Tournament of Champions 2008

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10th-16th 2008

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Ramy Ashour Takes Tournament of Champions Title


Top seed Ramy Ashour capped his return to the PSA Tour after a two-month injury hiatus in commanding fashion, defeating fourth seed James Willstrop in three games in the much anticipated final of the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions at Grand Central Terminal in New York


The victory may very well mark the beginning of a long reign at the top of the game for the prodigiously-talented 20-year-old Egyptian whose instinctive shot-making, easy movement and raw talent was on full display for a demonstrably appreciative crowd that filled every seat in the venue as well as standing five deep at the front wall.  In addition there were overflow spectators watching the action on closed circuit TV screens.


Under the massive chandeliers in the majestic tournament venue in the historic Grand Central Terminal, the two players traded jabs in the opening game, testing each other’s strengths, shot-making and focus.  Tied at six-all, the Cairo-based favourite took command of the game, surging ahead to 10-6 before closing out the game at 11-7.


The second game was a seesaw affair, with the lead exchanging hands several times, but the squash was always of the highest calibre.  Both players - talented shot-makers who understand how to use the length, width and height of the court to full advantage - were consistently looking for the openings that that would win the point. Tied at ten-all, it was again Ashour who fashioned two consecutive winners to take the game.  


Undeterred, the 24-year-old Englishman looked likely to extend the match when he opened up an 8-4 lead by keeping the ball straight and deep and only shooting when he had a crystal clear opening.  But Ashour just heightened the velocity of his racquet swing to ratchet up the pace, hitting the ball quickly to put his opponent off balance, and throwing in the occasional rolling nick to run off seven of the succeeding eight points, winning the match decider on a Willstrop tin.


“I felt like I played really well tonight and I was close in each of the games - but Ramy’s just amazing, with all his pace and speed," said Willstrop after his 11-7, 11-10 (3-1), 11-9 defeat in 40 minutes.  "He really keeps the pressure on.”


The young Egyptian champion was elated.  “It is unbelievable to win here,” said Ashour. “Last year, when I lost to Shabana in the semi-finals, I was depressed big time.  I really wanted to win here.  And it wasn’t an easy week, getting used to my new Head racquet and still playing with an injury.


“I just decided to be confident tonight - I had to be, because James is an attacking payer and when he plays his game he’s brilliant," continued the world No2 in his rapid fire verbal commentary that almost matches the pace at which he plays his squash matches!


Asked about his ability to conjure rolling nick winners at crucial times in the match, Ashour - now winner of seven PSA Tour titles - replied:  "Deep inside I see myself winning and I just go for my shots.  I don’t think about it; it’s instinctive.  I just hope I can continue for a long time.”



. Draw

. Final
. Semi Finals
. Quarter's (Bottom Half)
. Quarter's (Top Half)
2nd Round
1st Round (Bottom Half)
1st Round (Top Half)
. Final Qualifying
. Qualifying


. Sponsors

2006 Event Pages
2007 Event Pages

Pictures Courtesy of
Steve Line

Top Seed, Egypt's Ramy Ashour beats Englishman James Willstrop to go through to the Final

James Willstrop easily disposes of Gregory Gaultier

Ramy Ashour finally gets through against David Palmer

Tournament of Champions 2008

Round One
10th 11th Jan
Round Two
12th Jan
13th & 14th Jan
15th Jan
16th Jan
1] Ramy Ashour (EGY)
11-6, 11-5, 11-5 (39m) 
Christopher Gordon (USA)
 Ramy Ashour
11-2, 11-9, 11-2 (36m)
Omar Elborolossy
Ramy Ashour
 5-11, 7-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-8 (79m)
Wael El Hindi
Ramy Ashour
11-4, 7-11, 11-3, 11-10 (5-3) (65m)
David Palmer

Ramy Ashour

11-7, 11-10 (3-1), 11-9 (40m)

James Willstrop

[15] Omar Elborolossy (EGY)
11-7, 10-11 (0-2), 11-6, 11-2 (54m) 
Matthew Giuffre (CAN)

[5] Wael El Hindi (EGY)
11-7, 11-5, 11-7 (37m) 
[Q] Regardt Schonborn (RSA)

