Tournament of Champions 2010

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22nd-28th 2010

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James Willstrop Wins First Tournament of Champions Title


England's sixth seed James Willstrop was a master of precision as he decisively defeated world No1 Ramy Ashour in the final of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions to win the $97,500 PSA World Tour Super Series squash title at Grand Central Terminal in New York for the first time.


The 26-year-old Yorkshireman had a definitive strategy going into the match against 22-year-old Ashour:  "Ramy’s pace and racquet speed are unlike any other player," said Willstrop after his 12-10, 11-5, 9-11, 11-3 triumph.  "You’ve got to stop Ramy from having any chances to shoot because even when he has half a chance he can do so much with the ball."


The champion’s strategy was to “withstand and contain”, which he did by hitting impossibly tight shots; maintaining a medium pace that blunted his opponent’s preference for power; and seizing the first opportunity to take the ball at the front of the court.


The first game was a bit of cat and mouse as the players tested each other with a variety of shots and pace. Ashour led the entire game, but Willstrop was not bothered, staying calm and focused, playing disciplined and intelligent squash.  The first lead Willstrop had was at 11-10, but it was all he needed to win the game.


Unlike the first game, Willstrop led from start to finish in the second as he contained the passionate Egyptian with balls that hugged the glass wall and shots to the front that were deft and feathery.  Willstrop also varied the pace, floating lobs and then snapping power drives that kept Ashour scrambling to keep the ball in play.  As much artist as athlete on court, Ashour was flummoxed by the lack of opportunity to unleash his creativity:  Willstrop took the game to extend his lead.          


Down 0/2 in games, Ashour kept himself alive in the match and brought the standing room only crowd to their feet when, at nine-all, he hit two stupefying winners after long rallies to win the third game - and become the first player to take a game off Willstrop throughout the tournament!


It was all Willstrop in the fourth, though, when he shot out to a 7-1 lead before clinching the game to claim his maiden Tournament of Champions title.


"I would have been really mad if I lost 3/0," a disappointed Ashour said after the match.  "He just played better than me – he was more in the zone." 


Alluding to the fact that he had played defending champion Gregory Gaultier in the quarter-finals and world No2 Nick Matthew in the semis, the 2008 title-holder continued:  "I started thinking in between points that I have been doing this for three nights and it was just too much – it was like playing three finals in a row."


As the trophy presentation got underway under the majestic chandelier hanging over the glittering glass court in Grand Central Terminal, Willstrop’s father and coach Malcolm watched with evident emotion as his son accepted the coveted Tournament of Champions trophy. 


The champion seized the moment to recognise all those who had helped him reach this career-defining moment. "I don’t know when I will have the chance again to be standing here with the winner’s microphone, so I am going to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said with a smile and, in an Oscar style acceptance speech complete with written notes, went on to thank his entire support team including his father, the coaches and trainers at the English Institute of Sport and his girlfriend Vanessa Atkinson, a former world champion and a top competitor on the WISPA Tour.


"I have got here with lots of hard work and a great support team - and this championship would not be possible without them," added Willstrop - the only player ever to beat the three Egyptian world number ones Ramy Ashour, Karim Darwish and Amr Shabana in successive rounds in the same tournament!


When asked how this championship week stacked up against his other squash-playing experiences, the delighted and grateful champion replied:  "I would have to say this has been the best week of squash for me ever.  I beat three outstanding No1 players in four days and won the Tournament of Champions.


"It is not the biggest money event, but it is the most exciting and it is the tournament that every player wants to win."



. Draw
. Qualifying
. Reports

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The Court At Grand Central Terminal

James Willstrop plays 'the best match of his career' to defeat Ramy Ashour and win the ToC for the first time

James Willstrop breezes past top seed Karim Darwish in three games

World no 1 Ramy Ashour overcomes the resilient Nick Matthew in four

Ramy Ashour overcomes holder and second seed Gregory Gaultier in 5 games

James Willstrop comfortably beats world champion Amr Shabana 3-0

Alister Walker narrowly fails to convert a 2-1 lead against World champion Amr Shabana, eventually going down 12-10 in the fifth

Peter Nicol and Jonathon Power back on court for the inaugural Squash Legends match

Karim Darwish, top seed, eases his way through the first round against local favourite Gilly Lane

Nicholas Mueller, the Swiss qualifier, beats 15th seed and US no. 1 Julian Illingworth

