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Three in One:  Macau | Dayton | Vancouver
Dayton Open 2011
08-13 Nov, Dayton, Ohio, Usa, $25k
13-Nov, Semis:
Charlie Johnson reports

At 2:04 pm local time, the warm-up was over and # 2 seed Alister Walker of Botswana served to Yasir Butt of Pakistan to start the match.

Butt won the first three points, much to the cheering delight of the partisan crowd of local squash supporters with Pakistani connections. Chatting last night after his semi-final, Walker had stressed the importance of getting off to a strong start in order to avoid the trap Butt set for # 1 seed Adrian Grant of England in the upset semi-final last night, and it looked like he forgot this game plan for the first 3 rallies.

Then he remembered, raised his level, ran off 5 straight points, got back out front, and never looked back. Although there were many long and incredibly athletic rallies, Butt only scored one more point in the opening game.

Game two of the championship match was a different story and the pivotal game of the match. Both players knew the importance of the second game of a championship match and with the large crowd cheering great rallies and winning shots from both players, they traded points back and forth until the score was tied at 10-all.

In the opening rally of the tie-break, both players attacked and retrieved punishing lengths with dogged determination but a crucial cross-court kill from Butt found the tin as the strings in his racquet broke on shot. Walker went up 11-10 but was denied the win as Butt stretched to reach every length that Walker through at him trying to get the ball past him. The torturous play from both players, attacking, driving, moving each other around the entire court was furious and feverous over the next 4 points as they traded rallies to 12-all.

All through the match, Walker had been mixing attacking power from both sides with incredibly tight control on the slower paced back-hand drives and drops when faced with potential problems and it paid off in these last two rallies of the second game: the point won to go up 2-0 at 13-12 in the game was a back-hand drop that was painted on the wall.

Although Butt fought hard in the third and final game, 48 minutes after it started, the players were shaking hands and Alister Walker, in his first appearance in Dayton at the EBS Dayton Open was the champion, winning 11-4 in the third.

After the matches Butt admitted that the physical toll of making it all the way from opening qualifying round to the finals was just too much. He said he started tired, evident in the first game, for the second game, the moment and the local support helped him raise himself up to fight hard, but tinning that ball when his strings broke seemed to break him also. In the third game, the physical and mental fatigue of the week got the best of him.

In the awards ceremony, Butt was gracious in defeat and congratulated Walker for his strong performance. He thanked the sponsors and promoter for a fabulous event that gave him the opportunity to showcase his talent, and he attributed his strong showing this week to the work he's put in with his coach and trainer at home, Zahid Butt, and Ajaz Azmat with whom he's trained recently in New York.

After accepting the winner's trophy, Walker also thanked the sponsors and promoter for bringing PSA squash back to Dayton, Ohio after a 3 year lay-off and said he felt honored to have his name added to the trophy that includes some of the greatest players of the modern game: Peter Nicol, John White, Ramy Ashour, Thierry Lincou, and Karim Darwish.

He also thanked his coach David Pearson who is a friend of promoter Charlie Johnson, his physical trainer Rob Marra who has helped raised his fitness level to new heights, and Richard Wade for being his recent training partner.

Alister was also a crowd favorite for his introspective conversations during the week with the Dayton Squash Center members and this was evident as he also thanked, during the awards ceremony, Jim Odrich for helping him recently with the mental aspects of playing competitive sports at the world class level and he thanked Annette Pilling for all her support.

Dayton Fanfare

The gallery was packed a full 40 minutes before the start of the championship match of the 2011 EBS Dayton Open.

Tournament promoter Charlie Johnson, a classically trained trumpet player who plays professionally with area symphony orchestras when not coaching squash, played the national anthems of Pakistan and Botswana as the spectators eagerly anticipated the beginning of the match ...

OK in Ohio !

By all accounts, the return of PSA squash to Dayton and the Miami Valley area was a huge success.

This could not have been accomplished without the support of all of our sponsors and patrons, but the product delivered, the high calibre of impressive play, and the conduct on and off the court of all the players equaled the events Dayton has hosted in the past.

Look for a bigger and (if possible) better PSA event next year in Dayton Ohio.

