TODAY at the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic
Sun 9th March 2008:
Qualifying Finals

It was a multinational lineup that won through to the main draw, with an Englishman, an Egyptian, a Hungarian and a South African booking their dates on the all-glass court in Canary Wharf next week ...
Qualifying Draw
08-Mar, Round One 09-Mar, Finals
Chris Ryder (Eng)
11/6, 11/7, 11/3 (41m)
Ben Ford (Eng)
plays Beachill
Chris Ryder  Q
11/6, 11/5, 8/11, 11/1 (60m)
Scott Arnold
Scott Arnold (Aus)
11/5, 11/6, 11/4 (32m)
Neil Hitchens (Eng)
Saurav Ghosal (Ind)
11/8, 8/11, 12/14, 11/7, 11/8 (85m)
Tom Richards (Eng)
Saurav Ghosal
7/11, 11/7, 11/8, 14/12 (55m)
 Q Mohammed
El Shorbagy Q
plays Gough
Julien Balbo (Fra)
13/11, 11/6, 6/4 rtd (27m)
Mohammed El Shorbagy (Egy)
Simon Rosner (Ger)
11/2, 11/7, 11/8 (33m)
Joe Lee (Eng)
Simon Rosner
8/11, 7/11, 11/8, 11/6, 11/9 (73m)
Q Mark Krajcsak Q
plays Willstrop
Robbie Temple (Eng)
11/8, 11/5, 11/6 (35m)
Mark Krajcsak (Hun)
Jon Harford (Eng)
11/8, 15/13, 7/11, 4/11, 11/3 (85m)
Jesse Engelbrecht (Rsa)
plays Lavigne
Q Jesse Engelbrecht Q
11/7, 11/5, 11/0 (32m)
Stacey Ross
Phil Nightingale (Eng)
4/11, 11/8, 11/8, 11/5 (45m)
Stacey Ross (Eng)




Qualifying finals at Wimbledon ... Framboise reports

Chris Ryder  bt Scott Arnold   11/6, 11/5, 8/11, 11/1 (60m)


Same style of game for these two players today, taking a lot from the back wall, a bit of a traditional game, and at that game Chris was that much more accurate today.

Only thing I would say, Scott has got such a potential, which in my eyes he is not using. His height, his physical power would allow him to attack and volley, David Palmer style, but at the moment he is giving too much time to his opponent to adjust his shots. He would need to “let go”, enjoy and free himself of all the things he learnt. At the moment, it’s like he is still trying to do good squash… Let it shine, Scott, just let it shine.

Chris was superb today, patient, precise, intelligent, and as both the players were fair and moving well, we had only five calls during the whole match, despite some astonishing long and  well-contested rallies.

A fair match for two fair players…

"I don’t think that either of us was hunting the ball enough today by volleying, I’m not sure why, because I’m a much better player when I do volley.

"I was winning the points at the back, but not by enough.

"In the third, all credit to him, he played very well, didn’t make any mistakes, and I’m happy with the way I changed my game for the better in the fourth, it doesn’t always work like that, does it!"

"I think I’m thinking so much about not getting stressed before the match that when I get on court, I get in a bad rhythm, just keeping the ball up and down the wall.

"And against Chris, you can’t do that, you need to go up and control the game…"

Ryder family support: brother Edward, mum Caroline mum, dad Alan & sister Louise

"Yes, I was a bit tired from yesterday, the legs were not as strong as they could have been, and when I was going to the front and trying to come back, it was very hard…

"The fact I was tired had very little influence on the match. When we met in Calcutta I was lucky enough to push through the crucial points. This time, he was the one who played the crucial points well. There was not much in it today, like there were not much in it in Calcutta."

Mohammed El Shorbagy bt Saurav Ghosal
      7/11, 11/7, 11/8, 14/12 (55m)


Boy, I feel empowered, sorry people, but it’s not every day that a player not only reads what I scribble, but also takes it on board…

So, Flash Shorbaby was much more patient eventually, once the nerves had settled down (he went 7/0 in the first) of course. Needless to say that the 85 minutes match poor Saurav had the day before couldn’t not have an influence on the encounter, although he is extremely fit, and helped the junior in the end.

Still, I guess all the spectators will remember the astonishing attacking from the Egyptian. I’ll remember what the Indian saved and retrieved in that fourth game in particular, when his legs were obviously gone, and that he was still running, and still counterattacking beautifully.