Tournament of Champions 2010
Grand Central Terminus, New York, $97k

Round One
 Top Half Jan 22nd
Bottom Half Jan 23rd
Round Two
Jan 2
Jan 25/26
Jan 27
Jan 28
[1] Karim Darwish (Egy)
11-3, 11-3, 11-9 (34m)
Gilly Lane (Usa)
Karim Darwish
11-8, 11-9, 11-8 (37m)
Hisham Ashour
Karim Darwish
5-11, 11-4, 11-9, 11-7 (62m)
David Palmer
Karim Darwish
James Willstrop
James Willstrop
12-10, 11-5, 9-11, 11-3 (49m)
Ramy Ashour
[12] Hisham Ashour (Egy)
11-7, 12-10, 11-7 (32m)
[Q] Yasser El Halaby (EGY)
[7] David Palmer (Aus)
11-6, 11-7, 11-3 (32m)
Aaron Frankcomb (Aus)
David Palmer
11-4, 11-4, 11-4 (30m)
Adrian Waller
[11] Olli Tuominen (Fin)
11-6, 11-4, 2-11, 6-11, 14-12 (60m)
[Q] Adrian Waller (ENG)
[3] Amr Shabana (Egy)
12-10, 12-10, 11-8 (33m)
Omar Abdel Aziz (Egy)
Amr Shabana
6-11, 11-5, 2-11, 11-2, 12-10 (64m)
Alister Walker
Amr Shabana
11-5, 11-7, 11-4 (31m)
James Willstrop
[9] Alister Walker (Eng)
11-9, 13-11, 12-10 (44m)
Amr Swelim (Ita)
[6] James Willstrop (Eng)
11-7, 11-2, 11-5 (29m)
[Q] Shaun le Roux (ENG)
James Willstrop
11-5, 11-6, 11-6 (39m)
Tarek Momen
[13] Tarek Momen (Egy)
11-5, 11-9, 9-11, 8-11, 11-9 (76m)
Ali Anwar Reda (Egy)
Simon Rosner (Ger)
11-6, 11-5, 11-9 (35m)
[16] Renan Lavigne (Fra)
Simon Rosner
10-12, 10-12, 11-9, 11-7, 11-6 (81m)
Wael El Hindi
Wael El Hindi
11-8, 11-4, 11-7 (52m)
Nick Matthew
Nick Matthew
11-8, 6-11, 11-2, 11-3 (49m)
Ramy Ashour
Mark Krajcsak (Hun)
11-9, 11-8, 11-6 (45m)
[8] Wael El Hindi (Egy)
Rafael Alarcon (Bra)
11-6, 11-5, 11-3 (32m)
[10] Stewart Boswell (Aus)
Stewart Boswell
11-5, 11-5 ret. (23m)
Nick Matthew
[Q] Ryan Cuskelly (ENG)
8-11, 11-6, 11-2, 11-7 (60m)
[4] Nick Matthew (Eng)
[Q] Nicolas Mueller (SUI)
11-9, 11-7, 11-9 (46m)
[15] Julian Illingworth (Usa)
 Nicolas Mueller
11-5, 11-7, 11-7 (25m)
Ramy Ashour
Ramy Ashour
10-12, 11-7, 7-11, 11-5, 11-6 (70m)
Gregory Gaultier
[Q] Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
11-9, 11-7, 11-5 (30m)
[5] Ramy Ashour (Egy)
[Q] Bernardo Samper (COL)
11-13, 11-3, 11-9, 11-2 (49m)
[14] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Col)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez
11-8, 11-5, 11-8 (37m)
Gregory Gaultier
[Q] Alan Clyne (SCO)
11-6, 11-4, 11-5 (33m)
[2] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)


Qualifying finals:

Nicolas Mueller (SUI) bt Christopher Gordon (USA) 9-11, 11-4, 11-4, 12-10 (53m)

Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Mohammed Abbas (EGY) w/o

Yasser El Halaby (EGY) bt Gregoire Marche (FRA) 11-8, 11-9, 11-2 (33m)

Bernardo Samper (COL) bt Stephane Galifi (ITA) 11-13, 11-9, 11-4, 11-8 (57m)

Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Scott Arnold (AUS) 12-10, 8-11, 11-7, 11-6 (68m)

Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Chris Walker (ENG) 11-8, 11-5, 11-7 (50m)

Alan Clyne (SCO) bt Yasir Butt (PAK) 11-4, 11-8, 11-7 (46m)

Shaun le Roux (ENG) bt Campbell Grayson (NZL) 11-3, 11-6, 7-11, 11-9 (74m)

1st qualifying round:

Nicolas Mueller (SUI) bt Wade Johnstone (AUS) 11-8, 11-8, 11-6 (42m)

Christopher Gordon (USA) bt David Letourneau (CAN) 11-4, 11-5, 10-12, 11-4 (63m)

Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Esteban Casarino (PAR) 11-5, 11-7, 13-11 (47m)

Mohammed Abbas (EGY) bt Jethro Binns (WAL) 11-7, 11-6, 11-5 (35m)

Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Kashif Shuja (NZL) 7-11, 12-10, 11-6, 12-10 (58m)

Yasser El Halaby (EGY) bt Arshad Iqbal Burki (PAK) 11-5, 5-11, 6-10 ret. (27m)

Stephane Galifi (ITA) bt Fabien Verseille (FRA) 8-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-6 (67m)

Bernardo Samper (COL) bt Karim Yehia (EGY) 9-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-7 (49m)

Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Edward Marks (USA) 11-5, 11-2, 11-2 (27m)

Scott Arnold (AUS) bt Omar El Kashef (EGY) 12-10, 11-9, 11-7 (45m)

Chris Walker (ENG) bt Matthew Karwalski (AUS) 9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8, 11-7 (70m)

Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt TG Raubenheimer (RSA) 11-8, 11-5, 11-5 (35m)

Alan Clyne (SCO) bt Tom Pashley (ENG) 11-9, 10-12, 11-3, 11-7 (49m)

Yasir Butt (PAK) bt Erik Tepos Valtierra (MEX) 11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 11-3 (33m)

Shaun le Roux (ENG) bt Liam Kenny (IRL) 11-6, 11-7 ret. (20m)

Campbell Grayson (NZL) bt Johan Bouquet (FRA) 11-4, 11-6, 11-7 (31m)



Willstrop Wipes Out Darwish To Face Ashour In New York Final


The JP Morgan Tournament of Champions will climax in a surprise final after England's James Willstrop and Egyptian Ramy Ashour defeated higher-seeded opponents in the semi-finals of the $97,500 PSA World Tour Super Series event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.


