Shabana Shines As Ricketts
Is Elbowed Out Of Grand Central Final
Egypt's world number one Amr Shabana successfully defended his title in the
Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions in New York - but his victory over 2005
champion Anthony Ricketts was far from the one either player, or the
capacity crowd, were dreaming of as the Australian was forced to concede
midway through the third game of the climax of the PSA Super Series event in
its tenth year at Grand Central Terminal, with the recurrence of an elbow
Despite the fact that Shabana knew that all was not right with Ricketts at
the start of the match, the defending champion dropped the first game 7-11.
"I was nervous," admitted the 27-year-old from Cairo. "I was hitting the
ball too short. I had to remember that it was his arm and not his leg that
As soon as Shabana started getting the ball deeper in the court, he gained
control of the match, winning the second game 11-3. Down 4-8 in the third,
Ricketts gave the signal that he could not continue. "This is the first time
that I have had to forfeit a match," said the dejected Australian. "I have
been struggling with the elbow all week. I just couldn’t hit the ball hard."
Shabana - who now boasts 16 career PSA Tour titles - becomes only the third
player in the event's history to successfully defend the prestigious New
York title, after four-times winner Jonathon Power, of Canada, in 1999, and
England's three-times champion Peter Nicol five years later.
Inspired by the 10th anniversary of the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions
presenting the world’s best squash players in Grand Central Terminal,
celebrated American artist Frank Stella created sculptures for each of the
tournament’s champions - which were presented at the conclusion of the
championship finals on the glass court. Stella, a devoted squash fan who
helped promote the professional squash tour in New York City in the 1970s,
said he wanted to pay special tribute to the 10-year milestone of North
America’s most prestigious championship being played in Grand Central.
"This is really very special," said Shabana upon receiving the sculptural
trophy from the artist.
Earlier in the evening, Natalie Grainger defeated Vanessa Atkinson 9-11,
11-7, 11-5, 11-7 to win the Bear Stearns Women’s Challenge, a non-ranking
invitational event which was following the same PAR scoring system as used
by the men's event. "This is really a special week for me, having just
become a US citizen and then winning here," said Grainger.
The native South African got off to a sluggish start, dropping the first
game. But she picked up the pace, the length and her shot-making to take
command of the match. Grainger, who perched atop the WISPA rankings briefly
in 2003, was enthusiastic about her squash. "I am really feeling strong and
I am adding some more variety and change of pace to my game. So I am having
a lot of fun out on the court."
A permanent tournament trophy designed by Stella was presented at the awards
ceremony to tournament director John Nimick. "I can think of nothing more
fitting to celebrate these world-class athletes competing in one of the
world’s great landmarks than these extraordinary sculptures created by a
great artist and a great supporter of our sport," said Nimick.
Anthony Ricketts withdraws from TOC final with
aggravated elbow injury.
Olli Tuominen upsetss 8th
seed Lee Beachill (left) in second round.
Local favourite Julian Illingworth, USA, beats Dan
Jenson, Australia in first round upset.
Tournament of Champions 2007
24 Feb to 02 Mar, New York, $70k
Top 24th/ Bottom 25th
 Amr Shabana (Egy)
11/7, 11/5, 11/5 (22m)
Jean-Michel Arcucci (Fra)
11-4, 11-7, 10-11 (1-3), 9-11, 11-7 (53m)
11-4, 11-7, 11-4 (36m)
11-6, 11-9, 11-6 (36m)
7-11, 11-3, 8-4 ret. (29m)Anthony Ricketts
 Hisham Ashour (Egy)
11/8, 12/10, 8/11, 11/5 (45m)
[Q] Omar Abdel Aziz (Egy)
 John White (Sco)
11/4, 11/5, 11/9 (24m)
[Q] Stacey Ross (Eng)
11-9, 11-10 (2-0) (51m)
 Alex Gough (Wal)
11/5, 11/6, 11/9 (38m)
