Ramy comeback denies Greg as
Natalie retains title in Grand Central Beth Rasin reports
#1 Ramy Ashour won his third J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
title in a dramatic come from behind victory on the glass court in
Grand Central Terminal over third seed Gregory Gaultier, 7-11, 6-11,
12-10, 11-3, 11-1.
The first two games were owned by Gaultier. He established
possession of the T early in the match, using stinging pace and
tight drives to keep the ball deep in the backcourt and short tight
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. The Frenchman 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.
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.” The 25-year-old 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 game.
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
racquet and with Gaultier 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
20 minute third game took a big toll on Gaultier, who managed to
stay close only up to 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,” observed Gaultier, “he raised the pace even
more and that was it for me.” 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 Peter Nicol was
“threepeat” winner in 2004. .
who had previously mentioned his desire to be known as a fighter,
certainly provided ample evidence of his fighting will in the
championship match. “What Ashour has demonstrated this week,” said
tournament commentator Will Carlin,” that any lead against Ashour is
tenuous at best.”
“With Greg playing so well in the beginning, I just had to keep
digging,” said Ashour. “To beat Greg when he is playing as well as
he did at the beginning of the match, is amazing. I am so proud of
myself, and I dedicate this win to Egypt and the true moderate
Natalie defends ToC title
Grinham successfully defended her J.P. Morgan Tournament of
Champions title with a dominating straight games victory over Kasey
The 34-year-old tour veteran, known for her lightning speed and
competitive focus, executed a near flawless game plan against her
28-year-old Australian opponent. “I wanted to get good length and
width on the ball to take away any opportunities for Kasey to
volley,” Grinham said in her post- match interview.
The two-time ToC champion appeared supremely confident as she
prevented Brown from establishing any consistent rhythm in the match
and was on top of every ball. “When I am moving well, I feel I
should be able to get every ball back.”
the lead exchanged hands in the early part of each game, Grinham’s
consistency and court coverage gave her the upper hand and she broke
away to take a winning lead by the midpoint of each game.
Grinham gave some of the credit for her relaxed and focused play to
the presence of her 2½ year old son Kieran on this trip. “I am
feeling a bit more tired than usual because looking after Kieran
takes a fair amount of energy. But that has turned out to be a good
thing because I don’t have that extra energy that causes
“At the beginning of the week, I wouldn’t have thought I would win
again,” Grinham reflected after the match, alluding to the fact that
there were three higher ranking players in the draw.
“It still hasn’t quite sunk in that I have won the Tournament of
(Nzl) bt Joe Lee (Eng)
14-12,11-7,11-6 (62m) Ryan Cuskelly (Aus) bt Ali Anwar Reda (Egy)
6-11,11-8,13-11,7-11,11-3 (91m) Gregoire Marche (Fra) bt Max Lee (Hkg)
11-2, 6-11,2-11,11-6,12-10 (99m) Adrian Waller (Eng) bt Nafiizwan Adnan (Mas)
11-7,6-11,13-11, 11-8 (63m) Shawn Delierre (Can) bt Julian Illingworth (Usa)
11-6, 11-6, 11-7 (70m) Chris Simpson (Eng) bt Abdullah Al Mezayen (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 Butt (Pak) bt Marwan El Shorbagy (Egy)
6-11, 6-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-9 (66m)
[LL] Joe Lee replaces injured Alister Walker
Qualifying Round One: Joe Lee (Eng)
bt Alan Clyne (Sco)
11-8,11-5,11-9 (67m) Campbell Grayson (Nzl) bt Chris Binnie (Jam)
11-4,11-6,11-8 (37m) Ali Anwar Reda (Egy) bt Cesar Salazar (Mex)
10-12, 11-1,11-7,12-10 (59m) Ryan Cuskelly (Aus) bt Zac Alexander (Aus)
Max Lee (Hkg) bt Wael El Hindi (Egy)
11-9,12-10,11-3 (36m) Grégoire Marche (Fra) bt Luke Butterworth (Eng)
11-2,11-6,11-0 (22m) Adrian Waller (Eng) bt Omar Abdel Meguid (Egy)
12-10,9-11,11-8,11-9 (70m) Nafiizwan Adnan (Mas) bt Siddarth Suchde (Ind)
Julian Illingworth (Usa) bt Leo Au (Hkg)
6-11,11-8,11-7,12-10 (82m) Shawn Delierre (Can) bt Muhd Asyraf Azan (Mas)
11-5,11-8,10-12,11-8 (91m) Abdullah AlMezayen (Kuw) bt Chris Gordon (Usa)
5-11,6-11,12-10,12-10,12-10 (89m) Chris Simpson (Eng) bt Andres Vargas (Col)