EBS Dayton Open 2011
08-13 Nov, Dayton, Ohio, Usa, $25k
Round One
10 Nov
11 Nov
12 Nov
13 Nov
[1] Adrian Grant (Eng)
11-9, 11-9, 11-5 (60m)
Zac Alexander (Aus)
[1] Adrian Grant
 12-10, 11-9, 11-5 (46m)
[Q] Danish Atlas Khan
[1] Adrian Grant

 11-6, 11-8, 11-9 (47m)

[Q] Yasir Butt

[Q] Yasir Butt


11-4, 14-12, 11-4 in 48


[2] Alister Walker

Amr Khaled Khalifa (Egy)
 10-12, 11-5, 11-9, 11-7 (58m)
[Q] Danish Atlas Khan (Pak)
Robbie Temple (Eng)
 15-13, 7-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-9 (85m)
[Q] Yasir Butt (Pak)
[Q] Yasir Butt
 4-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-2 (56m)
Campbell Grayson
Campbell Grayson (Nzl)
11-8, 11-3, 11-5 (38m)
[3] Arturo Salazar (Mex)
[4] Chris Simpson (Eng)
 11-7, 11-8, 11-9 (35m)
Marwan El Shorbagy (Egy)
[4] Chris Simpson
5-11, 2-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-9 (71m)
Adrian Waller
[4] Chris Simpson

15-13, 11-7, 12-10 (43m)

[2] Alister Walker

Adrian Waller (Eng)
 11-7, 11-8, 11-8 (42m)
[Q] Scott Arnold (Aus)
Shawn Delierre (Can)
12-10, 12-14, 12-10, 11-7 (68m)
[Q] Olivier Pett (Eng)
[Q] Olivier Pett
18-16, 11-6, 11-7 (63m)
[2] Alister Walker
Henrik Mustonen (Fin)
11-8, 11-8, 11-5 (38m)
[2] Alister Walker (Eng)

09-Nov, Qualifying Finals:

Scott Arnold (Aus) bt Joel Hinds (Eng)               9-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-5, 11-4 (68m)
Yasir Butt (Pak) bt Wade Johnstone (Aus)                           11-3, 11-9, 11-9 (41m)
Danish Atlas Khan (Pak) bt Clinton Leeuw (Rsa) 11-7, 11-3, 7-11, 3-11, 11-6 (60m)
Olivier Pett (Eng) bt Jaymie HAycocks (Eng)                       11-3, 11-8, 11-9 (25m)

08-Nov, Qualifying Round One:

Scott Arnold (Aus) bt Adrian Dudzicki (Can)      5-11, 11-1, 11-9, 12-10 (46m)
Yasir Butt (Pak) bt Aurangzeb Mehnund (Pak)     11-2, 11-5, 8-11, 11-7 (42m)
Danish Atlas Khan (Pak) bt Fernando Lopez (Mex)       11-4, 11-8, 11-6 (35m)
Jamie Haycocks (ENG) bt Jamie Crombie (Usa)   11-4, 6-11, 11-3, 11-6 (47m)
12-Nov, Semis:
Charlie Johnson reports

In the 2006 EBS Dayton Open, a young 19 year old Ramy Ashour fought his way through two qualifying rounds, became a crowd favorite with his flashy play and determination to win, and found himself in the Sunday championship match against world # 10 John White. Ashour lost that final but came back the next year to avenge the loss and beat White in the finals of the 2007 EBS Dayton Open.

In 2011, history has repeated itself: Qualifier Yasir Butt of Pakistan, ranked 107 in the world, now finds himself in tomorrow's final with # 2 seed and world # 21 Alister Walker of Botswana.

In the opening semi-final match, in front of a packed gallery at the Dayton Squash Center, Butt defeated # 1 seed and world # 17 Adrian Grant of England 3-0 in 47 minutes. Grant looked tentative in the first game and wasn't moving as well as the night before in his 1/4 final match but managed to keep it close until 4-all. Then, Butt ran off 5 straight points in long hard fought rallies where he kept attacking the front of the court and often finished off the rally with a ball thrashed into the nick or a feather drop that was un-retrieveable by Grant. Down 5-9, the crowd could see that Grant knew he had a problem on his hands and Butt won the first game 11-6.

