•  Davenport North American Open • 23-Feb to 02-Mar 2013 • Richmond, VA •  

  TODAY at the North American Open

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26-Feb, Round One, Bottom @ Westwood Club: 

[4] Grégory Gaultier (Fra) 3-0 [Q] Joe Lee (Eng) 
                  11/6, 11/6, 11/7 (36m)
Adrian Grant (Eng) 3-1 Shahier Razik (Can)   
                 11/6, 9/11, 11/3, 11/3 (46m)
Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy) 3-2 [Q] Yasir Butt (Pak)
                  11/3,7/11,7/11,11/4,11/7 (55m)
Olli Tuominen (Fin) 3-0 Max Lee (Hkg)        
                 12/10, 11/7, 11/5 (38m)

[6] Peter Barker (Eng) 3-1 [Q] Campbell Grayson (Nzl)
                 10/12, 11/4, 11/3, 11/6 (53m)
[7] Amr Shabana (Egy) 3-0 Nicolas Mueller (Sui)
                 11/8, 11/8, 11/6 (37m)
[2] Nick Matthew (Eng) 3-0 Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned)
                 11/4, 11/3, 11/3
Tarek Momen (Egy) 3-2 [Q] Chris Gordon (Usa)
                  11/9, 11/7, 10/12, 19/21, 11/5 (85m)

26-Feb, Round One, Bottom half @Westwood Club
Alan Thatcher reports, Photos by Dan Bogosh

Gaultier beats Lee

Gregory Gaultier launched day two of the first round programme with an impressive display of immaculate squash against English qualifier Joe Lee. Lee played well throughout the match, but Gaultier's accuracy and ball placement is as good as anyone's in the history of the game. Bridging that gap was an impossible ask for the 23-year-old Londoner.

Gaultier arrived in Richmond on the back of some impressive performances in the past few months and many in the Richmond community are wondering if he might reach his first final here since 2008, when he lost to James Willstrop. Gaultier said:

"It is very close at the top of the rankings at the moment. I am happy with the way I am playing and I have had some good results, but there is one man at the top who is proving very difficult to beat.

"I am not a big fan of starting matches at 12 noon because it is difficult to warm the body up and you have to change your normal schedule, but I am not complaining, honestly!

"I thought Joe played very well today and it was a very enjoyable way to start the week.

"I always love coming to Richmond and seeing so many friends here.
"It's always a great tournament - one of the best."

Adrian wins, and not in 5!!!

Adrian Grant produced an efficient performance to overcome Shahier Razik in a match between two players noted for extended court-time.

Grant won the first game 11-6 and looked on course for a clear run through the second, but from 9-3 up he failed to win another point as Razik turned the tables and produced a spell of dominant, controlled squash to take the game 11-9.

Grant responded positively and built a 6-0 lead in the third as Razik began to tire. This time Grant maintained his composure to win the game 11-3.

The fourth was a similar pattern, with Grant jumping out to a commanding lead and pushing through with some quality length to win it, again by an 11-3 scoreline.

"After flying in on Saturday I have been interval sleeping, two hours asleep then one hour awake, but I am slowly getting over the jetlag," said Grant.

"Shahier is a quality player and at this level there are no easy matches.

"I am enjoying the community sports projects I am involved, but squash is still my bread and butter."

Gawad gets up off the floor to beat Butt

Karim Abdel Gawad recovered from a head injury to win through to the second round of the Davenport North American Open.

The young Egyptian was leading 9-6 in the fifth game when he received an accidental elbow in the face from his opponent, Yasir Ali Butt. The Pakistani brushed past Gawad as he moved into the back corner of the court and the Egyptian fell to the floor in the middle of the court.

He was treated by the tournament physician, who told tournament officials that he feared Gawad was out cold. TV replays showed that Butt's elbow had connected with Gawad's cheekbone. Gawad was wrapped in towels to keep warm as he was surrounded on court by concerned Egyptian compatriots Hisham Ashour, Karim Darwish, Tarek Momen and Omar Mosaad.

Gawad lay prone for most of that spell, before being gently raised to a sitting position.
He was helped off court to his seat at the side of the auditorium before deciding that he wished to return to court to continue the match. Butt won the next point but Gawad reeled off the next two to claim a victory that puts him through to the next round. Afterwards he said:

"I felt very dizzy but after a while I felt OK and just wanted to get back on to the court to finish the match."

Tuominen takes it to the Max

Olli Tuominen is one of the most experienced players on the PSA Tour and his vast know-how proved the difference in this match against Max Lee. At 33, Tuominen is still fit, fast, strong and mobile, and showing few signs of diminishing performance in those vital areas. Solid driving is the basis of his game, and against Lee he was hitting it into the areas where it was doing most damage.

Lee is improving steadily, but he needs to learn how to avoid first-round chops like this.

"I have been coming to Richmond for a lot of years now and always enjoy it. I have reached two quarter-finals and usually seem to play well here," said Olli.

"I'm into my 30s now and I still feel fit and I'm still enjoying my squash. There are a lot of good young players coming through behind me, but as long as I can keep them at bay I will be happy."

Barker beats Grayson

After losing a tight opening game, Peter Barker produced three immaculate games of precision squash to reach the second round. The No.6 seed from Essex has clearly been working hard on being more effective at the front of the court and his drops and volley drops were simply superb. He ripped in a few tight, fast boasts and, with a good working length to set up the rallies, it was a perfect illustration of how to play this game well.

