Tel Aviv Open : It’s nine for Iker
Top seed Iker Pajares claimed his 9th PSA title
Arthur Caplan reports
The two top seeds, #1 Iker Pajares , and #2 Edmon Lopez, contested the final following convincing victories in their semi-final matches.
As expected, both players began cautiously allowing the initial rally to continue for over 50 strokes until Iker won the first point. The following rally extended for some 75 shots before it ended in a let. They then exchanged a further 50 shots until Edmon won the rally, moving the score to 1-1. The next three rallies ended in Iker’s favor after Edmon twice hit the tin and then failed to make a successful return.
A drop shot into the tin by Iker brought the score to 4-2. There followed another long rally that ended in a let. Iker then hit a well placed shot that Edmon failed to return. The game score was now 5-2. Iker then hit into the tin after yet another long rally. At this stage, Iker began to dominate. He won three in a row to reach 8-3. Edmon stopped the flow, winning just one rally before Iker did the same and advanced the score to 9-4.
Despite the score, Edmon seemed revitalized. He won five in a row to get on level terms at 9-9. But he could not maintain the pressure. Two excellent drop shot by Iker gave him the game at 11-9.
Edmon must have felt disheartened from losing such a close first game. Game 2 opened with a rally of more than 30 shots before Edmon was unable to return a shot from Iker that reached the back wall. Edmon then benefitted from a stroke against Iker that leveled the score at 1-1. However, a string of 6 points to Iker, who was outmaneuvering his opponent, brought him to 7-1. Edmon managed to earn one more point but from 7-2 Iker quickly outplayed his rival and won the game 11-2.
Game 3 opened with a rally of some 30 shots that ended with Iker hitting out. However, he continued to pressure Edmon with two well timed and well executed drop shots to lead 3-1. A similar drop shot by Edmon reduced the gap, but only temporarily. Iker took the next three points before an excellent interception by Edmon brought the score to 6-3. However, Iker made a no less successful interception in the next rally and increased his lead to 7-3. From that point on Iker held sway.
Four successive points, one from a cross court drive, one when Edmon was unable to return a drive to the back wall, a stroke in Iker’s favor and a “not up” call against Edmon , brought the score to 11-3 and the title to Iker.
It will be an all-Spanish final in Tel Aviv after top seeds Iker Pajares and Edmon Lopez both won in straight games.
Arthur Caplan reports
The all glass show court erected at Habimah Square in central Tel Aviv was the venue for these matches.
Spain’s Iker Pajares, the #1 seed, faced Jakob Solnicky from the Czech Republic in the first match. Jakob had progressed from the first round and according to his PSA biography, since joining the PSA in 2017 this would be the first time he has reached the semi final of a PSA tournament. Iker on the other hand, who became a PSA player in 2013, has already reached 12 finals winning the title in 8 of them.
The first game progressed evenly until 6-6, Jakob matching his opponent quite confidently. Jakob maintained his effort and advanced to 8-6 before Iker responded and evened the score at 9-9. From here on there was tension in the fight for every point. The lead changed hands several times as the game went into extra points. Jakob led 10-9 and 11-10 but Iker responded to reach 12-11. However, Jakob wouldn’t give up. He took the next two pints to go ahead once more at 13-12. Iker responded successfully to the challenge. He took the next three points to win the game 15-13.
The second game began in a similar fashion. Jakob led 5-2 before Iker recovered to 5 all. The lead then went from one to the other until 7 all when Iker won two more to lead 9-7. Jakob responded with two of his own and the score became even at 9-9. A lob from Iker that went out of court gave Jakob game ball. But he couldn’t win it. It was Iker who played a safer game leaving his opponent to make the errors. His tactic succeeded and he took the next three points to win the game 12-10 and lead 2-0.
As the third game got underway it became apparent that Jakob was unable to maintain the level he had displayed in the first two games. He could no longer match the accuracy and recovery abilities of his more experienced opponent. Iker raced ahead to 6-1, benefitting from several unforced errors. A point to Jakob brought the score to 6-2 but the result was little in doubt. Iker raced to 10-2 benefitting from two strokes and a cross court return that left his opponent far out of range. Jakob managed to delay defeat by winning two more points before hitting the ball out of court to lose the game 11-4 and the match 3-0.
Spain’s second representative in the semis, Edmon Lopez, the #2 seed, and Portugal’s Claudio Pinto were the other semi finalists.
Since joining the PSA in 2013, Edmon, the #2 seed in this event, has played in 13 finals at which he won 7 titles. Claudio, a PSA player since 2012, was runner up in the one final he has reached till now.