Rafael Alarcon (Bra)
 Ramy Ashour (Egy)
11/6, 11/8, 11/3 (30m)
[Q] Yasser El Halaby (Egy)
6-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-2 (53m)
Wael El Hindi
11-9, 5-11, 11-6, 11-6 (57m)
 Wael El Hindi (Egy)
11/6, 11/4, 11/9 (42m)
Eric Galvez (Mex)
 James Willstrop (Eng)
6/11, 11/3, 11/8, 11/7 (53m)
Bradley Ball (Eng)
11-7, 11-3, 11-5 (27m)
 Shahier Razik (Can)
4/11, 11/6, 11/3, 11/2 (59m)
Matthew Giuffre (Can)
Chris Gordon (Usa)
11/13, 11/6, 11/4, 11/7 (59m)
 Borja Golan (Esp)
11-9, 11-9, 11-8 (51m)
14-12, 11-4, 11-6 (59m)
11-6, 8-11, 11-1, 11-6 (54m)
[Q] Stefan Casteleyn (Bel)
11/9, 11/6, 11/5 (31m)
 Anthony Ricketts (Aus)
Liam Kenny (Irl)
11/3, 11/5, 1/11, 5/11, 11/8 (86m)
 Joey Barrington (Eng)
11-3, 11-7, 11-9 (47m)
Renan Lavigne (Fra)
11/8, 9/11, 11/3, 11/7 (47m)
 Thierry Lincou (Fra)
[Q] Saurav Ghosal (Ind)
11/5, 11/3, 11/8 (32m)
 Olli Tuominen (Fin)
5-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-9 (56m)
12-10, 11-8, 16-14 (77m)
[Q] Miguel Rodriguez (Col)
11/7, 11/5, 11/1 (32m)
 Lee Beachill (Eng)
[Q] Dan Jenson (Aus)
6/11, 4/11, 11/9, 11/5, 12/10 (75m)
[LL] Julian Illingworth (Usa)
11-3, 11-6 (34m)
[Q] Mark Heather (Eng)
11/5, 11/6, 11/7 (32m)
 David Palmer (Aus)
Stacey Ross (Eng) bt Julian Illingworth (Usa)
11/7, 11/8, 8/11, 8/11, 11/9 (93m)
Omar Abdel Aziz (Egy) bt Bradley Hindle (Aus) 12/10, 11/1,
Mark Heather (Eng) bt Steve Finitsis (Aus)
12/10, 14/12, 7/11, 10/12, 11/8 (66m)
Stefan Casteleyn (Bel) bt Simon Rosner (Ger) 5/11,
11/7, 5/11, 11/8, 11/6 (73m)
Miguel Rodriguez (Col) bt Laurent Elriani (Fra) 4/11,
11/8, 2/11, 11/9, 11/9 (81m)
Dan Jenson (Aus) bt Jan Koukal (Cze)
11/6, 11/9, 11/4 (34m)
Sourav Ghosal (Ind) bt Chris Simpson (Eng)
11/4, 11/8, 11/8 (45m)
Yasser El Halaby (Egy) bt Julien Balbo (Fra)
11/6, 11/7, 11/8 (32m)
First Round :
Stacey Ross bt Ben Oliner 11/8 11/8 11/4 (27m)
Julian Illingworth bt Chris Walker
4/11, 12/10,11/8, 6/11, 12/10 (76m)
Omar Abdel Aziz bt Tony James 12/10, 11/8, 12/10
Bradley Hindle bt Wade Johnstone 11/7, 11/9, 11/8
Mark Heather bt John Fulham 11/6, 12/10, 11/6,
Steve Finitsis bt Scott Arnold
7/11, 11/5, 11/2, 6/11, 13/11 (59m)
Stefan Castelyn bt Aaron Francomb 7/11, 11/8, 11/5,
Simon Rosner bt Ahmed Maged Hamza 11/4, 10/12, 11/2,
8/11, 11/0 (56m)
Laurent Elriani bt Karim Yehia
11/3, 12/14, 15/13, 11/4 (66m)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez bt Fabien Verseille 11/7, 11/6, 5/11,
Jan Koukal bt Bernardo Samper 2/11, 13/11, 11/7,
Dan Jenson bt Pat Bedore 11/7, 11/4, 13/11
Chris Simpson bt Luke Margan 7/11, 14/12, 11/9,
Saurav Ghosal bt David Barnett 11/8, 11/8, 11/8
Julien Balbo bt Mohd AA Reda 11/4, 11/8, 11/9
Yasser El Halaby bt Shawn Delierre 7/11, 11/5, 11/8,
4/11, 11/5 (61m)
Shabana & Ricketts In
top seed Amr Shabana and Australia's seventh seed Anthony Ricketts will meet
in the final of the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions in New York after
Shabana, the title-holder, beat fourth-seeded compatriot Ramy Ashour, and
Ricketts, the 2005 champion, defeated Finland's Olli Tuominen in the
semi-finals of the PSA Super Series event in its tenth year at Grand Central
Grand Central Final
Shabana ended the magical run of 19-year-old Ramy Ashour, in his inaugural
appearance in the Bear Stearns-sponsored event - showing the rising squash
star what it means to be world No1 and defending champion. The eagerly
anticipated showdown between the champion and challenger had the standing
room only crowd in the spectacular Grand Central Terminal setting buzzing
When the younger
Egyptian (far left) took early leads in each of the first two games, the
spectators were hoping for the same kind of excitement they had experienced
in Ashour’s quarterfinal win over Englishman James Willstrop. In the first
game, Shabana took command at 5-5 - closing it out at 11-6. The second game
went to 9-9 before Shabana won it 11-9. The third was all Shabana, jumping
out to a 3-1 lead which he never relinquished as he took the game and match
11-6, 11-9, 11-6 after 36 minutes.
