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Comfort Inn Open 2012
10-15 Jan, North Vancouver, Canada, $50k
15-Jan, Final:
Paul Marley reports

Amr Shabana claimed his first title at his first Comfort Inn Open presented by the Evergreen Squash Club and the Province of British Columbia/ Hosting BC at the Evergreen Squash Club on Vancouver’s North Shore.

Of course this is a habit that Shabana has formed since joining the tour in 2005. In the 71 tournaments played to date he has won 19 for a winning percentage of 27%. Not too shabby.

And his domination over his very creative and popular opponent, fellow Egyptian Hisham Ashour, who was a finalist in the 2011 Comfort Inn Open, remains complete as this is the eighth time in eight meetings that Shabana has defeated Ashour in PSA Tour play.

But the path to victory was not easy.

In the first game, Shabana built a 4-1 lead only to see Ashour draw even at 4-4. Shabana went ahead to a 6-4 lead only to see Ashour take the next five points to lead 9-6 and eventually win 11-7. Both players seemed slightly tentative as they committed two unforced errors each.

Then in the second game Shabana again built a substantial lead – 5-1 - only to see Ashour get close at 6-7 but could never close the gap and the game was Shabana’s 11-9 and the match was all tied.

The third game was all Shabana’s as Ashour committed seven unforced errors to Shabana’s one unforced error for a relatively easy 11-7 win. It’s hard to give a world class champion like Shabana an effective 6 point lead and expect to win. It’s too big a handicap.

The fourth and final game, much against the gallery’s will who were desperately hoping for a fifth, saw only a one unforced error difference between them – two for Ashour and one for Shabana. Was that the difference in the 12-10 nail-biting win for Shabana or was it the enormous pressure he was constantly putting on Ashour? I’ll leave that to better squash minds than mine.

Either way it was a hard fought, much deserved win for Shabana. As documented earlier, he started the tournament on shaky grounds as he almost lost a first round match to the 2010 Champion, Martin Knight and suffered a bagel along the way. Maybe that provided much needed motivation but as as the tournament progressed he seemed to gain momentum and confidence in his game and emerged a winner for the second consecutive week.

A great start to the 2012 season and he has served notice to his younger compatriots that there is no room for them at the top of the squash pyramid at this time. They will have to wait their turn and stay patient.

Comfort Inn Open 2012
10-15 Jan, North Vancouver, Canada, $50k
Round One
12 Jan
13 Jan
14 Jan
15 Jan
[1] Amr Shabana (Egy)
5-11, 12-10, 0-11, 11-5, 11-3 (53m)
Martin Knight (Nzl)
[1] Amr Shabana
11/7, 11/8, 11/8 (45m)
Cameron Pilley
[1] Amr Shabana

11/6, 12/10, 9/11, 11/9 (44m)

Tarek Momen

[1] Amr Shabana

7-11; 11-9; 11-7; 12-10 (50m)

[2] Hisham Ashour

Cameron Pilley (Aus)
11/6, 5/11, 11/4, 11/6 (62m)
[Q] Joe Lee (Eng)
Julian Illingworth (Usa)
10/12, 11/3, 11/9 rtd (29m)
[Q] Mohamed Abouelghar (Egy)
[Q] Mohamed Abouelghar
11/9, 11/13, 11/4, 12/10 (50m)
Tarek Momen
Tarek Momen (Egy)
6/11, 13/11, 11/9, 6/11, 11/7 (105m)
[4] Daryl Selby (Eng)
[3] Omar Mosaad (Egy)
 9/11, 11/5, 7/11, 11/9, 11/9 (95m)
Alister Walker (Bot)
[3] Omar Mosaad
11/9, 11/3, 11/1 (30m)
Olli Tuominen
[3] Omar Mosaad

11/9, 11/9, 13/11 (49m)

[2] Hisham Ashour

Olli Tuominen (Fin)
11/4, 11/13, 11/4, 11/7 (49m)
[Q] Adrian Waller (Eng)
Ali Anwar Reda (Egy)
6/11, 11/9, 7/11, 11/6, 12/10 (65m)
[Q] Amr Khaled Khalifa (Egy)
Ali Anwar Reda
11/9, 11/8, 11/9 (38m)
[2] Hisham Ashour
Shahier Razik (Can)
7/11, 11/7, 11/7 rtd (40m)
[2] Hisham Ashour (Egy)

11-Jan, Qualifying Finals:

Joe Lee (Eng) bt Jan Koukal (Cze)                                    11-3, 8-11, 11-3, 11-6 (57m)
Adrian Waller (Eng) bt Chris Simpson (Eng)                               11-6, 11-8, 11-8 (57m)
Amr Khaled Khalifa (Egy) bt Henrik Mustonen (Fin)                     11-8, 11-7, 11-6 (35m)
Mohamed Abouelghar (Egy) bt Mark Krajcsak (Hun) 5-11, 11-9, 8-11, 13-11, 11-9 (64m)