Edmon showed greater ability than his opponent from the start of the first game. After just 1 all, two shots from Claudio went out of court allowing Edmon to lead 3-1. Claudio took the next point but couldn’t respond to a flow of winners from Edmon that brought the score to 8-2. Claudio responded with two points of his own but could do no more. A stroke against him, a soft drop by Edmon and a request for a let that was denied gave Edmon three successive points and the first game at 11-4.
The second game began in like fashion. Edmon dominated play, leading 3-0 before Claudio got on the board. At 5-1 a successful dive by Claudio retrieved a drop from Edmon and moved the score to 5-2. However, Edmon took two more points before hitting out of court. That brought the score to 7-3.Edmon maintained his composure and took the next three points to reach game ball. Claudio managed to earn one more point before hitting the tin in the next rally. Edmon thus won the game 11-4. He was now 2-0 up and looking much the stronger player.
Edmon won the first point of game 3. Claudio equalized but from that juncture Edmon took 6 in a row to lead 7-1. During one of those rallies Claudio dropped his racquet. Despite an amazingly fast endeavor to retrieve it and continue the point his effort was unsuccessful.
Claudio managed to add two more points to his score but a stroke against him moved the score to 9-3.
He added another point before Edmon responded and reached match ball at 10-4. Last minute efforts by Claudio brought the score to 10-6 but when another request for a let was denied the match was over.
Edmon thus won 11-4, 11-4, 11-6 and plays his colleague, Iker Pajares, in tomorrow’s final.
Arthur Caplan reports
The square is bordered on one side by the Habimah building, which houses the Israel National Theatre and on another side by the elegant Concert Hall that is the home of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. The site was an excellent venue, providing a first class opportunity for the public at large to watch professional squash in action.
The first match began at approximately 7:30 in the evening when darkness had fallen and the court was lit up. The heat of the day had eased off and playing conditions were most favorable.
The top seed Iker Pajares and his opponent Fabien Verseille were first on court. Iker dominated the first two games winning them quite comfortably. He continued to lead in the third, reaching 7-4. At this stage Verseille upped his game. An Iker lob out of court encouraged him to attack and he took four more points in a row to lead 9-7. A shot into the tin brought Iker to 8-9 but his request for a let on the next point was denied giving Verseille game point. This was duly taken and the score moved to 2-1. The fourth game brought a return to the level of the first two games. Iker kept ahead throughout winning the game 11-7 and the match 3-1.
There was nothing to choose between them in the first two games. !!-7 to Harry followed by 11-9 to Jakob. The third saw Jakob jump into a 7-0 lead which continued until 9-2. Harry, sensed the need to change tactics, He succeeded in reaching 9-6 but an error gave Jakob game point. Two were saved before Jakob won it 11-8 and took a 2-1 lead. Jakob immediately took control of the fourth. He led 3-0, and although Harry managed to even the score he then lost seven in a row to many of Jakob’s disguised cross courts. This gave Jakob match point at 10-3. One was saved before Jakob emerged a worthy winner.
The third quarter final was between Claudio Pinto, who had advanced from the opening round, and Robin Gadola. There was little to choose between them in the first game. The score remained close until 8-8 when Claudio took three in a row to lead 1-0. Robin took charge of the second game, quickly reaching game point at 10-3. Claudio held off his opponent, winning five successive points to keep the game alive. However, Robin took the one he needed and leveled the match at one game all. Game 3 was a closely fought contest. Claudio led up to 4-3 but the lead then changed hands and Robin reached 8-7. At this juncture, Claudio took over the initiative and won the next four points and the game 11-8.
The fourth game was similar to the third. Equal at 4-4 and 6-6, Claudio won five in a row to win the game 11-6 and the match 3-1.
Two of Spain’s many squash professionals, Edmon Lopez the #2 seed and Hugo Varela met in the last of the day’s matches. It started after 11:00 p.m. and the humidity level had begun to rise.
Hugo started well. Leading 6-2 before Edmon drew level at 7=7. The score then changed hands several times until 10-9 to Edmon. But he couldn’t finish it. It progressed to 10 all, 11-10 to Hugo, 11 all, 12-11 to Hugo, 12 all, 13 all, 14-13 to Edmon, 14 all, 15-14 to Hugo and finally 16-14 to Hugo.
Edmon took complete control of game 2, advancing to 6-1, 8-2. 9-3, 10-5 and 11-5 to equal the game score. During these first two games the floor needed to be wiped several times due to the players’ perspiration.
