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Comeback King Ashour Takes Third ToC Title In New York
Egyptian squash ace
Ramy Ashour became only the third player to win the
prestigious PSA World Series title a third time when he
recovered from two games down to beat French rival Gregory
Gaultier in the final of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of
Champions at Grand Central Terminal in New York.
The world number one
and world champion from Cairo staged a dramatic comeback on the
all-glass court in the Vanderbilt Hall to overcome third
seed Gaultier 7-11, 6-11, 12-10, 11-3, 11-1 in 72 minutes.
The first two games
were owned by Gaultier. The 30-year-old from Aix-en-Provence
established possession of the T early in the match, using
stinging pace and tight shots to keep the ball deep in the
backcourt and deadly drops to move his opponent the full length
of the court.
"It was an
especially impressive performance given that each of Gaultier's
last two matches had been physically demanding and lengthy,"
explained tournament spokesman Beth Rasin.
himself found his initial performance unexpected. "I was
surprised with the way I was moving in the first two games,"
Gaultier noted after the match.
Egyptian, who is often a slow starter, started to find his
rhythm in third game - not a moment too soon. With a two-point
lead for most of the game, Ashour was able to take the edge off
Gaultier's previously relentless attack. Even so, down game ball
at 9-10, Gaultier hit a cross court roll nick that tied the
Just two points away
from losing the match, Ashour - as he has consistently proven
himself capable of doing - stepped up in a big way. Having
forced a loose ball to the middle from Gaultier's racket and
with the Frenchman pinned behind him, Ashour quick flicked the
ball for a backhand nick rollout winner. He followed that with a
backhand cross court nick winner to take the game.
The TV cameras that
were providing the live feed zoomed in on Ashour, whose
competitive desire was evident in his wide eyed and focused
The 20-minute third
game took a big toll on Gaultier, who managed to stay close only
through two-all in the fourth game. At 5-2, the play became fast
and furious with each player hitting three reflex volleys until
Ashour hit a backhand volley winner from the gut which brought
the standing room only crowd to its feet with raucous applause.
Ashour turned to
face the crowd and played air guitar with his racquet to
acknowledge his delight in having won the point in such
spectacular fashion. From that point on, Ashour took complete
control of the match.
"Once he saw my
energy drop, he raised the pace even more and that was it for
me," observed Gaultier.
Ashour closed out
the match with an 11-1 fifth game win to become only the third
player to win three Tournament of Champions titles, and the
first since Briton Peter Nicol in 2004.
"The thing is, I
have never seen Greg so relaxed as he was in the first two
games," Ashour said in his post-match interview. "He was more
than perfect in the first two games."
Ashour, who had
previously mentioned his desire to be known as a fighter,
certainly provided ample evidence of his fighting will in the
"What Ashour has
demonstrated this week is that any lead against him is tenuous
at best," said tournament commentator Will Carlin.
"With Greg playing so well in the beginning, I just had to keep
digging. To beat Greg when is playing as well as he did at the
beginning of the match, is amazing. I am so proud of myself."
Jan, New York, $115k
Grand Central Terminus, New York
 James Willstrop (Eng)
11-3, 11-5, 11-5
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Col)
11-2, 11-6 (62m)
12-10, 11-2, 11-4
12-10, 10-12, 11-4 (78m)
Tarek Momen (Egy)
11-1, 11-6, 11-8
[Q] Shawn Delierre (CAN)
Adrian Grant (Eng)
6-11, 9-11, 11-4,
11-5, 11-8 (89m)
Cameron Pilley (Aus)
11-6, 11-9, 7-11,
9-11, 11-1 (90m)
 Peter Barker (Eng)
6-11, 11-1 (70m)Steve Coppinger
 Omar Mosaad (Egy)
11-7, 7-11, 11-8,
Nicolas Mueller (Sui)
11-8, 11-8, 11-6
Ong Beng Hee
12-10, 11-9 (51m)
Ong Beng Hee (Mas)
11-6, 5-11, 11-3,
[Q] Campbell Grayson (NZL)
Simon Rosner (Ger)
11-5, 4-11, 11-6,
[Q] Yasir Ali Butt (PAK)
11-8, 11-8, 11-5
 Ramy Ashour (Egy)
11-5, 11-6, 12-10
[Q] Adrian Waller (ENG)
Hisham Ashour (Egy)
11-6, 11-2, 11-1
 Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
11-3, 11-6, 11-4
13-15, 11-4 (81m)
Mohamed El Shorbagy
13-11, 11-3 (93m)
Tom Richards (Eng)
12-10, 11-3, 11-6
Todd Harrity (Usa)
Olli Tuominen (Fin)
11-1, 11-9, 5-11,
[Q] Gregoire Marche (FRA)
11-8, 11-9, 11-7 (41m)
Mohamed El Shorbagy
11-4, 11-5, 11-9
 Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy)
[Q] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
11-7, 11-7, 9-11,
 Karim Darwish (Egy)
11-3, 11-5, 12-10
11-5, 11-7, 11-8
Saurav Ghosal (Ind)
13-15, 12-10, 11-9,
[Q] Shahier Razik (CAN)
[Q] Chris Simpson (ENG)
11-5, 11-7, 11-9
Amr Shabana (Egy)
11-8, 11-6, 11-8
Alister Walker (Bot)
11-4, 8-11, 11-7,
 Nick Matthew (Eng)
Campbell Grayson (NZL) bt Joe Lee (ENG) 14-12, 11-7, 11-6
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) 6-11, 11-8,
13-11, 7-11, 11-3 (91m)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Max Lee (HKG) 11-2, 6-11, 2-11, 11-6,
Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) 11-7, 6-11,