Shahier Razik (Can) bt Cameron Stafford (Cay)
11-6,11-3,11-7 (28m) Mathieu Castagnet (Fra) v Ali Farag (Egy)
11-9,6-11,6-11,14-12,13-11 (95m) Yasir Butt (Pak)
bt Martin Knight (Nzl)
11-4,11-7,11-5 (38m) Marwan El Shorbagy (Egy) bt Robbie Temple (Eng)
Breathtaking Semi-Finals at Grand Central Beth Rasin reports
Breathtaking, brilliant squash was on full display on the glass
court under the magnificent chandeliers in Grand Central Terminal as
the four best players in men’s squash did battle with each other in
the semifinals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions to earn
the right to play for the vaunted title.
first match on was a classic confrontation of two great shotmakers
and strategists. World #1 Ramy Ashour and 4th ranked James
Willstrop have had several memorable matches on the ToC glass
court and tonight was one of their best ever.
“There’s something 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 shotmaking. Willstrop won the game
11-5, leaving the voluble Egyptian talking to himself in
frustration. The 30-year-old Englishman jumped out to another early
lead, 4-1, in the second game. Ashour yelled in frustration at
himself, looked to his brother Hisham in the stands just behind the
court and shouted at him, and somehow, in that moment, the match
dynamic changed. Ashour was back in the game – literally and
25-year-old then figured out how to work his way back to the front
of T. He 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. There was a continuing change of pace
throughout the game. Tied at 8 all, it was anybody’s game. Ashour
closed it out ,11-8.
The third game was a seesaw, with the lead exchanging 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 defense 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 6’4” tall. But it wasn’t all defense from Willstrop.
When he had an opening, he used the deft, soft shotmaking that has
prompted his opponent to refer to Willstrop as the “English
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 crackling 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 finals 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.”
“That was hard,” said Ashour, “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 #1, who is often lauded for his extraordinary shotmaking
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
will have a fight on his hands in the finals when he takes on
Gregory Gaultier who defeated defending champion Nick Matthew
in four hard-hitting games. It was a gladiatorial contest between
the two players known as being the strongest men on the PSA tour.
The first two games saw the players trading crackling 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. Matthew 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
32-year-old Englishman, known for his competitive focus, would win
the game and take the match lead.
it was Gaultier who regained his focus. Two winners from Gaultier
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 racquet.
The 30-year-old 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 finals appearance at the Tournament of Champions.
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
“I felt a bit flat at the end of the second game,” said Gaultier.
“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
Grinham to defend against Brown
Defending champion Natalie Grinham will play fellow
Australian Kasey Brown in the women's final.
seeded third, earned her first trip to the Tournament of Champions
final by playing steadfast and resolute squash to defeat top seed
Madeline Perry in the semifinals.
The 28-year-old Australian was remarkably consistent and patient as
she consistently buried the ball deep in the back court in a clear
effort to prevent Perry from playing her preferred game of volleying
as much as possible. With Perry getting off to a particularly slow
start, due in part to five strokes against her in the first game
alone, Brown took the early lead by winning the first game 11-6.
Her confidence boosted by winning the first game, Brown added more
offense to her game and started cutting off the ball with an
attacking volley. She also added an effective lob when pulled up
short to the front of the court. Brown won the second game 11-8.
The third game was a testament to Perry’s determination to get on
the scoreboard as she raised her level of play to win the game,
11-8. Unfazed, Brown returned to the court and jumped out to a 5-1
lead. Maintaining her pace on the ball and her composure, Brown gave
Perry no openings in the fourth game, which she won 11-6.
