Waller claims biggest title in Montreal
Runa Reta reports
After an incredible marathon comeback from 2-0 down last night, Arturo Salazar took to the court trying to pull off one final Houdini performance against the #1 seed and higher-ranked Englishman, Adrian Waller. Bragging rights were also on the line for the Mexican, as his brother Cesar hoisted the Montreal Open trophy only two years ago, and surely a twin always wants the same things that his sibling has.
But this would be Salazar’s toughest test yet: Adrian Waller had been playing immaculate squash all week and did not drop a single game on his road to the final. With great finesse and countless subtleties to his game, Waller was coming into this final as the heavy favourite. He had also played at this event three times beforehand was more than motivated to make it third time lucky here in beautiful Montreal.
The Mexican – dressed as always in his country’s colours–started off the quicker of the two, using a combination of lethal drops and boasts from the back of the court to catch his opponent off guard. The Englishman – paying homage to his own country’s dreary weather by dressing in grey –took some time to adjust to this upside-down squash. Quite opposite to the traditional “attack from in front of your opponent” squash, Salazar was boldly building his rallies off of aggressive play from the back of the court, drawing the giant Waller deep into the front corners and then looking to pick off the next shots.
Salazar took an early 8-4 lead, using this strategy to great effect, while the Englishman committed a number of uncharacteristic errors. For the first time in the tournament, Waller looked a little bit out of sorts, hitting another error at 9-5 down and then being miles away on a backhand boast from the fiery Mexican, who took the first 11-5.
Unsurprisingly for an experienced player of Waller’s stature, he adjusted and came out in the second playing straighter lines and cutting down the angles for his opponent to attack off of. He pushed up the court as well as the scoreline6-0, and was now fully dominating the play in front of Salazar, who realized half-way through the game that he was too far gone to mount a fruitful comeback. Except for one push at 10-0 down to avoid an embarrassing bagel, the Mexican decided to conserve his energy, and conceded the game, 11-1.
The third was a closer affair at the beginning, but the Mexican went down 6-3 and was clearly losing the sting on his shots – a sure sign of fatigue –pushing the ball more than cutting it in. At the same time, Waller was just getting better and better with every point, particularly on his straight drops.
Three poor errors from Salazar in the mid-part of the game got Waller up to 9-4… a worrying sign for the Mexican, who had been much more precise in earlier rounds. Indeed, the wheels appeared to be coming off for Salazar, as his shots were now being returned with interest; and yet, he somehow insisted stubbornly on continuing to shoot, which was failing terribly as a tactic. Waller won the third handily, 11-4.
Salazar would have to dig in deep now if he was going to stay in this match.In the first few points, the Mexican tried playing with more patience up and down the walls, but he was getting completely outplayed at this game, as Waller re-found the impeccable line and length that he had displayed throughout the week. A perfectly weighted forehand drive that died on the back joint at 4-0 elicited a fist pump from Waller (yes, it’s the simple things that excite the English) as he could sense that victory was near.
Sadly, the fire and passion of the Mexican that had inspired us all last night had completely fizzled out, and no one – except for Waller and some random drunken girls in the crowd – was enjoying the sight of a player with nothing left in the tank. By 6-0, Salazar was shaking his head dejectedly; by 8-0, his head was slumped down into his chest; and at 10-0,it was the Englishman who spared him the shame of a bagel by offering him a few consolation points. But finally,invariably, it was Adrian Waller who made it to the finish line in fine form, taking the fourth 11-2 and taking the seventh and biggest title of his career, becoming our 2019 Montreal Open Champion!
In his thank you speech, Waller showed us his lighter side by joking that he had lost to Cesar Salazar in the event two years ago, and that with this win over Arturo he had somehow gotten even with the family, putting those skeletons to rest, once and for all!
Semis : Top seeds Waller and Salazar to contest final : Runa Reta reports
Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-0 Auguste Dussourd
In front of a sold-out crowd, top seed Adrian Waller came out in the first game with two early winners, as if to set the tone and remind his opponent of his ranking more than forty spots below. But while we may have thought that this was going to be a night of one-way traffic, the confident Frenchman Auguste Dussourd showed right from the start that he was not about to be intimidated or pushed around.
