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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 injury.

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 was injured."

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.




Official website:

. Draw
. Qualifying

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
Round One
Top 24th/ Bottom 25th
Round Two
Mon 26th
Thu 1st
Fri 2nd

[1] Amr Shabana (Egy)
11/7, 11/5, 11/5 (22m)
Jean-Michel Arcucci (Fra)

Amr Shabana
11-4, 11-7, 10-11 (1-3), 9-11, 11-7 (53m)
Hisham Ashour
Amr Shabana
 11-4, 11-7, 11-4 (36m)
John White
Amr Shabana
11-6, 11-9, 11-6 (36m)
Ramy Ashour
Amr Shabana
7-11, 11-3, 8-4 ret. (29m)Anthony Ricketts

[16] Hisham Ashour (Egy)
11/8, 12/10, 8/11, 11/5 (45m)
[Q] Omar Abdel Aziz (Egy)

[6] John White (Sco)
11/4, 11/5, 11/9 (24m)
[Q] Stacey Ross (Eng)

John White
 11-7, 11-9, 11-10 (2-0) (51m)
 Alex Gough

[12] Alex Gough (Wal)
11/5, 11/6, 11/9 (38m)
Rafael Alarcon (Bra)

[4] Ramy Ashour (Egy)
11/6, 11/8, 11/3 (30m)
[Q] Yasser El Halaby (Egy)

Ramy Ashour
6-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-2 (53m)
Wael El Hindi

Ramy Ashour
11-9, 5-11, 11-6, 11-6 (57m)
James Willstrop

[9] Wael El Hindi (Egy)
11/6, 11/4, 11/9 (42m)
Eric Galvez (Mex)

[5] James Willstrop (Eng)
6/11, 11/3, 11/8, 11/7 (53m)
Bradley Ball (Eng)

James Willstrop
11-7, 11-3, 11-5 (27m)
Shahier Razik

[15] 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)
[11] Borja Golan (Esp)

Borja Golan
11-9, 11-9, 11-8 (51m)
Anthony Ricketts
Anthony Ricketts
14-12, 11-4, 11-6 (59m)
Thierry Lincou
Anthony Ricketts
11-6, 8-11, 11-1, 11-6 (54m)
Olli Tuominen

[Q] Stefan Casteleyn (Bel)
11/9, 11/6, 11/5 (31m)
[7] Anthony Ricketts (Aus)

Liam Kenny (Irl)
11/3, 11/5, 1/11, 5/11, 11/8 (86m)
[13] Joey Barrington (Eng)

Liam Kenny
11-3, 11-7, 11-9 (47m)
Thierry Lincou

Renan Lavigne (Fra)
 11/8, 9/11, 11/3, 11/7 (47m)
[3] Thierry Lincou (Fra)

[Q] Saurav Ghosal (Ind)
11/5, 11/3, 11/8 (32m)
[10] Olli Tuominen (Fin)

Olli Tuominen
5-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-9 (56m)
Lee Beachill
Olli Tuominen
 9-11, 12-10, 11-8, 16-14 (77m)
David Palmer

[Q] Miguel Rodriguez (Col)
11/7, 11/5, 11/1 (32m)
[8] Lee Beachill (Eng)

[Q] Dan Jenson (Aus)
6/11, 4/11, 11/9, 11/5, 12/10 (75m)
[LL] Julian Illingworth  (Usa)
Julian Illingworth
 11-5, 11-3, 11-6 (34m)
David Palmer
[Q] Mark Heather (Eng)
11/5, 11/6, 11/7 (32m)
[2] David Palmer (Aus)


Qualifying Finals:

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, 11/4 (45m)
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 (27m)
Bradley Hindle bt Wade Johnstone             11/7, 11/9, 11/8 (36m)

Mark Heather bt John Fulham                     11/6, 12/10, 11/6, (33m)
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, 11/4 (73m)
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, 11/7 (40m)
Jan Koukal bt Bernardo Samper                2/11, 13/11, 11/7, 11/6 (49m)
Dan Jenson bt Pat Bedore                         11/7, 11/4, 13/11 (31m)

Chris Simpson bt Luke Margan                  7/11, 14/12, 11/9, 11/6 (63m)
Saurav Ghosal bt David Barnett                11/8, 11/8, 11/8 (32m)
Julien Balbo bt Mohd AA Reda                   11/4, 11/8, 11/9 (47m)
Yasser El Halaby bt Shawn Delierre           7/11, 11/5, 11/8, 4/11, 11/5 (61m)


Shabana & Ricketts In
Grand Central Final

Egypt's 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 Terminal.
 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 with anticipation.
 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 game.
 "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 Overturn
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 seat” squash.

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 games.

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 Central Terminal

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 11-9. 


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:

[3] Thierry Lincou (FRA) v [7] Anthony Ricketts (AUS)

[2] David Palmer (AUS) v [10] Olli Tuominen (FIN)


Tuominen Topples Beachill In Tournament of Champions Upset

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 to defend.”


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 straight games.


Illingworth In Historic Tournament of Champions Breakthrough

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 tournament.


"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 Central Terminal.


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 Palmer.


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 Champions

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, Nova Scotia.

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 Illingworth
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.


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