10-Jan, Qualifying Round One:

Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) bt (1) M.A. Rodriguez (COL)   8-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-9 (50m)
Mark Krajcsak (HUN) bt (8) Campbell Grayson (NZL)                11-6, 14-12, 11-3 (55m)
Joe Lee (ENG) bt (5) Cesar Salazar (MEX)                       11-6, 4-11, 12-10, 11-4 (49m)
(4) Jan Koukal (CZE) def (L) Zac Leman (CAN)                          11-7, 11-6, 11-4 (26m)
(3) Chris Simpson (ENG) bt (L) Sarfarez (CAN)                         11-2, 11-4, 11-6 (20m)
(7) Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Andrew Schnell (CAN)                      11-5, 11-9, 11-9 (20m)
(6) Amr Khaled Khalifa (EGY) bt (L) Morgan Laremouille (CAN)    11-8,11-5, 11-9 (22m)
(2) Henrik Mustonen (FIN) bt Dane Sharp (CAN)     12-10, 8-11, 11-3, 7-11, 11-3 (60m)

2011 Event  |  2010 Event 
14-Jan, Semis:

Paul Marley reports

In an all Egyptian semi-final tonight, the seeds prevailed at the 2012 Comfort Inn Open, presented by the Evergreen Squash Club and the Province of British Columbia/Hosting BC.

The first match of the day featured our #2 seed, Hisham Ashour, competing against our #3 seed, Omar Mossad.

Ashour, whose younger brother, Ramy, is ranked #4 in the world, impressed the galleries as he made his way to the Comfort Inn finals last year and in his matches in this year’s event thus far, with his stunning array of deceptive shots that are made with such speed & precision his opponents and his galleries are often left staring in disbelief. His dedication to fitness over the past year has seen his ranking progress from #29 to #14 currently which is truly an outstanding achievement.

His much younger opponent, by nine years, Mosaad, enjoyed an outstanding junior career, including winning the 2006 British Junior the week prior to his first visit to the Evergreen Squash Club and has since seen his ranking rise from #123 to #13. The 6’5” powerfully built Cairo resident has been impressive in his march to the semis this year.

Although the match ended in a 3-0 victory for Ashour, the game score will tell you that every game was a very hard fought affair that had the gallery, let alone the players, focused on every rally. It was wonderful to watch as the players put out a superb effort for which the packed gallery responded appropriately.

The second match featured our #1 seed, the winner of last week’s PSA World Series Final, Amr Shabana versus the unseeded and much younger, Tarek Momen, who is making his fifth appearance at the Evergreen Squash Club.

So the stage was set for a classic battle between the young lion, rising in the ranks, competing against the mature lion who has demonstrated that he still has the skills and motivation to continue to play at the highest level and has no intention of abandoning his territory any time soon.

As the scoreline indicates, the match started out a little slowly with Shabana winning the first game fairly easily. But Momen seems to gain confidence, maybe realizing that he could compete with his legendary countryman, and the next three games were very competitive and very entertaining. Shabana prevailed but it seemed that Momen served notice that he is becoming a factor to be reckoned with at this level in the very near future.

It clearly was a wonderful evening of squash and the curious will note that of the seven games played tonight, all but one ended 11-9 or in overpoints.

So, given that both Shabana & Ashour seem to be at the top of their game, the question for tomorrow’s final is – which Egyptian will climb to the top of the pyramid?

13-Jan, Quarters:
Paul Marley reports

The quarter final round of the 2012 Comfort Inn Open, presented by the Evergreen Squash Club and the Province of British Columbia/Hosting BC, was played this evening at the Evergreen Squash Club on Vancouver’s North Shore with the Egyptians sweeping the table.

Unlike the matches to date, there were no upsets as all the higher ranked players prevailed. And unlike the opening main draw matches last night where four of the eight matches lasted an hour or more and four of the eight matches went to five games, no matches exceeded 50 minutes, there were no five setters and there were three 3-0 results.

The match of the evening featured a five time participant in Comfort Open play, the young former 2007 British Open Junior Champion, Tarek Momen, against fellow Egyptian and 2012 British Open Junior finalist earlier this month, Mohamed Abouelghar, who had advanced to the quarters through the qualifying rounds. The pair treated the packed gallery with an amazing display of squash with Momen prevailing in overpoints in the fourth.

Hisham Ashour showed some of his impressive arsenal of “deception” shots but had to stay with hard steady squash in order to prevail in three hard fought games with countryman Ali Anwar Reda.

Omar Mosaad secured his place in the semis with a relentless display of hard grinding squash that continually kept the very fit Olli Tuominen in a defensive mode through the entire three games.

And, in the final match of the evening, Amr Shabana demonstrated to the crowd that his game was back in form and showed no signs of the slow start we saw in yesterday’s opening round as he put away Australian Cameron Pilley in three very competitive games. The Shabana magic was on full display tonight and it will be interesting to see if any of his countrymen are up to knocking him off the top of the pyramid.