In the end, the 27-year-old's experience, quickness and gifted shot-making
ruled the day and Ashour could not reproduce the same electric energy on
court that he had displayed in previous matches. Unlike Ashour’s earlier
opponents, Shabana did not give the youngster an inch of room on the side
wall or in the back of the court to make the spectacular shots that Ashour
had been able to produce with ease in prior matches. Conversely, Shabana
displayed his extraordinary ability to produce breathtaking shots from every
spot on the court as well fabulous agility and speed.
"I think he was nervous," Shabana said after the match. "I remember when I
was 19 and everyone expected me to win. And this is the semi-finals of the
Tournament of Champions – that’s a lot of pressure.
"I am playing as well as I ever have," added the world's top player.
Shabana at the top of his game is a tall order for 2005 ToC champion
Anthony Ricketts, who ended what was the best tournament of Olli Tuominen’s
career. The tenth-seeded Finn’s appearance in the semi-finals was his first
in 38 Super Series event appearances since making his debut in the World
Open in September 1999.
The first game was all Ricketts as he won 11-6 and led the whole way.
Tuominen, as he did all week, came back in the second and took it 11-8.
Ricketts then took Tuominen by surprise by altering his game a bit and
slowing down the pace at the end of the second and beginning of the third
"It is not my natural game," said Ricketts of the slower pace. "But I
wanted to do something different to get my mind back in the match." The
strategy worked as Ricketts dominated the third, winning 11-1.
With Tuominen losing momentum, the Aussie could smell victory and closed
out the match 11-6. The match had some classic moments of Ricketts'
intensity, but he also mixed in some humour. At one point mid-match,
Ricketts was sprawled on the court floor and Tuominen hit the ball just
barely over his opponent’s head. Ricketts, who had picked up his racquet,
asked for a let and the crowd booed. Unperturbed, Ricketts said to the
crowd, "Relax, I could have it off the back wall."
Shabana and Ricketts played each other in the final of the Windy City Open
just a few weeks ago, with Shabana the victor. Ricketts, however, is
confident going into the final: "When I have my movement and focus together,
I’m a tough man to beat."
Ricketts & Tuominen
Seedings At Grand Central Terminal
In an extraordinary second evening of quarter-final action in the Bear
Stearns Tournament of Champions in New York, Australia's Anthony Ricketts
and Finland's Olli Tuominen dramatically upset the seedings to earn
themselves a semi-final clash in the PSA Super Series event in its tenth
year at Grand Central Terminal.
It was hard to imagine that the outstanding quarter-final encounters could
match the excitement of the Ramy Ashour/James Willstrop confrontation 24
hours earlier - but it proved to be another evening of “on the edge of your
First up in the men’s draw were two-time finalist Thierry Lincou, the third
seed from France, and 2005 champion Anthony Ricketts, seeded seven. On
paper, Lincou was the favourite - however, Ricketts came into New York
feeling fit and eager to do well in the championship that two years prior
had been one of the highlights of his career.
The Frenchman and the Aussie battled to a first game tiebreak. Although
Lincou managed to stave off two game points, he ultimately lost the game at
4-2 in the tiebreak when the referees made a “no let” decision on game ball.
As Ricketts walked off with the crowd booing the referees’ decision, it was
clear that the evening’s matches would include a further component - the
sold-out crowd who were not going to hesitate to voice both their
appreciation and disapproval!