After the early lead, Dussourd tightened up and was able to counter beautifully off Waller’s straight drops that had been working like magic in yesterday’s match. Going through a string of impressive rallies where he was holding the ball and taking smart calculated risks, the young Dussourd was able to go up 7-5. Unfortunately, his length started to fall short and Waller was able to regain control of the game, taking the ball in wonderfully through the midcourt. The World Ranked #34 Englishman took the first, 11-8.
The second started a bit scrappy, with Dussourd looking like he had thrown out any game plan, while Waller only got tighter with his accuracy, keeping the ball straight and building his attack off of what the person next to me was aptly calling a “dirty” volley drop. Waller took a 7-2 lead, with the Frenchman starting to show the first signs of both fatigue and a loss of ideas. Dussourd essentially gave the game up at about 6-2 down, which was quite disappointing after a close and entertaining first.
Heading into the third, would the Frenchman pull a classic Gaultier – feigning being down and out, only to rise up from the dead and make this into a competitive match? Well, he did one thing that is Gaultier-like (no, not tapping his opponent’s bum or jutting out his chin after each point won) – he tried to get into Waller’s head by calling random lets. In fact, at one point, Dussourd was searching so badly for his opponent that when Waller protested that he was looking for the man, he replied… and I couldn’t make this up if I tried: “Even if I’m looking for him, I can play the ball when I want!”
Ahhh, bless the French and their unabashed confidence to argue the ridiculous with a completely straight face.
Anyway, to the lawyerly Frenchman’s credit, he didn’t roll over, instead tracking down some incredible counter-drops to the front and showing that he was willing to put in the hard work in this third game. The lanky Dussourd seemed to be putting in every last ounce of effort, finally taking a lead at 7-6. But a brutal rally ended in Dussourd bending over, his legs probably burning. Waller then hit a clutch cross-court nick to go up 9-8, followed by a wonderful straight drop winner off some loose and desperate play by the Frenchman. The end was near for the world ranked #77, and indeed, a last-ditch cross-court nick into the tin was the last fight that the Frenchman had in him. Adrian Waller took the third 11-8, winning the match 3-0 and booking his place into the finals tomorrow.
Arturo Salazar (MEX) 3-2 Mohamed El Sherbini
In this second semi-final, we had the thrilling Mexican sharp-shooter (ranked #45 in the world) against the blindingly coloured and smooth Egyptian (ranked twenty spots below).
Unlike the previous match, the feel to this encounter was immediately more explosive. Salazar started off affairs with an outright straight kill. Not to be outdone, El Sherbini went for the cross-court nick off the serve… and missed. If the Egyptian’s game plan was to out-fire his Mexican opponent, this might not be a very long match. But after some ridiculously quick-fire points at the start, the nerves were out and El Sherbini settled into his own game plan. El Sherbini took the lead 8-5, through a combination of tight play and errors from Salazar. Now, I may have joked yesterday that El Sherbini is not a very flashy player, but while he may not roll a whole lot of balls, he does have incredible anticipation and court sense. Hitting with impressive purpose and well-calculated weight of shot, it was the Egyptian’s solid foundations that gave him the first game, 11-7.
The issue with someone who always likes to attack is that unless it is combined with good length, it just won’t be very effective once a player adjusts and steps up the court. And this is basically what El Sherbini was doing to Salazar. Stepping up and pouncing on the counter-drop, the Egyptian stormed out to a 5-1 lead. At 7-3, Salazar rushed up to a straight drop and El Sherbini stood ready and waiting to bury the cross-court, pointing to his head when Salazar obliged, as if saying “I can read minds”. In the very next point, Salazar showed for a counter-drop only to lob the ball over El Sherbini as he taxied the other way, as if to respond: “no you cannot”. But other than a few flashes of brilliance from the twin Salazar, he just wasn’t able to get in front of his opponent, making errors, not adjusting his length and overall looking slightly disheartened. El Sherbini took the second game, 11-6.