12-Jan, Round One:
Paul Marley reports

The first round of the main draw of the 2012 Comfort Inn Squash Championships, presented by the Evergreen Squash Club & the Province of BC/Hosting BC, was played this evening at the Evergreen Squash Club in North Vancouver with the fans getting their money’s worth as play lasted until close to midnight.

Here are some of the highlights:

- Amr Shabana, the world ranked #8 and the tournament’s #1 seed, got off to an unbelievably slow start falling behind 2-1 to world ranked #38 and 2010 Comfort Inn Champion, New Zealand’s Martin Knight. Then the Prince of Cairo seemed to find his groove and pulled the match out of the fire in five in just under an hour.

- 50% of the matches went longer than one hour.
- 50% of the matches went to five games.

- Two matches ended in retirement as Shahier Razik and Julian Illingworth were both injured during play.

- The 18 year old Egyptian qualifier, Mohamed Abouelghar continues his impressive run into the quarters.

- Tarek Momen got a measure of revenge for his loss in the 2009 Comfort Inn Open final to Daryl Selby by beating the defending Champion in an outstanding match that took 105 minutes to complete.

I know the fans were exhausted, I can’t imagine how the players felt.

Shabana lost the third game 11-0 - suffering the first ever whitewash game loss in his entire career!

Tweeting away

Chris Ryder:
In hindsight, Martin Knight should've retired after that 3rd game against Shabana last night...
Julian Illingworth:
My roughly 12 year unbeaten streak against players with braces ended today by 18 year old Egyptian. Luckily my AARP streak is still intact
Daryl Selby:
A new set of feet required please. Mine have been massively overused today and wouldn't mind a new set of quads#brutalmatch.

Lost 3-2 in about 100 mins. massive match, if I had taken game balls in 2nd I think it was mine. But hats off to Tarek, well played sir...

Disappointing times but couldn't have given anymore tonight. #onwardsandupwards
11-Jan, Qualifying Finals:
Paul Marley reports

The qualifying rounds of the 2012 Comfort Inn Squash Championships, presented by the Evergreen Squash Club, the Province of BC & Hosting BC, were concluded this evening at the Evergreen Squash Club in North Vancouver with two more Egyptians joining five of their mates in the main draw.

Already having the first three seeds in the tournament, with four time World Champion, Amr Shabana leading the way, 18 year old Mohamed Abouelghar and 19 year old Amr Khaled Khalifa made it an Egyptian version of the “Magnificent Seven” in the main draw.

Two Englishmen, Joe Lee & Adrian Waller also made an impressive entry into the main draw. Both defeated higher ranked opponents and both completed their matches in 57 minutes.

The consensus was that the match of the evening featured Abouelghar, who had scored a major upset over the number one ranked qualifier the previous evening. He battled the fine Hungarian, Mark Krajcsak, in a thrilling 64 minute match that had the largest gallery ever seen at the Evergreen Squash Club for a qualifying final round totally spellbound.

This match fell into the category of - “it’s a great match to win and a tough one to lose”. As the game scores indicate, this match could have gone either way.

So, it’s been a wonderful two days of qualifying and tomorrow it’s on to the main draw action. We can hardly wait as there are some very compelling matches to look forward to.

Is the number seven lucky? Stay tuned.
10-Jan, Qualifying Round One:

Paul Marley reports

A fabulous evening of squash was featured in the opening round of qualifying play at the $50,000 2012 Comfort Inn Open, presented by the Evergreen Squash Club and Hosting BC/Province of British Columbia, being held at the Evergreen Squash Club on Vancouver’s North Shore.

The purpose of the qualifying rounds, which conclude Wednesday evening – main draw play starts on Thursday - is to determine which four qualifiers, in a sixteen player draw, will advance to the main draw joining the already pre-determined twelve participants.

As the tournament has grown over the past seven years, the calibre of squash presented in the opening round of qualifying play has progressed nicely from being pretty dozy to being very entertaining.

Here are a few of the highlights:
  • The seeds got rocked tonight as the number one, five and eight seeds lost.
  • All five Canadians lost tonight although Dane Sharp put up a very spirited effort in losing to the number two qualifying seed Henrik Mustonen from Finland in 60 mins.
  • Both Egyptians and all three Englishmen prevailed in their matches.
  • The Egyptians are hoping to win tomorrow as they would join their five countrymen in the main draw. Three Egyptians are the first three seeds in the main draw including World #8 and four time world champion, Amr Shabana.
  • In his first visit to the Comfort Inn Squash Championships, the seventeen year old Egyptian, Mohamed Abouelghar, impressed the gallery tonight in taking down the number one seed, and a frequent and very popular participant in this event, Miguel Rodriguez.
  • Abouelghar was a finalist in the British Junior Open last week and a finalist in the World Junior Champs in the summer. He obviously has a bright future and it will be most interesting to see if he can progress into the main draw.
    In addition to the 25 professionals from 12 countries, over 150 amateurs start play tomorrow evening.

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