Tournament of Champions : Days ONE to FIVE
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The Tournament of Champions marks its 20th year at New York’s Grand Central Terminus for the first PSA Platinum event of 2019.
Sobhy and Blatchford keep home hopes flying
Americans Olivia Blatchford Clyne and Amanda Sobhy opened their campaigns with wins on Sunday, advancing to the last sixteen where they will face top-ranked Egyptians Nour El Sherbini and Nour El Tayeb in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal.
Blatchford endured one of the day’s closest matches in the final match of the tournament to be played at the Harvard Club against Belgium’s Nele Gilis. After splitting the first two games, Blatchford Clyne came back from 9-5 down in the third to win it 12-10, then ssaved match ball in the fifth to clinch the match after sixty-four minutes.
“Nele is a good friend of mine. I know her game and at the same time, because I know it, I think I’m more nervous playing her than I am someone else who I haven’t played as much. Towards the end of those games I knew I really had to tighten the screws and make sure that I wasn’t hitting as many tins and I think I did that really well.” Olivia Blatchford Clyne
She will take on world #2 El Sherbini, who defeated compatriot and British Junior Open champion Hania El Hammamy.
One year after making her return from injury at the ToC, Sobhy entered the Glass Court with full fitness and her highest ranking of #11 since returning to the PSA Tour. It didn’t take long for the Harvard graduate to make her mark on the tournament, dispatching former college rival, Cornell’s Danielle Letourneau in twenty-four minutes.
“Of course, how can you not hear this crowd. You guys are awesome, and I love it so much. I don’t really get that many home tournaments but when I do, you guys bring the hype, so I appreciate it.” Amanda Sobhy
The women’s round of sixteen will be contested by all sixteen seeds.
The bottom half of the men’s quarterfinal lineup was decided on Sunday, the first men’s match of the day ended prematurely as India’s Saarav Ghosal was forced to retire due to injury in the second game against New Zealand’s Paul Coll.
Coll will face Egypt’s second seed Ali Farag after the second seed dispatched English veteran Daryl Selby in an hour-long three games – mounting sizable comebacks and saving at least one game ball in in each game.
“Right now, I could easily have been sat down, losing 3-0. All games could have gone either way, and actually, they were closer to going his way. I am just very happy that I stayed calm, I never panicked. All credit to Daryl, he never made it easy at any point. I am very relieved to be through.” Ali Farag
Momen will have to get past a resurgent Omar Mosaad in the quarterfinals first, however, after the ‘Hammer of Thor’ recorded a three-game victory against Scotland’s Greg Lobban.
Plain sailing for the Seeds on Day Four
The fourth day of action at the 2019 Tournament of Champions saw all 12 matches go the way of the higher-ranked player, with World number ones Raneem El Welily and Mohamed ElShorbagy among the winners at New York’s Grand Central Terminal.
El Welily is appearing in her first PSA Tour event since overtaking fellow Egyptian Nour El Sherbini at the summit of the PSA Women’s World Rankings at the beginning of December. The 30-year-old kickstarted her title challenge with a resounding victory over Mariam Metwally in the second round of the women’s event.
India’s Joshna Chinappa stands in El Welily’s way in the next round after the World #14 got the better of Belgium’s Tinne Gilis in straight games.
2017 champion Camille Serme also got her tournament under way as she claimed a straight-games win over Milou van der Heijden in 30 minutes. She now will go up against England’s Victoria Lust for a place in the quarter-finals after the #13 seed toppled Hong Kong’s Liu Tsz-Ling.
“When I came on the court for the warm-up, I was like a child. I was excited and happy to be back here. I love playing in Grand Central station, it’s my favourite tournament and I just want to keep playing here.” Camille Serme
World #4 Joelle King also claimed a victory on day four as she defeated Zeina Mickawy in four games, and she will play 2014 champion Nicol David in a mouthwatering third round fixture. Eight-time World Champion David dispatched current World Junior Champion Rowan Elaraby by a 3-0 margin.