13-11, 11-8 (63m)
Shawn Delierre (CAN) bt Julian Illingworth (USA) 11-6, 11-6,
Chris Simpson (ENG) bt Abdullah Al Muzayen (KUW) 11-4, 11-3,
8-11, 11-3 (38m)
Shahier Razik (CAN) bt Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 5-11, 11-4,
11-4, 11-9 (85m)
Yasir Ali Butt (PAK) bt Marwan El Shorbagy (EGY) 6-11, 6-11,
11-8, 11-8, 11-9 (66m)
1st qualifying round:
Joe Lee (ENG) bt Alan Clyne (SCO) 11-8, 11-5, 11-9 (67m)
Campbell Grayson (NZL) bt Christopher Binnie (JAM) 11-4, 11-6,
Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) bt Cesar Salazar (MEX) 10-12, 11-1,
11-7, 12-10 (59m)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Zac Alexander (AUS) 11-7, 12-10, 11-3
Max Lee (HKG) bt Wael El Hindi (EGY) 11-9, 12-10, 11-3 (36m)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Luke Butterworth (ENG) 11-2, 11-6,
Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 12-10, 9-11,
11-8, 11-9 (70m)
Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) bt Siddharth Suchde (IND) 9-11,
13-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-6 (112m)
Julian Illingworth (USA) bt Leo Au (HKG) 6-11, 11-8, 11-7,
Shawn Delierre (CAN) bt Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS) 11-5, 11-8,
10-12, 11-8 (91m)
Abdullah Al Muzayen (KUW) bt Christopher Gordon (USA) 5-11,
6-11, 12-10, 12-10, 12-10 (89m)
Chris Simpson (ENG) bt Andres Vargas (COL) 11-6, 11-9, 11-2
Shahier Razik (CAN) bt Cameron Stafford (CAY) 11-6, 11-3, 11-7
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Ali Farag (EGY) 11-9, 6-11, 6-11,
14-12, 13-11 (95m)
Yasir Ali Butt (PAK) bt Martin Knight (NZL) 11-4, 11-7, 11-5
Marwan El Shorbagy (EGY) bt Robbie Temple (ENG) 14-12, 11-6
Ashour & Gaultier
Make ToC Final In New York
The packed crowd at
Grand Central Terminal in New York was treated to
brilliant and breath-taking squash on the all-glass court under
the magnificent chandeliers in the Vanderbilt Hall as the
four best players on the PSA World Tour contested the
semi-finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions to
earn the right to play for the prestigious title.
encounters in the first PSA World Series event of the
year, fourth seed Ramy Ashour outlasted favourite
James Willstrop in five games to set up a final against
Gregory Gaultier, the third seed who upset title-holder
Nick Matthew in 93 minutes.
The first match was
a classic confrontation of two great shot-makers and
strategists. Ashour, the new world number one from Egypt, and
former top-ranked Englishman Willstrop have had several
memorable matches on the ToC glass court - and the latest clash
was one of their best ever.
in the air here," said Willstrop. "We always seem to have really
good matches. There is a great sense of occasion for these
matches at the Tournament of Champions."
Willstrop rose to
the occasion from the very start with focus, intensity and a
dead-on backcourt game that prevented Ashour from deploying his
lethal front court shot-making. The 29-year-old Englishman won
the game 11-5, leaving the voluble Egyptian talking to himself
Willstrop jumped out
to another early lead in the second game. The Egyptian yelled in
frustration at himself, looking to his brother Hisham in the
stands just behind the court and shouting at him.
"Somehow, in that
moment, the match dynamic changed," explained event spokesman
Beth Rasin. "Ashour was back in the game - literally and
The 25-year-old from
Cairo matched Willstrop's length to the back corners and began
moving his 6'4" opponent to the corners. Willstrop responded in
kind, and the rallies throughout the midpoint of the second game
held the standing room only crowd spellbound.
"As soon as either
player got a loose ball, he attacked with a deft drop shot to
the front court or a hard drive," Rasin continued. "There was a
continuing change of pace throughout the game. Tied at
eight-all, it was anybody's game. But Ashour closed it out
The third game was a
seesaw, with the lead changing hands several times. This was
squash at its very best, showcasing the contrasting player
styles. Ashour was hitting spectacularly good shots and
Willstrop played extraordinary defence to keep points alive
several times over.
"The tall Englishman
was scrambling, diving and turning quickly to make gets that
would be amazing for any player, let alone for a player so
tall," Rasin explained.
But it wasn't all
defence from the world No3 from Leeds. When he had an opening,
Willstrop used the deft, soft shot-making that has prompted
Ashour to refer to him as the 'English Egyptian'.
Down 8-10 in the
third, Willstrop hit a backhand drop nick winner. At 9-10, Ramy
took control of the point, hitting attacking shots to the front
and back of the court which had Willstrop twisting, turning and
lunging, but it was Willstrop who won the point with a volley
winner to even the score at 10-all.
A cracking forehand
drive from Ashour forced an error from Willstrop and a loose
Willstrop service return on game ball opened up the court for an
Ashour winner to give the 25-year-old Egyptian the game, 12-10.
The fourth was
another back and forth battle which had the players tied at
eight-all, nine-all and ten-all. A soft crosscourt forehand drop
winner and a straight drop from Willstrop that forced an error
into the tin from Ashour gave Willstrop the game 12-10.