Fifth seed Ramy Ashour was at his dominating best as he eliminated world No2 Nick Matthew, the fourth seed from England, in four games.


"I kept myself in the zone as much as I could," said the world number one from Cairo after his 11-8, 6-11, 11-2, 11-3 victory in 49 minutes.  "And the cross court nick was working well today."


In fact, all of Ashour’s shots were working well and he kept the pressure on the Yorkshireman from start to finish. Matthew, who had not really been tested in the tournament prior to this match, particularly had to adjust to the young Egyptian's blistering pace.  Regrouping in the second, Matthew handled the Ashour intensity well enough to take the game to draw level.


Ashour responded by allowing Matthew just two points in the third.  By the fourth, there was nothing the Englishman could do to stem the Egyptian tide.


"When Ramy’s playing his best, it shows why he is world number one," said England national coach David Pearson.  "The other players have quite a job on their hands."


Ashour will meet sixth seed James Willstrop in the final.  The elegant Englishman was as dominating in his match as Ashour was against Matthew, deposing top seed Karim Darwish 11-6, 11-5, 11-8.  In Willstrop’s case, it was pinpoint accuracy rather than pace that kept Darwish from ever really getting into the match.


In the first two games, it was all Willstrop, who won the first point and never relinquished the lead in either game.  Former world number one Darwish came alive briefly in the third, taking a 6-2 lead - but Willstrop calmly rebounded, running off five consecutive points to go ahead 7-6.  After allowing Darwish just one more point, the Yorkshireman closed out the match in just 37 minutes.


Willstrop, whose biggest challenge over the past few months has been regaining confidence after bone spur surgery in April, did have a moment of doubt when he slipped on court in the third game.  There was no injury to the foot.  "The good news is that I went from being uneasy to feeling good-really good –again," said the 26-year-old from Leeds.


Willstrop’s quiet confidence was evident on the court.  “Darwish plays well when he’s confident and his racquet work can be deadly.  Tonight his racquet work was off - which could have had something to do with the pressure I was putting on him," said the soft spoken Englishman.


The final between Ashour and Willstrop will be their third meeting at the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions.  Ashour beat Willstrop for the title in 2008 and in the quarter-final round in 2007, a match that ranks in the annals of squash history as one of the best of all time. 


When reminded of that match, Ashour grinned broadly and said:  "Yes, yes … maybe I will have to watch a video of that before I play tomorrow."


Willstrop is celebrating his 20th appearance in a PSA World Tour final and looking for his 12th win.  Ashour, 22, who boasts a 5-2 career head-to-head lead over the tall Englishman, is marking his 23rd Tour final, and is one match away from his 15th title triumph.


World's Top Two To Contest ToC Semi


The world's top two squash players will contest one of the semi-finals of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions after Ramy Ashour and Nick Matthew - from Egypt and England, respectively - prevailed in contrasting quarter-finals of the $97,500 PSA World Tour Super Series event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.


World No1 Ramy Ashour and defending champion Gregory Gaultier, the world number four from France, treated the packed and rapt audience in Grand Central Terminal to a match of extraordinary artistry in their 70-minute joust.  In the end, the prodigious talent of the 22-year-old from Cairo was just too much for the Frenchman whose squash skills and court creativity are also quite considerable.


"Greg was sharp and hungry tonight," the fast talking Ashour said after the match.  "I think he is stronger than before.  But I played the crucial points well, which you have to do if you are going to win at this level."


Hungry and eager to defend his title after an enforced year-end layoff due to injury, Gaultier came out shooting, winning the first game in a tiebreak.  Ashour responded by picking up his game and sharpening his focus to win the second, but was rebuffed in the third as Gaultier covered all corners of the court with ease and fluidity.


The fourth and fifth games were marked by several long rallies and a full array of pace and shot-making by each player, but it was Ashour who played the big points best when it counted, winning the match 10-12, 11-7, 7-11, 11-5, 11-6.


Several former tour competitors who were part of the capacity crowd could be seen shaking their head in amazement at the shots that Ashour was hitting for winners.  "Ramy is doing things with the racquet that we have never seen before," said Jay Prince, publisher of the US Squash Magazine.  "He is stretching the boundaries of the game, changing the way it is played."


One of the Ashour innovations on display during the match was his “cobra” grip, where his hands are spread out along the racquet handle.  "It is a cobra grip," explained Ashour, "because it can come back and bite quickly."


"There were times out there tonight when I felt like I was playing the final," Ashour added later.  "But tomorrow will be even better," he continued, alluding to his semi-final line-up with world No2 Nick Matthew.


In the evening’s first match where the Englishman took on Egypt's eighth seed Wael El Hindi, it was all Matthew as he controlled the match from start to finish.  After being down 2-3 in the first game, Matthew did not relinquish the lead for the rest of the match, winning 11-8, 11-4, 11-7.