In between games, teammate Alfredo Avila rushed a half-drank Gatorade over to Arturo (that’s what friends are for). Was Arturo out of gas? Well, that Gatorade did something, as Salazar rushed out to a 5-0 lead, playing a bit steadier squash (as much as his game would allow) and hitting some lovely winners off his shiny racquet. At 6-4 for the Mexican, an outrageous rally ensued where both players went into super-freak overdrive, ending with a huge “Vamos!” as Salazar won the point. El Sherbini had to stay focused because if the game became scrappy, this is where the Mexican would thrive. As if reading MY mind, he steadied the ship again, hanging in rallies and waiting for the Mexican to get a little too ambitious and misfire.
El Sherbini absorbed the relentless pace and attack of his opponent and brought the game back to 8-all, and then again to 10-all. But Salazar would not let up. He kept attacking, hitting a beautiful backhand drop winner at to go 11-10, the sound of his strings singing when he cut the ball in. And for the first time at game ball down, the steady Egyptian showed signs of being rattled when he hit a rare unforced error, moving off his volley drop and hitting tin, to the delight of the crowd who were thoroughly enjoying this explosive match.
El Sherbini was not messing around in the fourth game, taking an early 5-0 lead, mostly off nice straight lines. But then – inexplicably – the concentration went, and it was the Mexican’s turn to pull the score back to 5-all and then 8-all, by mixing in some longer rallies, better length and a number of breathtaking straight drops from the back of the court that were finally doing some damage to the Egyptian. At 10-9 game ball for the Mexican, El Sherbini put up a pretty good lob only to see Salazar absolutely cane the ball into the crosscourt nick. Arturo first-pumped to the crowd as he took the fourth 11-9, looking slightly crazy-eyed and totally pumped.
After well over an hour of play and at 31 years of age, would Arturo Salazar have enough in the tank for the fifth against his much younger opponent? The first point started with an insane mega-rally, ending with Salazar practically doing the splits to send the ball down the line, out of reach of the Egyptian. So yeah, I think the body was holding up okay. With adrenaline pumping at its max, the crazy rallies continued, both players doing full diagonal court sprints over and over again to the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the spectators.
While entertaining, the play had gotten a bit ragged, with shots falling short from both ends. I thought to myself that if this pace continued, you would have to put your money on Salazar, as this was just the kind of rhythm he adores: frenzied. In contrast, the frantic pace was not a good look for El Sherbini. Going down 7-3 in the fifth, the Egyptian desperately needed to find another strategy: slow it down, go back to basics, anything other than what he was doing, because the scoreline was quickly sloping in favour of the wily Mexican.
The rallies continued at a ferocious pace and Salazar was coming up on top nearly every time. At 9-5, another frantic point left El Sherbini on the floor and trying to get back up and out of the way, when Salazar accidentally dinged him in the hand. While there was an injury time-out of a few minutes, there would be no final surge from the Egyptian, who seemed annoyed that he was hit and frankly too far gone now at 10-5 down. Perhaps a rookie mistake to not warm the ball up after they returned to the court, El Sherbini hit an innocent ball out of court to end the match, as the fiery Mexican roared to the crowd.
An unbelievable comeback from the gutsy second seed Arturo Salazar, who earned his spot in the final tomorrow night.
Dussourd gatecrashes the Quarters : Runa Reta reports
Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-0 Chris Hanson (USA)
As the first quarter-final match of the night, this was a battle between two strong left-handers. The top-seeded Englishman came out looking both relaxed and incredibly sharp, hitting at least five outright winners and taking a big lead right from the start, especially offa wicked and deftly played backhand drop. While Hanson played a few lovely winners of his own, Waller was in clear control, using his albatross-like wingspan (credit to commentator Glen Chamberlain for that descriptor) and making it look like he was taking his opponent through a pressure session. He took the first 11-4.
The American had to find a way to make the court big against his ginormous opponent, but his shots were falling short (particularly on his cross-courts and defensive lobs), and he was really struggling to get himself out of trouble out of the front right. Unsurprisingly, Waller homed in on this weakness and kept taking the ball into that corner, making for some very hard work for the poor American. Another comfortable game for Waller 11-5, as his opponent continued to be pushed around the court like a bit of a ragdoll.