The first game loss seemed to take the energy out of Lincou’s game, and
Ricketts played aggressive, focused squash to win the next two to record an
11-10 (4-2), 11-4, 11-6 victory.
"That first game was so important," said the 27-year-old from Sydney. "There
were long rallies, lots of lets and lots of discussion. Whoever won was
going to get a big boost."
The win takes Ricketts into the semi-finals against Finland’s Olli Tuominen,
who scored one of the biggest victories of his career when he defeated
reigning World Champion and No2 seed David Palmer of Australia in four
Tuominen, who had only defeated Palmer once in their previous 12 matches,
had already done better than his tenth seed position when he had eliminated
No8 seed Lee Beachill in the second round. After that victory, he talked
about the confidence he had gained by making to the finals of the Swedish
Open just 10 days prior to the ToC.
Having lost to Palmer, he was eager for a re-match: "I feel like I am
playing really well right now, and it is still my goal to make the top ten,"
said Tuominen, who is never taken lightly by his opponents. "But I don’t
have that much time left to do it," added the 27-year-old from Helsinki.
Palmer won the first game 11-9, but Tuominen wrong-footed his opponent twice
in the second game tie-break to even the score. Tuominen jumped out to a 7-1
lead in the third, which proved insurmountable for Palmer. By the third
game, the match had taken on a new dimension – a combative physicality where
the players were pushing and shoving each other in excess of what was really
necessary to demonstrate to the referee that they deserved a let. The
physicality put Palmer on edge, while Tuominen received a conduct warning,
but still played creative and tenacious squash.
After Tuominen won the game 11-8, Palmer was clearly on the ropes. The
Australian fell behind 2-5 in the fourth, but he was not ready to go down
for the count. The reigning World Champion pushed ahead to a 9-7 lead, but
once again, his opponent played calm and played strategic squash. Tuominen
hit a brilliant backhand volley followed by a tight rail that Palmer
couldn’t get enough of his racquet on to return, resulting in a 9-9 tie. A
Palmer volley winner gave him game ball at 10-9 but a "no let" call –
disapproved by the crowd - evened the score at 10-all.
By this time, you could cut the tension in the Terminal with a knife. A
Palmer tin swung the lead back to Tuominen. Several spectacular saves of
shots that had Palmer diving and leaping to stay in the match brought the
crowd roaring to its feet when he appeared to have hit the ball past his
opponent. The "yes let" call once again earned the ire of the stands and
Palmer hit a gutsy resounding winner on the next point – pumping his fist at
the referees after the ball rolled out of the nick. It wasn’t until the
fourth match ball that Tuominen finally put the match to rest after 78
minutes, winning 9-11, 11-10 (2-0), 11-8, 11-10 (6-4).
"I am surprisingly calm, but I felt calm throughout the match," said
Tuominen immediately after reaching his first semi-final in 38 Super Series
event appearances since making his debut in the World Open in September
1999! The win also marked the first time that the Finn had beaten two
higher-seeded players in the same event since reaching the final of the
Motor City Open, also in the USA, in October 2004.
As for his semi-final match up with Ricketts, Tuominen added: "I am looking
forward to it. After all, I have come this far – I have nothing to lose."
Ramy & Shabana Set Up
All-Egyptian Semi At Grand
A devastating win by teen sensation Ramy Ashour
over England's fifth seed James Willstrop in the quarter-finals of
the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions takes the squash star of the
future into an all-Egyptian semi-final clash against the current world
number Amr Shabana in the PSA Super Series event in its tenth
year at Grand Central Terminal in New York.
Bells were sounding and lights began flashing from a false fire alarm in
Grand Central as 19-year-old Ashour - making his debut in the established
event - and 23-year-old Willstrop prepared to step onto the glass court.
The unexpected 'introduction' was fitting, as just an hour later an
enthralled capacity crowd realized that they had had just been treated to
the first glimpse of the future of squash. And it was brilliant.
The much-anticipated match up between the current and former World Junior
Champions was squash at its best. "Two players who are magicians on the
court," is how Tournament Director John Nimick described the match.