The pace was so fast, the attacking incessant, still, good length, good width, and excellent squash and sportsmanship from both players again. It was a very good match of squash, with all the emotions that we felt not only from the players, but also from Basma, Mohamed’s mum, who lived his match point by point, as if she was holding the racquet herself…

"Yesterday, I read your words, and they stuck to my mind. So today, I tried to be more patient. I was not to start with, but I got more and more patient as the match unfolded…

"Saurav is so fast, I knew that I had to be quick at the volley, but also, prevent him from cutting the ball by playing close to the tin…

"At 9/5 in the fourth I lost a bit of concentration, I was very tired, and thank God I won that game, because I think I would have been in a lot of trouble if I hadn’t… I’m so lucky he had a long game yesterday, and I’m happy to have taken my revenge from Calcutta.

"I’m so looking forward to tomorrow, and I’ll do my best…"



Mark Krajcsak  bt Simon Rosner
          8/11, 7/11, 11/8, 11/6, 11/9 (73m)


Do you remember that TV series from the 80s, the Persuaders? You had that splendidly English Lord, Brett Sinclair, and the American Self Made Millionaire from the Bronx, Danny Wilde? Well, I’m not sure why, but that match reminded me a bit of that feel. One tall, stylish, graceful mover, Simon; and Mark, the other one, aggressive on the ball, short wrong footing game, retrieving every ball as if his life depended on it… Simon was doing his best, playing superbly, but was never able to shake that desperate player off his back…

But honestly, a great match, a few calls I may not completely agree with, some no lets that seemed harsh, but then again, what do I know, and nothing between the players, 9/9 in the fifth…

It all came down to splendid retrieving from Mark at that point, honestly, very few people would have saved what he got back, a superb rally that went on forever, that set up match ball for Krajcsak that he won with a cracking crosscourt kill nick that rolled along the floor…

I didn’t even try to speak with Simon. He didn’t do anything wrong, but Mark was that much more desperate to win today …

"I lost so many matches from 2/0 up, or 2/0 down. But today, I didn’t tell myself that 2/0 down was going to be too much to come back from. I just took it a game at a time, and just kept pushing…

"In the third I changed my game a bit, I picked up the pace, and that's the moment Simon chose to get a bit tired…

"The fifth game was extremely tiring, both mentally and physically, and I just had to go for that shot on match ball. It was probably one of my best shots ever, and to get it on match ball makes it even better…

"This court doesn’t suit my game, I can’t wait to play on the glass court, it’s much more fun… And although I qualified for bigger events, like a Super Series in Hong Kong, I never qualified for a 5 star event… I’m really happy!"

"If I was perfectly in control in the first two games, come the third, I was totally out of control, I have no idea why. I suddenly had no length at all, and he started to accelerate, and made me run an awful lot, which tired me…

"I got a few surprising calls, but I just got on with it. On a few occasions, I lost my temper, got angry, and that turned against me. So now, I just try and put it to the back of my mind…

"The fifth could have been anybody’s, he got lucky with a few shots, especially the last one, but then again, I got a few lucky shots myself…"


Jesse Engelbrecht bt Stacey Ross
11/7, 11/5, 11/0 (32m)


This situation, getting injured while warming up, reminded me of Simon Parke telling me that he never got injured more than since he stopped playing the circuit full time. As Stacey has, him also, slowed down and is not training as hard as he was, the situation is similar…

Still, they gave the audience a nice close to the day for a game and a half of nice game, squash rules explanations with the lovely Claire Baker, little chat between mates…

It was very entertaining, till Stacey started to clearly limp, but didn’t want to deprive his opponent of a true victory, hence stayed and hit until the last ball…

"I was a bit afraid of Stacey, he was a bit like an injured buffalo, and you know what they do when they are injured? They hunt you down… And that’s a bit what he did today!

"I feel sorry for him, because he is at the twilight of his career, and getting an injury like that is not what you wish for. Still, we played against each other so many times, it allowed us to know each other quite well, we had a little social chat on the court…. It was very pleasant…

"Now I come to think of it, this is the biggest tournament I ever qualified for! It’s a little bitter-sweet victory, because of Stacey’s condition, but I’ll take the opportunity…"


Shorbagy sets up
showdown with Gough

Roundup from Alan Thatcher

Egyptian teenage sensation Mohamed El Shorbagy held his nerve in a tense tiebreak to beat India’s Saurav Ghosal to reach the first round proper of the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic.

The 17-year-old Millfield student will be firmly in the spotlight as he features in the tournament's opening match against Welsh veteran Alex Gough, who is still playing solid squash at the age of 37.