Ashour charged out
at the beginning of the fifth with a quick hitting, attacking
game that gave him an 8-3 lead. After more than an hour of
especially brutal squash, Willstrop showed the slightest hint of
weariness and Ashour earned his place in the final with an 11-4
fifth game victory.
"It was anybody's
match to win, and Ramy put together a couple of good rallies at
the end that had a domino effect to open up that fifth game,"
said Willstrop after the match. "That's why he is the very best
player in the world right now."
Ashour, now in his
43rd Tour final, responded: "That was hard, and one my very best
wins. I had to push and push. I was trying to control the pace
and play well into the corners. To win a match like this, you
have to have more than skill. You have to have will,
determination and resilience."
The world number
one, who is often lauded for his extraordinary shot-making
ability, is not content to have those skills be his ultimate
legacy. "It is more important for me to be known as a fighter
than a skill player."
Ashour will have a
fight on his hands in the final when he takes on Frenchman
Gaultier, who defeated English title-holder Matthew in four
hard-hitting games. It was a gladiatorial contest between the
two players known as being the strongest men on the PSA World
The first two games
saw the players trading powerful drives and cross courts, shot
for shot, and exchanging the lead on almost every other point.
Gaultier drew first blood, winning the opening game 11-8.
world No2 from Sheffield responded by grabbing the second 12-10.
Although Gaultier took the early lead in the third game at 5-3,
he became irritated with the referees and the lead slipped away.
When Matthew surged ahead to 10-6, it seemed a foregone
conclusion that the Englishman, known for his competitive focus,
would win the game and take the match lead.
But it was Gaultier
who regained his focus. Two winners from the Aix-en-Provence
30-year-old were followed by two unforced errors from Matthew
and the game was tied at 10-all. When Gaultier won the game
13-11, the match momentum shifted dramatically to his racket.
The Frenchman looked
like a man on fire at the start of the fourth as he sprinted out
to a 7-0 lead. A dispirited Matthew was unable to mount a charge
and Gaultier finished out the game 11-3 to earn his second final
appearance at the Tournament of Champions.
"Credit to Gaultier
for never giving up the third game," said Matthew after the
match. "It was psychologically tough in the fourth; I couldn't
get my mind off not having closed the door when I was up 10-6 in
the third," added the Yorkshireman, denied a third successive
appearance in the final.
celebrating his 49th PSA Tour final, concluded: "I felt a bit
flat at the end of the second game. At one all, I knew it was
going to be very tough. But when I won the third game, it gave
me confidence and I forgot about being tired."
Ashour (right) and Willstrop
pictured in action at Grand Central.
Matthew & Gaultier Complete Champion
Matthew and Frenchman Gregory Gaultier ensured that
the semi-finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
live up to the event's title after prevailing in the final two
quarter-finals of the first PSA World Series event of the
year at Grand Central Terminal in New York to set
up an all-champion line-up.
Matthew reached his sixth successive semi when he defeated
seventh seed Karim Darwish 11-5, 11-7, 11-8 in the first
quarter-final - before 2009 champion Gaultier secured his fifth
semi since 2006 after defeating Mohamed El Shorbagy 11-9,
13-11, 13-15, 11-4.
It was a vintage
performance from Matthew as the world No2 prevented Egyptian
Darwish from finding the openings from which he could unleash
his shot-making prowess. Keeping the ball deep to the back
corners and using a quick attacking volley, the Englishman never
gave Darwish a chance to gain any momentum.
Having elected to
not to get on court at all on his rest day since the second
round, Matthew looked fresh and eager from the very start of the
match. The 32-year-old from Sheffield raced out to an 8-2 lead,
and won the game 11-5.
In the second, the
lead changed hands a few times, but Matthew broke away to reach
10-5 before winning 11-7. From one-all in the third, Matthew
never relinquished the lead and closed out the match with an
"I am pleased with
my momentum in the tournament," said Matthew. "But as you move
further along each round, it gets tougher and tougher. Sometimes
when you have played well, you can take it for granted. I
certainly have to stay on my toes mentally for whoever my next
"Hopefully they will
knock ten bells out of each other," added Matthew, with a wry
smile, referring to the Gaultier/El Shorbagy match that was just
going on court.
"In fact, the
semi-final between Gaultier and the sixth-seeded Egyptian did at
times resemble a slugfest," said tournament spokesman Beth
Rasin. "It was a fast and furious start from the very first
point of play. Both men were hitting the ball quickly and with
managed to use the corners of the court more effectively than
his opponent, and made El Shorbagy cover a lot of court."
At 5-3 in the first
game, the ensuing rally lasted several minutes with third seed
Gaultier winning the point on his opponent's error. Although
Gaultier seemed to be dictating the rhythm of the rallies, El
Shorbagy hung tight and managed to close the gap to 9-10.
Gaultier won the game, however, at 11-9.
The 30-year-old from
Aix-en-Provence shot out to a 6-1 lead in the second, but again
El Shorbagy stayed close and tied the score at 11-all. Gaultier,
continuing to pull his opponent from corner to corner, snatched
the second game 13-11.
"The intensity of
Gaultier's competitive desire to win this match was abundantly
evident from the double fist pump and loud shout of
self-encouragement before he left the court for the 90-second
game break," added Rasin.
There was no lack of
competitive desire on the young Egyptian's part, however. El
Shorbagy, at 22 the youngest player in the world top 25,
continued to pummel the ball in an effort to overpower his
higher-ranked opponent, but instead Gaultier used the pace to
his own advantage by picking up the ball quickly.
