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J.P. Morgan
Tournament of Champions 2013
16-24 Jan, New York, $115k + $25k

25-Jan, Finals:

[4] Natalie Grinham (Ned) 3-0 [3] Kasey Brown (Aus)                   11/6, 11/6, 11/5 (42m)

[4] Ramy Ashour (Egy) 3-2 [3] Grégory Gaultier (Fra) 7/11, 6/11, 12/10, 11/3, 11/1 (72m)


Ramy comeback denies Greg as
Natalie retains title in Grand Central

Beth Rasin reports

World #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.

“The 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 expression.

The 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. .

Ashour, 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 Egyptian people.”

Natalie defends ToC title

Natalie Grinham successfully defended her J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions title with a dominating straight games victory over Kasey Brown, 11-6,11-6,11-5.

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.”

Although 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 nervousness.”

“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 Champions again.”

Tournament of Champions 2013
16-24 Jan, New York, $115k
Round One
18/19 Jan
Round Two
20 Jan
21/22 Jan
23 Jan
24 Jan
[1] James Willstrop (Eng)
 11/3, 11/5, 11/5
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Col)
[1] James Willstrop
10/12, 11/8, 11/2, 11/6 (61m)
Tarek Momen
[1] James Willstrop

 12/10, 11/2, 11/4 (42m)

Steve Coppinger

[1] James Willstrop

 5/11, 11/8, 12/10, 10/12, 11/4 (72m)

[4] Ramy Ashour

[4] Ramy Ashour


 7/11, 6/11, 12/10, 11/3, 11/1 (72m)


[3] Gregory Gaultier

Tarek Momen (Egy)
 11/1, 11/6, 11/8 (25m)
[Q] Shawn Delierre (Can)
Adrian Grant (Eng)
6/11, 9/11, 11/4, 11/5, 11/8 (88m)
Cameron Pilley (Aus)
Adrian Grant
11/6, 11/9, 7/11, 9/11, 11/1 (89m)
Steve Coppinger
[5] Peter Barker (Eng)
12/10, 11/6, 6/11, 11/1 (68m)
Steve Coppinger (Rsa)
[8] Omar Mosaad (Egy)
11/7, 7/11, 11/8, 11/5 (47m)
Nicolas Mueller (Sui)
[8] Omar Mosaad 11/8, 11/8, 11/6 (38m)
Ong Beng Hee
[8] Omar Mosaad

 4/11, 11/3, 12/10, 11/9 (52m)

[4] Ramy Ashour

Ong Beng Hee (Mas)
11/6, 5/11, 11/3, 11/9 (53m)
[Q] Campbell Grayson (Nzl)
Simon Rosner (Ger)
11/5, 4/11, 11/6, 11/4 (32m)
[Q] Yasir Butt (Pak)
Simon Rosner
11/8, 11/8, 11/5 (34m)
[4] Ramy Ashour
[4] Ramy Ashour (Egy)
11/5, 11/6, 12/10 (39m)
[Q] Adrian Waller (Eng)
Hisham Ashour (Egy)
11/6, 11/2, 11/1
[3] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
 [3] Gregory Gaultier
11/3, 11/6, 11/4 (45m)
Tom Richards
 [3] Gregory Gaultier

11/9, 13/11, 13/15, 11/4 (79m)

Mohamed El Shorbagy

[3] Gregory Gaultier

11/8, 10/12, 13/11, 11/3 (94m)

[2] Nick Matthew

Tom Richards (Eng)
 12/10, 11/3, 11/6
Todd Harrity (Usa)
Olli Tuominen (Fin)
11/1, 11/9, 5/11, 11/5
[Q] Grégoire Marche (Fra)
[Q] Grégoire Marche
11/8, 11/9, 11/7 (41m)
[6] Mohamed El Shorbagy
 Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned)
11/4, 11/5, 11/9 (45m)
[6] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy)
 [Q] Ryan Cuskelly (Aus)
 11/7, 11/6, 9/11, 11/4 (59m)
[7] Karim Darwish (Egy)
[7] Karim Darwish
 11/3, 11/5, 12/10 (38m)
Saurav Ghosal
[7] Karim Darwish

11/5, 11/7, 11/8 (43m)

[2] Nick Matthew

Saurav Ghosal (Ind)
 13/15, 12/10, 11/9, 11/9 (79m)
[Q] Shahier Razik (Can)r
[Q] Chris Simpson (Eng)
11/5, 11/7, 11/9 (33m)
Amr Shabana (Egy)
Amr Shabana
11/8, 11/6, 11/8 (50m)
[2] Nick Matthew
[LL] Joe Lee (Eng)
11/4, 8/11, 11/7, 11/4 (56m)
[2] Nick Matthew (Eng)

17-Jan, Qualifying Finals:

Campbell Grayson (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

16 Jan, 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)                 11-7,12-10,11-3 (36m)

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) 9-11,13-11,11-5,9-11,11-6 (112m)

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)                              11-6,11-9,11-2

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)                        14-12,11-6 rtd

2012 Event  |  2011 Event  | 2010 and earlier

ToC 2013
21-24 Jan, New York, $25k
Round One
21 Jan
22 Jan
23 Jan
24 Jan
[1] Madeline Perry (Irl)
11-9, 11-8, 11-2 (27m)
Latasha Khan (Usa)
[1] Madeline Perry
  11-9, 11-2, 11-5 (28m)
[7] Joey Chan
[1] Madeline Perry

11/6, 11/8, 8/11, 11/6 ()