"I felt that I was able to keep the ball really tight on the backhand wall where Wael normally controls the pace," explained the 29-year-old from Sheffield.  When asked whether he felt as comfortable as he looked out on the ToC glass court, Matthew replied: "I love the atmosphere here.  The crowd is brilliant. Each year when I come back, it takes a little getting used to in the early rounds, because there’s more noise and commotion than at other tournaments - but once you adjust, it actually gives you more energy."


In the Elite Junior Women’s Challenge between the two top ranked US junior women that kicked off the evening of play, Amanda Sobhy of Seacliff, Long Island, defeated Connecticut’s Olivia Blatchford, 12-10, 11-8, 8-11, 11-2.

Willstrop Overcomes Shabana In Grand Central Shock


England's James Willstrop pulled off a notable upset in the quarter-finals of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions when he despatched Egypt's world champion Amr Shabana in straight games to reach the semi-finals of the $97,500 PSA World Tour Super Series squash event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.


In a match that sixth seed Willstrop himself described as “average”, the 26-year-old from Leeds was never really pushed by the two-time Tournament of Champions winner, who may have been worn out from his prior evening’s match against Englishman Alister Walker that required a comeback of Herculean proportion.


"Shabana’s been at the top for so long now - and that is so hard to do, week in and week out," said Willstrop after his 11-5, 11-7, 11-4 victory in 31 minutes.  "It rarely happens that he has a bad match against me, so when it happens, I better take advantage of it,” added the Yorkshireman, with good humour.


The win was sweet revenge for Willstrop who last lost to the former world number from Cairo in the semi-finals of the World Open in Kuwait in November - when Shabana went on the win the title for a fourth time.  After that match, Shabana credited Willstrop for being "up there amongst the top three Englishmen of all-time".


Willstrop's win dashed hopes of an all Egyptian semi-final after Cairo-based event favourite Karim Darwish beat Australian David Palmer in the other quarter-final.


There was an air of eager anticipation in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall as the first quarter-final got underway between two of the game’s bigger players – both in terms of physical size and accomplishments on the PSA Tour.  


Seventh seeded Palmer attacked early and won the first game.  Darwish, ranked world No1 for all but one month in 2009, increased his depth and picked up the pace in the second game to draw level.  The third game was a seesaw battle as the lead exchanged hands several times.  With the score tied nine-all, a Palmer miss-hit and a Darwish winner put the match firmly in the Egyptian’s grasp as he took a 2/1 game lead.


The fourth game also saw the lead exchange hands several times.  At 8-7 in favour of Darwish, Palmer hit the ball in frustration and it got stuck in the lights, necessitating a replacement.  With the new ball not quite as warm as the one in play for the prior part of the match, Darwish hit two consecutive winners that died just out of Palmer’s reach.  Then Palmer made two diving forehand shots that won him the next point but bloodied his knees, forcing him off the court to be bandaged.


Darwish won the next point to close out the match 5-11, 11-4, 11-9, 11-7 and even his lifetime match record against Palmer to seven victories apiece. 


“I felt like I really played a perfect first game,” said 33-year-old veteran Palmer, who was recognised after the match by tournament director John Nimick for being the only player in the tournament to have played the championship every year since it was first staged in Grand Central Terminal 13 years ago.


Winner Darwish added:  "This has been good to play a hard match and get my confidence and my shots back after being injured at the end of the year."


Between the two quarter-final matches, the ToC audience was treated to a trip down memory lane as Englishman Peter Nicol and Canadian Jonathon Power, who between them own seven ToC titles, played a Legends Challenge match, won 11-9, 13-11 by Nicol.


Amr Shabana Edges Through At Grand Central In New York


The fiery spirit, agile athleticism and silken squash shot-making of Egypt’s Amr Shabana were on full display as he eked out a tiebreak fifth game victory against England’s Alister Walker in the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, the $97,500 PSA World Tour Super Series event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.


"I was almost on a plane home tonight," said the relieved two-time title-holder after the match.  The ninth-seeded Walker, who had beaten Shabana for the first time in September at the Sky Open in Egypt, roared into the match, winning the first game 11-6. 


"My head was all over the place," the third-seeded Egyptian said.  "I had to tighten up my game to get back on track.  He has amazing reach, and can volley any ball that isn’t really tight on the wall."  In a match marked by huge momentum swings, Shabana won the second game 11-5, lost the third 11-2, and won the fourth 11-2.


"When you get to the fifth, it is anybody’s game," Shabana continued.  He looked to have the match in hand at 7-3, but the Englishman staged a five point rally to take the lead 8-7 after moving Shabana from side to side and hitting a winning backhand shot.  A Walker tin and a stroke to the Egyptian gave Shabana match ball at 10-8.  His leaping volley on the next point went into the tin and an out ball brought the game to a 10 all tie.  Shabana showed that he was not about to be denied as he made two diving saves to keep the ball in play on the next point which ended in a let. The eventual victor then buried the ball deep in the backhand corner to force an error from Walker, which was followed by a tin, securing the world champion a place in the ToC quarter-finals. 