Wael El Hindi
11-6, 11-5, 11-5 (42m)
Julian Illingworth

[9] Olli Tuominen (FIN)
11-9, 11-10 (5-3), 2-11, 11-8 (62m)
Julian Illingworth (USA)

[3] David Palmer (AUS)
11-7, 11-5, 11-5 (37m)
Liam Kenny (IRL)

David Palmer
11-9, 11-9, 11-3 (34m)
Ryan Cuskelly
David Palmer
8-11, 11-10 (2-0), 11-10 (4-2), 11-8 (69m)
Mohammed Abbas

[14] Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY)
11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 7-11, 11-8 (115m) 
[Q] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)

[7] Mohammed Abbas (EGY)
11-5, 11-7, 11-8 (35m)
[Q] Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY)

Mohammed Abbas
11-6, 11-5, 11-2 (35m)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez

[13] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 11-9, 11-5, 11-10 (2-0) (39m)
[Q] Bernardo Samper (COL)

[16] Rafael F Alarcon (BRA)
11-8, 5-11, 11-8, 11-5 (43m)
Yasser El Halaby (EGY)

Rafael F Alarcon
11-4, 11-9, 9-11, 11-10 (3-1) (56m)
Stewart Boswell
Stewart Boswell
11-8, 8-11, 11-5, 11-6 (60m)
James Willstrop
James Willstrop
11-9, 11-2, 11-1 (28m)
Gregory Gaultier

[8] Stewart Boswell (AUS)
11-4, 9-11, 11-6, 11-4 (43m)
[Q] Amr Mansi (EGY)

[10] Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS)
11-6, 11-5, 11-1 (27m)
[Q] Khawaja Adil Maqbool (PAK)

Mohd Azlan Iskandar
11-8, 11-5, 11-10 (4-2) (54m)
James Willstrop

[4] James Willstrop (ENG)
11-4, 11-2, 11-7 (30m)
[Q] John Rooney (IRL)

[12] Jonathan Kemp (ENG)
8-11, 8-11, 11-5, 11-9, 11-3 (54m)
Mark Krajcsak (HUN)

Jonathan Kemp
11-8, 11-6, 4-11, 10-11 (0-2), 11-7 (58m)
John White
John White
11-8, 11-5, 6-11, 10-11 (1-3), 11-7 (67m)
Gregory Gaultier

[6] John White (SCO)
11-4, 11-3, 11-8 (24m)
[Q] Ritwik Bhattacharya (IND)

[11] Hisham Mohd Ashour (EGY)
5-11, 11-5, 11-10 (5-3), 9-11, 11-4 (46m)
Tarek Momen (EGY)

 Hisham Mohd Ashour
11-3, 11-5, 11-9 (32m)
Gregory Gaultier

[2] Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
11-9, 11-8, 11-7 (40m)
Shawn Delierre (CAN)


Qualifying finals:

John Rooney (IRL) bt Scott Arnold (AUS)  11-9, 11-5, 11-4 (60m)

Amr Mansi (EGY) bt Joshua Greenfield (NZL) 11-4, 11-5, 11-5 (36m)

Bernardo Samper (COL) bt Patrick Chifunda (ZAM)  11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 11-10 (4-2) (69m)

Khawaja Adil Maqbool (PAK) bt Clive Leach (ENG)   5-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8, 11-10 (3-1) (66m)

Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Ahmed Maged Hamza (EGY)  11-7, 11-2, 11-6 (44m)

Ritwik Bhattacharya (IND) bt Gilly Lane (USA)  5-11, 11-3, 11-7, 8-11, 11-5 (59m)

Regardt Schonborn (RSA) bt David Phillips (CAN) 5-11, 11-9, 11-10 (3-1), 11-7 (38m)

Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) bt Badr Abdel Aziz (SWE)  8-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 (74m)

1st qualifying round:

John Rooney (IRL) bt Lefika Ragontse (BOT)  11-6, 11-5, 11-6 (30m)

Amr Mansi (EGY) bt Jason Delierre (CAN)  11-6, 11-1, 11-9 (26m)

Joshua Greenfield (NZL) bt Abdul Razzaq (PAK)  11-4, 11-6, 11-7 (31m)

Patrick Chifunda (ZAM) bt Mohammad Nasir Farooq (CAN)  11-8, 11-3, 11-9 (20m)