[3] Kasey Brown

[3] Kasey Brown


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


[4] Natalie Grinham

[7] Joey Chan (Hkg)
12-10, 11-8, 11-6 (31m)
Lauren Briggs (Eng)
[3] Kasey Brown (Aus)
9-11, 8-11 11-6, 11-6, 11-9 (62m)
[Q] Heba El Torky
[3] Kasey Brown
11-8, 15-13, 12-10 (51m)
[6] Amanda Sobhy
[6] Amanda Sobhy (Usa)
11-8,11-1, 11-7 (28m)
Delia Arnold (Mas)
[Q] Sam Cornett (Can)
11-9,11-5,11-8 (33m)
[8] Sarah Kippax (Eng)
[8] Sarah Kippax
10-12,11-5,11-4, 11-6 (43m)
[4] Natalie Grinham
[4] Natalie Grinham

11/9, 11/2, 11/7 (27m)

[5] Rachael Grinham

Nour El Tayeb (Egy)
 9-11, 11-9, 11-8, 7-11, 11-4 (49m)
[4] Natalie Grinham (Ned)
[Q] Amanda Landers-Murphy (Nal)
13-11,11-4, 11-5 (26m)
[5] Rachael Grinham (Aus)
[5] Rachael Grinham
8-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-8 (46m)
[Q] Joshana Chinappa
[Q] Joshana Chinappa (Ind)
11-7,11-7, 3-11, 11-8 (43m)
[2] Dipika Pallikal (Ind)
Qualifying Finals:

Joshana Chinappa (Ind) 3-0 Liu Tsz-Ling (Hkg)                                 11/4, 11/4, 11/2
Heba El Torky (Egy) 3-1 Deon Saffery (Wal)                           11/8, 12/14, 11/6, 11/7
Amanda Landers-Murphy (Nzl) 3-2 Olivia Blatchford (Usa) 11/2,8/11,9/11,12/10,11/9
Sam Cornett (Can) 3-2 Misaki Kobayashi (Jpn)              11/4, 12/10, 13/15, 8/11, 11/8

19-Jan, Qualifying Round One: 

Joshana Chinappa (Ind) 3-0 Sabrina Sobhy (Usa)                   11-5, 11-9, 11-8 (28m)
Liu Tsz-Ling (Hkg) 3-2 Tesni Evans (Wal)                11-7, 4-11, 11-7, 5-11, 11-6 (55m)
Heba El Torky (Egy) 3-1 Kanzy El Dafrawy (Egy)           7-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-3 (45m)
Deon Saffery (Wal) 3-1 Maria Toor Pakay (Pak)               11-3, 11-5, 6-11, 11-8 (28m)
Amanda Landers-Murphy (Nzl) 3-0 Jacqueline Barnes (Aus)     11-3, 11-1 11-4 (13m)
Olivia Blatchford (Usa) 3-1 Lucie Fialova (Cze)              11-9, 3-11, 11-9, 13-11 (52m)
Misaki Kobayashi (Jpn) 3-0 Laura Pomportes (Fra)                   11-9, 11-4, 11-9 (31m)
Sam Cornett (Can) 3-0 Sarah Cardwell (Aus)                            11-9, 11-5, 11-7 (31m)
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.

The 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 figuratively.

The 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 Egyptian.”

Down 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 player.”

Ashour 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.

But 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.

“Credit 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 third.”

“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 tired.”

Grinham to defend against Brown

Defending champion Natalie Grinham will play fellow Australian Kasey Brown in the women's final.

Brown, 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.

Brown 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 called.

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 14-10



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.

It 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.

In 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 each other.”

In 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.

Gaultier 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.

“He’s 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 career.

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 Champions.

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!”

Grinham’s 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!.

Kasey 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.

Brown 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.”

Men's Draw
Women's Draw

21-Jan, Grand Central Day Three:

Willstrop & Ashour reach ToC semis

Beth Rasin reports

In contrasting styles, top-seeded James Willstrop and fourth seed Ramy Ashour won 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 strategic players.

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 start.”

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 shout.

“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 qualifier Joshana Chinappa defeated #2 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 corners.”

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 American Amanda Sobhy, 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 seed Kasey 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 be Sarah Kippax of England who defeated Canada’s Samantha Cornett, 11-9, 11-5, 11-8.

Natalie’s sister Rachael Grinham also made it to the quarterfinals with a 3-0 victory over New Zealand’s Amanda Landers-Murphy.

Top seed Madeline Perry of Ireland eliminated American Latasha Khan 3-0. She will play Joey Chan of 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.

Squash 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.”

Matthew 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“

The 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.

Top 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.”

After 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 the victor.

Willstrop 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 games.

“Playing 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.

“I 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.”

Ashour 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

Qualifier 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 11-5.

The 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.

Marche’s 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 bonus. “

Englishman 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 minutes.

Seventh 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.

Nick 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.”

The 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 interview.

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 anticipation.

18-Jan, Round One, Top Half:
Cops Cops ToC Upset

Beth Rasin reports

“There’s 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.

Ranked 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.”

Coppinger’s 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.”

Egypt’s 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.”

The 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.

Men's Draw
Women's Draw

Qualifying complete in NY
Beth Rasin reports

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!

Source, Squash Info

Player Info

17-Jan, Men's Qualifying Finals
Qualifying complete in NY
Beth Rasin reports

“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 12-10.

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 physical.

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 draw.

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 squash clubs.

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 13-11.

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 marathon.

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

“The 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 event.

“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 Champions title.

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 month.

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 entry.

Wael's Back

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 event.

"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."

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