The second and third games were eerily similar: Butt sensed that Grant was vulnerable and got of to early leads in both (up 4-1 in the 2nd and 5-1 in the 3rd) and kept the ball in the front of the court and applied constant pressure with incredible attacking drops, volley drops (especially from his high back-hand position where it was hard for Grant to read as Butt has such a quick wrist), and the occasional "lucky" shot that was a cross-court drive to mid-court that caught the nick and rolled out. Grant tried hard to counter all this attacking offense from Butt and fought hard in these two games where to win one, would perhaps have derailed the qualifier, but feeling the pressure of the moment, when he had a slight advantage in the rally, the winning shot found the tin on several occasions. The final rally was a 45 second youtube video of the whole match: a long rally that Butt finished off with a winner. Result, for only the second time in the history of this tournament, a qualifier has made it through to the finals.

Speaking with both players after the match, Butt acknowledged that his strategy from the get go was to attack the front of the court on every loose ball: he knew Grant's game from the back of the court was strong and that if he tried to play a length and power game against Grant, he'd be out on the court too long and playing to Grant's strengths. Grant admitted he started tentative and a little tight in the first game and could never find his stride after that. Grant had seen some of Butt's earlier matches, respected his shotmaking ability and knew that the front was going to be attacked, but just couldn't find the right counter strategy on this night in Dayton.

Tonight's second semi-final match had England's Chris Simpson challenging the # 2 seed Alister Walker of Botswana. Although Walker won 3-0 in 43 minutes, the match began much like Walker's 1/4 final match last night. A 27 minute overtime win by Walker, 15-13, was the same hard fought battle that Walker had in last night's 30 minute 18-16 win over qualifier Olivier Pett. In this first came, Simpson showed no signs of fatigue after his 71 minute, come from behind 5-game win from last night, and fought hard as both players traded long rallies with each other: this came could have gone either way but Walker, witness to the earlier upset semi-final seemed determined not to go down in the first game and pulled it out.

The second game started much like the first, with both players giving no quarter and playing hard (it felt like a sword fight with each player striking and counter striking without being able to deliver a killing blow) but at 7-all, Walker took control and won the next 4 rallies to gain a 2-0 lead.

Simpson was down 0-2 last night and came back and looked fit enough to try it again and he surely gave it an effort, losing 10-12 in this third game. Some of the same mental tactics (borrowing from Rafa Nadal) must have been going on because he believed in his game and fought his way to 10-9 and game ball to keep himself in the match. At this point, Walker showed why he's # 21 in the world and played the big points big, winning the next three to get it to the tie-break and push through for the win.

Tomorrow's final match between Alister Walker and Yasir Butt will, as stated above, repeat history where a qualifier will challenge one of the top seeds for the EBS Dayton Open title: we can't wait to see it!

  11-Nov, Quarters:

Charlie Johnson reports

Quarter-final action in the $25,000 EBS Dayton Open began with # 1 seed Adrian Grant of England ending the strong tournament showing of qualifier Danish Atlas Khan of Pakistan in a 3-0 match that took 46 minutes. Khan did not go down without a fight and made Grant work hard in the first two games, forcing a tie-break in the first, and getting 9 points in the second game loss. Grant, though tested, never looked worried and stayed in front for most of the third game, used his quick hands to take balls early and move Khan around the court, and won the match 11-5 in the third.

The second of three qualifiers who made it through to the quarter-finals, Pakistan's Yasir Butt, fared much better than his countryman and scored an upset over Campbell Grayson of New Zealand (who himself scored an upset last night over the # 3 seed to get to this point). Butt dropped the first game 4-11, looking a little unsure of his game and made a few mistakes, but settled down and took the next three games in the match that lasted 56 minutes. The pivotal point in this match was in game 3, where down 6-8, Grayson won a long rally to get to 7-8, but Butt countered winning another astoundingly long rally to stifle a run and won the game 11-8. After Grayson won the first point of the last game, Butt ran of 7 straight points but to his credit, Grayson fought hard to the end despite the insurmountable lead Butt had and the crowd was highly entertained by the final rallies where both players were giving it their all.