Clive Leach (ENG) bt Robin Clarke (CAN)  11-8, 3-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-9 (55m)

Khawaja Adil Maqbool (PAK) bt Kim Lee Wong (MAS)  11-10 (2-0), 11-9, 11-9 (40m)

Ahmed Maged Hamza (EGY) bt Michal Reid (CAN) 11-5, 11-5, 11-5 (27m)

Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Arturo Castillo (MEX)  11-10 (2-0), 11-1, 11-5 (30m)

Gilly Lane (USA) bt Hesham El Halaby (EGY)  11-6, 11-6, 11-8 (34m)

Regardt Schonborn (RSA) bt Jacques Swanepoel (RSA)  8-11, 11-10 (2-0), 11-6, 11-10 (2-0) (48m)

Badr Abdel Aziz (SWE) bt Karim Yehia (EGY)  11-8, 11-10, 11-8 (31m)


Willstrop Upsets Gaultier To Reach Tournament of Champions Final


England's James Willstrop (left) upset second-seeded Frenchman Gregory Gaultier in straight games to set up a clash with top seed Ramy Ashour, the world No2 from Egypt, in the final of the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions at Grand Central Terminal in New York


Ashour raised his game to another higher level of play as he defeated third seed David Palmer in four games in front of yet another sell-out crowd at the established PSA Super Series event.  The first game was over in a flash – the 20-year-old Egyptian coming out of the starting gate at full throttle, jumping out to a 4-0 and then an 8-3 lead, before winning the game 11-4. 


“I was confident in the first game,” said the world’s second-ranked player.  "But I also knew that Palmer would be tough.”  Indeed, the three-time Tournament of Champions semi-finalist stepped up his attack in the second game, winning it 11-7 to even the match.


“I did start to feel pressured today,” said Ashour.  "But my brother Hisham told me between the second and third game to get all the negative thoughts out of my head – to play my own game.”   Play his own game is exactly what Ashour did in the third – changing the pace, using the quick attack and moving the ball around the entire court to blister through the third game 11-3.  


But Palmer, a two-time World Open champion who makes his opponents work hard to win their matches, was not ready to walk off the court so quickly.  After a seesaw exchange of leads, the match went into a tie break at ten-all.  Up 11-10, Ashour hit a rare tin.  Great length by Palmer and some well-placed drop shots gave the 31-year-old Australian his one game ball.  But the extraordinarily talented Egyptian reeled off three nick winners in a row to earn a place in his first Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions final.


“He just plays so fast,” Palmer commented after the match. “And there’s not much you can do against three rolling nicks at the end of a game.”


Ashour added:  “I was desperate to make the final here."


James Willstrop, the 24-year-old fourth seed, defeated Gaultier 11-9, 11-2, 11-1 in three very quick games.  Although Gaultier finished the match, the wrist injury he had been nursing all week finally became intolerable. Willstrop, who has played strong confident squash throughout the tournament is looking forward to the playing the young Ashour.


“Hopefully we can reproduce the match we played here last year,” said the Englishman, referring to the 2007 Tournament of Champions quarter-final in which he and Ashour played one of the most spectacular matches in the tournament’s history.  “He’s a good lad and a fair player.”


Ashour is celebrating his 12th PSA Tour final appearance, while Willstrop is marking his 13th.


Willstrop & Gaultier To Face Up In New York Semis


Second-seeded Frenchman Gregory Gaultier (left) stemmed a brave fight back by Scot John White to beat the US-based former world number one in five games to set up a semi-final clash with England's fourth seed James Willstrop in the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions at Grand Central Terminal in New York


“Good for the crowd, not so good for me,” was how Gaultier summed up his quarter-final victory in the PSA Super Series squash event over White, the 34-year-old PSA Tour veteran who is juggling his professional playing career while coaching the Franklin & Marshall College men’s squash team.  White had the standing room only crowd on their feet roaring with appreciation as he staved off two match balls in the third game with a display of unbridled determination, stunning shot-making and corner to corner court coverage.


Down 8-10 in the fourth, White hit a winner after the match’s then-longest rally to close Gaultier’s lead to one.  The 9-10 behind, Gaultier seemed to have numerous match balls - but the never-say-die veteran picked up four winners off Gaultier’s racquet, and finally hit a winner of his own to tie the score.  A Gaultier error gave White game ball, but then White tinned to even the score again.  A service return cross court nick winner gave White the edge once more, and then on game ball, he hit a stunning backhand volley cross court kill to keep him in the match. 