“I haven’t played her before and I haven’t really seen her play, but I knew she was a World Junior Champion and that she is a fighter. She was really gusty out there. 18 years old, that was when I started on tour, she wasn’t even born yet!” Nicol David
Sixth seed Nouran Gohar and tenth seed Annie Au were the other victors on day four as they axed Malaysia’s Low Wee Wern and Hong Kong’s Joey Chan, respectively.
The top half of the men’s third round was also contested today, with Mohamed ElShorbagy and defending champion Simon Rösner advancing to the quarter-finals after respective triumphs against Egypt’s Zahed Salem and Max Lee of Hong Kong.
ElShorbagy’s win over Salem will see him line up against Diego Elias in the last eight. Elias dispatched Australia’s Cameron Pilley and will look to replicate the form that saw him upset ElShorbagy in November’s Qatar Classic.
Meanwhile, Rösner will clash with eighth seed Karim Abdel Gawad, who came through in five games against compatriot Fares Dessouky.
“He had ACL surgery in September and now he’s coming back really strong. He’s always been a very good player, but now he’s even better. He’s a fighter on court and I have a lot of respect for him. He didn’t come back too quickly, he came back when he was ready to be on court.” Karim Abdel Gawad
Mosaad and Momen overcome ToC second round hurdles
Egypt’s Omar Mosaad and Tarek Momen put in pivotal back-to-back performances against top-ten opposition to advance to the men’s last sixteen in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal.
The day’s only seeding upset saw Mosaad, world No. 17, send world No. 6 Miguel Rodriguez to an early exit to follow up his win at the Black Ball Open last month.
Colombia’s Rodriguez started well in New York to go a game ahead, however a crucial second game went the way of Mosaad on the tie-break, and the Egyptian played some scintillating squash in the third and fourth games to consign Rodriguez to an early exit after eighty-one minutes.
“The second game was very important to me because I was 1-0 down. I needed that game because there is a big difference between 2-0 and 1-1. It is not easy to play Miguel. Especially because we have had a couple of matches that were very tough. I needed to be strong mentally today, and I pushed 100% today. Omar Mosaad
Momen, the 2018 finalist and world No. 4, faced an unlucky draw with an opening match against world No. 10 Mohamed Abouelghar. Momen was forced to dig deep and recover from a 2-1 deficit against his Egyptian teammate to win in five games after sixty-eight minutes.
“I really tried to weather the storm today. As exceptional as Mohamed is, having to play him every single tournament is just so tough mentally. With a player like him, he studies you, and he plays better every time, and every time, I wonder, will it be this time? I try and fight hard, and I try my best not to lose. I kept pushing and I kept fighting and I am so happy that I got the win because he was brilliant today.” Tarek Momen
Second seed Ali Farag got the better of former World No.1 James Willstrop in four games. Farag can overtake current World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy at the summit of the World Rankings if he wins the tournament and ElShorbagy exits the event at the semi-final stage or sooner.
And the Harvard-graduate kicked off his title challenge in New York after coming through a thrilling 51-minute battle with England’s Willstrop. The pair played out a series of entertaining rallies under the chandeliers of Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall and received a standing ovation as they departed the court.
Coll was in control as he dropped just six points over the course of the opening two games, but Harrity, backed on by his home crowd, battled his way back into the match as he unsettled the Kiwi and hit a number of winners at the front of the court.
Harrity’s resurgence continued into the fourth as he built up a 7-0 lead, but Coll was able to arrest his drop off in intensity and fought back to close out the win in four games. The 26-year-old will line up against India’s Saurav Ghosal for a place in the last eight.
“I became a bit too passive. Obviously I was concerned [after going 7-0 down in the fourth] and I tried to get myself back into it. I just had my coach’s voice in my head going nuts at me.” Paul Coll
Unseeded Greg Lobban, Greg Marche and Daryl Selby also made it through to the last sixteen.
