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Tournament of Champions 2011
19-27 Jan, New York, Usa, $115k

27-Jan, Final:      
[1] Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt [2] Nick Matthew (Eng)
              11/3, 7/11, 11/9, 11/7 (52m)

Awesome Ashour WIns Second ToC Title
Beth Rasin reports

Top-seed Ramy Ashour was too quick, too strong and just too good for second seed Nick Matthew in the finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in Grand Central Terminal. The 2008 titleholder added a second Tournament of Champions trophy to his collection as he defeated the current world #1, 11-3, 7-11, 11-9, 11-7. Winning his second ToC was made extra special by the fact that Ashour’s mother (who hadn’t seen her youngest son play a major match in five years) was in the audience.

The big question on everyone’s mind was whether Nick Matthew would have enough gas left in the tank after his epic 88-minute clash in the semifinals with Amr Shabana just 24 hours prior to the showdown with Ashour. During the warm up, Matthew appeared confident and composed while his Egyptian rival seemed edgy and nervous. Matthew calmly waited at the end of the warm up for Ashour to return to the court, which he did only after the referee’s final call for his return. After the match, the fast talking Ashour explained that the edginess was a good thing. ”For me to play well, it is a balance,” he said. “I have to be alert on court, feel the pressure and also be a little anxious and scared.”

Once on court for the first game, Ashour was burst of energy, jumping out to a 7-1 lead and winning the game 11-3. In the second game it was Matthew who came out strong, taking a 6-2 lead and winning the game 11-7. In the third and fourth games, Ashour took slight early leads which he maintained for the duration of each game. “I was always playing slight catch up through the third and fourth games,” Matthew said after the match. “Just when I thought I could change the momentum, Ramy would have a trick up his sleeve to push ahead.” The tricks up the Egyptian’s sleeve included continuing changes of pace and the flat flick that he would hold until Matthew was leaning in one direction, and then wrong foot Matthew by flicking the ball to the opposite side of the court.

“Nick moved me to a lot of corners,” said Ashour post-match. “The really good thing about tonight was that I was moving well and in touch with my body.” The injury prone Ashour, waylaid by year end injuries, was most pleased to be feeling physically good and moving to the ball with ease. Runner-up Matthew was also pleased that Ashour was injury–free. “It is good to have Ramy back on the tour. He is a much more exciting player to watch than I am.”

As he presented the winner’s trophy on behalf of J.P. Morgan, Jay Horine announced that a total of $15,000 would be donated to tournament charities StreetSquash in conjunction with the inaugural J.P. Morgan Charity Challenge – Scoring Points for Urban Youth Education. Ashour dedicated his victory his home country of Egypt.

ToC Women’s Showcase Exhibition
Natalie Grinham (NED) bt Vanessa Atkinson (NED)
    11-6,11-5,11-7 25 mins.

Tournament of Champions 2011
19-27 Jan, New York, Usa, $115k
Round One
21/22 Jan
Round One
23 Jan
24/25 Jan
26 Jan
27 Jan
[1] Ramy Ashour (Egy)
12-10, 11-3, 11-8 (34m)
Olli Tuominen (Fin)
[1] Ramy Ashour
8/11, 11/6, 11/8, 11/8 (35m)
Stewart Boswell
[1] Ramy Ashour

9/11, 11/5, 11/6, 11/8 (42m)

[8] David Palmer

[1] Ramy Ashour

11/4, 11/9 , 11/8 (38m)

[3] James Willstrop

[1] Ramy Ashour


11/3, 7/11, 11/9, 11/7 (52m)


[2] Nick Matthew

Saurav Ghosal (Ind)
11/6, 11/8, 14/16, 11/5 (70m)
Stewart Boswell (Ind)
Ong Beng Hee (Mas)
11/6, 12/10, 12/10 (51m)
[Q] Tom Richards (Eng)
[Q] Tom Richards
12/10, 11/9, 11/8 (40m)
[8] David Palmer
Julian Illingworth (Usa)
11/8, 11/7, 11/9 (57m)
[8] David Palmer (Usa)
[7] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy)
11/8, 11/8, 12/10 (38m)
Azlan Iskandar (Mas)
[7] Mohamed El Shorbagy
11/9, 11/5, 11/6 (35m)
Shahier Razik
[7] Mohamed El Shorbagy

11/8, 11/7, 11/8 (38m)

[3] James Willstrop

Shahier Razik (Can)
11/6, 6/11, 8/11, 11/7, 11/5 (71m)
[Q] Chris Ryder (Eng)
[Q] Borja Golan (Esp)
11/9, 11/7, 11/8 (45m)
[Q] Tarek Momen (Egy)
[Q] Borja Golan
11/6, 11/4, 11/6 (31m)
[3] James Willstrop
Jonathan Kemp (Eng)
11/5, 11/7, 11/5 (29m)
[3] James Willstrop (Eng)
[4] Amr Shabana (Egy)
 7/11, 11/8, 11/9, 11/7 (44m)
[Q] Mohammed Abbas (Egy)
[4] Amr Shabana
11/6, 11/8, 11/8 (44m)
Daryl Selby
[4] Amr Shabana

 11/7, 9/11, 11/8, 11/8 (63m)