“I got the bit between the teeth in the fourth game,” said White.  “For a moment there, I thought I was 19, but after that long rally to get to 9-10 in the fourth, I realised how old I am.”  White tried to slow the game down in the fifth game to conserve the little energy he had left, but Frenchman, who started the match with an easy confidence that was shaken by White’s comeback, picked up the pace to win the decider 11-7.


Gaultier will next face fourth seed James Willstrop (right) who eliminated Australian Stewart Boswell in four games.  Willstrop, who has been a Tournament of Champions fan favourite since 2004 when, as a 20-year-old, he reached the quarter-finals, played a cautious opening game. 


“Stewart can really punish you in the back of the court - so I wanted to pick my chances carefully,” the 24-year-old Englishman said after the match.  Boswell drew level after the second game - but Willstrop opened up his attacking game, taking the ball short and creating more opportunities for his natural shot-making ability, and won the third and fourth games with relative ease to claim an 11-8, 8-11, 11-5, 11-6 victory in 60 minutes.


Top Seed Tested At Grand Central Terminal


Top seed Ramy Ashour (left) was fully tested in his quarter-final match against fellow Egyptian Wael El Hindi in the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions - but he passed with flying colours and a standing ovation from the sell-out crowd at Grand Central Terminal in New York.  In their quest to reach the semi-finals of the prestigious PSA Super Series squash event, the two players went all-out - delighting the spectators with a display of skilled shot-making that is the trademark of Egyptian squash.


It was eighth-seeded El Hindi who took the early lead in the match, using his physical play and his touch in the front of the court to win the first two games 11-5, 11-7. Ashour found himself consistently having to move around El Hindi to get to the ball and he hit a significant number of unforced errors.  The 20-year-old world No2 nonetheless returned to the court for the third game with confidence and turned the match around as he stepped up his pace and used a quick attack on the ball to keep El Hindi off balance.  In the third and fourth games, Ashour took the lead from the very first point, and never relinquished it, evening the match at two-all with 11-4, 11-5 game wins.


As Ashour quickened the pace and the speed of his attack, El Hindi started to visibly tire, but he stepped up to challenge his higher-ranked opponent in the decider.  El Hindi took an early 4-1 lead, fell behind at 4-5, the evened the score at six-all and eight-all.  But Ashour was not about to leave the court without the win and closed out the deciding game 11-8 - hitting a stunning volley cross court nick winner on the final point.


With characteristic enthusiasm, Ashour shared his delight with the victory. “I wanted to test myself, to prove that I could be down and come back - and this match was a great test,” the 20-year-old winner said after the match.  “I am going to be put in a lot of hard situations and I have to figure out how to deal with that.”


In the first match of the day, fourth-seeded Australian David Palmer also found himself in an all-out battle as Mohammed Abbas, the third Egyptian player still in the draw, came out shooting.  The match was a superb display of style, technique and all court strategy as the two men treated the crowd to the highest standard of squash they had seen since the tournament began.  After taking the first game 11-8, Abbas fended off two game balls before succumbing in the tiebreak, 0-2. 


The third game saw another tiebreak; Abbas had a chance to win the game at 11-10, but Palmer nabbed it to go ahead 2/1 in games.  It was a back and forth battle in the fourth but Palmer held Abbas off to earn his third trip to the Tournament of Champions semi-finals. 


“I haven’t had any match play for a few weeks, so it was good to have a tougher match today,” said Palmer, the world No4 from New South Wales. As for his chances against Ashour in the semis, Palmer said:  ”I feel pretty relaxed.  I am the underdog now and Ramy has the pressure.  Just a year ago, he was chasing the top ranked players and now he is the one being chased.”


Mixed Fortunes For Ashours At Grand Central Terminal


Top seed Ramy Ashour (right) appears confidently on track in his quest for his first Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions title after eliminating his Egyptian compatriot Omar Elborolossy in straight games in second round play at Grand Central Terminal in New York.


But there was no joy for his older brother Hisham Mohd Ashour, who went down 3/0 to France's second seed Gregory Gaultier at the other end of the PSA Super Series squash event draw.