Shorbagy started nervously today against India's World No.49 Ghosal, who began in fiery mood, reeling off the first six points of the match to establish an unassailable lead in the opening game. However, Shorbagy decided it was time to open his box of tricks and he took control of the match with some outrageous shots and breathtaking retrieving.

Shorbagy held the lead throughout he second and third games and looked poised for a comfortable victory as he led 9-5 in the fourth. However, Ghosal produced a succession of winners to draw level and take it to a tiebreak. Shorbagy held match ball at 11-10 but Ghosal continued to dig in despite the effects of an 95-minute match the previous day. Ghosal won the next two points to reach game ball at 12-11, but Shorbagy regained his composure to reel off the final three points to book a place in the first round after 53 minutes of breathtaking squash, full of stunning winners and incredible pick-ups from both players.

Despite the 20-year age gap, Shorbagy is confident his all-out attacking flair will translate to the glass court at Canary Wharf's East Wintergarden in this PSA Five Star World Tour event.

Shorbagy said: "This is the draw I wanted. I am so looking forward to playing on the glass court in front of a big crowd."

England's Chris Ryder faces a difficult first round task against Yorkshire's former world No.1 Lee Beachill, while Hungarian Mark Krajcsak faces Willstrop's Pontefract team-mate James Willstrop, the reigning champion and No.2 seed.

South Africa No.1 Jesse Engelbrecht meets Renan Lavigne of France after easing his way past England's Stacey Ross, who was suffering from a calf injury.

08-Mar, Day One:

Framboise reports

Nice relaxed day here I must say, in a club that I know very well, as I used to play squash here - when I still had knees that is - where everybody has been so friendly and helpful.

Nice to see the qualifiers… It’s all very nice to cover the main, you know, lights and photographers and big audiences…. But the qualifiers, they work bleeping hard, and deserve the spotlight and recognition too, you know… And for me nothing beats a traditional glassback only court, where you are so close to the players, so close to their feelings and emotions… The rest is… make-up for the crowd, isn’t it…? Nice and all, but nice to see them without it sometimes.

Nice to see the babies grow too, you know. Thomas Garner, from the Garner dynasty, Tim’s nephew, who is already climbing up high scaffolding, and who I feel will be bold and strong. And he is so photogenic, don’t you think? Ben [Beachill] hold on to your racquet, you’ve got competition coming up…

But how not to mention the saviour of the day, Robbie Temple, who lend us his hat to do the draw. Without him, we would have been lost souls, we would. Shame it didn’t bring him luck though… There is no justice in the world…

Today, no big upset really, except poor Jon Harford who got the worst draw he could, as he was seeded #8, and pulled Jesse Engelbrecht, #9, a great five setter.

Tough day for Stacey Ross, who got injured, but still managed to win – that’s called experience, dear – Julien Balbo, stiff neck, bad luck against Flash Shorbagy on a great nicks’ day, great match between Tom Richards and Saurav Ghosal, as Tom said “All that work for nothing”…

Tomorrow, I’m doubtful about Stacey’s condition, and would probably give my preference to Jesse because of that, but for the three others, I’m not betting a pound on anybody, I would be too sure to lose…  See you at three in Wimbledon people…

Match by Match ...

Chris Ryder (Eng) bt Ben Ford (Eng)   11/6, 11/7, 11/3 (41m)


Those two offered a very enjoyable game of squash today, in an excellent and very fair atmosphere. They both moved well, stroked well. What made the difference in the first game was that Chris got some lucky breaks that swung the match in his favour, and also he found some excellent width that prevented Ben to play his forte, his volleying…

At the end, Chris made Ben work very hard, and Ben just got a bit tired…

"In the first game, I was quite wooden, I only started to play well in the third, although I felt I was controlling the game rather well.

"But it has to be said that I was so lucky today, I seemed to find some funny nicks at something like 8/6, that brought me to 9/6, and could have been 7/8, which would have made a big difference…

"I think he was in one of those days, he played some very good shots, a few were lucky yes, but overall, he played some great nicks. I thought I played well, in particularly in the first, where I was attacking well, but after that, he started playing better, and returned more and more, and I found myself doing most of the running, and I’m not fit enough for that!!!!"

Jesse Engelbrecht (Rsa) bt Jon Harford (Eng)
      11/8, 15/13, 7/11, 4/11, 11/3 (85m)


You never know what’s going to happen when you have Jesse on court, as he is able to show the best and the worst. This boy is so gifted, but his brain sometimes gets disconnected from the rest of the body, and he can actually string tins as I can eat meringues … endlessly.