[6] Laurens Jan Anjema

[4] Amr Shabana

11/8, 11/4, 7/11, 10/12, 12/10 (88m)

[2] Nick Matthew

[Q] Ryan Cuskelly (Aus)
4/11, 11/1, 11/2, 11/4 (63m)
Daryl Selby (Eng)
[Q] Nicolas Mueller (Sui)
11/8, 11/5, 7/11, 11/8 (61m)
Adrian Grant (Eng)
[Q] Nicolas Mueller
 11/9, 11/4, 11/3 (34m)
[6] Laurens Jan Anjema
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Col)
11/5, 11/8 , 11/6 (42m)
[6] Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned)
[5] Peter Barker (Eng)
11/5, 11/5, 11/4 (42m)
Ali Anwar Reda (Egy)
[5] Peter Barker 10/12, 13/15, 11/9, 12/10, 11/2 (81m)
[Q] Hisham Ashour
[5] Peter Barker

 11/9, 11/4, 11/6 (52m)

[2] Nick Matthew

[Q] Hisham Ashour (Egy)
8/11, 11/7, 8/11, 14/12, 11/6 (69m)
Cameron Pilley (Aus)
Alister Walker (Eng)
7/11, 11/7, 11/6 11/6 (72m)
Wael El Hindi (Egy)
Alister Walker
 11/5, 11/8, 11/5 (43m)
[2] Nick Matthew
Omar Mosaad (Egy)
11/5, 11/7, 11/9 (50m)
[2] Nick Matthew (Eng)

20 Jan, Qualifying Finals:

Chris Ryder (ENG) bt Martin Knight (NZL)                                      11-6, 11-3, 11-2
Tarek Momen (EGY) bt David Phillips (CAN)                                  11-7, 11-6, 11-5

Borja Golan (ESP) bt Simon Rosner (GER)                             9-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-8
Mohammed Abbas (EGY) bt Shawn Delierre (CAN)              9-11, 11-6, 11-2, 12-10

Tom Richards (ENG) bt Raj Nanda (AUS)                             11-3, 9-11, 12-10, 11-3
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Gregoire Marche (FRA) v                  7-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-6

Hisham Ashour (EGY) bt David Letourneau (CAN)                         11-3, 11-7, 11-6
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) bt Bradley Ball (ENG)               9-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-13, 11-5

19 Jan, Qualifying Round One:

David Phillips (CAN) bt Jan Koukal (CZE)                           11-8,8-11,11-7,11-8 (50m)
Martin Knight (NZL) bt Eric Galvez (MEX)                   11-4, 8-11,9-11,11-3,11-4 (92m)
Chris Ryder (ENG) bt Gilly Lane (USA)                                      11-5,11-9,11-3 (54m)
Mohammed Abbas (EGY) bt Chris Gordon (USA)               9-11,11--2,11-7,11-3 (49m)
Shawn Delierre (CAN) bt Campbell Grayson (NZL)                     11-7,11-7,11-9 (46m)
Borja Golan (ESP) bt Zac Alexander (AUS)                         11-5,11-6,7-11,11-3 (46m)
Simon Rosner (GER) bt Jacques Swanepoel (RSA)                      11-2,11-5,11-8 (34m)
Tom Richards (ENG) bt Cesar Salazar (MEX)                      5-11,11-4,11-4,11-5 (42m)
Raj Nanda (AUS) bt Aaron Frankcomb (AUS)                    11-9,11-13,11-9,11-3 (61m)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Kristian Olesen (DEN)                       11-6,11-8,12-10 (56m)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Arturo Salazar (MEX)                            11-9,11-6,11-1 (47m)
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) bt Stephane Galifi (ITA)                     4-11,11-1,11-4,11-6 (38m)
Bradley Ball (ENG) bt Todd Harrity (USA)                           11-3,9-11,11-6,11-6 (47m)
David Letourneau (CAN) bt Luke Butterworth (ENG)                    11-3,11-4,11-2 (23m)
Top Seeds Ramy Ashour and Nick Matthew Contend for Tournament of Champions Title
Beth Rasin reports

There were goose bumps tonight in Grand Central Terminal and it wasn’t because of yet another New York City winter snowstorm. Rather, the capacity crowd in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal was thrilled to witness superb squash in the semifinal showdowns at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions contested by four of the world’s best squash players. At the end of each match the crowd was on its feet for a standing ovation in appreciation of the passion and artistry brought to the evening by three Tournament of Champions titleholders and one player hoping to win his first J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions trophy.

Current world #2 and two-time Tournament of Champions titleholder Ramy Ashour delighted crowd, and sometimes even his opponent, with his unique brand of squash artistry on full display in his semifinal against fourth seed James Willstrop. “Ramy was superb tonight,” said Willstrop after losing to his Egyptian rival 11-4, 11-9,11-8 in a reversal of last year’s finals where the Englishman defeated Ashour in three games. “This was the best he’s ever played against me.”

The prodigiously talented Ashour at his best is an artist creating a canvas of squash shots that no one has ever seen before. His palette was of the highest order in the night’s first semifinal. The defending champion, who played a credible match but not his best, had no answer for the magic coming off Ramy’s racquet. Ashour pocketed the first game quickly, winning it 11-4. Willstrop mounted a challenge in the second, getting to seven all before Ashour ran off three straight points and won the game 11-9. Down 5-9 in the third game, Willstrop edged back to 8-9, with the crowd roaring encouragement in the hope of seeing the match extended. Ashour quelled that hope with two winners to take the game 11-9 and move into the finals. Before leaving the court, the two players embraced, acknowledging their respect for each other.