At just 20 years of age, Ramy Ashour displays a maturity beyond his years, and clearly had no qualms about defeating the 32-year-old Elborolossy.  Allowing his opponent just two points in each of the first and third games, Ashour left the capacity crowd wanting more of his dynamic court play and creative shot making.


Ashour junior will meet countryman Wael El Hindi in the quarterfinals.  The sixth-seeded El Hindi eliminated Julian Illingworth, the highest-ever ranking US men’s player, much to the disappointment of the highly partisan crowd who only rarely get to see an American in second round play of a PSA Super Series event. 


“I am really impressed with the work Julian has done to improve his game,” said El Hindi after the match.  Having spent the last year on the men’s pro tour after graduating from Yale University, Illingworth is still learning some rookie lessons.  “I could have played better,” he said after the match. “Wael has a different style of play - he’s very scrappy and there’s lots of talk on the court.”


The third Egyptian still left in the draw, eighth seed Mohammed Abbas will face off in the quarterfinals against two-time world champion David Palmer.  Abbas eliminated Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez in three games and Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly met the same fate against countryman Palmer, the third seed.


Australia’s Stewart Boswell also advanced, defeating Brazil’s Rafael F Alarcon in four games.  Alarcon played an attacking game early in the match, but after jumping out to early leads in the first two games, was unable to hang on to a winning margin. The third was a seesaw battle; behind at 7-8, Alarcon snatched the game win at 11-9 after Boswell was assessed a conduct stroke for bouncing his racquet off the floor in frustration. 


But the biggest turnaround of the match occurred when Alarcon squandered five game balls in the fourth, losing a 3-1 tiebreak after being ahead 10-6.  “When I was down game ball, I actually relaxed and focused on playing out each point,” Boswell said after the match.  Looking ahead to facing his next round opponent - England's fourth seed James Willstrop, who eliminated Malaysia’s Mohd Azlan Iskandar in three games - the Australian commented wryly:  “I’ll need to get better in the next two days.”


The final quarterfinal match-up features Gregory Gaultier against seventh seed John White (right), the only former Tournament of Champions finalist left in the field.  White, runner-up in 2004, ended up with a battle on his hands against Englishman Jonathon Kemp (right background). The Australian-born White, who plays for Scotland and now also coaches the Franklin & Marshall College squash team, had a multi-tasking weekend.  Over 24 hours, White won his first round Tournament of Champions match, coached the F&M college team to victory in two rounds of match play in a tournament at Yale University, and returned to New York City to play Kemp.


The Scot got off to a great start in the evening’s last match, taking a 2/0 game lead.  But in the third game White started shooting too early, resulting in several errors and giving Kemp the opportunity to even the match at two-all.


“I realised that I was doing exactly what I tell my players not to do,” said White about the third and fourth game losses.  Taking the advice of fellow player David Palmer to slow the ball down and wait for the right opportunity to play his shots, White took a 10-5 lead in the deciding game, winning it 11-7.

Seeds Advance To Second Round
At Grand Central Terminal


Even though there were no upsets in the concluding matches of the first round of play in the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions, it was a significant day for several players in the PSA Super Series squash championship renowned for its legacy of illustrious titleholders and its venue in historic Grand Central Terminal in New York.


Squash fans were especially thrilled to find a dramatic photo of the glittering glass court under the chandeliers in Grand Central on the front page of the Metro Section of the vaunted New York Times newspaper.  And the busiest man at the tournament may have been top seed Ramy Ashour.  With a day off after winning his first round match, the energetic and charismatic 20-year-old Egyptian was onsite for all of the afternoon session, coaching fellow players and doing TV commentary.


Unseeded Yasser El Halaby had a sizeable cheering section as he took on Brazil’s Rafael F Alarcon in the day’s first match.  A graduate of Princeton University, where he won four national intercollegiate titles, and an assistant pro at the Harvard Club, El Halaby had supporters from both institutions in the stands. His fans roared with delight when he evened the match at one-all after taking the second game 11-5.  But even with his countryman, world No2 Ramy Ashour, coaching him, El Halaby succumbed to the South American 11-8, 5-11, 11-8, 11-5.