The third match of the night was also THE MATCH OF THE NIGHT! # 4 seed Chris Simpson of England found himself down 0-2 to fellow Englishman Adrian Waller when he walked on the court for the third game. He had lost the first two 5-11, 2-11 and didn't look like he could figure out how to get back in the match.

Waller's quick hands and large wingspan allowed him take the ball early, hit lot of volleys, that kept Simpson on his heels and off the T and things didn't look good for the # 4 seed. Simpson, however, started the 3rd game winning three straight long rallies and all of a sudden, looked like a different player: he was patient, methodical, and consistent and started stringing together burst of points that allowed him to take games 3 & 4. Game 5 was intense and the packed gallery sensed cheered every rally for each player as the squash was at a new level. Waller was not going to give up and played hard but got down 4-7.

Waller then ran off 4 straight to take the lead 8-7 but Simpson didn't panic, kept with what had got him back in the match, played consistent, tied it at 8, went down one more (8-9) but then won the last 3 points to close out the match.

After the match, I had a chance to talk with Chris and commented on how all the spectators were impressed with his come-back win: especially losing the first two as badly as he had. Chris shared an interesting insight that he had recently read Rafa Nadal's tennis book where Nadal talks about what goes on in his mind during match preparation, match execution, match rallies, and "thinking on some of his (Nadal's) points about focusing on the point, freed me not to worry about what was going on in my match but instead allowed me to just play squash." It worked! Simpson scored a great comeback win in the longest match of the tournament so far: 71 minutes.

The final match of the night pitted # 2 seed Alister Walker of Botswana against the third qualifier who made it through to the 1/4 finals: England's Olivier Pett. Pett has played well all week and continued his high level in the first game that took an astounding 30 minutes! This initial game got to 10-all and then began an incredible series of game ball rallies alternating between players: these were fabulous displays of both players' ability to retrieve and at the same time, try to pound the ball away to finish the rally. At 14-14, someone in the gallery exclaimed that "no one seems to want to win" and I countered with no one wants to lose - no "seem" about it.

The highest level play we've seen all week took place over the next 5 points that it took Walker to win this marathon game 18-16. Pett was not deflated after the loss of this first game, both players appreciated the effort of the other for a 30 minute game, and he played very hard over the next two games. Again there were some incredibly long rallies, among the best of the week, entertaining the crowd late into the night of this match that lasted 63 minutes, but in the end the speed, power, and control that Walker possesses won out and Pett felt forced to "go for a little too much" as he said afterwards, that caused him to hit too many tins.

Afterwards, Walker was impressed with Pett's play, knew that the 30 minute first game was a fantastic performance from both players, but it set him up for the win as Pett felt he had to take chances to win the crucial rallies. Pett in conversation afterwards acknowledged that he thought he was close to breaking through to beating top 20 players (he exhibits all the talent to do so - has been a gallery favorite this week!) but he has to strive to remain patient and steady in pursuit of this goal as the top players won't allow you to sneak through a win.

Tomorrow's semi-finals promise more great squash as Grant plays Butt at 5:00 PM and Simpson plays Walker at 6:00 PM.

10-Nov, Round One:

Charlie Johnson reports

Upsets continue in Dayton Ohio! Three Qualifiers make it through to the second round.

We had some incredible matches tonight - Danish Khan & Yasir Butt & Olivier Pett scored upsets. Our Pakistani members cheered Khan & Butt on to victory (Butt's match was an incredible 1 & 1/2 hour match!) but they stayed to help push qualifier Pett past Delierre of Canada.

Butt's match went 5 and was awesome at 85 minutes, Grant played for a while against Zac but never in doubt, Khan upset Khalifa 3-1 with a lot of support from the gallery (30 of my members are Pakistani). Grayson upset # 3 Salazar who looked flat, # 4 Simpson won in 35 minutes over El Shorbagy, in the battle of the two big men, Adrian Waller overpowered qualifier Scott Arnold 3-0.