Gaultier, the world
No4, looked as though he would close out the match in three
straight games when he had match-balls at 11-10, 12-11 and
13-12. El Shorbagy, now ranked a single place lower, showed no
fear as he fought off each match point - twice with gutsy
cross-court roll out nick winners - before taking the game
The Frenchman, known
for his mercurial temperament, demonstrated patience and mental
fortitude in the fourth game: Continuing with his game plan to
contain El Shorbagy's potential power and explosive strength,
Gaultier earned his semi-final berth with an 11-4 fourth game
"He's young and
hungry," said Gaultier of the opponent who has yet to beat him.
"But I am old and hungry. I had to play very accurate shots and
have good length, so I could keep him from volleying the ball.
And I had to be aggressive at the right time."
acknowledged that shot selection was a key component of the
match outcome. "I was not playing the right shot at the right
time," explained the loser of his fifth battle with the
Frenchman since September 2009.
For Gaultier, the
most important element of his winning game was his
concentration: "I kept my focus, stayed calm and relaxed."
Becoming a father for the first time recently has had a
beneficial effect on Gaultier's competitive manner.
"Now that squash is
no longer the most important thing in his life, the new father
has been more relaxed on court, and very possibly playing the
best squash of his career," concluded Rasin.
El Shorbagy later
told his followers on Twitter: "Disappointed to lose .. was so
close but to be honest this is the best he has ever played
against me ... Next time Mr Greg!"
While Matthew and
Gaultier will line up in one semi, the other will feature top
seed James Willstrop, the 2010 champion from England, and
world number one Ramy Ashour, the 2011 champion from
Willstrop & Ashour
Set Up Sizzling Semi In New York
and James Willstrop - two of the top three squash players
in the world and both former world number ones - set up a
much-hoped-for J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
semi-final after contrasting quarter-final victories in the
first PSA World Series event of the year at Grand
Central Terminal in New York.
Englishman Willstrop ended the spirited run of Stephen
Coppinger, the unseeded South African who had his best PSA
World Series showing with his quarter-final appearance. Tied at
nine-all, the first game could have gone either way. Cool as a
cucumber and betraying no sign of unease, Willstrop demonstrated
the control and confidence that kept him at the top of the world
rankings for most of 2012 and gave himself the early cushion by
winning the game 12-10.
Willstrop's description of the first game. "It was important to
win that first game," explained the world No3. "Stephen played
hard and it becomes a whole different match when you are one
game down at the start."
Coppinger had the
cheering section of South African fans rooting him on, complete
with the South African flag draped over the stands. Their
enthusiasm was increasingly muted as Willstrop asserted his
superior racket skills and court coverage to win the second game
The third was more
of the same, as Willstrop moved the world No23 from Cape Town
from corner to corner and kept his 6' 3" opponent off balance
for the remainder of the match before closing it out 12-10,
11-2, 11-4 in 43 minutes.
and unforgiving," was how PSA SquashTV commentators
Joey Barrington and Paul Johnson described
Willstrop's match play.
tantalizing semi-final was confirmed when Ramy Ashour
held off fellow countryman Omar Mosaad in an emotional
and erratic match punctuated by some magical moments. The 6'4"
Mosaad jumped off to a dramatically fast start, taking the crowd
and his opponent by surprise as he won the first game 11-4.
After staying on
court during the game break to practise on his own, the reigning
world champion and current world No1 improved his shot length
and combined it with a quick attack in the second game to take a
commanding 10-1 lead before winning it 11-3.
In the third, the
two Egyptians went toe-to-toe, exchanging the lead several times
as they both used a full variety of shots to move each other the
full length and width of the court. It was Ashour who snatched
the game at 12-10 by wrong footing his tall opponent with a
cross-court forehand that was beyond Mosaad's reach.
assured of the victory when he took a commanding 10-4 lead in
the fourth. The world No9, however, was not ready to concede and
with a combination of several winning shots off his racket and a
few errors from Ashour, recovered to 9-10.
Ashour was not be
denied, though, and after forcing Mosaad to the back of the
court with great length hit a soft drop that was just out of
reaction was quite emotional: he threw his racquet down and gave
a fist pump and a shout. "I was just mad at myself for giving up
that big lead at 10-1," said the voluble Ashour after the match.
Earlier in the week,
the 25-year-old from Cairo had talked about the pressure of
topping the world rankings. "Being world number one is hard
work," he said. "I'm happy because I got there, but it is not
always fun. I am trying not to put too much pressure on myself."
Matthew Gets Revenge Win Over Shabana In NYC
After two defeats
already this year by the four-time world champion from Egypt,
England's Nick Matthew (right) gained his revenge in the second
round of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions when he
beat Amr Shabana in straight games to progress to the
quarter-finals of the first PSA World Series squash event
of the year at Grand Central Terminal in New York.
"Squash fans filled
the Grand Central Terminal stands in the early evening for the
highly anticipated Matthew/Shabana match," said tournament
spokesman Beth Rasin. "The prospect of watching these two
former world number ones battle in the second round - when
normally they would be at least at least a quarter-final pairing
- was tantalizing."
For two games the
quality of the squash was on par with a final. Defending
champion Matthew looked especially strong as he eliminated
Shabana, a two-time ToC champion, 11-8, 11-6, 11-8 in 50
"It was a lot like
chess out there," said Matthew, who lost to the illustrious
33-year-old from Cairo in the pool section of this month's
ATCO PSA World Series Finals in London, and then in
the final! "We have played each other a lot recently and we know
each other's games so well."
early that he would be digging after every ball, and using the
volley attack. Shabana showed himself ready to respond in the
first two games. The result was lengthy points in which each
player was probing for an opening and patiently waiting for the
opportunity to hit an attacking shot.