Next on court was 19-year-old Khawaja Adil Maqbool, making his Tournament of Champions debut against 11th seed Mohd Azlan Iskandar of Malaysia.  Iskandar wasted no time in his advance to the second round as he defeated Adil Maqbool in three games.  Despite the loss, the Dubai-based youngster was thrilled nonetheless. 
“I stepped on court and I thought about the great players who have won this tournament.  It was beautiful to be out on that court.”


Hungary’s Mark Krajcsak also made his Tournament of Champions debut. It looked for awhile as though it might have been a winning one as he took a 2/0 lead in games and was up 7-4 in the fourth against thirteenth seed Jonathon Kemp.  But the Englishman got his game on track just in time to secure an 8-11, 8-11, 11-5, 11-9, 11-3 victory.


“I just lost focus in the fourth game,” Krajcsak said. “And the points slipped away so quickly.”  He received a different analysis from none other than Ramy Ashour, who had watched the match and was happy to share his insights.  “Kemp started attacking more in the fourth game, and you didn’t respond,” commented the young Egyptian who is so clearly passionate about the sport.  “But don’t worry. You’ll do better next time.” 


In the final match of the day session, twelfth seed Hisham Ashour - Ramy's older brother - had his hands full with Tarek Momen, a fellow Egyptian who was also making his first Tournament of Champions appearance.  The confident 19-year-old came out shooting. “His shots were like a knife through butter,” said Ashour senior.  ”He’d hit a drop shot and it would nick; he’d hit a deep rail and it would nick.”  After trading games, Ashour stepped up with authority to win the deciding game 11-4.


The evening session marked the return of two players who had missed last year’s championship, Australia’s Stewart Boswell and France’s Gregory Gaultier.  Boswell, who defeated Egypt’s Amr Mansi in four games, acknowledged the Tournament of Champions appeal to the players.  “I really missed not being able to play here last year,” said Boswell.  “And now that I am back, this is the one tournament that I will never miss for the rest of my career.  The atmosphere is unlike any other.  Even for the first round of play, the stands are full and the fans really show how much they appreciate what we do on court.” 


Second seed Gaultier (left), who dismissed Canada’s Shawn Delierre 3/0, was similarly pleased to be back on court in Grand Central.  “This one of the best venues,” said the reigning British Open champion.  ”I like the crowds and I like how busy it is.  It’s spectacular.” 


Fifth-seed James Willstrop, a Tournament of Champions fan favourite, treated the crowd to a display of elegant squash as he despatched Ireland’s John Rooney with an ease that the Englishman confessed was surprising.  “I have been having trouble in my first round matches recently, so I was expecting that his one would be similar,” Willstrop said.  ”But I ended up feeling quite fluent out on the court tonight.”


India’s Ritwik Bhattacharya was the last of the tournament’s new faces on court.  He faced seventh seed John White, who made very short work of the evening’s final match, winning 3/0 in 24 minutes.  It was a particularly impressive performance considering that White is doing double duty as the squash coach at Franklin & Marshall College while still playing the PSA Tour.  Despite losing, Bhattacharya was undaunted.  “I will be back next year and I will be better,” he declared.

Illingworth Topples Tuominen In Grand Central Upset


Julian Illingworth, the three-time US National Champion, delighted a vocal and partisan capacity crowd in Grand Central Terminal in New York when he upset world No17 Olli Tuominen in four games of determined squash in the opening round of play in the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions.


"I liked the match up with Olli going into tonight’s match," said the 23-year-old from New York who made history in last year’s Tournament of Champions when he became the first American to make it to the second round.  “I knew he wasn’t going to outshoot me.” 


Although the 28-year-old Finn stormed to a 9-4 lead in the first game, Illingworth was unfazed, winning the game 11-9.  In the second game, Illingworth led most of the way until Tuominen snatched the lead at 11-10.  But again the American held fast and won the tiebreak 5-3.  Visibly tired in the third, he took the gamble of letting the game go at 2-11.  The gamble paid off; he won the fourth game 11-8.  


As Illingworth put ice packs on his sore legs after the match, he compared this win to his historic 2007 performance.  “Last year I was lucky,” he said referring to his having made it into the main draw as a lucky loser and then playing a qualifier in the first round.  “This year, playing the 10th seed, I really earned the victory.”


