Qualifying complete in Richmond
as Gordon does it again ... Alan Thatcher reports, Photos by Dan Bogosh
Joe Lee powered through to claim the first place in the
main draw with a dominant performance against Omar Aziz.
Lee's all-round quality was too much for his opponent. Lee
looked comfortable in all areas of the court, combining solid
length with some immaculate drop shots at the front.
A tall player, his movement has obviously improved enormously
and his court coverage was generally smooth and fully athletic
when he needed to stretch that extra yard.
"It's so important to win matches like these and get
into the main draw. This is my first time here in Richmond and
I'm hoping to do well and would love to play against one of the
top guys. The court plays superbly and I felt good out there today. I was
pleased with the result because Omar beat me the last time we
Ali Anwar Reda fought back from two games down to
overcome Siddarth Suchde in a marathon qualifier lasting 101
minutes. The first four games were so close that they had to be
settled on tiebreaks.
It was tense, dramatic stuff, but it wasn't pretty. Despite both
players producing some sublime winners at the front of the
court, there were frequent stoppages around the left-hand
service box caused by poor-length drives accompanied by
accusations of blocking by both players.
At one stage, Reda yelled out
"This is a blockfest." He later
revealed he was repeating a comment made earlier in the match by
Suchde strung five points together in the opening game to move
from 4-5 down to lead 9-5, but Reda dug in to draw level and
then hold game ball at 11-10, only for Suchde to finish strongly
to take it 13-11.
The second game was close all the way through, and again both
players wasted a succession of game balls before Suchde won
Reda led 5-2 and 8-5 in the third, but Suchde enjoyed a run of
four points to lead 9-8. He held match ball at 11-10 but Reda
fought back from the brink of defeat to win it 14-12.
Reda opened up a 6-4 lead in the fourth but could not sustain
the momentum as Suchde gathered his composure to hold match ball
at 10-9 and 11-10, but each time Reda responded before winning
the 13-11 to take the match into a fifth game.
Suchde seemed to lose his focus. Despite winning the first two
points, his body language betrayed his frustration as Reda
roared ahead to 7-2. Although Suchde saved two match balls from
10-6 down, the gap was too wide and Reda closed out the match
The Egyptian said:
"I was very pleased to win through to the
first round of a major tournament after three months out having
treatment to a calf injury and a knee problem.
"It was a difficult match on there and there were lots of
stoppages, but this is a tough game and I hope we're both
friends again now."
Suchde left the court complaining about the quality of the
Chris Gordon backed up his
phenomenal victory over Adrian Waller yesterday with a stunning
comeback in the fifth game today to beat Zac Alexander. Trailing
7-2, Gordon looked like he was being blitzed off court by the
Australian, but somehow managed to maintain his composure to
launch an unlikely comeback.
As Gordon worked his way back into the match, Alexander lost his
control. The last seven points won by Gordon told the story.
Alexander hit the tin five times, Gordon simply crushed a
straight backhand kill, and when match ball arrived Alexander
lost the point (and a place in the first round) by conceding a
penalty stroke. When Gordon reached match-ball, Alexander
requested an injury stoppage to treat a bleeding finger.
When he came back on court, he must have hoped to work his way
back into the match, but a loose ball into the mid-court area
could only result in one decision, and when the penalty stroke
decision was called a triumphant Gordon punched the air in
The New Yorker has earned his place in the first round of the
Davenport North American Open the hard way. Following
yesterday's 80-minute tussle on the hot ACAC courts, Gordon's
follow-up victory took 69 minutes.
Many of the rallies had the crowd gasping, as both players
hurled themselves around court to get the ball back,
illustrating just how much it means to these guys to win a
coveted place in the main draw of one of the world's major
For Gordon, competing on home soil, the chance to shine is a
However, after the match he was still trying to work out how he
rose to the occasion at the end of the fifth game. He admitted:
down, I was conscious of only one thing, my feelings towards
referee Mike Riley for having the ball cleaned between games.
I was just stumbling around the court like a primate, trying
to keep the ball in play as Zac showed how capable he is of
"I still don't know how I pulled it back but it's a great
feeling to reach the first round. I guess I managed to stay
calm and kept chipping away. I was pleased that I held it
together when Zac went off to have his cut finger looked at,
because that could have been a tricky moment."
marched into the first round after overwhelming little Leo Au
from Hong Kong.
Au is a tenacious terrier of a squash player, chasing down every
ball and responding with an improving array of shots, but the
Frenchman was too powerful and consistent. Castagnet drives well,
hits the ball into the back corners and plays a basic game very
effectively. After winning the opening game, he made a sluggish
start to the second as Au raced into a 5-1 lead. Castagnet
fought back to 4-5 but again the Hong Kong player strung
together another solid run of points to reach game ball at 10-6.
Castagnet reduced the deficit to a single point but Au closed
out the game 11-9
Au started the third game very strongly and soon built a 4-1
lead, but from that moment on Castagnet began to dominate
proceedings. He surged through to lead 5-4, and Au won only four
more points after that. After taking the third game 11-6,
Castagnet cantered into an 8-0 lead in the fourth. Au battled
bravely, as he always does, but Castagnet quickly reeled off the
final points to book his place in the first round draw. He said:
professional players train very hard with the ambition of
making the main draw in amazing tournaments like this, so I
am very happy.