They started the third game but as it progressed the humidity level apparently increased and quite soon they requested that the floor be wiped after every point. Eventually, with Hugo leading 8-6, it was decided that it was inappropriate to continue due to concern for the players’ safety.
With the consent of both players it was arranged to resume the match today at the courts of the Tel Aviv Towers Country Club, the venue for the first two rounds.
The resumption commenced with the score from the previous evening at one all in games and Hugo leading 8-6 in the third. Initially play was balanced. Edmon won the first point, Hugo the second to lead 9-7. Two more to Edmon and the score was 9 all. Hugo added another to reach game point. However, Edmon denied his rival the victory by reaching 10 all and then took the next two points to win 12-10 and lead the match 2-1.
The fourth game went Edmon’s way from the start. He jumped to 6-1 due to some unforced errors from his opponent and from that juncture reached 8-5 after some better rallies by Hugo. However, at this stage Hugo had little resistance to offer. Edmon raced to 11-5, to win the match 3-1.
At the time of writing the two semi finals are due to be played tonight on the glass court as originally scheduled. Iker Pajares plays Jakub Solnicky in the first semi at 20:00 p.m. Edmon will face Claudio Pinto in the second at 21:00 p.m.
Round Two :
Arthur Caplan reports
The second round produced the first upsets of the tournament with the elimination of seeds #3, #4 and #7.
The top two seeds Iker Pajares and Edmon Lopez, who headed the Spanish group of four participants, had little difficulty in overcoming their Israeli opponents Ido Burstein and Roee Avarham. Joel Jaume, who brought their first round success, found Robin Gadola, the sole Swiss competitor, too strong and after losing a tough first game provided much less resistance in the next two. Spain’s fourth participant, Hugo Varela, had little difficulty in overcoming Viktor Byrtus, the up and coming Czech junior who is sure to make his mark on the professional circuit as he progresses.
The Czech contingent lost another of its first round winners, David Zeman, to his French adversary Fabien Verseille, the oldest competitor in the event. Verseille won in three straight forward games. Jakub Solnicky, the third Czech, had a good win against Jean-Pierre Brits, recovering convincingly after losing the first game.
Claudio Pinto and Yannik Omlor fought the second longest duel of the round, over 50 minutes, which included two games that went to extra points before Pinto completed his 3-1 victory.
The two remaining English competitors, Harry Falconer and Mark Fuller, faced each other in what proved a tense and closely fought match that took just over n hour. Falconer showed that he is on the way up, defeating his higher ranked opponent in what must be considered a surprise victory.
Three Spaniards are in tomorrow’s quarter finals but one is sure to be eliminated when Varela faces Lopez.
Round One :
Arthur Caplan reports
All the contestants missed the glorious sunshine that greeted them this Wednesday morning as they converged on the Tel Aviv Towers Country Club to play their first and second round matches.
Understandably, spectator interest centered on the four local players, Roee Avraham, one of the #9/16 seeds, Nir Cohen, Ido Burstein, who received the wildcard and Almog Avizov, Israel’s leading U19 junior.
Ido was first on court, facing Alex Eustace from Australia. He played a confident match, winning in three: 11-9, 11-5, 11-7. His reward is progress to round two where he faces seed #1, Iker Pajares Bernabeu of Spain.
Nir was less successful. Although he lost in three to one of Europe’s top three juniors and also one of the #9/16 seeds, Victor Byrtus from the Czech Republic, Nir held his own in the first two games before losing them 9-11.Nir has only recently begun training after a long period of injury and his performance was encouraging despite the result.
Almog faced Portugal’s Claudio Pinto, also a #9/16 seed and a well known visitor to Israel for past PSA tournaments. Almog found Claudio much too experienced an opponent although he managed to take advantage of the few opportunities that came his way.
Roee brought much satisfaction to the local spectators by winning his match against Sweden’s Erik Jacobsson. The match was close throughout, as the score indicates. Roee now faces Spain’s other top player, Edmon Lopez, the #2 seed.
Three of England’s four first round representatives had disappointing results. Tom Walsh lost in 5 after the lead kept changing hands against another Czech, David Zeman; Anthony Rogal lost a strange scoring match against another Czech, Jacob Solnicky: and Julian Tomlison fell to fellow countryman Harry Falconer.
The longest and most evenly balanced match was fought out between Spain’s Joel Jaume Izcara and Russia’s Vladislav Titov. The lead changed hands after ever y game until the Spaniard, with loud encouragement from his fellow countrymen, won the match.
The second round continues later this evening.