Illingworth will next play Egypt’s Wael El Hindi, the fifth seed who ended the evening’s matches with authority, defeating qualifier Regardt Schonborn of South Africa in straight games.  El Hindi’s fellow countryman Ramy Ashour, the tournament’s top seed, making his first appearance on court after injuries derailed him at year end, delighted the spectators with his trademark shot-making as he swept past the hometown wild card entrant Christopher Gordon 11-6, 11-5, 11-5. 


Omar Elborolossy and Mohammed Abbas also moved into the next round, but 15th seed Omar Abdel Aziz was sent packing by Australian qualifier Ryan Cuskelly in a 115-minute marathon match.  Surprisingly, the experienced Egyptian did not take advantage of his opponent’s badly cramping legs in the fifth game, keeping the ball in play deep in the court instead of making Cuskelly move to the corners. 


After the match, the 20-year-old from New South Wales almost couldn’t believe his good fortune:  “Just being able to play here in the Tournament of Champions for the first time is unbelievable. This atmosphere is so amazing – it is what we play squash for,” said Cuskelly after his 11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 7-11, 11-8 victory.  “I feel really lucky to have come out with a win.”


Cuskelly’s second round opponent will be compatriot David Palmer, the third seed and two-time World Champion who cruised to a 3-0 victory over Ireland’s Liam Kenny.  In the contest between the tournament’s two Colombian players, it was the younger 22-year-old Miguel Angel Rodriguez who prevailed in straight games over 25-year-old qualifier Bernardo Samper.   

Qualifiers From Seven Countries Head For Grand Central Terminal


Players from seven countries prevailed in the qualifying finals of the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions at the New York Athletic Club to earn places in the main draw of the established PSA Super Series squash event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.


Youth prevailed in one of the most hotly-contested matches as 19-year-old Khawaja Adil Maqbool staved off four match balls en-route to defeating 34-year-old Englishman Clive Leach (the assistant pro at the New York Athletic Club) in five games.  On an unseasonably warm winter day which made the courts unusually hot, and facing an opponent with a home court advantage, the Dubai-based teenager kept his cool to eke out a 5-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8, 11-10 (3-1) victory in 66 minutes.


Leach, who had to start the fourth game with a conduct stroke against him for failing to return to the court on time, won the game to even the match at two-all.  The veteran looked on course to make it into the main draw when he carved out a 10-7 lead in the deciding game - but his young opponent proved fearless and tied the score.  Leach had one more match ball, but the Pakistani reeled off the next three points to earn his first trip to the glass court in Grand Central Terminal.


“He was getting to all my winners,” commented Zambian Patrick Chifunda wryly after losing his 69-minute battle with former Trinity College player Bernardo Samper, who drew his Colombian countryman Miguel Angel Rodriguez in the main draw. 


Mohd Ali Anwar Reda became the seventh Egyptian in the main draw when he survived the longest match of the day and defeated Badr Abdel Aziz of Sweden in five games after being on court for 74 minutes.  In another five-game match, India’s Ritwik Bhattacharya dashed the hopes of young American Gilly Lane and will play US-based seventh seed John White, of Scotland, on Friday evening.


The withdrawal of Egypt's world No1 Amr Shabana from the event (suffering with acute tendonitis in his wrist) has led to compatriot Ramy Ashour being elevated to top seed.  The 20-year-old world No2 from Cairo is making his PSA Tour comeback after sustaining a foot injury in November.  England's US Open champion Nick Matthew is also a last-minute casualty.  The world No5 from Sheffield is undergoing treatment for a ligament tear in his right shoulder.


Leach Winds Back The Clock In New York


Clive Leach, a 39-year-old Englishman who is Assistant Squash Professional at the New York Athletic Club, produced a stunning upset in the first qualifying round of the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions to claim an unlikely place in the qualifying finals of the established PSA Super Series event in New York.


Leach, runner-up in the British Junior National Championships 17 years ago, had the home court advantage in the match against Robin Clarke, a 21–year-old from Canada ranked in the world's top 80.


Leach demonstrated the mettle of a veteran as he fought back from 1/2 down, playing his way back into the match by moving the ball to all corners of the court to create openings for winners.  “It was incredibly hot and tough out there today,” said the former Warwickshire player after his 11-8, 3-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-9 victory in 55 minutes. 