Grayson started strongly, and with barker looking a little tentative after a recent injury, the New Zealand qualifier opened up a 5-1 lead. Barker hit back to go in front at 6-5, and held game ball at 10-9, but Grayson finished strongly to take the game.

Despite complaining about a slippery floor, Barker's movement improved and his confidence grew. He dominated the next three games with an intelligent distribution of the ball and his finishing was absolutely clinical.

He faces Olli Tuominen in the second round and will be confident of advancing further.

"I was a bit nervous to start with after a recent injury and, with Campbell playing well, it took me a while to get into the game," said Barker.

"After playing on a hot court in the national Championships in Manchester it was quite a contrast to play on the cold court here so you have to adapt quickly to different conditions. Yes, I have been working with my coaches on that area of my game and it was nice to see some results."

Regarding the 2020 Olympic bid, Barker added:

"Living near London, it was difficult to see the Olympic Games on my doorstep last summer and with squash not being involved, i decided to boycott the opening day.

"However, it was a brilliant event and I was lucky enough to get some tickets for some of the events and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was proud that London put on such a good show.

"But squash certainly deserves to be part of the Games. The PSA are doing a great job and the players will all support the bid in any way we can. It would be the highlight of any player's career to compete in the Olympic Games and let's hope this time the vote goes our way."

Shabana master-class

Imperious as ever, stroking the ball with classic timing, elegance and touch, and delivering power when necessary, Amr Shabana turned on a master-class for an appreciative audience at the Westwood Club.

Nic Mueller played well. As well as he was allowed to. But Shabana was always on a different level, his brilliant squash brain working out angles and timing to perfection.

At 33, Shabana's improved fitness levels have maintained his speed around the court and his ability to strike winners from all corners of the court is as impressive as ever.

Mueller started well but when Shabana was 6-4 down he stepped up the attack to dominate proceedings, winning the game 11-8.

Mueller generated leads of 4-2 and 6-4 in the second game but once again Shabana delivered both flair and precision, seemingly at will. Shabana raced into a 5-0 lead at the start of the third game and although Mueller did well to claim six points with some astounding court coverage and winners of his own, Shabana was always in front.

"With outstanding young players like Nic coming through," said Shabana, "I know that I need to keep my body in shape to cope with that kind of competition, so for the past six months I have changed a lot of things in my life, including my approach to training, my diet, and adopting a more scientific approach to these areas.

"That seems to be working well and I am pleased to be going on court and doing as well as I can."

Matthew chops LJ

Nick Matthew was determined to avoid the mistakes that cost him so dearly in last year's Davenport North American Open as he blitzed his opponent, Laurens Jan Anjema, off court in three games.

Matthew almost suffered a shock defeat to Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez at the same stage last year and was relieved to squeeze home after a 97-minute battle.

Further obstacles lay in wait in the shape of Olli Tuominen and Simon Rosner in the following rounds, and Matthew had run out of energy by the time he faced Ramy Ashour in the semi-finals.

This time he meant business from the word go, playing his usual high-pace attack with devastating results. Crisp volleys, firm drives and tight drops all found their target as he overwhelmed a hard-working opponent.

He was so focused on avoiding the pitfalls that caused so much anguish last year that he built 5-0 leads in each of the first two games.

Anjema got two early points on the board in the third game, but from 2-1 down Matthew steamrollered his way through the rest of the game to win 11-3.

"LJ is a very dangerous opponent and i wanted to avoid the mistakes I made last year when I spent so much time on court in the early rounds," said Matthew.

"James Willstrop and Ramy Ashour seem to be good at getting their matches over and done with quickly and I need to the same more often.

"Having said that, no tournament is ever won in the first couple of days but it can easily be lost, so you have to be careful when you come up against opponents like LJ.

"This is a great tournament and it always seems to build momentum as the week goes on, so there's plenty of work still to be done."

 Gordon loses out in Epic

Tarek Momen clinched a second round clash with No.2 seed Nick Matthew after overcoming a phenomenal fightback from American Chris Gordon.

With Momen leading by two games to love, and seemingly in control, Gordon stepped up the pace, improved his accuracy and reduced his error count. He won the third 12-10 and saved five match balls in an astonishing fourth game before winning it 21-19.

It was raw, compelling drama all the way through.

A passionate crowd at the Westwood Club cheered every rally Gordon won but Momen stuck to his task in the fifth and powered home 11-5 after 85 minutes of superb sporting entertainment.

We need American television executives, and every IOC official in the States, to see a tape of this match to understand the excitement and energy that squash can bring to the TV screen and the Olympic Games.

After the match a relieved Momen said; "I played Chris here six years ago and that was a 3-2, and that was at the back of my mind the whole time. Chris kept coming back and played a great match.

"Plus, he had the support of a fantastic home crowd, and I just hope they can cheer for me tomorrow against Nick Matthew."

Gordon, who said he had stumbled around the court like a primate during his qualifying final victory against Zac Alexander, added; "I feel I may have evolved a little over the past two days.

"It was a very special occasion, playing on the glass court in a major world tournament here on American soil, and the crowd were simply amazing. "Tarek is a superb squash player, but from my point of view I think I played well and felt that I deserved to be here."

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