“It is extra special to for me to play here since I feel like
this is home now,” said Brown, who has resided in Greenwich,
Connecticut for the past four years and had her own cheering section
in the stands.
will play defending champion Natalie Grinham, who now plays under
the Dutch flag, easily defeated her older sister Rachael in the
evening’s first semifinal, 11-9, 11-2, 11-7. The most extraordinary
thing about the Grinhams’ match was that not a single let was
The result of the sisters’ match may have been foretold by their
very different responses when asked, at the conclusion of their
quarterfinal matches, how each felt about playing the other.
Rachael said, “We never really had a sibling rivalry. The hardest
thing about it is that you don’t want your sister to lose.”
Natalie, on the other hand, responded, “I know Rachael says it is
not a big deal. But that could be because she had the winning edge
on me for a long time and I am still trying to make up ground. ” For
the record, after this semifinal result, Rachael is still ahead
Day Five at Grand Central Beth Rasin reports
Nick Matthew reached his sixth semifinal at the J.P. Morgan
Tournament of Champions when he defeated seventh seed Karim Darwish,
11-5, 11-7, 11-8, in quarterfinal play on the glass court at Grand
Central terminal. Frenchman Gregory Gaultier will make his
fifth semifinal appearance after defeating Mohammed El Shorbagy,
11-9, 13-11, 13-15, 11-4.
was a vintage Matthew performance as he used straight and accurate
rails and drop shots to keep the Egyptian with the dangerous racquet
from finding many openings from which he could unleash his
shotmaking prowess. Keeping the ball deep to the back corners and
using a quick attacking volley, Matthew never gave Darwish a chance
to gain any momentum.
Having elected to not to get on court at all on his rest day between
the second round and the quarterfinals, Matthew looked fresh and
eager from the very start of the match. The defending champion raced
out to an 8-2 lead, and won the game 11-5.
the second game the lead changed hands a few times, but Matthew
broke away to get to 10-5, winning the game 11-7. From one all in
the third, Matthew never relinquished the lead and closed out the
match with an 11-8 win.
“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 opponent is.”
Referring to the Gaultier- EL Shorbagy match that was just going on
court and would determine who he plays in the semifinal, Matthew
added, with a wry smile,” Hopefully they will knock ten bells out of
fact, the semifinal between Gaultier and the El Shorbagy did at
times resemble a slugfest. It was a fast and furious start from the
very first point of play in the match between the third seeded
Frenchman and the sixth seeded Egyptian. Both men were hitting the
ball quickly and with tremendous pace.
Gaultier, however, 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 Gaultier winning the point on an El Shorbagy 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.
shot out to a 6-1 lead in the second, but again, El Shorbagy stayed
close and tied the score at 11 all. The Frenchman, 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.
There was no lack of competitive desire on the young Egytian’s part.
He continued to pummel the ball in an effort to overpower his
opponent, but instead, Gaultier used the pace to his own advantage
by picking up the ball quickly.
Gaultier, the 2009 ToC champion, looked as though he would close the
match out in three straight games when he had match ball at 11-10,
12-11 and 13-12. The young Egyptian showed no fear as he fought off
each match point, twice with gutsy cross court roll out nick
winners. El Shorbagy won the third game 15-13.
The 29-year-old 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 semifinal berth
with an 11-4 fourth game victory.
young and hungry,” said Gaultier after the match. “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.”
Shot selection was a key component of the match outcome:
“I was not playing the right shot at the right time,” El Shorbagy
shared in his post- match analysis.
For Gaultier, the most important element of his winning game was the
fact that, ”I kept my focus, stayed calm and relaxed.”
Becoming a father for the first time this fall has had a beneficial
effect on Gaultier’s competitive mien. 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
Grinhams celebrate ToC semi-final Rachael
Grinham celebrated her 36t birthday by giving herself the gift
of a semifinal appearance at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of
The veteran Australian ended Joshana Chipanna’s Tournament of
Champions journey with an 8-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-8 win over the
26-year-old qualifier from India. Chipanna started strong, winning
the first game by pinning Grinham to the back corners of the court
with deep rails and cross courts.