Leach will next play an even younger competitor – Pakistan’s 19-year-old Abu Dhabi-based Khawaja Adil Maqbool, who defeated Malaysia’s Kim Lee Wong 11-10 (2-0), 11-9, 11-9.


The lone American player in the draw, Philadelphia’s Gilly Lane, moved one step closer to making an appearance on the glass court in Grand Central Terminal with a 3/0 victory over Princeton’s Hesham El Halaby, whose older brother Yasser will be playing in Grand Central at noon on Friday.


World’s Best Squash Players Ready to Rumble Into Grand Central Terminal for Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions


The world’s best squash players will once again transform Grand Central Terminal in New York into the world’s largest spectator squash event when the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions gets underway from 10-16 January 2008.


Headlining the list of squash stars who will be competing on the glittering four-walled glass court in Vanderbilt Hall will be Ramy Ashour, the 20-year-old Egyptian who soared to No2 in the world rankings just a year ago.  Joining Ashour in the hunt for the coveted Tournament of Champions title will be the world’s other top-ranked players, including world No3 Gregory Gaultier of France, the reigning British Open champion; two-time World Open champion and world No4 David Palmer of Australia; and England’s Nick Matthew, world No5 and the 2007 Tournament of Champions finalist.


The United States will be among the 13 countries represented in the first PSA Super Series event of the year.  Two young Americans will be making their second Tournament of Champions appearances - Portland’s Julian Illingworth, a three-time US national champion; and New York’s own Christopher Gordon.  Local interest will also be fanned by Egypt’s Yasser El Halaby, who won an unprecedented four men’s national intercollegiate championships at Princeton University. 


"Bear Stearns is proud to be the title sponsor of the Tournament of Champions for the fifth year in a row,” said Bear Stearns Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, James E. Cayne.  “Every year, Grand Central welcomes the best squash players in the world to this thrilling competition.  It has become a great tradition in New York City and we are excited to once again be a part of it."


Tournament promoter John Nimick, president of Event Engine, confirms:  "As the ToC enters its second decade as Grand Central Terminal's only annual world class sporting event, we are excited to welcome back the world's best players and once again present "squash week" in New York City."


The Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions continues to be the largest squash spectator event in the world with its unique combination of reserved seating and public viewing by what is expected to be 150,000 Grand Central commuters during tournament week.  The championship debuted as the US Professional Championship in 1930 and was renamed the Tournament of Champions when it was presented in 1992 at the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center.  It then moved to Grand Central Terminal in 1995, where it’s annual presence since has been interrupted only by the Terminal’s renovation from 1996 -1998.  The Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions has truly lived up to its name - all but one of the titleholders has also been No1 in the world rankings or a World Champion. 


A PSA Super Series event for the men, the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions features a 32-player main draw and a 32-player qualification tournament.  The Vanderbilt Hall championship presentation will have gallery seating for 500 as well as free viewing for the public.


Other activities during tournament week include extensive recreational competition in the Grand Open, a companion citywide amateur tournament and the SuperSTARS Connection Lunch on Wednesday, January 16 in support of PowerPlay NYC, Inc., a nonprofit providing fundamental sports and life skills training for girls in underserved communities in New York City.  The Tournament also highlights the accomplishments of StreetSquash and CitySquash, two New York-based, youth-orientated after-school programs which blend squash, academics, community service and mentoring.


Rated by Forbes magazine as the No1 healthiest sport based on cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, muscular endurance, calories burned and risk of injury, squash was first played in England more than 100 years ago.  It is now a popular sport in more than 120 countries.  There are 15 million squash players worldwide and 400,000 in the United States.   Squash is contested in all the major international multi-sport regional games and is on the short list of sports applying for inclusion in the Olympics. 


In addition to title sponsor Bear Stearns, event sponsors include Dunlop, New York Sports Clubs, Executive Fliteways, Juice and Pilsener Urquell.  The championships are also supported by Cityview Racquet Club, the Columbia Center for Shoulder Surgery, Grand Hyatt New York and the Campbell Apartment.


The Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions is operated by Event Engine, Inc., the largest commercial squash promotional company in the world.  Event Engine, Inc. also produces major squash championships in Toronto and Boston, and METROSquash with Sue at the Field Museum in Chicago.