Both Willstrop and Ashour have beautiful touch and they utilized very
possible shot combination, mixing drops with lobs and cross courts and two
wall boasts as they moved each other from corner to corner. Willstrop
jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first game, but the young Egyptian evened
the score at four-all. After securing a 9-6 lead, Ashour won the first game
In the second, Willstrop again took an early lead at 4-1, and this time
never relinquished it, winning the second game 11-5. In each of the next
two games, the players continued to stretch the court – and themselves. In
the end, it was the younger Ashour, with his unflappable court sense and
competitive fire, who carried the day with both his brilliant shot-making
and extraordinary court movement, to win 11-9, 5-11,
11-6, 11-6 after 57 minutes.
"He is a fantastic player," said Willstrop, who used several double pump
shots to try to throw off his opponent during the match. "As good as his
shot-making is, it is his movement that is brilliant. I think I played
pretty well tonight, but at the critical moments Ramy played better,"
explained the Yorkshireman who last week became the British National
champion for the first time.
"I am wordless," said the exuberant youngster after the match. "I haven’t
been this excited in a while. James is such a good player and to play as
well as I did against him is really great."
Ashour will face his countryman, the ToC defending champion Amr Shabana in
Thursday’s semifinals. The world number one never let Scotland’s John
White into the match, winning 11-4, 11-7, 11-4 in
just 36 minutes.
After watching the Willstrop-Ashour contest, Shabana observed, "They weren’t
out on the court as long as I would have liked!"
Ashour and Shabana have only met twice before on the PSA
Tour - with the experienced Shabana currently boasting a 2/0 lead, with a
11-10, 3-11, 11-5, 11-10 victory over the young pretender in last October's
Hong Kong Open final, followed by a (remarkably similar) 10-11, 11-5,
11-8, 11-10 win in the US Open semi-finals in Boston in November.
Remaining quarter-final line-up:
 Thierry Lincou (FRA) v  Anthony Ricketts (AUS)
 David Palmer (AUS) v  Olli Tuominen (FIN)
Tuominen Topples Beachill In Tournament of Champions
Finland's Olli Tuominen caused the only upset in
the last sixteen round of the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions
when he came back from a game down to beat England's No8 seed Lee
Beachill in the PSA Super Series squash event in its tenth year
at Grand Central Terminal in New York.
Beachill was competing in his first tournament since
withdrawing from last week's British National Championships after
sustaining a freak neck injury in practice. But the tenth seed from
Helsinki was too strong for the former world number one from Pontefract in
Yorkshire - a quarter-finalist for the past four years - winning 5-11, 11-7,
11-5, 11-9 in 56 minutes.
The victory marked Tuominen's first win over a world top
ten player for almost a year - and he now meets Australia's world champion
David Palmer, his previous top ten scalp some nine months earlier!
Palmer, the second seed, ended the history-making run of
America’s Julian Illingworth, the only US player to make it to the
second round of a PSA Super Series event. “I wanted to dominate from the
start and keep the crowd quiet,” said Palmer after his 11-5, 11-3, 11-6
victory. “It’s never easy when you are expected to win.”
The buzz continued to build around Ramy Ashour,
the Egyptian teen sensation who drew a big crowd to the glass court in Grand
Central, even though it was the middle of a wintry workday. Those who came
were not disappointed: Playing his countryman Wael El Hindi, the
19-year-old from Cairo found himself on the losing end of the first game.
“He had so much power,” said Ashour of El Hindi. “And
the balls I was hitting weren’t going to the right place. So I had to get
my concentration.” Demonstrating a competitive maturity beyond his years,
the two-time world junior champion found his focus and was able put the
balls in the right place on the court for the next three games, ultimately
winning 6-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-2 in 53 minutes.
Ramy’s next opponent is the player who preceded him as
World Junior Champion. 23–year-old James Willstrop of England was
the talk of the tournament three years when he reached the quarterfinals in
his inaugural ToC appearance. “This is my first meeting with Ramy,” said
Willstrop, who defeated Canada’s Shahier Razik 11-7, 11-3, 11-5 in 27
minutes, the quickest match of the day. "I am exited to play him. He’s
physically so strong and his all around game is quite complete."
Defending champion Amr Shabana, also from Egypt,
had his hands full with Ramy’s older brother Hisham Mohd Ashour in the
evening’s second match. Up 2/0, Shabana was unable to convert two match
balls in the third. Winning the third game in a tie-break fired up the older
Ashour, who had the world No1 diving for balls in the fourth game.
It was neck and neck until seven all in the fifth, when
the two-time World Champion exerted his authority and closed out the match
in the fifth to win 11-4, 11-7, 10-11 (1-3), 9-11, 11-7 in 53 minutes.