“James is one of the most fair and talented players,” said the winner after the match. Referring to the fact that the crowd got especially involved in third game, during which both players applauded each other’s great shots, Ashour continued, “It was intense tonight but the last game especially was fun.”

While the evening’s first match had its share of poetic moments, the second semifinal was drama of the highest order. World #1 Nick Matthew got off to a dominating start; he led the first game from start to finish, winning it 11-8. When Matthew won the second game 11-4, it looked as though the sold-out crowd would be on their way home before the evening’s snowstorm was too far along. But two-time Tournament of Champions titleholder Amr Shabana wasn’t ready to call it a night.

Drawing Matthew into several long points, the third game was all Shabana as he played himself back into the match, winning the game 11-7. The fourth game saw the lead seesaw back and forth as both players continually raised their level of play. Superb technicians each, the players used every shot in their arsenal to fight for the lead. Their tight rails didn’t leave much room for shot making, but at every opening they were looking to attack.

Matthew had two match balls at 10-9 and 12-11; after being denied a let on the first one after catching the back of Shabana’s foot on his way to the ball, Matthew was understandably perturbed. Nonetheless, he regained his composure to draw a rare unforced error from Shabana to have a chance to win the match. But the player who is acknowledged by most of his peers to be one of the great players of all time showed why that is so; Shabana hit a feather drop shot to even the score at 12 all, followed by a cross court winner to go ahead 13-12. A tin by Matthew evened the match at two games apiece, much to the crowd’s roaring delight.

The fifth game was a masterpiece of squash strategy and shotmaking by both players. The 32-year-old Egyptian was diving for balls, hitting the floor and still managing to stay in the point. Matthew was stepping forward to volley the ball as far front as he could to keep Shabana behind him. At eight all in the fifth, it was anybody’s match; the same was true at nine all. At 10 all, Shabana had to dive once more to scrape a forehand drop before it bounced twice; Matthew was all over the weak return, sliding it down the backhand wall for a winner. This time, Matthew did not let the match ball out of his grasp, hitting a precise backhand drop that produced a rare tin from Shabana. After 88 minutes of dramatic, sometimes breathtaking, squash, Matthew reached his third Tournament of Champions final.

“This match was a test at every level, of physical and mental capacity” said Matthew after the match, tired but satisfied. ”But that wasn’t surprising, considering I was playing one of the best players of all time.” In the post-match on court interview, Tournament Director John Nimick asked Matthew how the evening’s marathon match would affect his readiness for the final against Ashour. “This is what we train to do as professional athletes,” said Matthew, “so there is no reason not to be ready to do this again in 24 hours.”

Ashour, looking ahead to the final earlier in the evening before his opponent had been determined, said, “Tomorrow is the toughest match. It is not so much about the squash; it is about reaching the end of your destination. Tomorrow is about the pressure.”

ToC Women’s Showcase Exhibition
Vanessa Atkinson (Ned) bt Olivia Blatchford (Usa)
       11-9, 12-10, 11-2 (24m)

24-Jan, Quarters, Top Half:
Shabana and Matthew to Meet in Semis

Beth Rasin reports

Fourth-seeded Amr Shabana gave his opponent Laurens Jan Anjema a lesson in the art of the sport as he moved his Dutch opponent to all four corners of the court and then some in his 11-7, 9-11,11-8,11-8 quarterfinal victory at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in Grand Central Terminal.

“I played my heart out,” said Anjema after the match, “but tonight you could see why Amr’s been a four- time world champion. He can attack from the most difficult positions and when you are on the receiving end, it is brutal.”

In all but the second game, Shabana, a two-time Tournament of Champions titleholder, jumped out to an early lead, giving him a cushion of several points from which to play a controlled attacking game. Routinely throughout the match Anjema was left guessing as to which way to turn to retrieve a Shabana shot; the Egyptian’s sterling and consistent stroke technique enabled him to hold his shot until the very last moment, forcing the Dutchman to scramble for balls.

Although Anjema snared the second game 11-9, it was the telegenic Egyptian’s night from start to finish. He even offered up some theatrical humor as as he fell to the court floor with an exaggerated flourish when midway through the match the strapping Dutchman’s racquet came perilously close to Shabana’s head. After the match, when asked if he was happy wit h the evening’s result, Shabana replied, “I am not sad.”

Sometime training partners and good friends Peter Barker and Nick Matthew contested the evening’s second match with current world #1 Matthew in control from start to finish. In each successive round of play at these championship, Matthew has continued to punctuate his top ranking status with strong, confident play that has left no doubt in his competitor’s minds as to his rightful position at the top of the sport.

“I thought I played OK tonight,” said Barker after the match won by Matthew 3-0, “but Nick showed why he’s World Champion.” Barker went on to explain that Matthew’s attention to detail, strong work ethic and additional weapons in his squash shotmaking arsenal have combined to make Matthew the top professional in the game.