Women’s under way
Friday saw the women’s first round kick off at the Harvard Club, Princeton Club and New York Athletic Club.
Team USA’s Marina Stefanoni proved to be a formidable challenge for world No. 33 Zeina Mickawy in her second straight ToC wild card appearance. The sixteen-year-old stayed within reach of the Egyptian throughout the entire match, winning the second game, and squandering game balls in the fourth game, falling 14-12 after forty-six minutes.
“I’m really thrilled that I won this, it was really hard. I just tried to push and it was really tough to play like this with Marina. She’s the younger player, she’s up and coming and she is going to be one of the top players on the PSA. I wasn’t playing that well at her age.” Zeina Mickawy
Malaysia has three representatives in the women’s draw as former world No. 5 Low Wee Wern and nineteen-year-old Sivasangari Subramaniam both won to join Nicol David in the second round.
Subramaniam, world No. 51, produced the highest-ranked upset of the women’s first round over England’s world No. 26 Fiona Moverley. After dealing with a recurring injury for over twenty-one months, Wee Wern appears to be back close to returning to her top-ten form.
“I’m a bit nervous, I’ve played it before but I didn’t appreciate it when I was in the top 10, I just took it for granted and it was just another match for me. After being out for 21 months, I really missed it and this time around I think I will appreciate it a bit more.” Low Wee Wern
The women’s second round and first half of the men’s round of sixteen will take to the all glass court in Vanderbilt Hall from noon on Saturday.
Day TWO : Rosner advances as Gawad survives and Elias ousts Marwan
The top half of the men’s second round saw all three past champions – Simon Rosner, Mohamed ElShorbagy and Karim Abdel Gawad open their campaigns in victorious – but contrasting – fashion
The first of the three title holders on court, Gawad, saw his match end under unfortunate circumstances against rising Welshman Joel Makin.
Makin had been in the midst of the best form of his career including upsets against the likes of Mohamed ElShorbagy, Miguel Rodriguez and Omar Mosaad during the second half of 2018, which propelled the twenty-four-year-old to a career high ranking of world No. 23 this month.
Gawad also entered the match following a return to form last month when he captured the inaugural PSA World Platinum Black Ball Open title in his native Egypt.
Last year in Grand Central, Gawad tamed the Welshman in a four-game, first-round match. On Thursday afternoon, however, it was Makin who stormed out the gates from the first point—a grueling two-minute rally.
Makin controlled the first two games 11-4, 13-11, and stood just ahead of Gawad 4-3 in the third when the two players tangled feet on the T, which caused Makin to roll his ankle. In clear discomfort, Makin was provided a contributed injury break, but could not recover and retired the match.
“It is not a normal end to the match. He played really well and he was dominating. I was having a really hard time, especially today when I was not playing my best squash.He was playing his best squash so of course it is very bad for him. I wish him the best of luck to recover and to be back for the World Championships next month.” Karim Abdel Gawad
Rosner—boasting a career high ranking of No. 3 at his thirteenth ToC—followed on court, picking up where he left off in 2018 to record his sixth straight win in Vanderbilt Hall against Greenwich, CT-based Aussie Ryan Cuskelly.
“I think he is a really dangerous player, and I think we have never played before in a PSA match. “I played really well at the beginning and had a good start. He then kind of came back at me, but I was really pleased with my performance.
“There is a lot of pressure on your shoulders coming back as a defending champion, but I didn’t want to think about that too much. I just wanted to enter the tournament and play the best I can really. Exactly the same as last year, I think I went in without any expectations.” Simon Rosner
ElShorbagy, the 2015 and 2016 ToC champion, emulated the German with a dominant three-game victory over Switzerland’s Nicolas Müller. ElShorbagy suffered a shock defeat to Cuskelly in the second round of last year’s event, but the two-time Tournament of Champions winner was unstoppable against his Swiss counterpart.