In the second, Chipanna continued to create opportunities to attack
by forcing short returns from Grinham as she scrambled to retrieve
balls from back of the court. But the fleet footed Australian
started reading Chipanna’s shots, which were not precise enough to
be winners. Grinham was retrieving everything that Chipanna hit, and
using the lob to push Chipanna to the back of the court herself.
The third game was all Grinham as she won 11-4. The momentum shifted
early in the fourth as Chippana took a 7-2 lead, but Grinham chipped
away at lead and eventually won the game 11-8. “I really thought I
was going to lose that fourth game,” Grinham said, “and then next
thing I knew, I had won it!”
semifinal opponent will be none other than her sister Natalie,
who now represents the Netherlands in international competition,
having married former Dutch player Tommy Berden. The sisters last
competed against each other at the Texas Open in April 2011 when
Rachael won in straight games.
Natalie dropped the first game of her match to England’s Sarah
Kippax, The 35-year-old mother regained her focus in the second, and
won the next three games in authoritative fashion, 11-5,11-4, 11-6.
She was cheered on by 2 ½ year old son Kieran.
“Last year, I found it difficult to be away from Kieran as much
as I was,” said Natalie, “but I wasn’t quite ready to stop playing.
So I decided that I would have Kieran travel with me this year.”
The biggest dilemma for the semifinal contest with her sister will
be finding a babysitter for Kieran, since Rachael usually looks
after her nephew while Natalie is playing!.
Brown earned her tip to the semifinals with a 3-0 victory
against American Amanda Sobhy. Brown, who now resides in Greenwich,
Connecticut, was quite familiar with the attacking game of the
Harvard sophomore and effectively contained Amanda’s attack by
making sure to hit the ball deep in the court. Brown was also buoyed
by the presence at the match of her coach Rodney Martin.
will play Ireland’s Madeline Perry in the semifinal. After
grabbing the close first game her match with Hong Kong’s Joey Chan
11-9, top seed Perry made short work of the remaining two games by
winning 11-2, 11-5.
When Chan was asked what the difference was between her first round
and the quarterfinal, she replied, “The speed of the ball. Madeline
was very strong today; she kept me in the back of the court for most
of the match.”
In contrasting styles, top-seededJames
their quarterfinal matches in the J.P. Morgan Tournament of
Champions in Grand Central Terminal to set up the hoped for
semifinal between two of the game’s most skillful shooters and
Willstrop ended the rambunctious run of South African Stephen
Coppinger, who had his best PSA World Series showing with his
quarterfinal appearance here. Tied at 9-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 described the first game as “scrappy.” “It was
important to win that first game,” he said. “Stephen played hard and
it becomes a whole different match when you are one game down at the
Coppinger had quite 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 racquet skills and court coverage to win the
second game 11-2.
The third was more of the same, as Willstrop moved Coppinger from
corner to corner and kept his 6’3” opponent off balance for the
remainder of the match, which Willstrop closed out with an 11- 4 win
in the third.
“Clinical, accurate and unforgiving,” was how SquashTV commentators
Joey Barrington and Paul Johnson described Willstrop’s match play.
Wednesday night’s tantalizing semifinal was set when Ramy Ashour
held off 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 and hitting some rails
to himself, the reigning World Champion and current world #1
improved his shot length and combined it with a quick attack in the
second game to take a commanding 10-1 lead, winning the game 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 6”4” opponent, after
both men had covered each corner of the court three times during the
rally, with a cross court forehand that was beyond Mosaad’s reach.
Ashour seemed assured of the victory when he took a commanding 10-4
lead in the fourth. Mosaad, however, was not ready to concede and
with a combination of several winning shots off his racquet and a
few errors from Ashour, got himself 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 Mosaad’s reach. Ashour’s immediate reaction was quite
emotional – he threw his racquet down and gave a fist pump and a
“I was just mad at myself for giving up that big lead at 10-4,”
said the voluble Ashour after the match. Earlier in the week, the
25-year-old had talked about the pressure of being #1. “Being #1 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.”