While the lead exchanged hands a few times in the first game before Matthew finished it out 11-9, the next two games were all Matthew’s. In the second, Matthew jumped out to a 4-1 lead and allowed Barker to tally a mere four points. Barker enjoyed a momentary lead at 2-1 and 3-2 in the third, but once again the lad from Leeds took up his game a notch to win the third, 11-6.

After the match when a spectator commented that Matthew made the game look easy, the wry 30-year-old replied, “Oh no. I am the one who makes the game look hard. Shabana makes it look easy.” The Matthew – Shabana showdown in the semifinals will be preceded by the semifinal contest between Ramy Ashour and James Willstrop. Both matches will be telecast live on espn3.com.

In the ToC Women’s Showcase exhibition match at the start of the evening, India’s Dipika Pallikal defeated American Amanda Sobhy 11-7,8-11,11-4,11-6.

New York Tine

New York Time

24-Jan, Quarters, Top Half:
Ashour and Willstrop in quickfire wins ...

Beth Rasin reports

NYC may be in a deep freeze weather-wise, but there was some real heat in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall as fans packed the stands for first two quarterfinal matches in the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions.

First up on the iconic glass court was top- seeded Ramy Ashour against eighth seed David Palmer. Going into the night’s match Ashour enjoyed a 9-1 winning record against the 34-year-old Australian. However, with Ashour having been off his game at year end due to a hamstring injury, and Palmer playing superb squash in the opening rounds of play, there was a sense of possibility that perhaps Palmer might register the tournament’s first real upset. The first game saw the lead exchanging hands on almost every point un til Palmer pulled ahead at 10-9 and then won the next point to take an early match lead.

With that positive opening gambit, the sense of a possible upset was heightened for the crowd, but not for Ashour. “Even when I was losing that first game, I was feeling good on the court,” Ashour said after the match. “Maybe I was bit concerned, but it made me push myself harder.”

The extra Ashour effort in subsequent games was immediately apparent; in games two and three Ashour never relinquished the lead. Palmer got himself back in the mix early in game four, first taking a 3-1 lead and then a 6-4 edge; one of those leading points was awarded to Palmer off a disciplinary stroke called against the animated Ashour when he stepped off court at 3-4 to have a discussion with the referee. The 23-year-old Egyptian proceeded to quash any possibility of an upset when he ran off a string of seven straight points to earn a place in the Tournament of Champions semifinals; in his four Tournament of Champions appearances, Ashour has made the semis all four times, the finals twice and has held the Trophy aloft once.

After the match, the voluble Ashour shared his enthusiasm for his progress in the championships. “It is so great to be in the semis after missing two big tournaments at the end of last year because of injuries,” he said. “I am getting better day by day, but it is not easy.” The Egyptian continued, “The injuries are still in my mind – those are my demons. I used to be thinking of only two things on court – where and how I am going to hit a shot. Now I am thinking of three things because I am also thinking about my body.”

Ashour’s semifinal challenger will be none other than defending champion James Willstrop who defeated rising Egyptian star Mohammed El Shorbagy in three straight games. In classic Egyptian style, the 20-year-old challenger, already a top ten player, came out of the starting blocks at full shooting speed to register an opening 5-0 lead. WIllstrop countered with accurate, tight rails and well-paced wide cross courts to fend off his challenger and edge out to a 6-5 lead, and then win the game 11-9.

The outcome of the second game was never in doubt as Willstrop led from start to finish. Although Willstrop also held the lead all the way through the third, El Shorbagy looked like he might extend the match when he tied the score at seven all after having been down 4-7. But the 20-year-old seventh seed tinned the ball 8-10 down, sending Willstrop into the semifinals.

“Spotless,” was how former Women’s World champion Vanessa Atkinson described the match play of boyfriend Willstrop and he didn’t disagree. “I managed to be very accurate and I was rewarded,” he said. “I was really pleased with my performance. I felt really good on court- I felt fluent and my racquet felt good.”

The Ashour- Willstrop pairing will be the third time the two have played each other in the Tournament of Champions. In his 2007 Tournament of Champions debut, Ashour beat Willstrop in the quarterfinals in a match for the ages. In 2008, Ashour again defeated Willstrop, this time in the finals to win the title. Last year was the Yorkshireman’s turn; he defeated Ashour in the finals to take the champion’s crown.

When asked if he looked forward to playing Ashour, the usually taciturn Willstrop replied with Ashour-like enthusiasm, “I do, I do, I do,” he said. “Ramy is one of the great racquet players to ever hit the ball. Right now I feel I am on a par with him and could beat him on any given day. Our matches always offer the possibility of being quite exciting and entertaining. Plus I really like the guy.”

The evening’s session of play also included two ToC Women’s Showcase exhibition matches. India’s Dipika Pallikal defeated American Olivia Blatchford 11-7,11-8,11-9.

Reigning World Junior Champion Amanda Sobhy of the USA,  fended off Natalie Grinham, Australian born but now playing under the Dutch flag, 6-11,11-5,12-10, 11-9.
23-Jan, Round Two:
All Eight seeds through to quarters ...

Beth Rasin reports

The players on court in the second round of play at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions represented a mix of styles, strategy and temperament. By the time the evening’s last match had been played in Grand Central Terminal, the draw held true to form as the seeds advanced to the quarterfinals.