Alister Walker had a 38 minute match with Henrik Mustonen and won 3-0. That match finished while the night's final match was just getting started. In the final match, Qualifier Pett won the first in a tie-breaker, lost second in tiebreaker, won the third in overtime and then closed it out in the 4th.

  09-Nov, Qualifying Finals:

Charlie Johnson reports

Night two of the 2011 EBS Dayton Open was a night of upsets in the last round of the qualifying draw. Three of the top four seeded players went down in defeat as the packed gallery at the Dayton Squash Center was treated to some fabulous squash.

In the night's first match, Englishman and #1 seed Joel Hinds lost a tough 5-game, 68 minute match to Australia's Scott Arnold. This match featured many long, grueling, powerful rallies and incredible demonstrations of speed from the two tall players. After dropping the first game in close fashion (9-11), Arnold fought hard to win the second, dropped another close one in the third, but then seemed to dig deep and take control in the last two games. For such a tall player, Arnold got incredible low and extended to retrieve the constant barrage of punishing length drives from Hinds.

Pakistan's Yasir Butt claimed upset number two in the night's second match when in 41 minutes, he defeated the # 3 see, Australia's Wade Johnstone 3-0. A highly partisan crowd of local Pakistani squash players cheered on Butt as he put on a strong performance. Butt was in total control of the first game but Johnstone was not going to go down without a fight and was tenacious in games two and three, making Butt work hard to earn his victory.

If the partisan Pakistani crowd on hand was happy about Butt's victory, the night's 60 minute third match made the gallery ecstatic! Danish Atlas Khan of Pakistan and South Africa's Clinton Leeuw played a thrilling match that had the crowd on the edge of their seats most of the match and got loud cheers for both players as they displayed fantastic shot making and retrieving skills. Playing with intensity, Khan won the first two games and seemed poised to defeat the # 4 seeded Leeuw in the third but Leeuw seemed to will himself to another level and used his incredible speed to fight his way back into the match. The 5th game seemed with in reach for either player but after dropping the first point, Khan won 4 straight points to build an early lead. Khan went on to build a 7-3 lead but Leeuw was not going quietly and the played 2 incredibly hard fought points to seem to get back into the game at 5-7. Khan won his crucial 8th & 9th points and despite Leeuw's maximum effort in each of the next rallies, he was not able to fend off Khan who claimed the win to the shouts of the gallery.

After all this excitement, the night's final match was a bit deflated as England's Olivier Pett took down fellow Englishman Jaymie Haycocks in a quick 25 minute 3-0 match. Pett dominated the first game and then seemed on cruise control as he managed his game and the match with efficient use of shots and the court.

The Dayton Squash Center community is primed for tomorrow night's opening round of the main draw of the EBS Dayton Open.

08-Nov, Qualifying Round One:
Under way in Ohio

Charlie Johnson reports

Qualifying play began tonight in the $25,000 2011 EBS DAYTON OPEN squash tournament before a large crowd of enthusiastic spectators. All 4 of the matches that took saw the seeded players (5-8) move on the final qualifying round. Three of the four winners dropped one game on the way to their victories but the young 6th seeded Danish Atlas Khan of Pakistan won in three straight in the shortest match of the evening.

The final qualifying match saw local professional Jamie Crombie, Head Pro at the Cincinnati Country Club, take a game off the 5th seed Jaymie Haycocks of England who is ranked 103 in the world and the runner-up in the Madison (WI) Open on October 30th.

Crombie had strong support from the local Dayton squash community and many of the juniors and parents from his club who drove the 30 miles north to support his effort: he did not disappoint his fans and played the longest match of the night. Crombie was a little shaky in the first game as he had to get use too a pace he hasn't seen on court in a while, but settled down and took the second game putting together short 2-point runs to counter each point that Haycocks won.

Early in the 3rd game, however, he had a significant "twinge" in a calf muscle and it was evident to all that his retrieving at the front suffered. Despite the injury, he carried on and played hard for his fans and himself in the 4th: there were just too many balls of perfect length that he couldn't push off and go retrieve after he was pulled to the front by Haycocks.

It was a great start to what promises to be a brilliant week of squash in Dayton, OH


Three in One:  Macau | Dayton | Vancouver

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