Women join in at Grand Central
The women’s draw at the J.P.Morgan Tournament of Champions got
underway today with one upset as qualifierJoshana
seed Dipika Pallikal 11-7,11-7,3-11,11-8.
Chinappa made the adjustment to the ToC glass court more effectively
than her countrywoman.
“It was my first time playing on the glass court,” said Chinappa
after the match. “The court is pretty dead in the back, so I knew I
really wanted to concentrate on hitting width and depth to the
Chinappa won the first two games by identical 11-7 scores by doing
just that. Pallikal, ranked 15 places higher in the world rankings
than Chinappa, came alive in the third game when she started hitting
better length and utilized the volley attack to win the game 11-3.
Unfazed, Chinappa re- established her original strategy of hitting
wide and deep and won the match by winning the fourth game 11-8.
It was a fast paced, attacking game from start to finish for
who defeated Delia Arnold of Malaysia. 11-9, 11-5, 11-8. The Harvard
University sophomore, on a school break, was relishing the
competition on the glass court in Grand Central. “I haven’t been
able to play many tournaments, so this really fun,” Sobhy said,
referring to her college class and match schedule which prevents her
from competing on a more regular basis on the WSA Tour.
Sobhy will next play #3 seedKasey
Brown, who moved onto the quarterfinals with a tough five game
victory over qualifier Heba El Torky. “El Torky is a great shot
maker and I wasn’t hitting good enough length in the beginning,”
said the Australian about dropping the first two games, 9-11, 8-11.
Hitting better length in the third and fourth games paid off as
Brown notched 11-6 wins in each. El Torky led most of the way in the
fifth, but Brown stepped up at 7-9 to reel off four unanswered
points to move into the ToC quarterfinals.
Natalie Grinham, the defending champion, also needed five
games to keep her hopes of retaining the title alive. The
35-year-old mother defeated 19- year-old Nour El Tayeb, -11, 11-9,
11-8, 7-11, 11-4. Grinham’s quarterfinal opponent will beSarah
Kippaxof England who
defeated Canada’s Samantha Cornett, 11-9, 11-5, 11-8.
made it to the quarterfinals with a 3-0 victory over New Zealand’s
eliminated American Latasha Khan 3-0. She will playJoey
Chanof Hong Kong who
defeated England’s Lauren Briggs.
20-Jan, Round Two:
Masters of the game reign supreme Beth Rasin reports
The masters of the game reigned supreme today in second round play
at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in Grand Central Terminal
as all the remaining seeds advanced to the quarterfinals.
fans filled the Grand Central Terminal stands in the early evening
for the highly anticipated Nick Matthew v Amr Shabana match.
The prospect of watching these two former world #1s battle in the
second round, when normally they would be at least at least a
quarterfinal pairing, was tantalizing.
And for two games the quality of the squash was on par with a final.
Defending champion Nick Matthew looked especially strong as he
eliminated two- time ToC champion Amr Shabana in straight games.
“It was a lot like chess out there,” said Matthew after the match.
“We have played each other a lot recently and we know each other’s
games so well.”
established 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
shotmaker, it was Matthew 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, Matthew 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,” said Matthew. “I felt
like I had been overthinking my recent matches, so I decided to just
go out and enjoy playing“
Englishman’s next opponent is another former world #1 from Egypt,
Karim Darwish, who dispatched 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,” he said after the match. So he used a volley attack to win
three quick points and ensure a place in the ToC quarterfinals.
seed James Willstrop was the day’s first victor, defeating
Tarek Momen in four games. “It has been a long time since I have
played this early,” said Willstrop, referring to his noon start
time. Although he 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.
“I wasn’t 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.”
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 and 11-6 third game win. ”I
was pleased with my accuracy and variety on the court today,” said
will play South African Steven Coppinger, who yesterday
removed fifth seed Peter Barker and today beat Adrian Grant,
another Englishman higher-ranked than himself. Coppinger
earned his first World Series quarter-final appearance with a
five-game win after seeing a two-game advantage disappear before
easing through the decider.