In the first point of the third, Hanson had to win the point about three times over to get on the board, looking over to Waller with a smile and shaking his head as if to say: “are you kidding me?” The American did find a bit of joy in this game, finally finding the height and width to occasionally move his tall opponent off the T, but Waller was clearly dialled in, gluing the ball against the wall with nauseating accuracy and punishing anything loose. At 10-8, Waller hit a harmless cross-court that nicked off the back joint, summing up the kind of day he was having: the perfect one. He took the game11-8 and ended the match 3-0 with a masterclass displayof squash.
Auguste Dussourd (FRA 3-0 Nick Sachvie (CAN)
After a long week at Nationals and two matches in this event (including a big upset yesterday) it wouldn’t be a surprise if Nick Sachviecame out a bit flat in this match. But he picked up right where he left off yesterday, playing relaxed squash and looking sprightly on court. Both players were quite evenly matched, trading long rallies and taking the first game right to the wire. It was the tall Frenchman who drew first blood, when referee Shawn Delierre (let’s call him Brutus) awarded a stroke to Dussourd at game ball, leaving the Canadian and the crowd in a shocked silence.
The second game was again neck and neck, with the Canadian taking a two-point advantage at 7-5. But a string of errors crept in for Sachvie, while Dussourd stayed the steadier of the two, coming up with some lethal winners, especially on the hard low backhand kill. The Canadian wouldn’t let up though, digging in very deep and sometimes waiting 20-30 shots to get the opening he wanted to put it away. The play went on: 11-all, 12-all, 13-all… both players putting in everything they had: fist pumping, teeth clenching and treating the crowd to nail-biting squash.But throughout the game, there was always the sense that the Canadian was the one hanging on by a thread, desperately trying to find a way to take the second. Alas, the last two points ended in strokes off of loose shots by Sachvie (thanks again Brutus); a heart-aching end to a brutally hard-fought second game.
With two games secured under his belt, Dussourd came out with confidence in the third, taking a quick 3-0 lead, while the sails from the Canadian boat had just been ripped to shreds. Compared to his performance at last year’s Montreal Open, there was a clear addition of grit and maturity to the Frenchman’s game, as he stayed focused throughout the match and ultimately played the clutch pointsbetter than his opponent. The third was a quick one, with not much left in the mental tank for the Canadian. The match ended 11-2 – a tough and well-deserved 3-0 win for the promising Auguste Dussourd.
Mohamed El Sherbini (EGY) 3-0 Mario Yanez (MEX)
Not to be outdone by Shawn’s lively on-court colours yesterday, El Sherbini arrived on court with the brightest fuchsia shirt ever known to man. But if you were thinking that the vibrancy of his shirt was a prelude to a flashy and exuberant game, you are mistaken. Half-way through the first game, I was looking into this gentleman’s credentials – namely, was he born and taught in Egypt, and was he in fact related in any way to World #2 Nour El Sherbini.
The reason for this is that I did not see one rolling winner come off Mohamed’s racquet, and this is quite an odd sight from an Egyptian who is related to one of the most attacking players on tour (men or women). Maybe his time spent in Arizona had messed with his head (are they at altitude over there?) Anyway, this was probably not a fruitful digression, as I really should have spent my time researching this Mexican kid that I still could not tell you anything about. What I could surmise is that Mario Yanez must train at altitude (Mexico City, not Arizona), as he was bounding around the court, and showing that he was quite comfortable to run around all day.
The Mexican has an impressively solid game and he was doing a great job of staying in rallies and getting the ball back. But it was the Egyptian who was more effective at squeezing his opponent with tight shots or weaving together a clever string of shots in a chess-like manner that would ultimately leave Yanez stranded. Looking quite confident and relaxed the whole way through, El Sherbini never doubted his chances, winning a straight-forward 3-0 match, and even winking at the crowd at one point (but I’m going to hope that it was just sweat in his eyes). It will be interesting to see how the self-assured Egyptian’s game holds upin his semi-final encounter against a more dangerous and attacking Mexican 2.0 in the form of Arturo Salazar.
Arturo Salazar (MEX) 3-0 Victor Crouin (FRA)
In this pairing, we had the disciplined karate kid look-alike Victor Crouin against the only slightly less coordinated acrobat understudy to his brother, Arturo Salazar. What I love about the fiery Mexican is that he really doesn’t have any time for attritional play, starting to attack and bring the ball forward as soon as possible. Understandably,it tooka good two games for the young Frenchman to adjust, given his more structured approach to the game.