Although Shabana is
generally considered the better shot-maker, it was the
32-year-old from Sheffield who found more openings. Maintaining
at least a two-point lead throughout the first game, Matthew won
the first game 11-8. At 7-6 in the second, the second-seeded
Englishman ran off four straight points to go ahead 2/0. Matthew
closed out the match with an 11-8 third game win.
"My game plan was
not to have a game plan," Matthew explained. "I felt like I had
been overthinking my recent matches, so I decided to just go out
and enjoy playing."
next opponent is another former world No1 from Egypt Karim
Darwish - who despatched India's Saurav Ghosal 11-3,
11-5, 12-10. Darwish was especially forceful when he was down
two game balls at 8-10 in the third. "I did not want to go into
a fourth game," said the No7 seed after the match. So he used a
volley attack to win three quick points and ensure a place in
the ToC quarter-finals.
Top seed James
Willstrop was the day's first victor, defeating young
Egyptian Tarek Momen in four games. "It has been a long
time since I have played this early," said the Englishman,
referring to his noon start time. Although the former world
number one had a 10-8 lead in the first game, it slipped away as
Momen hit two front court winners, and Willstrop tinned a fairly
easy drop shot.
disheartened," Willstrop said. "It was a testing opening game. I
am a big bloke and I need to get my body moving and Tarek makes
you move, so I felt like I was just getting started."
After winning the
second game 11-8, Willstrop really picked up momentum and nabbed
the third 11-2. Shooting out to a 6-3 lead in the fourth,
Willstrop's continuing momentum was momentarily halted when
Momen asked for an injury time out. With no apparent problems,
Momen returned to the court, and the Englishman picked up where
he had left off and closed out the match with an 11-6 fourth
"I was pleased with
my accuracy and variety on the court today," said the victor.
Willstrop will play
Stephen Coppinger (left) in the quarter-finals. The unseeded
South African earned his way to his first ToC quarter-final by
defeating England's Adrian Grant in 11-6, 11-9, 7-11,
9-11, 11-1 in 90 minutes.
It was Coppinger's
first Tour win over former world No9 Grant - and earned the
28-year-old world No23 from Cape Town his first ever appearance
in the last eight of a PSA World Series event.
The remaining two
former ToC titleholders in the draw - Gregory Gaultier
and Ramy Ashour - were ruthlessly efficient in their
quest for another title as each won his matches in straight
"Playing here in
Grand Central is unbelievable," said Frenchman Gaultier after
his 11-3, 11-6, 11-4 victory over England's Tom Richards.
"But when you get on court, you have to focus on what's in front
of you." Gaultier's focus, foot and racquet speed kept Richards
off balance for most of their match.
Gaultier will next
play Mohamed El Shorbagy who dismissed French qualifier
Gregoire Marche 11-8, 11-9, 11-7. "I felt a bit flat
today, so I am really glad I managed to win in three," said the
22-year-old Egyptian. Asked to comment on his quarter-final
pairing with Gaultier, El Shorbagy said: "Of the top four
players, I find Gregory the toughest to play. He's so quick and
he attacks and defends well."
Germany's Simon Rosner in classic 'Ramy style':
extraordinary shot-making and great reach. The two have known
each other since their junior playing days.
"Ramy is just too
good," Rosner said after the match. "You just never know what he
is going to do with the ball."
Omar Mosaad, who defeated Malaysia's Ong Beng Hee
11-8, 11-8, 11-6, will be Ashour's next opponent.
1st Round Bottom
Half of Draw
Marche Marches On
In New York
Marche (left) became the only qualifier to make the last 16 of the
J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions when he upset
experienced Finn Olli Tuominen on the second day of first
round action in the first PSA World Series squash event
of the year at Grand Central Terminal in New York.
It was an
authoritative triumph for the 22-year-old from Aix-en-Provence
who, when he qualified against expectations, admitted that it
was a 'dream come true' to make his debut on the fabled
all-glass court in Vanderbilt Hall.
Unfazed by his first
appearance on the court, world No36 Marche ripped through
Tuominen with an 11-1 first game win. A persistent retriever,
the Frenchman stepped up to a 7-3 lead in the second. But the
32-year-old Finn, known for his tenacity and fitness, closed the
gap at eight-all and then nine-all.
Marche held fast,
though, and won the second at 11-9. Tuominen, ranked 12 places
higher, made a good run in the third, after being tied at
five-all, and kept his own ToC hopes alive by winning the game
11-5. The young and increasingly confident Frenchman pushed back
to win the fourth game 11-5.
"There was a little
bit of stress," Marche said after the match. "But I knew I could
win this match. I worked hard at the end of the year to be ready
While his accuracy
during the match was good, Marche's post-match racket skills may
need some tuning up. The exuberant winner tossed his racket in
the air on winning his match-ball - and it landed on Tuominen's
round opponent will be Egypt's Mohamed El Shorbagy, a
surprise finalist at the PSA World Championship in
December. The fast-rising 21-year-old eliminated Dutchman
Laurens Jan Anjema in straight games, 11-4, 11-5, 11-9. "I
think I played well today," said El Shorbagy, the sixth seed.
"If you can win 3/0 in the early rounds, it is a bonus."