Shabana’s opponent will be sixth seed James Willstrop, also an Englishman, who defeated Mohd Ali Anwar Reda in three straightforward games.  Having survived a tough five-game first round match, the Egyptian wasn’t sharp or strong enough to challenge Willstrop.  There was a heart-stopping moment in the second game, however, when Willstrop asked for a three-minute injury timeout.  "It was scary, because I’m just now feeling fully comfortable after recovering from surgery in April for a bone spur, and my worst nightmare is to have another injury,” said the Yorkshireman. "Fortunately it wasn’t anything more than a slip on court."


Top seed Karim Darwish also made it into the quarterfinals with a win over countryman Hisham Mohd Ashour - who made Darwish work hard for the win, even though it was a straight game victory.  “With Hisham, you never know how he’s going to play – he always brings something new to the court,” Darwish remarked. “Every time I play him I feel like I am playing him for the first time.”  Ashour, although frustrated that he did not win a game, was encouraged by the standard of play.  “I was finding some good pace,” said the 27-year-old.  "Now I just need to get all the good squash in my head out on the court."


Darwish’s next opponent will be seventh seed David Palmer, the Australian who defeated English qualifier Adrian Waller.  "He was just too strong,” said Waller after losing 11-4, 11-4, 11-4. 


Palmer admitted that he had a favourable draw:  "I am trying to take advantage of it so I can be in a position to challenge the top four guys.  I definitely wanted to have short matches so I didn’t waste any gas in the early rounds."


World No1 Ramy Ashour opened the evening session of play with a blistering victory over Swiss qualifier Nicolas Mueller. The 22-year-old Egyptian had some extra fire in the belly after reading that some of his fellow competitors thought they had figured out his game.  “Some people think that they know my game – that they can beat me at my game.  But for someone to learn my game is very hard. I play by instinct –no one can know me but me,” Ashour explained. 


"It was crazy out there, playing the world No1 in front of a full crowd,” said Mueller. ”It took me one game to realize just how fast the pace is at which he plays.”


The final match up in the quarterfinals pits England's world No2 Nick Matthew against eighth seed Wael El Hindi. Matthew spent only 23 minutes on court in his match against Stewart Boswell.  After dropping the first two games, the Australian shook hands with Matthew indicating that he was retiring from the match due to a sore knee which he had injured in his match warm up. 


"I would have liked a little more time on court,” said Matthew.  "But I did OK last year without a lot of court time,” ruefully noting that Boswell had defaulted to him in last year’s tournament in which he received two walkovers en route to the 2009 final against Gaultier.


Mueller & Rosner Advance In New York After Upsets At Grand Central


US hopes of success in the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions were dashed when Swiss qualifier Nicolas Mueller beat five times US national champion Julian Illingworth, the 15th seed, in the first round of the $97,500 PSA World Tour Super Series squash event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.


The 20-year-old from Zurich got off to a nervous start in his very first appearance on the all-glass court at Grand Central as he quickly fell behind 1-5.  "It was a little overwhelming," said Mueller, "even bigger and noisier than I could have imagined."  But the Swiss player steadied himself and snared the first game. The highest-ranking American ever on the PSA tour, Illingworth struggled in the second game as a sore wrist hampered his shot-making.


With the crowd loudly in his corner, the New York-based Illingworth gamely tried to challenge Mueller in the third and drew even at nine-all with some deft shot-making and quick movement to the front of the court.  But two tins by Illingworth gave Mueller the match 11-9, 11-7, 11-9 after 46 minutes - and the opportunity to face world No1 Ramy Ashour in the second round.


Ashour defeated French qualifier Mathieu Castagnet 11-9, 11-7, 11-5.  "He surprised me," said Ashour.  "But I was happy to be playing someone who was smart on the court.  He read my boast well and to win the match, I had to be faster and make him work more."


The other upset came when Germany's Simon Rosner defeated 16th seed Renan Lavigne, from France, with relative ease in front of a capacity crowd in the nearly 500 seat stadium.  "It is just a great feeling," said the broadly smiling victor after the match.  "I was nervous because I don’t often get to play on the glass court, and never in front of such a big crowd."


Rosner received some advice between games from his coach back home who phoned in coaching tips while watching the live webcast on SquashTV.  Lavigne was sanguine about the 3/0 loss to his 22-year-old opponent.  "I had decided about a month ago it was time for some new challenges," said the 35-year-old Frenchman who has had some memorable battles on the Grand Central glass court.  "I wasn’t mentally tough today, but I am glad to get play here one last time, especially because I wanted to bring my father, for his 62nd birthday present, to New York City see one of the best tournaments in the world."


Qualifier Ryan Cuskelly got an early jump on Nick Matthew when he took the first game against the world No2 from England.  Midway through the second game, Cuskelly caught Matthew in the ankle with the ball.  "I was a little flat in the first game and getting hit with the ball, which annoyed me, gave me the fire in the belly I needed to get going," Matthew said.


The Englishman started playing more aggressively and closed out the match against the 22-year-old Australian 8-11, 11-6, 11-2, 11-7.   Matthew’s second round opponent will be another Australian, Stewart Boswell, who eliminated Brazil’s Rafael F Alarcon in three straight games.