At 2-0 down, Crouin was finally able to push up and read the holds of his opponent, starting to dictate the play for the first time in the match and showing off some incredible skill of his own (such as his lethally deceptive mid-court boast and beautiful straight drops). A huge rally at 7-8 down ended with thunder-thigh Crouin doing court-sprints about four times over and wondering how a human could have so much endurance (until we remembered he is only 19 years of age and can probably do this all day long).
Salazar – who had gone a bit headlessthrough the middle part of the game – regained his focus when it counted, hitting a few dead rollers at the business end and showing great poise and experience to hold off a desperate charge from the wildly talented karate kid.
Round TWO in Montreal – Runa Reta reports
Nick Sachvie (CAN) 3-1 Karim El Hammamy (EGY)
The newly crowned Canadian National Champion came flying out of the gates, taking a 6-0 lead in the first against the 3rd seed Egyptian, obviously benefitting from the court time he had yesterday to really find his marks on the court. Jumping up on the volley and playing much more pro-active squash than his match yesterday, Sachvie took the first 11-1.
Sachvie continued his aggressive play in the second, hitting exceptionally well through the middle and anticipating any loose cross-courts across the T.
Now, I’ve never seen Hammamy play before, but he certainly looked to me to be a little fatigued –even a little punchy, tripping over his own feet at times – which made me wonder if he was observing the fast for Ramadan. Either way, Sachvie stuck to his game plan, going up 7-3, and waiting for the mounting errors to come off the Egyptian’s racquet. The Canadian took the second 11-4.
A big question hung in the air: Could Sachvie continue his fine form and concentration at 2-0 up, or would he do what we have all inexplicably done at one point or another when winning against a higher-ranked opponent… change tactics?While Sachvie didn’t do a 180 turn, he did become a tad less proactive on the volley and started getting sucked into a one-pace attritional game, which is what his opponent was probably waiting for.
For his part, the Egyptian also started to come alive in the third, tidying up his play, cutting down on his errors, and conveniently starting to meander in the line of his opponent, causing a good amount of interference. Meanwhile, referee and nice guy Chris Binnie was feeling generous today, continually awarding lets and not strokes against Hammamy for his cheeky play.
After a small blood injury at the crucial 9-8 (which would have driven Joey Barrington nuts), all hell broke loose. Hammamy stepped up the blocking and bumping, Sachvie (who had stayed calm as a cucumber up until that point) threatened to start pushing back, and Binnie kept awarding his blessed lets. At 12-11, a long point ended in the Egyptian shaping like a windmill for his shot… and this is when the ref decided to give a stroke! Hammamy roared as he took the game 13-11, much to the annoyance of the pro-Sachvie crowd.
The Canadian regrouped in between games and came back on court playing the way he did in the first two – attacking, controlling the pace and getting out of the trance of his opponent’s attritional style. While the crowd had hunkered down for a long and ugly game (the Egyptian at this point had blood-soaked shorts), Sachvie stormed ahead, hitting a bunch of winners and rushing to the finish line before his opponent knew what hit him. A lovely backhand drop winner by Nick at 10-4 ended the match. He turned and yelled to the crowd as it was a huge scalp for the Canadian, who – wearing his country’s name on his back – did the local squash community proud tonight.
Chris Hanson (USA) 3-0 Jesus Camacho (MEX)
I’m happy to report that the young Mexican came out more alert in his match today, taking a 7-4 lead on his higher-ranked lefty opponent, Chris Hanson. A monster first game saw the American come from behind and take the first 14-12, after a disappointing volley boast into the tin by Camacho to bring an anti-climactic end to the first.
Another long second game ensued between these two men dressed in black;the high-quality squash unfortunately being largely overlooked as the crowd was piled in for the Sachvie/Hammamy match next door.Even though both were playing with real patience, one got the sense that Hanson just had the slight edge of quality throughout. Indeed, the 7th seeded American took the second 11-9 and finished off strong with an 11-2 third game over the Mexican.