Still today, he nearly played a tinless first two games, only to get caught by the change of pace of his opponent in the next two. Still, Jon had to push so hard to get some faster pace that he emptied the tank, and had not much left in the fifth…

"Jesse played very well today, especially in the first, but I should have won the second, I had game balls. Still, I reacted well, by hitting through the ball better, by being more positive.

"But in the fifth I gave some cheap tins away right at the start, then a string of tins in the middle of the game, felt not that well in fact…

"I didn’t play too bad, Jess played better…"

"Sometimes I like to make my life harder, I need to get fit, you know!!!!

"In the third, he picked up the pace, whereas the pace was fine for me in the first two, I was comfortable.

"Suddenly, all credit to him, he changed his game, forced me to go for shots and make some errors. And in the fourth, he was all over me really!

"But he overtried a bit, not that he had much choice, he had to do something after the first two, and it took the wind out of his sails in the 5th. I took a good start, he got a bit tired, and at 5/3, he hit three tins in a row, and it was all drive home from there…"


Scott Arnold (Aus) bt  Neil Hitchens (Eng)
      11/5, 11/6, 11/4 (32m)


The feel I got from that match was that 1. Scott Arnold looks soooo much like Bozza, same backhand, same straight back, same long neck, and same style of game really. 2. That he never doubted his victory. 3. That Neil Hitchens didn’t have the right answers today…

Well, it has to be stressed that the Australian seemed to hit so hard, and volley, and lob, but most of all, seemed to find a perfect length and width at each shot, pushing his opponent further back on the glass wall, preventing him from having any kind of pressure on the match, although Neil played as well as it could be expected..

It was the first time I saw Scott play. Something tells me it won’t be the last…

"I feel I was playing well today, I took a good start, which always helps to settle in a match and relax. I still had to keep an eye on his short game, as he can really find some shots, even from the back…

"During the League season, I’m staying in Leeds, where I train with Aaron Frankcomb and Ali Walker, and that has helped me a lot. But there are so many tournaments, it’s hard to find the time to train… Still, playing with them has been a great help…"

"Scott is on the ball very early, and his length today was so much better than mine, and allowed him to control the rallies by dragging me off the T.

"Also, in the first game, I was a bit negative. I was a bit more positive in the second, and it seemed to work in parts, but I was not consistent enough…"

Stacey Ross (Eng) bt Phil Nightingale (Eng)
           4/11, 11/8, 11/8, 11/5 (45m)


”It’s the first time this ever happened to me”, commented Stacey Ross at the end of his match…. Well, he pulled a muscle while warming up, and was not able to really move today, especially in the front left corner.

But it’s so hard to play an injured player, and Phil Nightingale was not able to take advantage of his opponent's misfortune.

Let’s see how Stacey’s leg reacts tomorrow…

Saurav Ghosal (Ind) bt Tom Richards (Eng)
    11/8, 8/11, 12/14, 11/7, 11/8 (85m)


Splendid match, although with a few interruptions for a bit of discussion with the ref from both players, an astonishing backhand crosscourt nick from behind him – Ramyesque, commented Jon Harford - in the second from Tom, a third game which could have been anybody’s, some great rallies, great retrieving…

Simply a great dog fight, and when two players get to 7/7, it’s a bit of a toss of a coin really. Today, Saurav prevailed…

"I played the first game well, and won it rather comfortably, but at 6/6 in the second, I lost a bit of concentration. Taking the second game gave him a lot of confidence…

"The third went his way, it could have been anybody’s really, but I went a bit too defensive, I saw he was tired, and told myself to keep him in the rallies as long as possible, which is not my natural game anyway…

"In the fifth I took a small lead, then we went up 7/6, but by then my width had gotten better, he was not able to find winners with his volleys as he had been doing in the rest of the match, I picked the pace up, he got a bit tired, and that helped…!"

"At 8/7 in the fifth I felt good! But then, a couple of silly errors…

"Saurav is so tough to play when he is running everywhere, picking up everything, he is so quick, quick hands too…

"From the middle of the first, I felt heavy in the legs, not too bad, but not 100%, and against somebody as fast as Saurav….

"I feel that I had a good chance in the fourth, I was up 5/2, and I should have won the few next rallies. But instead of that, I just made a couple of silly errors, and got him back into it…"

"I struggled to get past him, he is so good in the middle, he volleys well… I wasn’t making my life easy, and my length kept getting shorter and shorter …

"In the second and third I played better, and in the third, I felt I was a bit unlucky, something like at 6/6, we had a very long rally, and I just clipped the ball, then had a few decisions that didn't go my way, although they were the right ones, and then, a few silly errors, and that was it…"

Simon Rosner (Ger) bt Joe Lee (Eng) 11/2, 11/7, 11/8 (33m)


Oh boy. Simon didn’t intend to take any prisoners today, and he tried to hit Joe off the court. Basically, it worked.