Richards played before the most vocal crowd in Grand Central
when he took on the lone American in the draw, wild card Todd
Harrity. The Princeton University senior went toe-to-toe
with Richards in the first game, supported by his very vocal
However, the young
American was not able to capitalise on the game ball he had at
10-9, and Richards clinched the game 12-10. Moving the ball from
corner to corner, world No13 Richards increased the pressure on
Harrity, winning the next two games 11-3, 11-6, in convincing
"I was impressed
with how Todd came out to play," said the 26-year-old from
Surrey. "He really forced the issue, attacking the ball and
volleying." As for his own rise in the rankings in the past
year, from 20 to 13, Richards credited a better understanding of
the game and better shot selection for his improvement.
Richards will face
2009 champion Gregory Gaultier in the second round. The
30-year-old third-seeded Frenchman played the briefest first
round match, dismissing Egypt's Hisham Mohd Ashour in
three games in 25 minutes.
Karim Darwish, also from Egypt, had to work a little longer
against qualifier Ryan Cuskelly to earn his second round
berth. The New York-based Aussie stayed close in the first two
games and snatched the third at 11-9. But the former world
number one from Cairo responded with a decisive fourth game win,
11-4, to set up his last 16 clash with India's Saurav Ghosal.
The match between
Ghosal and qualifier Shahier Razik - at age 35 the oldest
player in the draw - could have gone either way throughout the
match. Canadian Razik saved three game balls to win the first
opener 15-13. Then Ghosal saved one game ball down 9-10 in the
second, by hitting a nick winner off Razik's serve.
"That was really the
difference in the match," said a weary Razik after the match.
"Instead of being down 0/2, we were all tied up." In the third
game, Ghosal sprang ahead to a 10-6 lead; Razik fought back to
9-10, and Ghosal closed it out at 11-9.
In the fourth, the
two players exchanged the lead several times, before the
Kolkata-born 26-year-old claimed his inaugural second round ToC
appearance by winning the game 11-9.
England's wold No2
Nick Matthew found himself on court a little longer than
he would have liked in the first round against his fellow
countryman Joe Lee. The defending champion started
strongly, winning the first game 11-4, by picking up every ball
and attacking at every opportunity.
"I had a bit of a
mental lull in the second," said Matthew, referring to Lee's
capture of that game at 11-8. "So I had to work harder than I
would have liked." The second seed reasserted himself in the
third and dominated the fourth to close out the match 11-7,
After the match,
Matthew confessed: "I made the mistake today of looking ahead
before I was finished with this match." The 32-year-old from
Sheffield was referring to the potential second round match with
Amr Shabana, two time ToC champion who defeated Matthew
in the PSA World Series Finals final earlier this month.
The two will indeed
meet in what Matthew referred to as an "unusual" second round
match-up between the two former world number ones.
Shabana, whose world
ranking dropped to nine in December, when the Tournament of
Champions draw was done, fell outside the top eight seeding
format used by PSA. Thus, the four-time world champion who had
topped the PSA world rankings for 33 straight months starting in
April 2006, was subject to the luck of the draw, as was his
The consensus among
those in the know is that Shabana is lean and hungry and playing
consistently dangerous squash. "I still think I am as good as
anybody out there," Shabana said in a post-match interview.
Egyptian wasted no time in getting to the second round as he
dismissed English qualifier Chris Simpson, 11-5, 11-7,
11-9 in just 33 minutes.
"I felt like Shabana
could play any shot from any corner of the court," said Simpson,
playing on the ToC glass court for the first time.
Shabana was matter
of fact as he looked ahead to match with Matthew. "It is just
another match," he said.
After the end of the
first round of play, it is the match that has everyone else
buzzing with anticipation.
1st Round Top Half
Conquers Barker In ToC Shock
Englishman who boasts the most consistent record in PSA World Series
events for the past two years, fell to South African Stephen Coppinger
in a major first round upset in the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
at Grand Central Terminal in New York.
It was the world number seven
from London's 46th appearance in a PSA World Series squash event since last
suffering a first round loss - at the Saudi International in December
"There's a huge sense of
occasion when you play on the glass court in Grand Central," said Coppinger,
the 28-year-old from Cape Town after scoring the day's biggest upset when he
eliminated the fifth seed 12-10, 11-6, 6-11, 11-1.
Ranked 16 places lower than
Barker, Coppinger had lost to the Englishman in all five of their previous
meetings. The first game was extremely physical, as the 6'3" Coppinger and
6'0" Barker jostled for position at the T. Up 10-8 in the first game, Barker
was unable to close out the game through a seemingly endless series of let
calls, and Coppinger prevailed 12-10.
After losing the second 6-11,
the Londoner staged a comeback to win the third by the identical score. But
Coppinger stormed to an 8-0 lead in the fourth game before closing out the
match to earn a spot in the last 16 of the world's largest spectator squash
"Last year, I was just happy to
qualify for the main draw here," said Coppinger, the world No23 who credited
his training with former world champion David Palmer for the
significant improvement during the past year in his game and his mind-set.
"But this year, I have the extra belief; I feel like I belong here and I can
play with these guys."
Coppinger's next opponent will
be England's Adrian Grant, who progressed to the next round with a
five-game victory over Australian Cameron Pilley. Bidding to make the
second round for the third time in seven Tournament of Champions
appearances, Grant started slowly but picked up steam through the match.
Just 24 hours earlier, when the
Londoner chatted with school age participants in StreetSquash, the
Harlem, NYC-based urban Squash Program, Grant had talked good humouredly
about his reputation on the PSA Tour for playing five-game matches.