Victor Crouin (FRA) 3-1 Shawn Delierre (CAN)
In a bright fuchsia shirt to match his larger-than-life personality, hometown favourite Shawn Delierre took to the court against the 19-year-old Harvard-attending French phenom Victor Crouin. While the Frenchman has a list of impressive accolades – including European Junior Champion and British Junior Runner-Up –I wondered if he would know how to deal with the inexplicable whirlwind that is Shawn. With beautiful fundamentals – typical of the French style – Crouin demonstrated impressive poise in the first, going about his business and cutting the ball so short on his drops that he was making the rapid Canadian look slow to the front. He took the first 11-7.
Shawn tried on a purple shirt in the second to try and change his luck, but his hard low attacks kept coming back with interest. After the high drama and elation of the Sachvie match, the crowd felt at a bit of a loss, not knowing how to pump up the Canadian, who was simply being outplayed from all parts of the court. A poor error and an exasperated yell: “Garbage! Garbage!” summed up Delierre’s frustration in the first two games.
Shawn tried on a fluorescent yellow shirt in the third because… well, every bit helps. While he tried to G himself up and get onto the ball as early as possible, he was just simply being squeezed out by a tighter, cleaner and more accurate player. It looked like the writing was on the wall, but then at 3-2, an innocent collision resulted in the elder statesman Shawn telling his young opponent to be more careful(which elicited an ironic smile from the Frenchman), and this may have been just enough to throw him off his focus. From there, Delierre started shooting like a madman and went up 8-4 in a matter of moments. The crowd woke up and began cheering wildly for the Canadian. More importantly, the cool Crouin flinched. And this is where Shawnis at his absolute best.A few more successful winnerattempts and Delierre walked off tall,having stolen the third game right from under the nose of the bamboozled Frenchman.
Shawn came out in all black for the fourth, continuing to take risks on the attack, and seeing if his opponent would panic. While Crouin hit a number of unforced errors and appeared slightly rattled at 8-6 down, he held his nerve, using a beautiful and deceptive mid-court boast as a serious weapon to buy him some crucial points. Playing solid squash in the business end of the game, Crouinleap-frogged the Canadian to take the fourth 11-8, letting out a huge breath of relief at having gotten through this tricky match in four.
Auguste Dussourd (FRA) 3-1 Alfredo Avila (MEX)
A highly anticipated match, with the Frenchman showing fine form as of late, including a win last week at the Hyder Trophy in New York. The higher seeded Mexican seemed to be having some troubles adjusting his game and finding an answer to the long wingspan and impressive anticipation of Dussourd, who was picking him off like a sniper through the middle.
If I were in Avila’s corner, I would have encouraged him to hold the ball a bit more instead of pushing it around the court. The rallies were long, but it was the in-form Frenchman who showed greater confidence and focus, taking the match 3-1.
Mohamed El Sherbini (EGY) 3-0 David Baillargeon (CAN)
I stepped out for a quick break, and when I came back, the Egyptian had already taken a 1-0 lead on the Canadian, 11-3. Tournament organizer and helpful pusher of inside information – Yvon Provencal – shared that David was playing through pain to the ball of his foot. With only pride to fuel his game, it was clear that this would not be enough to trouble the sixth seed, Mohamed El Sherbini.
Other than the fact that the Egyptian accidentally warmed up a match too early and had to re-do the whole routine a second time over (proving that even professionals do clueless things sometimes!) he clearly knew what he was doing on court, hitting solidly and not about to let the Canadian in on this night. There was no joy for the local crowd, even as Baillargeon put in a brave effort to push right through to the end. Inevitably, theconfident Egyptian ran away with the matchin three quick games, as the Canadian could only hobble away into the sunset.
Arturo Salazar (MEX) 3-0 Yannik Omlor (GER) 11-5, 11-1, rtd
You can generally get a sense of what part of the season you are in by the amount of taped limbs and hobbling bodies you see on court. In this match, Omlor was clearly struggling with an injury, and though he tried to play through, a bright-eyed Arturo Salazar was not going to give him anything.
After going up 10-0 in the second, the German – coming off the European Championships in Birmingham – threw in the towel against the second seed and conceded the match.
Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-0 Henrik Mustonen (FIN)
While I didn’t watch this one closely, the play appeared to be unfolding at a much more frenetic pace than previous matches. Number one seed Adrian Waller had taken a large lead in the first, only to lose his focus and let the Finn back into the game. The second was a close affair, with both big men stomping around the court and attacking at any given chance. But it was again the Englishman who was able to close out, using some nice holds to length to get his opponent scrambling.
Similar to the first, Waller took an 8-1 lead in the third, but this time he wasn’t going to let it slip. Playing some lovely touch shots from all four corners of the court, the number one seed called lights out on Mustonen, taking the third 11-3, and sending a signal that a) it was past 9pm and he probably wanted to go home… and b) that there was a reason he was the top seed and man to beat at this event.
Mario Yanez (MEX) 3-0 Youssef Ibrahim (EGY)
Currently studying at Princeton and looking like a superhero in a skin-tight Nike shirt, Ibrahim looked to be all business when he came out in the first. Hitting with tight lines and pulling volley drops out of the air with beautiful control, the left-handed Egyptian seemed to be completely dominating the play.
But I must admit: as the last match on for the night and the 8th match I was trying to write for, clearly I didn’t know what was what. How clueless was I? Well, for one, I thought Ibrahim was winning the match…easily. Two, I spent several minutes waxing lyrical about how the Egyptian was my pick as the dark horse to win this event. In short, I was slightly delusional. Credit to the diminutive Mexican Mario Yanez, who surreptitiously went about his business with consistency and accuracy to take this match in three, and cause another huge upset – the third of the night – amazingly leaving only one lonely Egyptian left in the draw.
Round ONE in Montreal
With over 250 ranking spots between them, you would have thought that the Mexican would cruise through this match in a hurry. However, as I overheard after the Canadian took the first game, Camacho somehow didn’t think that warming up before the match was a thing (clearly not something he learnt from coach David Palmer), resulting in a slow, sleepy start from the already-chilled out player.
To his credit, Turk came out fired up for the match, and was able to keep it competitive even after the first game. But as the dream-like movement of the Mexican started to stir and the ball began to be hit with greater purpose, Camacho was able to jump ahead and take the next 3 games, looking relaxed and unfazed the whole way through.
With a bunch of Egyptian players pulling out due to Visa issues, Christmas came early for some lucky guys on the reserve list, including American Jamie Ruggiero.
Unfortunately, the holiday celebrations were brief, as Ruggiero was up against the highly experienced and former #35 in the world Henrik Mustonen. The Finn took a commanding lead right from the first point, attacking with pace and not giving much of anything to play off in the first two games. A more competitive third game – mostly sparked by a clear lapse in concentration and errors from Mustonen– made for a more closely contested third game, but it was never in doubt that the Finn would close it out in three.
This had been eagerly anticipated as match of the night, with both Canadians fresh off Nationals and still holding an outside chance of being selected for the Canadian Pan-Am team. Unfortunately, at 7-allin the first game, McCue pulled up at the end of the point, wincing and grabbing his right hamstring.While he did well to play through the pain and stay close in the score, the home favourite Baillargeon was able to squeeze the all-important first game 11-9, to the absolute delight of the crowd.
McCue came out in the second trying to hit tight straight lines to limit the Baillargeon attack and protect his injury, but it was clear after the first few points that he would not be able to sustain this if he could not push off his leading leg. As his movement slowed, the elder Canadian conceded the second quickly 11-4. It was much of the same in the third, as David kept his focus and stormed away to a huge lead, closing out the match 3-0. While feeling sorry for the injuredMcCue, the crowd was elated to see their hometown boy win his first match at this event and move on to the round of 16.
Okay, so I may have told Noah Browne (former buddy from Bermuda) that I would be nice to him in this match report, but let’s be honest – how could I possibly hold back with a classic pairing like this… we had pony-tail haired #1 with fake compression socks (Shawn) versus pony-tail haired #2 walking around earlier in the evening in baggy green and white striped shorts that I can’t even say count as Bermuda shorts (Noah).
It was a promising clash even before the first serve, as Shawn seemed to get lost in his own club, arriving late to the court. But as always, the flamboyant and eccentric Canadian surprised us all, bounding around the court and looking sharp at 36 years of age, taking the ball early and hitting down on the ball with some highly unconventional holds and one-legged shots.