Simon hit as hard as he could, pushed Joe out of his comfort zone, prevented him from adjusting his shots at the front, pushing him to make the error. But Joe adapted very well in the second and at the start of the third, by getting the control back, finding some good length and a good balance and variety of shots.

Still, I felt that Simon was the more stable mentally, and kept a firm grip on the whole encounter. And the few lethal errors that Joe made in the third at the crucial times proved me right… A bit more tuning with the brain, and Joe will be very dangerous, very dangerous indeed…

"I tried my best to put as much pressure on him as I could, to prevent him from taking control of the rallies, because if you let him control the middle, he kills you!

"In the second and third, we were very close mid game, he speeded up the game, and I was the one who had to slow the rallies down, again trying to prevent him from controlling the rallies… He is so dangerous when he hits the ball so hard at the front, you’ve got to keep him under control all the time.."

Mohammed El Shorbagy (Egy) bt Julien Balbo (Fra)
        13/11, 11/6, 6/4 rtd (27m)


We will never know what the outcome of the match would have been if my compatriot hadn’t had a stiff neck, but that surely didn’t help against Flash Shorbagy, who gets on the ball so fast he actually finds himself too close to it sometimes!

This boy doesn’t like rallies, that’s for sure. Mind you, if I was finding nicks as he finds them, every other shot, I don’t think I would be going for the traditional up and down the wall either…

Julien did his best, finding some great shots himself, and taking the punishment with grace. But when you can’t turn your head to see where the gun shots are coming from, hard to stay alive really…

Still, Mohamed displayed some astonishing talent and timing. This boy feels the perfect time to play the perfect shot. One cannot help comparing his short game with Ramy’s. But it’s early days yet… Patience is a word he’ll need to learn to progress to the next level maybe…?

"This morning I woke up with a stiff neck, but I still tried to see what I could do. If I had taken the first game, I could have had a chance against him, maybe not next year though!

"But from 2/0 down, you need to be able to push through and speed up the pace, and I just couldn't do that, every movement on the left was excruciating... So, I had to stop..."

"My shots were good today, so I kept on playing them. If they hadn’t been that good, I wouldn’t have gone on playing them, it would have been silly, I would have been more patient.

"But I varied the pace well today, I took the ball early, like I like…

"I played Saurav in Calcutta last month, and he won 3/1 in a tight match. So I hope that tomorrow, he’ll be VERY TIRED from his match against Tom…

"Also, I wanted to thank my mum for coming to support me today…"

Roundup from Alan Thatcher

Teenage sensation Mohamed El Shorbagy looks set to join the ruling Egyptian squash dynasty.

The 17-year-old Millfield student produced a devastating display of outrageous winners as he beat French opponent Julien Balbo in the first qualifying round of the ISS Canary Wharf Classic at the Wimbledon Rackets Club.

Balbo conceded in the third game with a stiff neck, which was probably caused by all the twisting and turning he was required to do as Shorbagy unleashed a mind-boggling repertoire of shots. The most memorable was the winner that took him to game ball in the second. Down on one knee at the back of the court, he unleashed a straight kill that died in the nick at the front right of the court.

Tomorrow he meets India’s Saurav Ghosal, who will need all his renowned speed around the court to contain the Egyptian sensation. Ghosal may well be suffering from the exertions of today’s marathon encounter with Surrey’s Tom Richards, who folded at the closing stages of the firth game as Ghosal squeezed home 11-8 after an 85-minute battle.

South Africa No.1 Jesse Engelbrecht survived a determined fightback from Gloucestershire's Jonny Harford. Engelbrecht won a marathon  second game to open up a two-game lead but Harford produced a courageous recovery to draw level and take the match to a decider.

However, his energy levels were depleted by his efforts and Engelbrecht eased home 11-3 in the final game to complete victory in 85 minutes.

Engelbrecht now meets the vastly experienced Stacey Ross, who overcame his Surrey team-mate Phil Nightingale despite a niggling calf injury that hampered his movement around the court. Nightingale, from Reigate, took the opening game but Wimbledon-based Ross made full use of his superior racket skills to book his place in the qualifying finals.

Earlier, the top qualifying seed, Hertfordshire's Chris Ryder, eased past Kent's Ben Ford in straight games to set up a qualifying final with Australia’s Scott Arnold, who powered past England’s Neil Hitchens.