"Pilley always comes out like a
steam train," said Grant after his 6-11, 9-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-8 victory in
89 minutes. "But after feeling like I was hard-done-by by a couple of
referee decisions, I got a little teed off and got my aggressions out on
court, which turned the match around."
Egypt's Omar Mosaad, in
only his second appearance in the Tournament of Champions, notched up the
first victory of the tournament with a four-game victory over Switzerland's
Nicolas Mueller. "I am so happy to play here and win," said the
24-year-old world No9 with a huge smile. He credited a basic back court game
of hitting the ball deep to control the court and waiting for a volley
opening being the winning strategy.
Next up for the Egyptian is
Malaysia's 32-year-old Ong Beng Hee, whose seniority provided the
winning edge in his four-game victory over 26-year-old New Zealand qualifier
Campbell Grayson. "I played well in patches," said the former World
Junior Champion who made his first appearance in the ToC qualifiers in 2000.
"I think my experience made the big difference in the fourth game."
The three qualifiers in the
evening session of play were schooled by their more seasoned opponents.
World No12 Tarek Momen eliminated Canada's Shawn Delierre in
straight games, and world champion and current world No1 Ramy Ashour
ended Adrian Waller's Tournament of Champions journey with a 3/0
of Germany, less than pleased at having given up a game to Pakistan's
Yasir Ali Butt, took comfort in having won even with what he considered
a slow start.
The full house evening crowd at
Grand Central buzzed with anticipation as they settled in for the evening's
second match between top seed James Willstrop and the acrobatic
Miguel Angel Rodriguez of Colombia, the 29-year-old Englishman was just
too good and allowed Rodriguez only a few points in each game.
Marche Makes Dream ToC Main Draw
"This is a dream come true,"
said 22-year-old Frenchman Gregoire Marche after qualifying for his
very first J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in a gruelling
99-minute match against Hong Kong's Max Lee at the Princeton Club
in New York. "Since I was 10, I have watched the great players, like
Gregory Gaultier, win this tournament."
After winning the first game in
the qualifying finals of the first PSA World Series squash event of
the year, Marche quickly dropped the next two to his higher-ranked opponent
- but revived in the fourth. The fifth was nip and tuck all the way as the
lead changed hands on almost every single point until the Frenchman closed
out the match 11-2, 6-11, 2-11, 11-6, 12-10.
The match that followed was only
eight minutes shorter and equally intense as Ryan Cuskelly became the
only Australian to qualify after defeating Egypt's Mohd Ali Anwar Reda
11-3 in the fifth. The play was fast, furious and physical.
Pakistan's Yasir Ali Butt
will make his first appearance on the glass court at Grand Central Terminal
after producing the day's biggest upset - displaying great tenacity in his
five-game win over Marwan El Shorbagy, the world No27 from Egypt.
Down two games to love, the Pakistani was persistent in his ball retrieval.
A few key mistakes in each of the last three games from El Shorbagy turned
the match around, with Butt winning 6-11, 6-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-9 to secure
his place in the main draw.
Local hopes were dashed when
eight-time US champion Julian Illingworth succumbed in three games to
Canada's Shawn Delierre.
New Zealand's Campbell
Grayson was decisive and strategic as he executed precise winners,
especially on his drop shots, to defeat England's Joe Lee 14-12,
Lee, who dismissed the
qualifying event's highest-ranked player Alan Clyne in the previous
round, later received a place in the main draw as 'lucky loser' after the
withdrawal of Alister Walker, the world No15 from Botswana.
England's Chris Simpson
took a decisive two-game lead against Abdullah Al Muzayen. But just
as he had in his five-game victory the previous night, the young Kuwaiti
came alive in the fourth and with several winning shots kept his hopes of a
Grand Central appearance alive. The Englishman had other ideas, however, and
reasserted himself to win the fourth game, 11-3, with relative ease.
Simpson was later joined in the
main draw by compatriot Adrian Waller. At one-all, Waller was down
4-10 in the third against Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan of Malaysia. After
coming back to win 13-11, Waller attacked relentlessly in the fourth to take
his place in the main draw.
It has been seven years since
Canadian veteran Shahier Razik had to qualify for the Tournament of
Champions. The 35-year-old from Toronto needed four games and 85 minutes to
fend off 26-year-old Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet.
"My heart keeps me going. I love
to play," explained a tired but happy Razik after the match. "And tonight,
what kept me going was that I wanted to play in Grand Central again."
Licks Clyne In ToC
England's Joe Lee claimed
the biggest scalp in the first qualifying round of the J.P. Morgan
Tournament of Champions when he denied Alan Clyne, the world No28
from Scotland, a place in the qualifying finals of the first PSA World
Series squash event of the year in New York.
London-born Lee, a 23-year-old
who celebrated a career-high world No42 ranking this month, clearly knows
what it takes to beat the higher-ranked Scot as he marched to his fourth
victory in five successive meetings with the qualifying event's top seed,
winning 11-8, 11-5, 11-9 in 67 minutes.
Lee will now line up against
Campbell Grayson for a place in the main draw of the championship which
celebrates its 16th year at Grand Central Terminal. New Zealander
Grayson defeated Jamaican Christopher Binnie 11-4, 11-6, 11-8.
But the was no lack of desire in
the attempts to experience competing in one of the world's most famous
railway stations. Hometown favourite Christopher Gordon looked as
though he would please the packed crowd at the Harvard Club when he grabbed
a convincing 2/0 lead against Kuwait's Abdullah Al Muzayen and had
two match balls in the third. But the young Kuwaiti, on his first trip to NY,
was unfazed and fought back to win the third 12-10.