At the height of about 7 foot 3 (I’m guessing), the giant Bermudian’s abundant talent and impressive wingspan wasn’t enough to trouble Delierre, as Browne was opening the court up far too much, only to get wrong-footed by his opponent’sdeception. While there were some breath-taking winners from both players, it was the steadier and more experienced Canadian who held control throughout, taking the match in a quick three games.
Nick Sachvie(CAN) 3-1 Cameron Seth (CAN)
To start the match, Seth came out very strongly, playing very good attacking length to the back of the court and had Sachvie on the back foot from the beginning. Sachvie tried to expose the movement of Seth by playing very attacking squash to the front but Seth countered with some very nice lobs and solidly took the first 11-5.
In the 2nd it was Sachvie who came out strong, finding his length on the court and working Seth with good backhand volleys and drops. The length of the rallies increased quite a bit in this game, which lasted almost twice as long as the first and saw Sachvie win it 11-7.
Attrition is the word to describe the 3rd: both players settled into some long backhand sequences and the pace increased, which seemed to suit Sachvie better. While Seth was consistently hitting better length, he was unable to slow down the pace of the game as he had done in the first and seemed to be tiring more than Sachvie as he took the 3rd 11-5.
The 4th began with a couple of unforced errors from both players. At 2-2, Sachvie played an absolutely beautiful straight forehand lob, which seemed to settle him down for the game. Seth, in contrast, gave away 3 strokes and fell off the pace as Nick hit winner after winner to propel him to a 11-3 victory and take the match in 4.
These two players had very contrasting playing styles, with Dussourd being a very smooth mover with a very conventional technique and Eysele much more unconventional with his technique but very hard to read.
Eysele pulled off quite a few unconventional shots in the first and sent Dussourd the wrong way a couple times. However, Dussourd’s accurate lines down the backhand side towards the end of the game proved to be too much for the South African at the back end of the 1st, and Dussourd to the game 11-8 with a beautiful cross-court nick.
In the 2nd it was Eysele who came out strong, showing off his very accurate front court play and putting the Frenchman on the back foot at the beginning. Much like the first, however, Dussourd settled down and his superior length propelled him to another 11-8 win.
Dussourd’s momentum from the 2nd carried over into the 3rd, and he won four quick points to take an early lead, really moving well and starting to open up the court nicely into the front corners and really get Eysele on the back foot. Eysele hit a couple good winners here and there, but couldn’t compete consistently with Dussourd’s overall game. A stoke against Eysele finished him off and Dussourd took the match 11-9.
After losing the first game, Uherka came strong in the 2nd with a 5-point lead in squash that was broken up with lots of stoppages for lets and strokes.
This change in the style of play suited Uherka well, taking him to 7-2 before Yanez managed to slow the game a little more and get his length to penetrate into the back corners in some 50-shot plus rallies. From being down 7-2, Yanez mounted an impressive comeback to win 11-9, showing impressive resolve.
At the beginning of the 3rd Yanez really began to show his incredible movement capabilities with a couple of incredible rallies where Uherka simply couldn’t put the ball away. Uherka mounted an impressive response, however, using the hold to break up the movement of the Mexican towards the end of the game coming away with an 11-6 win to get himself back in the match at 1-2.
Uherka couldn’t keep the momentum going into the 4th, however, and looked to be winded after a couple of long rallies. In contrast, Yanez looked like he could go all day, and pulled off some beautiful winners to take the game 11-5 and the match in 4.
The first game in this match was a little choppy and stop-start, with both players making lots of errors and lots of lets. Binnie seemed very frustrated with himself: apparently it was one of his first tournaments back from injury and it was clear he was shaking off some rust.
A combo of Binnie’s late-game errors and some nice attacking play from Omlor handed the German 2 game balls, and the German eventually took the 1st, 13-11.
In the 2nd it was Omlor again who came out strong, racing to an 8-2 lead on more errors from Binnie. Binnie managed to mount a bit of a comeback to 6-9, but Omlor took the game on a beautiful straight drop, giving himself a commanding 2-0 lead.
In the 3rd game, Omlor took another quick 7-2 lead, and pulled off a huge upset to take the match 3-0 and move into the 2nd round.
Previous Montreal Opens [/jbutton]