France’s Gregory Gaultier began his defence of the title with a straightforward victory over Scottish qualifier Alan Clyne 11-6, 11-5, 11-5.  "I was real excited to come back here to Grand Central," said the world No4.  "After a terrible year end with injuries, I am happy to be playing again, especially in a place where I feel so comfortable."


Gaultier will next play Miguel Angel Rodriguez who defeated fellow Colombian Bernardo Samper in four games.  "There are only two professional squash players from Colombia," said Rodriguez, "and we end up playing each other in the first round." 


Wael El Hindi, the eighth seed from Egypt, demonstrated a new seriousness of purpose when he showed up for his first round match against Hungary’s Mark Krajcsak. "I was a little more nervous this year because New York City is my home now, and I had a lot of friends and supporters in the crowd,” said the 29-year-old who is the touring pro at Cityview Racquet Club.  In the early going, it was a nip and tuck match, with the lead exchanging hands on almost every point until El Hindi nabbed the opening game. Krajcsak came back in the second, taking a 7-4 lead, but El Hindi held his ground to take the second game and easily closed the match 11-9, 11-8, 11-6.


"I have changed a lot of things in the last year to get stronger and fitter, because I realised that moving up in the rankings is about how many matches you can keep playing at the same level of intensity," said the satisfied new New Yorker.


Waller Wows Grand Central Crowd With Fight Back Victory


English qualifier Adrian Waller made an impressive debut in his first appearance on the famed glass court in New York's Grand Central Terminal in the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, defeating 11th seed Olli Tuominen in the first round of the $97,500 PSA World Tour squash event, the opening event of the 2010 PSA Super Series.


The 20-year-old Englishman, who defended four match balls in the fifth game, smiled broadly as he cooled down after his 60 minute victory.  "I am really pleased with how I was able to come back in the fifth," said left-hander.  Although Waller won the first two games in commanding fashion, Tuominen looked to have the match well in hand after he secured the third and fourth games, and was one point from a match victory at 10-6. 


But the young man from Enfield held steady under the pressure from the Finnish veteran 10 years his senior, tying the score at 10 all.  Although he didn’t convert his first match ball at 11-10, Waller finally clinched victory 11-6, 11-4, 2-11, 6-11, 14-12.


Waller will face seventh seed David Palmer in the second round.  The 33-year-old Aussie, now based in Orlando, Florida, started the match with his 23-year-old countryman Aaron Frankcomb with a lot of pace and kept it up throughout his three game victory.  "I wanted him to know that he was going to be in for a hard match," Palmer said of his attacking strategy.  "And I want to try to keep the matches as short as possible."


It was not a short match for Mohd Ali Anwar Reda who needed 76 minutes to vanquish his Egyptian countryman, 13th seed Tarek Momen.  Like the champion athlete whose name he shares and wears on his sweatshirt - Muhammad Ali - Reda did "float like butterfly and sting like a bee" in the first two games, but lost focus and lost the next two games.


"He changed his game and cut down on the errors and I got defensive," said Reda of his mid-match lapse.  "Then in the fifth it was anyone’s game."  Momen took an early 5-2 lead, but Reda rebounded to forge ahead 7-5 and then 10-7.  An unforced forehand error into the tin by Reda and a passing rail shot by Momen narrowed Reda’s lead to10-9.  Reda’s crosscourt forehand to the back of the court forced an error from Momen which secured his 11-5, 11-9, 9-11, 8-11, 11-9 victory.


Next up for Reda is an opponent he will face for the first time, sixth seed James Willstrop.  The 26-year-old Englishman, who has given Tournament of Champions' fans several memorable matches, has a special affinity for the championship.  "It is such an absolute pleasure to play here," said Willstrop after his 11-7, 11-2, 11-5 victory over qualifier Shaun le Roux, a fellow Yorkshireman.


"I am so pleased for every match I get to play in Grand Central," added the 2008 runner up.


Top seed Karim Darwish, ranked world number one for most of 2009, opened the evening session of play with an authoritative victory over American wildcard entry Gilly Lane, 11-3, 11-3, 11-9.  The 28-year-old Egyptian was pleased to be back on court after the December holiday hiatus when he had a chance to rest and recuperate from a back injury.  And even though he lost, Lane was revelling in his first foray on the Grand Central court. 


"I have been coming here since I was 15," said the 24-year-old Philadelphia native whose home base is now Amsterdam.  "I can’t believe that nine years later I am now playing on this court.  I just wish I could have been out there longer."


After his victory, Darwish remained on court while Tournament Director John Nimick was presented with a proclamation from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recognising the Tournament of Champions’ unique status as a major sports championship in a landmark building and declaring Tournament of Champions week "Squash Week" in New York City.   


Darwish’s next opponent will be fellow countryman Hisham Mohd Ashour who eliminated qualifier Yasser El Halaby in three games.  El Halaby, a four-time collegiate champion at Princeton University who works in banking in New York City, was no match for his exuberant opponent who spent his year end break playing exhibitions and teaching squash clinics at various clubs and schools in the US.


Rounding out the quartet of Egyptian players into the second round is two-time champion Amr Shabana who ousted his training partner Omar Abdel Aziz in three games.


Shabana’s next opponent will be England’s Alister Walker who defeated Amr Swelim.  "I love New York City and this tournament," said Walker.  "There is such great energy here and you can take that out on court with you."  Walker, who was thrilled to have his father watching him play for the first time in 10 years, attributed his victory in a very closely contested three game match to experience.  "It’s knowing how to win the big points," he said after the match. 