Gordon again had two match balls
at 10-8 in the fifth but Al Muzayen used his speed and shot-making to
neutralise the New Yorker's reach, ultimately prevailing 5-11, 6-11, 12-10,
12-10, 12-10 in 89 minutes.
Harvard player Ali Farag
also had an opportunity to win his match against Mathieu Castagnet of
France when he took a 10-8 lead in the fourth. But the Frenchman remained
tough and grabbed the game 13-11. The fifth game was marked by several long
rallies where the players moved the ball to all corners of the court.
The lead changed hands several
times and again Ali had match balls at 10-8. But Castagnet was not to be
denied and closed out the match, winning 11-9, 6-11, 6-11, 14-12, 13-11
after 95 minutes.
There were three former world
number ones and the current top-ranked PSA player at the Harvard Club -
although none played. Karim Darwish, Amr Shabana and Ramy
Ashour were there to cheer on the young Egyptian, while Gregory
Gaultier was supporting his fellow countryman Castagnet.
The evening's last match was the
longest as Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan of Malaysia outlasted India's
Siddharth Suchde 9-11, 13-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-6 in a 112-minute marathon.
At the other end of the
spectrum, veteran Shahier Razik of Canada made short work of his tall
opponent, the Cayman Island's Cameron Stafford. Hong Kong's Max
Lee ended Wael El Hindi's return to the PSA World Tour with an
11-9, 12-10, 11-3 victory.
Frenchman Gregoire Marche's
pace and power were too much for England's Luke Butterworth.
Englishman Chris Simpson dismissed Trinity University Assistant coach
Andres Vargas (by way of Colombia) 11-6, 11-9, 11-2 by punishing
every loose ball.
Egyptian teenager Marwan EL
Shorbagy was not unhappy to have had a short match after his English
opponent Robbie Temple retired with the score standing at 14-12,
El Hindi Marks Return To PSA World Tour At ToC
After taking a break for almost
the whole of last year "to try playing PST", Egypt's former world top ten
squash star Wael El Hindi makes his return to the PSA World Tour
at this week's J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York
"When I joined PST, I wanted to
do the best for my family and wanted to spend more time with my new born
daughter," explained the New York-based 32-year-old from Cairo. "After
joining the PST, I realised that it's not an organisation, but a one man
show. The ranking that PST was fighting for had nothing to do with a real
ranking system as he was making up a ranking and seeding for every event.
"The 'No Let' rule, which seemed
like a good idea at first, made it really difficult especially when you have
high level (pro) squash players playing against average or amateur squash
players, including juniors," added the former world No8.
The J.P. Morgan Tournament of
Champions, the first PSA World Series championship of the year,
gets underway at Grand Central Terminal on Friday (18 January) after
two days of qualifying.
El Hindi, whose world ranking
has now plummeted to 178, will compete in the qualifiers of the famous New
York championship in which he made his first appearance in 2002 - when he
went on to make the first of three subsequent appearances in the
"I'm very happy to be back to
PSA and look forward catching up with my friends from the tour," said El
Hindi. "There will not be a return to the PST for me.
"I also would like thank John
Nimick for giving to the opportunity to make my first comeback in the
world's favourite event!"
PSA COO Lee Beachill
added: "We are delighted to welcome Wael back to the PSA Tour. As a
professional squash player we feel he is back where he belongs."
Matthew Revels In NYC Return
England's world number two
Nick Matthew can't wait to defend his title at this week's J.P.
Morgan Tournament of Champions - the first PSA World Series
squash championship of the year in New York City where he and his
fellow Tour players are welcomed like 'rock stars'.
The 2013 J.P. Morgan
Tournament of Champions, featuring 23 of the top 25 players in the
world, will be staged for the 16th year at the world-famous Grand Central
Terminal, from 18-24 January.
Matthew, the 32-year-old from
Sheffield who topped the world rankings throughout 2011, claimed the
Tournament of Champions' title for the first time last year after finishing
as runner-up in 2006, 2009 and 2011.
Seeded two, the defending
champion is expected to meet English rival James Willstrop, the top
seed and 2007 champion, in a repeat of the 2012 final - and a predicted
sixth successive final featuring an Englishman.
"The ToC is a massive tournament
and is without a doubt my favourite event on the tour," said Matthew as he
prepared for the first ranking event of the year.
"It is the only time we squash
players feel like rock stars and it was a lifelong ambition to get my name
on the trophy.
"I have been in the final four
times and won the US Open in New York in 1997 and also got voted PSA player
of the year there in 2011 - so I have massively fond memories of the city."
Matthew competed in last week's
ATCO PSA World Series Finals at The Queen's Club in London.
Action from the star-studded event, which boasted the top eight players from
the 2012 World Series championships, was broadcast live to a potential
worldwide audience of more than 300 million.
"Last week in Queen's it was
fantastic for the sport to get live coverage on Sky, not only for us to
showcase our abilities but to promote the Olympic bid too," added Matthew.
"Hopefully we can continue the momentum in New York."
Matthew begins his campaign
against former England team-mate Alister Walker, the New York-based
world No15 now representing Botswana.
World number three Willstrop
lines up against top-ranked Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez in the
2011 champion Ramy Ashour,
the 25-year-old Egyptian who now tops the world rankings after clinching the
PSA World Championship last month in Qatar, will make a welcome
return to Tour action at Grand Central after a hamstring injury forced his
withdrawal from the World Series Finals.
Ashour, the fourth seed, takes
on a qualifier in the opening round and is set to meet Willstrop in the