The day’s play started with veteran David Palmer, who has played in every Tournament of Champions since 1995, demonstrating the form that kept him in the PSA top ten for a full decade. “David takes everything early,” said Palmer’s opponent Tom Richards after the match. “He is always in front, taking your game away.” The players exchanged the lead several times in the first game until Palmer snatched the victory at 12-10. As they played further into the match, Palmer’s precision on the rails and depth to the back court forced Richards back on his heels. Unable to get ahead of Palmer, both literally and figuratively, Richards’ Tournament of Champions debut ended as Palmer won the second game and third games, 11-9,11-8.
“I played pretty well at the end of the games,” said a satisfied Palmer after the match.

Referring to the fact that his next opponent is top seed Ramy Ashour, he continued. “It is nice to make it to the quarterfinals – there’s no pressure now going forward.”

The top-seeded Ashour dropped the first game to Australia’s Stewart Boswell. “He went for a lot of shots in the first game and missed,” said Boswell after the match,” but I l knew that he was only going to get better as the match progressed.” The creative, shot making Egyptian did find his stride in the second game and, for the remainder of the match, the 32-year-old Australian only held the lead once more at 7-6 in the fourth. “I really enjoyed playing today,” said Ashour, who struggled with injuries at the end of 2010. “I haven’t been enjoying myself for the past two or three months. But this court and these fans and this atmosphere give you the energy to produce better squash.”

Ramy’s older brother Hisham was not as happy at evening’s end when he found himself on the losing end of a five-game, physical barnburner with England’s Peter Barker, the tournament’s fifth seed. With the first four games being decided by a mere two point margin (three in tiebreaks), it was truly either player’s match to win. “Hisham has been playing awesome squash in the past few months, and I was thinking too much about winning and losing in the first two games,” said Barker. “When I was down 0-2, I had to dig deep and just focus on not losing.” The 27-year-old Englishman used solid, straight length to counter Ashour’s dynamic shotmaking and broke open the match in the fifth game, winning it 11-2.

Barker’s next opponent is world #1 Nick Matthew, who defeated friend and training partner Alister Walker 11-5,11-8,11-5. As Walker was cooling down on the training bicycle after the match, Matthew walked by and Walker called him over. “Your length was amazing tonight,” Walker said to Matthew. “That is the best you have ever played against me – it was pure measured squash.”

Another player who felt he had an especially good showing was fourth seed Amr Shabana. “I played three games as well as I could play,” said the two time Tournament of Champions titleholder after defeating England’s Daryl Selby 11-6,11-8,11-8. His opponent concurred. “Today Amr showed why he was world #1,” said Selby. “Any ball that I hit loose, he put in the nick.” The 31-year-old Egyptian will next face Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema who defeated qualifier Nicolas Mueller 11-9, 11-4, 11-3. Anjema attributed a bit of a sluggish start to jet lag and waiting for the 81-minute Ashour- Barker match to end. “The first game was a good shock to my system to get me going,” he said with a wry smile after the match.

Seventh seed Mohammed El Shorbagy rounds out the trio of Egyptians in the quarterfinals after defeating Canada’s Shahier Razik 11-9,11-5,11-6. He will contend with defending champion James Willstrop, who defeated qualifier Borja Golan 11-6,11-4,11-6.

New York Tine

New York Tine

22-Jan, Round One, Bottom half:
English and Egyptians advance ...

Beth Rasin reports

It was a day of contrasting fortunes for the five English and six Egyptian players competing in the second day of first round play in the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in Grand Central Terminal. But it was nothing but good fortune for the fans who once again filled the Grand Central Terminal venue to capacity and were treated to a day and evening of an array of squash styles, athleticism and personalities.

Four of the five players from “over the pond” won their matches to advance to the second round of the celebrated PSA squash championship while only two of the five Egyptian players on court will continue on. But it was an Egyptian player, Hisham Ashour, who punctuated the day’s play with a dramatic come from behind victory over Australia’s Cameron Pilley.

“The success of the English players is a testament, in part, to their strong physical training regimen,” observed noted coach David Pearson as he watched several of his players win their matches.

No one epitomizes strength on the squash court more than current world number one and world champion Nick Matthew. The 30-year-old from Leeds was all business as he dispatched Eyptian Omar Mosaad in three games 11-5,11-9,11-7. “The court here at Grand Central is different from what we have been playing on in the last few months,” said the tournament’s second seed. ”I was just working on finding length and getting used to the movement on the court.”

Daryl Selby started off the day’s play with a three game victory over Australian qualifier Ryan Cuskelly. The 4-11, 11-1,11-2,11-4 match scores belied the competitiveness of the match which lasted 63 minutes.

“Even though I lost the first game, I was moving well. I played with more conviction in the second,” said Selby. “He’s a gutsy, dangerous player and I didn’t want to give him any chances. When reminded of the lopsided scores in the second and third games, Selby smiled and said, “The rallies were long, but I won them all.”

Like his countrymen, Peter Barker did the simple things well – hitting accurately and to length, and capitalizing on loose balls. The net result was a “I was bit apprehensive at the start, but I feel better now that I have won,” he said after the match.