“My legs weren’t there in the third,” said Shabana after
the match. “I wouldn’t have won this match a few years ago. But being
number one, you have to continue to fight. You have a name and a reputation
The remaining quarter-final match up will see 2005 ToC
champion Anthony Ricketts face off against two-time finalist
Thierry Lincou. After closing out a 20-minute first game against
Spain’s Borja Golan, Australian Ricketts won the next two with a bit
more ease. Frenchman Lincou defeated Ireland’s Liam Kenny in
Illingworth In Historic Tournament of Champions
Julian Illingworth, the
US National Champion who secured a slot in the main draw of the Bear
Stearns Tournament of Champions as a 'lucky loser', made squash history
in New York when he became the first American ever to move into the
second round of a Professional Squash Association Super Series
"I am really grateful that I took advantage of this lucky
break," said the 22-year-old from Portland, Oregon, after fighting back from
two games down to defeat qualifier Dan Jenson on the second day of
first round action in the $70,000 event in its tenth year at Grand
Showing no signs of the effects of two five-game matches
in the qualifying draw, Illingworth displayed remarkable self-assurance for
a player who has been on the professional tour for less than a year. “I
knew that I was fitter than Dan, and if I could keep him out there long
enough, I could win the match,” said Illingworth after beating the former
world No5 from Australia 6-11, 4-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-10 (2-0) in 76 minutes.
After dropping the first two games, Illingworth stepped
up in the third, literally and figuratively, as he moved forward in the
court and began attacking more balls. After he snatched the third and won
the fourth comfortably, the fifth was a seesaw battle. Although the
experienced Australian took a quick 4-1 lead, Illingworth evened the score
at 5-5 and the lead changed hands every other point from then on.
To add to the drama, the young American broke a string in
his racquet mid-game. Coming off court to get a new racquet, Illingworth
was clearly disconcerted. He had lost two of his three racquets the night
before and the only racquet left in his bag was one he had borrowed from a
friend and never used himself.
But on returning to the court, Illingworth focused on
winning the match. At 9-9, he hit a drop winner for his first match ball
but he couldn’t convert. A volley winner gave him his second match point
and then a drop shot earned Illingworth the game, a standing ovation from
the packed stands - and a second round berth against No2 seed David
And his friend John Fulham, who had lent
Illingworth the racquet with which he ultimately won the match, told him he
could keep it!
Palmer, the world champion from Australia who watched the
end of Illingworth’s match with great interest, quickly dispatched English
qualifier Mark Heather 11-5, 11-6, 11-7.
England's Lee Beachill, in his first match since
withdrawing from last week's British National Championships after
sustaining a freak neck injury in practice, also from had no trouble with
qualifier Miguel Angel Rodriguez. Despite losing in straight games,
the young Colombian delighted the crowd with several behind-the-back shots.
Eighth seed Beachill will play Finland’s Olli Tuominen, the tenth
seed, who made short work of Indian event debutant Saurav Ghosal
11-5, 11-3, 11-8.
The evening crowd was hopeful for another American
victory when 20-year-old Christopher Gordon, the tournament’s wild
card entry, took the first game from Borja Golan. But the 11th seed
quickly rebounded to win the next three games 11-6, 11-4, 11-7. The
Spaniard will face Anthony Ricketts, the 2005 champion, who had no
trouble with Belgium’s Stefan Casteleyn. Third seed Thierry Lincou,
who defeated his best friend and French compatriot Renan Lavigne in
four games, will take on Ireland’s Liam Kenny, who outlasted
England's Joey Barrington in an 88-minute five-game victory.
Youngsters Debut, But Veterans Prevail at Bear Stearns Tournament of
Whilst a new generation of players came of age on the first day of action in
the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions, with eight players making their
inaugural appearance in the established PSA Tour squash event at Grand
Central Terminal in New York, it was mostly the veterans who ruled the day.
The capacity crowd was particularly delighted to get their first glimpse of
teen sensation Ramy Ashour of Egypt. "This is my first time in New York and
in this great venue and I was a little tense," confessed the 19-year-old who
has rocketed his way from 38 to 5 in the world rankings in just the last 12
months. But the nerves quickly faded and Ashour took no pity on compatriot
Yasser El Halaby, his regular training partner who was also making his first
appearance in the ToC main draw.