Win the big points he did, nabbing an 11-9, 13-11, 12-10 victory to ensure that his father, who travelled from Botswana to see Walker play, will have another opportunity to see his son in action under the glittering chandeliers in Grand Central Terminal.    



Former US College Champions In Tournament of Champions Draw


Princeton University graduate Yasser El Halaby and Trinity college alum Bernardo Samper both earned tickets to ride into the main draw of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions with victories in the qualifying finals of the $97,500 PSA World Tour squash event in New York, the opening event of the 2010 PSA Super Series.


Egyptian El Halaby, who now resides in New York City, was precise and prescient, reading his opponent’s shots with consistent accuracy, in his straight games victory over Frenchman Gregoire Marche.  For Samper, a native of Colombia who resides in New York, it was tough and steadfast retrieving that resulted in a four-game victory over Italian Stephane Galifi.


It was a trio of firsts for Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller, Scotland’s Alan Clyne and England’s Adrian Waller, all on their first trip to New York City, qualifying for the first time for the Tournament of Champions and a PSA Super Series event.  Adrian Waller battled for 68 minutes before succumbing to Australia’s Scott Arnold.


"It was a lively court, so I had to wait a little while before I started attacking," said Waller after the match.  "Scott hits the ball quite cleanly and I had to get him out of his rhythm."   Clyne beat Pakistan's Yasir Butt in three-game victory over.


Mueller dropped the first game to hometown favourite Christopher Gordon.  After staying neck and neck to nine-all, Gordon took the game 11-9.  "I stepped up the pace considerably in the second and third games," said Mueller, winning them 11-4, 11-4.  "In the fourth we had several ridiculously long rallies, and when I was down 9-10, I played the best shot of my life," he continued, recounting the path to the 12-10 final game win that propelled the Swiss player into a main draw first round match against five-time US national champion Julian Illingworth


Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly quelled the competitive fire of the draw’s oldest competitor, defeating Englishman Chris Walker in three lively games.  England’s Shaun Le Roux logged the most court time in his 74-minute defeat of New Zealand’s higher-ranked Campbell Grayson while Mathieu Castagnet logged no court time when his opponent Mohammed Abbas withdrew due to injury.


Also in his first foray in the Tournament of Champions, the Frenchman will meet world No1 Ramy Ashour in the first round.  Cuskelly, who reached the second round of the ToC two years ago, will face England's world No2 Nick Matthew in his opening ToC match.  


Wily Walker Advances In Tournament of Champions Qualifying


Unranked Englishman Chris Walker scored a major upset in the opening round of the qualifying tournament in the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, defeating Australia’s world No 75 Matthew Karwalski in five games in a 70-minute marathon in the $92,500 PSA World Tour squash event in New York - the opening event of the 2010 PSA Super Series.


The 42–year-old former world No4, now a squash coach in Connecticut, said:  "I would dearly love to get on the glass court one last time," referring to the sparkling four walled glass court constructed under the chandeliers in Grand Central Terminal for the main draw.


First, however, Walker will have to get past Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly, who defeated TG Raubenheimer of South Africa in four games.


Two former US intercollegiate champions are in the hunt for main draw berths.  Princeton University graduate Yasser El Halaby, the only four time winner of the men’s collegiate crown, looked like he was going to be down 1/2 in games when his opponent, Pakistani Arshad Iqbal Burki, pulled up short with a pulled calf muscle and had to retire.


El Halaby will face Gregoire Marche who eliminated New Zealand’s Kashif Shuja in four games with relentless retrieving and court speed.  Trinity College graduate Bernardo Samper of Colombia, also a US intercollegiate champion, defeated local pro Karim Yehia in four games and will next play Italy’s Stephane Galifi who came back from two games down to defeat Frenchman Fabien Verseille.


France's Mathieu Castagnet also moves into the second round and will face tour veteran Mohammed Abbas who was ranked 13 two years ago.  The 29-year-old Egyptian, coming back after a year-long injury hiatus, dispatched Welshman Jethro Binns with relative ease in three straight games.


Hometown favourite Christopher Gordon pleased the crowd at the Harvard Club by defeating Canada’s David Letourneau in four games.  He will next play Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller for the right to make it to the main draw and the glass court.



World’s Best Players On Board For America’s Premier Squash Championship


The 2010 JP Morgan Tournament of Champions will feature three returning title-holders among the world’s best professional squash players entered in the draw of America’s largest professional squash championship to be played in Grand Central Terminal in New York from 22-28 January.


"This year’s Tournament of Champions features an extremely competitive draw,” said Tournament Director John Nimick.  “Five players have held the world No1 ranking, three of whom have also captured the coveted Tournament of Champions trophy.” 


The three returning title-holders are defending champion Gregory Gaultier of France and Egypt’s Amr Shabana and Ramy Ashour, who became world number one for the first time last week.  Karim Darwish, also of Egypt, who held the No1 ranking for most of 2009, will be the tournament’s top seed.


The JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, which continues to be Grand Central Terminal’s only annual world class sporting event, is a PSA Super Series event featuring a 32-player main draw and a 32-player qualification tournament. 