In the match that drew some of the biggest crowd reactions as the players demonstrated phenomenal athleticism in diving and scraping for certain balls, Alister Walker, world ranked #20, upended Wael El Hindi, ranked seven places higher, 7-11,11-7,11-6,11-6. Exuding energy in a bright lime green and shirt and bandana, Walker was thrilled to start his 2011 season with a win. “Last year was a bit disappointing for me so today’s win is a great start to this new year.”

Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller denied the English contingent a clean sweep of victories when he eliminated Adrian Grant 11-7,11-5,7-11,11-8.

In the only match of the day that did not involve an Englishman or an Egyptian, Lauren Jan Anjema of the Netherlands defeated Miguel Angel Rodriguez of Colombia, 11-5,11-8,11-6. “Last year was one of my best years,” said Anjema, referring to the fact that he cracked the top ten for the first time in his career. “But I went out on the court without any expectations and felt very relaxed today.”

Hisham Ashour was anything but relaxed in the evening’s last match against Australian Cameron Pilley. “I have been playing so well for the past two or three months; sometimes I would feel I was floating on court,” said the Egyptian. ”But tonight I was so stressed. ”With Pilley enjoying a 2-1 lead in games, Ashour defended against four match balls after Pilley went up 10-6 in the fourth.

Both the fans in the stands and the spectators who watched the match on the closed circuit TV feed were on the edge of their seats and cheering as Ashour used a variety of shots to keep himself alive in the match. “All I kept thinking then was that I know I am strong. I cannot lose here at the Tournament of Champions in the first round,” he said. After winning the fourth 14-12, Ashour was clearly not going to be denied. Jumping out to a 10-4 lead in the fifth, Ashour kept up the pace and the shotmaking to frustrate his Australian opponent.

Although Amr Shabana defeated his Egyptian colleague Mohammed Abbas, 7-11,11-8,11-9,11-7, he did not sound like a happy winner after the match. “I wasn’t comfortable today,” Shabana said after the match. ”I didn’t feel sharp and I feel lucky to win."
21-Jan, Round One:
Qualifiers Richards and Golan Into Second Round; Seeds Advance

New York, NY – Qualifier Tom Richards registered the first upset at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions as he eliminated Malaysia’s Ong Beng Hee in three games in the first round of play in Grand Central Terminal. The unassuming 24-year-old Englishman secured the first game without too much difficulty, winning 11-6.

Although pushed to a tiebreak in the second and third games by the more experienced Malaysian, who had defeated Richards in their prior two outings, Richards remained calm and secured the victory with identical 12-10 winning scores. “Our other matches were close, so I knew I had a shot to win today,” said Richards after the match. Although it was his first time on the iconic glass court in Grand Central Terminal, Richards was remarkably composed. “I was a little bit nervous, which is a good sign for me,” he said after the match. He was most surprised by the size of the mid-afternoon crowd, which filled the nearly 500 seats. “Having a full crowd for a first round match like we had today is pretty amazing,” Richards explained. “It really helped lift my game.”

Richards will next face the oldest player in the draw, 34-year-old David Palmer, who has played in every Tournament of Champions since it was first staged in Grand Central Terminal in 1995. Palmer eliminated the lone American in the draw, Julian Illingworth. With crowd enthusiastically applauding every point, the 24-year-old American drew even with his seasoned opponent at nine- all in the third game, but the veteran shut the door on the match by winning the next two points. In his post-match analysis, Palmer noted, “I felt in control for most of the match, but I did struggle to pull away. I definitely did not want to go into a fourth game.”

The evening prior to his Tournament of Champions debut, 20-year-old Mohammed El Shorbagy was recognized as the 2010 Young Player of the Year at the World Squash Awards. El Shorbagy, who had been unable to compete in the Tournament of Champions in prior years because the tournament dates conflicted with school exams, made sure to finish his exams a week early this year so he could make it to New York City for the tournament so revered by the players.

The young Egyptian lived up to his award-winning status in his 3-0 first round win over the more experienced Azlan Iskandar. El Shorbagy enjoyed fairly comfortable leads in the first two games which he won 11-8, 11-8. Although Iskandar pulled even at 10-all in the third game, El Shorbagy stepped up to close out the match 12-10.

“I was really excited to be playing my first match here in Grand Central and in the first game I was trying to hit a lot of winners to please the crowd,” the fast-talking El Shorbagy said after the match. ”Then I realized I needed to focus and vary the pace.” Like his fellow Tournament of Champions rookie Richards, El Shorbagy was amazed by the capacity crowd at his evening match. “You never see a crowd like this at a first round match,” he said. “It makes a player want to be his very best.”

El Shorbagy will next play his good friend Shahier Razik. The 33-year-old Canadian needed five games to overcome qualifier Chris Ryder to make it to the second round. The two had never met in competition before. “I am always a little nervous playing someone I have never played, because you don’t know quite what to expect,” said Razik. Referring to his 11-6 first game win, he continued, “I started pretty well and thought I was going to make it through, but then Chris changed his game and I didn’t adjust right away.” After losing the next two games 6-11, 8-11, Razik picked up the pace with which he was hitting the ball and made sure to hit into the deep corners in the back of the court. The change in strategy turned the match around and Razik won the next two games 11-7,11-5.

After his win, the veteran Canadian reflected on the appeal of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions for the players. “The Grand Central venue, which is amazing, stays the same, but every year the tournament gets bigger and better,” Razik said. “There is always a big build up to this event for the players starting in December; as we go on our December holiday break, everyone says ‘I’ll see you at the ToC.’”

