiers were
battling for the final eight places in the JP Morgan Tournament of
Champions main draw, the Grand Central venue was the place to be for the
rest of the squash world. A glittering and glamorous crowd representing the
best of squash, both past and present, gathered to honour the outstanding
players of the 2010 season in professional squash. The JP Morgan
Tournament of Champions second seed Nick Matthew received
PSA Player of the Year honours and seventh seed Mohamed El
Shorbagy was recognised as PSA Young Player of the Year.
Qualifying Marathon In New York
While construction of the famed
glass court in Grand Central Terminal received finishing touches,
players from 15 countries battled at four New York City clubs to
qualify for the main draw in the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions,
the first Professional Squash Association World Series event of the
New Zealand's Martin Knight
and Mexico's Eric Galvez kicked off the qualifying play with the
longest match of the evening. At the conclusion of their 92 minute contest,
Knight was the player left standing.
The Kiwi got off to an
auspicious start, winning the first game 11-4. Two ensuing nip and tuck
games handed Galvez the lead. Both players were feeling fatigued by the
fourth game. "My legs were starting to feel quite heavy," Knight said. "But
when I looked over at Eric, he seemed to be in worse shape than me, which
gave me confidence."
Knight's renewed energy was
converted into a five-game victory, as he won the last two games with ease
to record his 11-4, 8-11, 9-11, 11-3, 11-4 win. The New Zealander's next
opponent will be Englishman Chris Ryder, who took a straight games
victory over USA's Gilly Lane.
Applying relentless pressure
from start to finish, Princeton University standout and Canadian David
Letourneau wasted no time in making his way into the next round,
eliminating England's Luke Butterworth in straight games in a scant
23 minutes. Letourneau will next face veteran Bradley Ball, an
Englishman now residing in New York City who had too much experience for
Yale University's Todd Harrity.
The young American did wrest the
second game from his more seasoned opponent. "I had no idea how good he
was," said Ball about the young American after the match. Ball snatched the
final two games to win 11-3, 9-11, 11-6, 11-6.
Egyptian veteran Mohammed
Abbas further dashed local hopes when he eliminated New York City native
Christopher Gordon in four games. The 30-year-old from Cairo, ranked
as high as 13 in the world, recovered after losing the first game to win the
next three. "I love the game, it is what I do," Abbas said after the match,
explaining his desire to continue playing despite a series of injuries
sustained in the past few years.
Abbas will next have to overcome
Canada's Shawn Delierre, who defeated New Zealand's Campbell
Grayson in straight games. Rounding out the trio of Canadians moving on
in the draw is David Phillips, who ousted Czech Republic's Jan
Koukal in four games.