“The way he beat Mazen and the way he played yesterday was very good, and I know he plays really well on this court.
“Last year he played so well against Gawad and he got to the quarters and I remember a few years ago that we had a four-game battle where he played so well. I had to be sharp from the first point and to win three games to love is always a good feeling.” Mohamed ElShorbagy
The only seed to fall on the day was Marwan ElShorbagy, who is returning to action after a lengthy absence and lost out in four games to Peru’s Diego Elias.
Rösner will play Hong Kong’s Max Lee in the next round after Lee overcame a Cesar Salazar in straight games with Salazar seemingly not fully fit, while Egypt’s Zahed Salem lies in wait for ElShorbagy in round three, with the World No.25 getting the better of Malaysia’s Eain Yow Ng in four games.
Elias will line up against Australia’s Cameron Pilley in the next round, with Pilley progressing courtesy of a 3-0 victory against England’s Tom Richards.
Friday will field the bottom half of the men’s second round take to the all glass Court as the women’s first round begins at the Harvard Club, Princeton Club and New York Athletic Club.
Day One : One out of Three Americans, but a hat-trick for the French
The opening day of action at the Tournament of Champions saw men’s United States #1 Todd Harrity beat Hong Kong’s Tsz Fung Yip to book his place in round two.
It was the first time since 1992 that a trio of American men had competed on the same night at the Tournament of Champions, with World #48 Harrity, World #63 Chris Hanson and pre-qualifying winner Timothy Brownell all appearing under the chandeliers of the stunning Vanderbilt Hall.
Harrity was backed on by a partizan crowd in New York and the 28-year-old from Wayne rose to the occasion as he came back from a game down to earn an a four-game victory – securing his place in the second round of this tournament for the first time in his career, where he will face Paul Coll.
“It’s great after all these years, to finally win on this stage, I am just overjoyed by it. In previous years I have just been so excited, so I come out with my heart racing, sort of a deer in the headlights with sensory overload. I don’t kind of feel like playing the match.” Todd Harrity
Hanson, meanwhile, came up against former World #3 Omar Mosaad and caused the Egyptian a number of problems throughout the 46-minute encounter, but Mosaad came through to take the win in straight games.
“This kind of match is stressful for me because he played in front of his home crowd. I just tried to focus, especially in the second game because I wanted to finish in three. I am training hard, really hard, and I think I did a good job.” Omar Mosaad
Mosaad’s reward is a second round fixture with World #6 Miguel Rodriguez, and he will look to follow up his 3-2 win over the Colombian at last month’s CIB Black Ball Open.
Brownell, who is currently attending Harvard, was appearing at this tournament for the first time in his career after winning a wildcard playoff prior to the event and he took a shock one-game lead against Egypt’s Youssef Soliman, only to eventually fall in four games.
“I think both of us got excited, and he was playing with his home crowd. For me it is the first time in the States, and playing in this venue is definitely exciting. “I was so nervous inside, I was struggling to find a rhythm because he played really well.” Youssef Soliman
Elsewhere, France’s Mathieu Castagnet and England’s George Parker played out a mammoth 137-minute battle in the day’s opening match, which saw Castagnet require treatment for a cut on his eyebrow [taking up at least 30 minutes of that match time].
“I don’t mind, even if I need the stitches, I am going to do my recovery and then tomorrow I am back on the court. This is my job, I love the game and I want to give my best to come back. Even if I need stitches, I am going to come back for sure.” Mathieu Castagnet
Castagnet will play Egypt’s Fares Dessouky in the next round after the Egyptian made his return from a 14-month injury layoff with a runner-up finish at the CCI International last week.
Grégoire Marche and Lucas Serme created upsets as Marche ousted Germany’s Raphael Kandra, while Serme had to work for 78m to beat Englishman Declan James in five – they meet in round two!
Other first round upsets saw Eain Yow Ng, Chris Simpson and Campbell Grayson progress to round two.