Defending champion James Willstrop limited his time on court in his first round match against fellow Englishman Jonathon Kemp to just under 30 minutes. It was a commanding performance by the 27-year-old; he did not fall behind in the entire match, winning 11-5, 11-7, 11-5. “My dad has said that you are most likely to perform well in the places in which you are most comfortable,” said Willstrop, who is coached by his father Malcolm, after the match. “That is certainly true for me here at the Tournament of Champions. Coming here is special, even more so this year after having won last year.”

Willstrop’s next opponent, Borja Golan, must be feeling comfortable in New York City. After winning two qualifying matches to make it into the main draw, Golan defeated fellow qualifier Tarek Momen in their first round encounter, 11-9,11-7,11-8. “I have never won so many matches in New York City,” the exuberant Spaniard said after the match. Although Momen took an early lead in all three games, Golan caught up to tie the score at the midway mark of each. The players exchanged the lead over the next few points in each game until Golan surged slightly ahead to secure victory.

Australian Stewart Boswell and India’s Saurav Ghosal played the first and the longest match of the opening day of play. Boswell won the first game by a five point margin after which the 24-year-old Ghosal jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the second. The 32-year-old Aussie surged back to secure the game 11-8. Boswell was unable to convert two game balls in the third, which was tallied 16-14 in Ghosal’s favor. The fourth was all Boswell, who took the lead at 2-1 and then didn’t relinquish it, winning the game 11-5 to seal the match in his favor after 70 minutes of play. The veteran Australian was pleased with the victory. “For as long as I play squash, I want to be here at the Tournament of Champions and make the most of it.”

Boswell will face top seeded Ramy Ashour in the second round. The 23-year-old Egyptian defeated 34-year-old Olli Tuominen of Finland in straight games. “It was a good first round match,” Ashour said, “It was a balanced test- not too easy and not too hard.” The 2008 titleholder was determined be playing for the 2011 title, despite some injuries in the latter part of last year. “I am really excited to be here,” he said. “I did not want to miss this tournament.” The prodigiously talented Ashour even put a positive spin on his recent injuries. “Being injured has had some advantages,” he noted. “It has made me more mature on court and it has put me in touch with how to really take care of my body.”


New York Tine

The players in the opening day of play earned a total of $2,950 to be donated by J.P. Morgan to CitySquash in conjunction with the inaugural J.P. Morgan Charity Challenge – Scoring Points for Urban Youth Education for the benefit of tournament charities StreetSquash and CitySquash.

For every game won in the championship, J.P. Morgan is donating up to $150 to the tournament charities. The players in the top half of draw are playing for the benefit of StreetSquash; the other half is competing for CitySquash.

Each player will earn $100 for his charity for every game he wins and an additional $50 for every game won in a tiebreaker. With a total of 31 matches to be played, the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions competitors will earn a minimum of $9,300, up to a maximum of $15,500, to be donated

New York Tine

World Squash Awards
2010 at Grand Central


20-Jan, Qualifying Finals
Richards and Ryder to Make
Grand Central Debut

New York, NY – England’s Tom Richards and Chris Ryder will both make their Grand Central Terminal debuts in the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions while the remaining six qualifying spots were earned by players who will be making return trips to the breathtaking glass court.

Richards earned his main draw appearance by defeating Australia’s Raj Nanda in four games. “I have seen the pictures of the court here in Grand Central in the magazines and playing here is something I have always wanted to do,” said the satisfied qualifier after his match. Ryder had an even more straightforward victory to get him to Grand Central. Exchanging the lead on every point to six all in the first game, Ryder pulled ahead of New Zealander Martin Knight at the midway mark to win the game and never looked back. His 3-0 victory sends him to a first round match up with Canada’s Shahier Razik.

Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller returns to Grand Central Terminal for the second consecutive year after outlasting England’s Bradley Ball to earn a main draw berth against Adrian Grant, another Englishman. In a match marked by multiple shifts in momentum and moments of remarkable athleticism, Mueller needed five games to secure his stay in New York City. Ball, a PSA tour veteran who now resides and coaches in New York City, snatched the first game 11-9.

After winning the next two games 11-6, 11-6, the Swiss player seemingly had the match in hand when he had a couple of game balls in the fourth. Ball wasn’t ready to get off the court, though, and forced a fifth game decider after winning the game 13-11. Mueller steadied himself win the deciding game 11-5. “It was a tough match and Bradley didn’t let me play my game,” said Mueller. “I had a couple of match balls that I gave away, but it was good to come back and win in the fifth.”

In a physical and fiercely contested match, Egypt’s Mohammed Abbas retrieving capacity and superior shotmaking carried the day against Canada’s Shawn Delierre, who was defeated in four games. Relegated to the qualifying draw because of a series of injuries in the past two years, Abbas was delighted to earn his fifth trip to the glass court in Grand Central. “It is one of the best places to play. It is amazing,” said Abbas who will face countryman and friend Amr Shabana, the #4 seed, in Saturday’s first round match.