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 their matches in straight
here in Grand Central is unbelievable,” the Frenchman said after his
match. “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 Tom
Richards off balance for most of their match.
Gaultier will next play Mohamed El Shorbagy who dismissed
qualifier Gregoire Marche, 11-8,11-9, 11-7.
felt a bit flat today,” said El Shorbagy,” so I am really glad I
managed to win in three.”
Asked to comment on his quarterfinal pairing with Gaultier, the
young Egyptian said, “Of the top four players, I find Gregory the
toughest to play. He’s so quick and he attacks and defends well.”
eliminated Germany’s Simon Rosner in classic “Ramy style” –
extraordinary shotmaking 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.
19-Jan, Round One, bottom half:
Marche Marches into Second Round
Beth Rasin reports
Grégoire Marche has continued to make his dreams come true as
he moved into the second round of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of
Champions at Grand Central Terminal with an authoritative win over
veteran Olli Tuominen.
Even though it was his very first time on the fabled glass court in
Vanderbilt Hall, the 22-year-old Frenchman was unfazed, ripping
through Tuominen with an 11-1 first game win. A persistent
retriever, Marche 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 8-all and then 9-all. Marche held fast, though, and won the
second at 11-9. Tuominen made a good run in the third, after being
tied at 5 all, to keep his own ToC hopes alive by winning the game
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 for this.” While his racquet accuracy during the
match was quite good, Marche’s post match racquet skills may need
some tuning up. Marche’s exuberant post match victory toss of his
racquet landed on Tuominen’s head.
second round opponent will be Egypt’s Mohammed El Shorbagy,
who was a surprise finalist at the World Open in December. The fast
rising 22–year-old eliminated Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema in three
straight games, 11-4, 11-5, 11-9. “I think I played well today,”
said El Shorbagy. “If you can win 3-0 in the early rounds, it is a
Tom Richards played before the most vocal crowd in Grand
Central when he took on the lone American in the draw, Todd
Harrity, who had the wild card spot. The Princeton University
senior went toe-to-toe with Richards in the first game, supported by
his very vocal Princeton University teammates. However, the young
American was not able to capitalize on the game ball he had at 10-9,
and Richards snagged the game at 12-10.
Moving the ball from corner to corner, Richards increased the
pressure on Harrity, and won the next two games in convincing
fashion, 11-3, 11-6. “I was impressed with how Todd came out to
play. He really forced the issue, attacking the ball and volleying,”
Richards said. As for his own rise in the rankings in the past year
from #20 to #13, the 26-year-old credited a better understanding of
the game and better shot selection for his improvement.
Richards will face 2009 champion Gregory Gaultier in the
quarterfinals. The 30-year-old Frenchman played the briefest first
round match, dismissing Hisham Ashour in three games in 25
seed Karim Darwish 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 Egyptian former world #1 responded with a
decisive fourth game win, 11-4, to set up his quarterfinal contest
with India’s Saurav Ghosal.
The match between qualifier Shahier Razik, at age 35 the oldest
player in the draw, and Saurav Ghosal could have gone either
way throughout the match. Razik saved three match balls to win the
first game 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 fourth, the
two players exchanged the lead several times, before Ghosal claimed
his inaugural second round ToC appearance by winning the game 11-9.
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 strong, 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.” Matthew reasserted himself in the
third and dominated the fourth to close out the match 11-7, 11-4.
After the match, Matthew confessed, “I made the mistake today of
looking ahead before I was finished with this match.”
Englishman was referring to the potential second round match with
Amr Shabana, two time ToC champion who recently defeated Matthew
in the PSA World Series final at the end of the year. The two will
indeed meet in what Matthew referred to as an ”unusual” second round
match- up between the two former world # players.
Shabana, whose world ranking dropped to #9 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 Open 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 opponent Nick Matthew, who last month lost to Shabana in the PSA
World Series finals.
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
The talented Egyptian wasted no time in getting to the second round
as he dismissed 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, of his encounter with the two time ToC titleholder.
