The Tournament of Champions continued in New York, just eight Round Three matches today, all on the Glass Court, the bottom half of the men’s draw in action to complete the quarter-final lineup, while in the Women’s draw it was the the top half with the first four quarter-finalists to be decided.
Makin beats Willstrop to reach first ToC Quarter
World No.12 Joel Makin has become the first Welsh player since David Evans in 2002 to reach the quarter-finals of the prestigious J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions after he overcame 2010 winner James Willstrop 3-1 in New York’s Grand Central Terminal.
Makin claimed a statement win over the higher-ranked Diego Elias in a five-game battle in round two, and the 25-year-old combined accuracy and athleticism to claim an 11-7, 11-9, 10-12, 12-10 victory over the experienced Englishman to set up a mouthwatering last eight clash with two-time winner Mohamed ElShorbagy.
Makin had the better of the opening two games, but Willstrop’s class eventually came through as he won the third game to halve the deficit, before going 10-6 up in the fourth. However, a tenacious fightback from Makin saw him rattle off six points in a row to finally book his place in the last eight.
“But I think if you try to move the ball too quickly then he’s far too good for that. I know I had to really try and straighten up across the backend and try to play squash how I wanted to and take the middle away from him.
“It’s massive [to be in the quarter finals], the win against Diego [Elias] was huge for me and I knew that was going to be hard today. James has been in great form, he beat Gawad in the last tournament and he was coming into this fresh, so I was well aware that it was going to be tough even though I’m higher than him ranking-wise. I take that as a really good win.”
World No.2 ElShorbagy booked his place in the quarter-finals for a second successive year after a convincing 11-1, 11-9, 11-9 triumph against Frenchman Gregoire Marche.
The ‘Beast of Alexandria’ celebrated his 29th birthday yesterday, and looked like a man in his prime as he played at an intense pace to vanquish Marche, who has been hospitalised twice this week due to illness and faced a gruelling five-game battle with Egypt’s Zahed Salem in the last round.
“Any of the top guys are coming here to try and win this title, I’m just one of them who are trying to have a shot at it,” ElShorbagy said.
“It’s not going to be easy, but I’m going to give it my best here every day and see what happens. I love coming back here every year, I’ve played some great matches in front of the crowd here over the years. I will try to give my best here because that’s what this crowd deserves.”
Former champions Karim Abdel Gawad and Simon Rosner also booked their quarter-final spots as the third round of the men’s event came to an end. 2017 champion Gawad came back from a game down to beat England’s Declan James, while Rosner, the 2018 winner, got the better of India’s Saurav Ghosal.
Women’s Round Three begins
Round three of the women’s event began as World No.1 Raneem El Welily and World No.5 Camille Serme completed wins over Hong Kong’s Annie Au and Egypt’s Yathreb Adel.
“Just like Annie, Camille and me go way back and have had many matches together,” El Welily said.
“Most of them were very close, she is playing very good squash and having to play her in the quarters shows just how good the depth of the game is for the women. It will be a tough match, but hopefully I will be up for the challenge.”
They have played 20 times on the PSA Tour with Serme claiming three wins [they had many junior battles including the World Junior Final in Hong Kong 2007, and in the World Teams] but it will be their first meeting in New York.
“I’ve been tested by all of the Egyptians these past few months and every match is a battle, I’m ready for it, but it’s tough.
“It feels like the density of the girls is a lot higher. I feel like every round is really hard, it’s good for the sport and good for squash. I’m sure the crowd enjoy those kind of matches more than an easy 3-0.”
There were also wins for Nouran Gohar and Alison Waters, who will go head-to-head in the quarter-finals after beating Hania El Hammamy and Emily Whitlock.