Playing error free squash, Spain’s Borja Golan wore down Germany’s Simon Rosner in four games to also earn his fifth trip to the Grand Central glass court where he will face another qualifier, Tarek Momen. The 22-year-old Egyptian, who was too strong, too quick and had too many shots for Canadian David Phillips, cruised to a 3-0 victory. In a fast paced match marked by great retrieving, Australian Ryan Cuskelly’s hustle and attacking, offensive play carried the day against France’s Gregoire Marche. Cuskelly’s four game victory earned him a first round encounter with Englishman Daryl Selby.

Hisham Ashour abounded with confidence as he schooled Princeton University standout David Letourneau in the finer points of the professional game with a 27-minute 11-3,11-7,11-6 victory. “I feel this is where I should be,” said Ashour of his main draw berth, referring to the fact that he was ranked #29 when the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions main draw was made in December, but now stands at #18 in the world rankings. Ashour joins eight other Egyptian players, including his younger brother Ramy, seeded #1, in the 32-player championship draw.

While the qualifiers were battling for the final eight places in the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions main draw, the Grand Central venue was the place to be for the rest of the squash world. A glittering and glamorous crowd representing the best of squash, both past and present, gathered to honour the outstanding players of the 2010 season in professional squash.

The J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions second seed Nick Matthew received Player of the Year honors and seventh seed Mohammed El Shorbagy was recognized as Young Player of the Year.
Qualifying under way in NY

While construction of the famed glass court in Grand Central Terminal received finishing touches, players from 15 countries battled at four New York City clubs to qualify for the main draw in the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, the world’s largest spectator squash event.

New Zealand’s Martin Knight and Mexico’s Eric Galvez kicked off the qualifying play with the longest match of the evening. At the conclusion of their 92 minute contest, Knight was the player left standing.

The Kiwi got off to an auspicious start, winning the first game 11-4. Two ensuing nip and tuck games put Galvez in the lead, 2-1. Both players were feeling fatigued by the fourth game.

“My legs were starting to feel quite heavy,” Knight said.”But when I looked over at Eric, he seemed to be in worse shape than me, which gave me confidence.” Knight’s renewed energy was parlayed into a five game victory, as he won the last two games with ease, 11-3, 11-4.

Knight’s next opponent, Englishman Chris Ryder, took a straight game victory over USA’s Gilly Lane.

Applying relentless pressure from start to finish, Princeton University standout and Canadian David Letourneau wasted no time in making his way into the next round, eliminating England’s Luke Butterworth in straight games in a scant 23 minutes. Letourneau will next face veteran Bradley Ball, an Englishman now residing in New York City’ who had too much experience for Yale University’s Todd Harrity.

The young American did wrest the second game from his more seasoned opponent. “I had no idea how good he was,” said Ball about the young American after the match. Tightening up his drives and increasing the pace on the ball was the winning combination as Ball snatched the final two games 11-6,11-6.

Egyptian veteran Mohammed Abbas further dashed local hopes when he eliminated New York City native Chris Gordon in four games.

The 30-year-old from Cairo, ranked as high as #13 in the world, recovered after losing the first game to win the next three. “I love the game, it is what I do,” Abbas said after the match, explaining his desire to continue playing despite a series of injuries sustained in the past few years.

Abbas will next have to overcome Canada’s Shawn Delierre, who defeated New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson in straight games.

Rounding out the trio of Canadians moving on in the draw is David Phillips, who ousted Czechoslovakia’s Jan Koukal in four games.

World Squash Awards
2010 at Grand Central


Tournament of Champions
attracts World's top players to NY

The world's best squash players have confirmed their entries in the  Tournament of Champions, to be played at Grand Central Terminal in New York from 21-27 January 2011. The long-established event will be the first PSA World Series event of the New Year.

"It is entirely fitting that we have a glittering field of players to compete in the sport's grandest venue for one of its most coveted titles," said Tournament Director John Nimick.

Defending champion James Willstrop is also upbeat about the NY event:

"I am immensely excited about the prospect of coming to New York to play the ToC again. New York has always been the most pulsating event on the Tour and my favourite. After last year's win, my affection for the event has only increased," added the Englishman.

"There is just no atmosphere like Grand Central and I will try to be in my best shape for it. The very best players will be there, and we are all vying for positions at the top of the world order, so the contest should be red hot."

Four players entered in the draw have held the world No1 ranking, three of whom have also captured the prestigious Tournament of Champions trophy. The three returning title-holders are defending champion Willstrop, and Egypt's Amr Shabana and Ramy Ashour.

Nick Matthew, who became the first Englishman to win the World Open when he captured that title this month, will be the top-ranked player in the field having become world number one in the January PSA rankings.

The tournament field includes 24 of the top 27 players in the world. Players representing 21 countries will compete in the Tournament of Champions, including American Julian Illingworth. A native of Portland, Oregon, who now resides in New York City, Illingworth has achieved the highest international ranking ever of any US player.

While the top ranking players in the men's professional ranks vie for one of the sport's most coveted crowns, amateur players will compete in the Grand Open, a companion citywide tournament run by the Metropolitan Squash Racquets Association and top junior players will contest the ToC Junior Open.

The championship debuted as the US Professional Championship in 1930 and was renamed the Tournament of Champions in 1993.

Truly living up to its name, all but four of the Tournament of Champions titleholders have either been No1 in the world rankings or a World Champion.

ToC 2010


World Squash Awards
2010 at Grand Central



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