Ashour showed great offensive strength as he deftly played the corners of
the court and his shot-making was too good for El Halaby. “He is a great
player,” said El Halaby, a 2006 Princeton graduate and the only four-time
winner of the men’s national intercollegiate squash championship, of his
opponent and friend. “He’s got the dedication and will to win,” added El
Halaby after his 11-6, 11-8, 11-3 defeat in 29 minutes.
Ramy's older brother Hisham Mohd Ashour also reserved a place in the second
round of the event celebrating its tenth anniversary at Grand Central
Terminal. The 24-year-old 16th seed from Cairo beat compatriot Omar Abdel
Aziz, a qualifier, 11-8, 11-10 (2-0), 8-11, 11-5 in 45 minutes.
Both Ashour brothers will face fellow countrymen in the next round: Ramy
will take on ninth seed Wael El Hindi, the 11-6, 11-4, 11-9 winner over
first-timer Eric Galvez, of Mexico, while Hisham meets favourite Amr Shabana.
The defending champion and world number one needed only 21 minutes to defeat
Frenchman Jean-Michel Arcucci 11-7, 11-5, 11-5.
Fresh from his first-time triumph in last week's British National
Championships, fifth seed James Willstrop of England got off to a slow start
against fellow countryman Bradley Ball. “I didn’t play very fluently today,”
said the 23-year-old after his 6-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-7 victory in 53 minutes.
“So to come away with a win after playing the way I did is quite a decent
result,” added Willstrop, who reached the quarter-finals in his first ToC
appearance in 2004. His second round opponent, 29-year-old Canadian Shahier
Razik, was delighted to make it past the first round for the very first time
by defeating his countryman Matthew Giuffre.
True to form, Razik needed 60 minutes to overcome Giuffre - 48 hours after
recording the longest match PSA Tour match of the year when he beat Spaniard
Borja Golan in 121 minutes in the final of the Bluenose Classic in Halifax,
The evening session of play ended with two veterans exerting their authority
in definitive play. John White, the 33-year-old Scot who made his first
Tournament of Champions appearance in 1999, defeated English qualifier
Stacey Ross, 11-4, 11-5, 11-9, and will meet 36-year-old Alex Gough in the
next round. The Welshman, whose first ToC appearance was in 1995, dismissed
Brazilian number one Rafael F Alarcon 11-5, 11-6, 11-9
Marathon Defeat Earns Lucky Loser Slot For
If a 'Lucky Loser' slot were given to a player for endeavour, then marathon
man Julian Illingworth thoroughly deserved his breakthrough in the Bear
Stearns Tournament of Champions in New York.
In the very last match of the qualifying finals for the prestigious PSA Tour
event which will celebrate its tenth anniversary at Grand Central Terminal
this week, current US national champion Illingworth battled against Stacey
Ross for 93 minutes before succumbing to the Englishman in his second
marathon match in two days, losing 11-7, 11-8, 8-11, 8-11, 11-9.
While Ross earned the qualifying place against sixth seed John White, the
fates smiled on Illingworth who became the “lucky loser” to pick up the main
draw spot vacated by Dutchman Laurens Jans Anjema, the 14th seed who
withdrew on the eve of the event due to injury.
Illingworth will face Australian qualifier Dan Jenson, who dismissed Czech
number one Jan Koukal in the qualifying finals 11-6, 11-9, 11-4.
Englishman Mark Heather, now a teaching professional in Chicago after a
stint at the New York Athletic Club as assistant pro, made it into the ToC
main draw for the second consecutive year after defeating Aussie Steve
Finitsis 11-10 (2-0), 11-10 (4-2), 7-11, 10-11 (0-2), 11-8 after 66 minutes.
The only four-time winner of the national collegiate championships, 2006
Princeton graduate Yasser El Halaby, also played his way into the main draw
with a comprehensive 11-6, 11-7, 11-8 victory in 32 minutes over France’s
Julien Balbo. The 22-year-old from Cairo now faces fellow Egyptian Ramy
Ashour, the sixth-seeded teenage sensation who has already picked up two PSA
Tour titles this year.
Saurav Ghosal became the first Indian to earn a place in the Tournament of
Champions main draw when he beat England's former European Junior champion
Chris Simpson 11-4, 11-8, 11-8. The 20-year-old student at Leeds University
in the UK, who won the Indian national title last year, takes on Finland's
No10 seed Olli Tuominen.