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
a huge sense of occasion when you play on the glass court in Grand
Central,” said Stephen Coppinger as he talked about his first
round at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions. The 28-year-old
South African certainly rose to meet it as he scored the day’s
biggest upset when he eliminated fifth seed Peter Barker in four
games, 12-10, 11-6, 6-11, 11-1.
18 places lower than world #5 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, Barker 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 it out 11-4 to earn a spot in the quarterfinals of the
world’s largest spectator squash event.
“Last year, I was just happy to qualify for the main draw here,”
said Coppinger, who credited his training with former world Champion
David Palmer for the significant improvement during the past year in
his game and his mindset. “But this year, I have the extra belief; I
feel like I belong here and I can play with these guys.”
next opponent will be England’s Adrian Grant, who advanced to
the quarterfinals with a five-game victory over Australian Cameron
Pilley. Advancing to the second round for the third time in seven
Tournament of Champions appearances, Grant started slow but picked
up steam through the match.
Just the day before, when he chatted with school age participants in
StreetSquash, the Harlem, NYC based urban Squash Program, Grant had
talked good humoredly about his reputation on the PSA tour for
playing five-game matches.
“Pilley always comes out like a steam train,” said Grant. “But after
feeling like I was hard done by a couple of referee decisions, I got
a little teed off and got my aggressions out on court, which turned
the match around.”
Omar Mosaad, in only his second appearance in the Tournament
of Champions, notched 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 # 8 ranking player
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
with being the winning strategy.
Next up for Mosaad 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,” and I
think my experience made the big difference in the fourth game.”
three qualifiers in the evening session of play were schooled by
their more seasoned opponents. World ranked #12 Tarek Momen
eliminated Canada’s Shawn Delierre in straight games, and world
Champion and current world #1 Ramy Ashour ended Adrian
Waller’s Tournament of Champions journey with a 3-0 victory.
Simon Rosner of Germany, less than pleased at having given up a
game to Pakistan’s Yasir Butt, took comfort in having won even with
what he considered a slow start.
Although the full house evening crowd in the Grand Central stadium
buzzed with anticipation as they settled in for the evening’s second
match between #1 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.
Peter Barker, the 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 2006!
“This is a dream come true,” said
22-year-old Gregoire Marche after qualifying for his very
first J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in a grueling 99 minute
match at the Princeton Club against Hong Kong’s Max Lee.
“Since I was 10, I have watched the great players, like Gregory
Gaultier, win this tournament.” After winning the first game, Marche
quickly dropped the next two, 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 at
The match that followed was only 8 minutes shorter and equally
intense as Australian Ryan Cuskelly defeated Egypt’s Ali
Anwar Reda 11-3 in the fifth. The play was fast, furious and
Yasir Butt will make his first appearance on the glass court
in Grand Central after displaying great tenacity in his five game
win over Marwan El Shorbagy of 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 the deciding games 11-8,11-8,11-9 to
secure his place in the main draw.
Local hopes were dashed when American Julian Ilingworth 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 in straight games.
Chris Simpson took a decisive two game lead against Abdullah
Al Mezayen. 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.
At one all, Adrian Waller was down 4-10 in the third against
Nafiizwan Adnan of Malaysia. After coming back to win 13-11, Waller
attacked relentlessly in the fourth to take his place in the main
It has been seven years since veteran Shahier Razik, 35, had
to qualify for the Tournament of Champions. He needed four games and
85 minutes to fend off 26-year-old 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.”
16 Years in NYC
Celebrating 16 years of competition among the world’s best squash
players in Grand Central Terminal, the J.P. Morgan Tournament of
Champions is the focal point of Squash Week in New York City.
Men’s qualifying matches will be played on January 16 and 17. From
January 18-20, the Grand Open tournament, presented by NY Squash and
a qualifying event for the US National Skill Level Championships,
will feature more than 200 amateur players competing at several NYC
Participants from New York City urban youth enrichment charities
StreetSquash, CitySquash and PowerPlay NYC, will participate in
clinics with the tournament competitors on the ToC Glass Court.
16-Jan, Men's Qualifying
Round One Qualifying under way in NY
Beth Rasin reports
No lack of desire as several of the
first round of qualifying matches at the J.P.Morgan Tournament of
Champions went down to the wire.