"The atmosphere is great and I was pleased to win front of
my new American fan club. I have a billet with a lovely
American family and it was nice to see them here to watch me
"I am looking forward to the first round and hope to stay a
For a three-love,Nafiizwan Adnan's win over
Cesar Salaxar was as close as it gets. In the end it came down
to one simple fact. Adnan played the big points better.
As expected, these two phenomenal athletes put everything into
this qualifying final, chasing balls down as though their lives
depended on it. From 7-7 in the first game the Malaysian won
four points in a row to win 11-7.
The second was an epic struggle as Salazar kept his nose in
front for most of the game, but despite holding game ball five
times, he could not convert any of them and Adnan sneaked it
In the third, Salazar hit back from 4-1 down to lead 7-6 but
that was the last time he was in front.
Adnan won three points in a row to lead 9-7 and they exchanged
the next four points before the Malaysian clinched victory 11-9
in 52 minutes of compelling, competitive squash.
Adnan's favourite shot, the forehand overhead volley smash, was
in evidence as he neared the finishing line.
When I asked
him if it was a shot he learned from badminton, he replied:
"No. I got it from Ramy Ashour. The Master!"
Adnan said how proud he was of having such a fine role model
as Nicol David blazing a torch for squash in Malaysia, and
also for squash's bid for a place in the 2020 Olympic Games.
He said: "We are all so proud of Nicol in Malaysia. With
seven world titles, she is a great champion and it was
wonderful to see her with Roger Federer in Amsterdam
supporting the Squash 2020 bid.
"It is a very good time for squash in Malaysia with the new
circuit being created by Azlan Iskandar and we look forward
to welcoming a lot of professional players who want to come
and train and play these weekend tournaments."
He added: "It is also great having Peter Genever as national
coach in Malaysia. I worked with him before in the UK and I
hope he can stay for another ten years at least!
"I will be 32 if squash gets into the 2020 Olympics, and I
would love to be part of it."
Shawn Delierre added the
Canadian Maple Leaf to the Stars and Stripes as he booked his
place in the first round of the Davenport North American Open.
He overcame Denmark's Kristian Frost in a physical battle that
frequently tested the patience of the match officials.
Blocks, pushes, lets, strokes and conduct warnings abounded but
ultimately it was the Canadian who played the more intelligent
squash to win in straight games.
He absolutely blitzed his way through the opening game to win it
11-1 as his opponent struggled to work his way into the match.
Delierre constructed a 4-1 lead in the second game and that
platform was enough for him to stay in front for the rest of the
The third game turned ugly. Frost was frequently warned by
central referee Wayne Smith for playing the man instead of the
ball and at one stage, despite winning a penalty stroke, Frost
also received a conduct warning for excessive physical contact.
Ultimately, Delierre's tighter control up and down the backhand
line won him the match.
he said: "I get so nervous before and during big matches
that sometimes it flies off the scale and I know I've got to
try and get that aspect of the game under control. But I
think I'm finally beginning to see some rewards for all the
years of hard work I've put in and some things are finally
beginning to make sense.
"I worry about enjoying things too much. I don't know how to
sum up my style of play. I guess it could be 'Ask for a let'
but I think I'm changing all that.
"I felt I was hitting the ball well and moving well, so I
need to keep doing that in the first round."
There was to be no
repeat performance by Gregoire Marche. After his dramatic run in
the Tournament of Champions in New York, he was denied a place
in the main draw of the davenport North American Open by New
Grayson played solid, determined squash to win the first two
games before the fireworks began in the third. Marche was
staring a straight-games defeat in the face as he trailed 7-5
but he produced a superb spell of attacking genius to win the
He looked unbeatable as he raced into a 6-0 lead in the fourth
but Grayson patiently worked his way back into the game to lead
8-7. Marche then regained the lead and held game balls at 10-9
and 11-10 but Grayson stuck to his guns to win a place in the
The final stages of the match were pure, raw sporting drama,
played out by two totally committed athletes who mixed
astonishing retrieving with devastating winners.
Marche dived across the court on numerous occasions to keep the
rallies going in breathtaking style and was distraught after
such a narrow defeat, especially having held a commanding lead
in the fourth game.
A relieved Grayson
said: "He was pretty unplayable for ah while there and I
just tried to stay in the match and hang in there. Luckily I
was able to work my way back in and get through to the main
"His diving was incredible, but all the French boys are like
"The court here plays slightly differently to New York,
maybe because of all the buzz around the place in Grand
Central. But it's a little bit cooler here so you can be
rewarded for attacking with accuracy at the front."
Yasir Butt produced the final shock
of the night as he staged an astonishing fightback to win from
10-5 match ball down in the fourth game against Australian
Karwalski had looked in total control as he homed in on victory
but the Pakistani chased down every ball and began to sew seeds
of doubt in the Australian's mind.
World No 56 Karwalski became very tentative as Butt, ranked
three places below him, clawed his way into the match, winning
six points in a row to hold game ball at 11-10. Karwalski
levelled twice but Butt was playing with renewed confidence and
he closed out the game 14-12.
Karwalski led 2-1 at the start of the fifth game but was only
able to win two more points as Butt dominated the closing stages
of the match in much the same way as he had against South
African Shaun Le Roux the previous day.