The tournament is sanctioned by the Professional Squash Association, the regulatory body for elite international men’s competition and the men’s world rankings - and is the first event of the 2010 PSA World Tour Super Series programme, full details of which will be announced shortly.


“The ToC is my favourite tournament on the tour,” said defending champion Gaultier, who enjoyed one month at the top of the world rankings late last year.  “My win last year was a dream that came true.  The Grand Central Terminal venue is just amazing - it is the best way to show people our sport by setting up a glass court in a place where tens of thousands of spectators pass by every day.”


Players representing 20 countries will compete in the Tournament of Champions, including two Americans, Julian Illingworth and Gilly Lane.  Illingworth, a native of Portland, Oregon, who now resides in New York City, has achieved the highest international ranking ever of any US player. Philadelphian Lane, the No2 ranking US player, has received a wild card entry into the draw. 


Egypt has eight players entered in the championship, so it is fitting that the newest sponsor of the tournament is Egypt Tourism Authority, which will give away two free trips to Egypt during the Tournament.  “Egypt has been well represented by our squash players who have achieved such great success on the PSA global tour,” said Elsayed Khalifa, Director of the Egyptian Tourist Authority in New York.  “We look forward to supporting them in the Tournament as well as the opportunity to let the fans and Grand Central spectators know more about Egypt as a great travel destination.  We are thrilled with our association for the first time with this prestigious tournament and can’t wait to celebrate its success.”


In addition to title sponsor JP Morgan, the Tournament of Champions is supported by Silver Sponsors Lexington Partners, Frank Crystal & Co., Inc., EatStrong and the Egypt Tourism Authority. Bronze sponsors supporting the world’s largest spectator squash event are Dunlop, Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC, Grand Hyatt New York, The Campbell Apartment, and the Columbia University Center for Shoulder, Elbow & Sports Medicine.  


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  Sanctioned by
Ramy Ashour
Ranking 1
Height: 1.8M
Weight: 78 KGS
Dob: 1987-09-30 CAIRO
Nick Matthew
Ranking 2
Height: 6'
Weight: 77 kgs
Dob: 1980-07-25 SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND
Amr Shabana
Ranking 3
Height: 1.73M
Weight: 73 KGS
Dob: 1979-07-29 CAIRO
Gregory Gaultier
Ranking 4
Height: 1.76
Weight: 75 KGS
Dob: 1982-12-23 EPINAL
Karim Darwish
Ranking 5
Height: 1.79 M
Weight: 76 KGS
Dob: 1981-08-29 CAIRO, EGYPT
James Willstrop
Ranking 7
Height: 1.9 M
Weight: 90 KGS
David Palmer
Ranking 8
Height: 1.88CM
Weight: 85 KGS
Dob: 1976-06-28 AUSTRALIA
Wael El Hindi
Ranking 11
Height: 1.87M
Weight: 77 KGS
Dob: 1980-06-25 CAIRO, EGYPT
Alister Walker
Ranking 12
Height: 1.75M
Weight: 75 KGS
Dob: 1982-09-19 BOTSWANA
Stewart Boswell
Ranking 16
Height: 1.88M
Weight: 78 KGS
Olli Tuominen
Ranking 22
Height: 1.76
Weight: 67 KGS
Dob: 1979-04-15 HELSINKI, FINLAND
Tarek Momen
Ranking 24
Height: 1.74M
Weight: 64 KGS
Dob: 1988-02-23 CAIRO, EGYPT
Hisham Mohd Ashour
Ranking 25
Height: 1.79M
Weight: 82KG
Dob: 1982-05-20 CAIRO, EGYPT
Miguel Angel Rodriguez
Ranking 27
Height: 1.7M
Weight: 69 KGS
Dob: 1985-12-20 BOGOTA, COLOMBIA
Julian Illingworth
Ranking 30
Height: 6FT
Weight: 175 LBS
Dob: 1984-01-30 PORTLAND, USA
Renan Lavigne
Ranking 32
Height: 1.73M
Weight: 66 KGS
Dob: 1974-11-01 LONGJUMEAU, FRANCE
Mohd. Ali Anwar Reda
Ranking 33
Height: 1.77 M
Weight: 70 KGS
Dob: 1989-04-16 CAIRO, EGYPT
Simon Rosner
Ranking 36
Height: 1.89
Weight: 86 KGS
Dob: 1987-11-05 WURZBURG
Omar Abdel Aziz
Ranking 38
Height: 1.80
Weight: 74 KGS
Dob: 1983-09-11 CAIRO
Aaron Frankcomb
Ranking 40
Height: 1.76 M
Weight: 75 KGS
Dob: 1985-04-04 HOBART, AUSTRALIA
Amr Swelim
Ranking 41
Height: 1.75 M
Weight: 73 KGS
Dob: 1984-06-07 CAIRO,EGYPT
Rafael F. Alarcon
Ranking 42
Height: 1.77
Weight: 75 KGS
Dob: 1977-02-05 SAO PAULO
Mark Krajcsak
Ranking 44
Height: 1.8 M
Weight: 74 KGS
Dob: 1983-12-28 BUDAPEST
Gilly Lane
Ranking 59
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 165 LBS
Dob: 1985-08-26 PHILADELPHIA, USA