Hometown favourite Chris 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 Muzayen and had
two match balls in the third. But the young Muzayen, on his first
trip to NY, was unfazed and fight back to win the third 12- 10.
Gordon again had two match balls at 10-8 in the fifth but Muzayen
prevailed 12-10. In the end, the young man from Kuwait used his
speed and shotmaking to neutralize Gordon's reach.
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
There were three former world ones and the current top ranked PSA
player at the Harvard Club as well tonight, although none of them
played. Karim Darwish, Amr Shabana and Ramy Ashour were there to
cheer on the young Egyptian while Gregory Gaultier was supporting
his countryman Castagnet.
The evening's last match was the longest as Nafiizwan Adnan
of Malaysia outlasted India's Siddarth Suchde in a 112 minute
At the other end of the spectrum, veteran Shahier Razik of
Canada made short work of his tall opponent, the Cayman
Island'sCameron Stafford. Max Lee ended Wael El Hindi's
return to the PSA tour with a three game victory. Gregoire Marche's
pace and power were too much for Luke Butterworth.
It was a game of
attrition in which Joe Lee prevailed over Alan Clyne.
England's Chris Simpson dismissed Trinity University
Assistant coach (by way of Colombia) Andras Vargas by
punishing every loose ball. Campbell Grayson, in his third
ToC qualifying is hoping he is three times lucky after defeating
Jamaica's Chris Binnie.
The young Marwan EL Shorbagy was not
unhappy to have had a short match after his opponent Robbie Temple
retired in the third.
World's best to battle it out in New York
2013 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions will be the most exciting
and competitive in the 16 years that this championship has been
played in Grand Central Terminal,” said John Nimick,
president of Squash Engine, Inc., the tournament promoter, as he
announced the entry list for the world’s largest spectator squash
“As one of the coveted major titles on the PSA tour, the Tournament
of Champions sets the benchmark for the start of the new calendar
year ranking season. With a major shake-up in the 2012 year ending
rankings, the 2013 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions will be
especially significant as several players have an opportunity to
re-assert their dominance by winning the title.”
In fact, the Tournament of Champions is aptly named, as all but one
of its winners in this men’s PSA world series event has also been
ranked #1 in the world. The men’s 32-player draw features 23 of the
top 25 world ranking players and one wild card entry, representing
14 countries and six continents. The remaining eight spots will be
determined by a 32-player qualifying draw.
Five titleholders return
The 2013 draw features five returning titleholders eager to add
another coveted Tournament of Champions (also known as the ToC)
crown to their trophy case. Headlining the supremely talented roster
of top contenders is the just-crowned 2012 World Open Champion,
25-year-old Ramy Ashour of Egypt, who became the youngest
Tournament of Champions winner when he won the title in 2008 at age
21. Ashour won his second ToC title in 2011, and with his recent
year-ending triumph at the World Championship, regained the world #1
ranking on January 1.
Nick Matthew of England will be looking to avenge his World
Championship semifinal loss to Ashour and defend his ToC crown which
he won for the first time in 2012 after being a three-time finalist.
Englishman James Willstrop, the 2010 champion, has been #1 in
the PSA rankings for all but one month in 2012, and will be eager to
reclaim the PSA top ranking spot.
Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, the 2009 champion and winner of
the inaugural NetSuite Open championship in October, has recently
been playing some of the best squash of his career.
The 2006 and 2007 champion, 33-year-old Amr Shabana, still
has the shotmaking and speed to make a run for a third Tournament of
Mohamed El Shorbagy, the 21-year-old Egyptian who was a
surprise finalist in the just-completed World Open and was defeated
in the 2012 ToC quarterfinals by Matthew, will also be a serious
title contender. Rounding out the top six seeds is England’s
Peter Barker, who attained his highest world #5 ranking this
Princeton University senior Todd Harrity, the first American
in 21 years to win the US Intercollegiate Singles Championship when
he took that title in 2011, will receive the tournament’s wild card
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 City.
"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
"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.
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 quarter-finals.
"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."