Marietta Open : Crouin collects

CenterState Marietta Open 2019 : FINAL
[2] Victor Crouin (Fra) 3-0 Chris Binnie (Jam)  11-7, 11-7, 11-3 (32m)

Crouin collects in Georgia

John McMurry reports : 

Not since Jack Nicklaus won the inaugural Tournament Players Championship at the old Atlanta Country Club in 1974 has a professional sporting event of such magnitude taken place in Marietta as the CenterState Bank Marietta Open, whose finals took place on a beautiful, sunny and warm afternoon under clear Southern skies.

It seemed that nearly all of Marietta, though, was inside at the Old School Brewery & Squash Club to witness two titans of the Professional Squash Association Challenger Tour, Chris Binnie and Victor Crouin, vie for squash supremacy in Cobb County.

Prior to the match, referee and ambassador plenipotentiary for the game of squash Richard Millman advised the full-house crowd, many seeing their first squash match, on proper etiquette, which was much appreciated by both players and fans. Though there were several audible gasps in amazement at acrobatic retrievals and blazing shots over the course of the match, the crowd was very respectful of the players and the game.

The battle began with a back-and-forth as only Crouin strung together more than one service point in the early going. Binnie leveled the score at 7-all before Crouin won four straight to take game 1 in just under nine minutes.

The wear of four matches in four days began to show on the Jamaican in game two. Though Binnie got out to a 3-1 lead, Crouin answered by rattling off several bursts of points and began to consistently put Binnie under pressure in all for corners. A phenomenal exchange of winning length at first seemed to indicate a shift in momentum with Binnie going crosscourt to reach 5-5, but Crouin answered down the forehand on the next rally to make it 6-5 and reassert control. 6 of the next seven rallies and game two went to Crouin.

The outcome was not in doubt in game three. Though Binnie fans in the crowd, including one who came from Jamaica just to watch the tournament, shouted out their support between points, Crouin moved Binnie around the court with ease. The final score was 11-3, but that the game went on for eleven and a half minutes was indicative that though tiring rapidly, there was still a lot of fight in the islander. “A man does not fight merely to win,” after all, and though Binnie surely wouldn’t agree with Cyrano de Bergerac that it is “…better to know that one fights in vain,” the crowd was appreciative of the effort.

Though not his day, Chris Binnie had a good tournament, defeating two top 100 players on his way to the final. The 130 points he collected should help him move up the rankings when they are released in October. Crouin snared his third PSA title of the year, adding Marietta to his Tasmanian and Australian laurels, and 200 ranking points that come with it. Both players spoke to the crowd after the match, posing for photos, signing autographs and tucking into the barbecue smoked by a local dentist just for the occasion.

As a first-time tournament, the CenterState Bank Marietta Open seemed to be a hit with the players and spectators alike. “Can’t wait for next year,” was a common refrain as players, billet hosts and sponsors all indicated that they’d like to see a second incarnation of the tournament. Who knows? Maybe the glass show court is headed for Marietta Square in the near future.

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Upsets rife in quarter-finals

Quarterfinal play in the $12,000 CenterState Bank Marietta Open, a Professional Squash Association-sanctioned Challenger 10 event took place at the Old School Brewery & Squash Club Friday night in the suburbs of Atlanta.

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Upsets were rife in the early going as 7th-seeded Jesus Camacho took out the number one seed Vikram Malhotra in 5 games. In the second match, Jamaican sixth seed Christopher Binnie dispatched Cairo-based third seed Shehab Essam in four.

It seemed the upsets would keep going in the third match when Penn’s Andrew Douglas took the first game 15-13 from 4th seed Leonel Cardenas, but Cardenas walked off the court a winner in 4. The final match of the evening featured two players who have more or less been adopted by their billet hosts, #2 seed Victor Crouin of France and eighth-seeded Nick Sachvie of Canada. Crouin won in three.

Semifinals take place Saturday from 5-7 PM eastern (US). Those watching the livestream on the CenterState Bank Marietta Open facebook page are asked to temper their complaints in light of the facts that they are getting a free video feed to watch their favorite players and that it is a humble biochemist/1st time tournament director who took a week’s vacation to realize his dream of hosting a pro squash tournament who must, in addition to the livestream, see to the players’ and spectators’ comfort, officiating, keeping the beer cold and the food hot, etc. etc. etc. They are also asked to remember that half the world prefers landscape and half portrait and thus when complaining about camera orientation should realize that we can’t make everyone happy. Enjoy the livestream!

Game summaries: Quarterfinals

[7] Jesus Camacho3-2 [1] Vikram Malhotra, 11-6, 3-11, 11-5, 8-11, 11-3.

The top seed was in trouble from the start as the Mexican traded points 2-for-1 to a 4-2, then 5-2 lead in the first. A back and forth then ensued to 6-4 but then Camacho rattled off three points in a row to 9-4 and then held on for an 11-6 victory in the first. Malhotra stormed out to a 5-0, then 10-2 lead in the second and leveled the game score at 1-all, winning 11-3.

The third and fourth games were 11-5 to Camacho, 11-8 to Malhotra, respectively, wherein both athletes drew audible gasps from the crowd with their athleticism as they retrieved balls from all corners and hit with unfettered fury. Perhaps Malhotra’s comeback from injury is not yet complete, though, as he was unable to put up much of a fight in the fifth. From 3-all, Camacho took eight points in a row to seal the upset.

[6] Christopher Binnie 3-1 [3] Shehab Essam, 11-8, 2-11, 11-7, 11-4.

Having not broken much of a sweat in his first round match, the Egyptian came in to the quarterfinals perhaps a bit too well rested. The nine-time and reigning Caribbean champion took a hard-fought first game from Essam and then absolutely cruised through the second, building a 6-0 lead out of the gate that stretched to 9-1 and won going away 11-2 to put the higher seed in a very deep 2-0 game score hole.

However, Essam didn’t come all the way from Cairo only to lay down for Binnie, battling back in the third to win 11-7. Again, the large and enthusiastic, if perhaps a bit unknowledgeable crowd was on the edge of their seats as the competitors returned to court for the fourth. It was Binnie who seized the initiative, with winner after winner to build a 5-0 lead.

Essam put up all the resistance he could, but ‘hand out’ was the order of the day; he did not win a service point until 3-9, succumbing 4-11, As Binnie moved on to face Camacho in the quarters, Essam was left to contemplate the long flight home.

[4] Leonel Cardenas 3-1 Andrew Douglas, 13-15, 11-8, 11-4, 11-9.

Earlier in the day, Cardenas became the only player in the tournament brave enough to try grits, a southern U.S. delicacy offered to the players at breakfast. Grits-fueled energy may have been the difference as Cardenas emerged triumphant in a hard-fought four games. Douglas surprised everyone in the building except perhaps himself as he raced out to a 9-3 lead, but Cardenas battled back, winning 5 straight points until, Douglas stymied the momentum to bring about game ball at 10-8.

There was a great deal of contact between the two and Douglas repeatedly pleaded with the official about Cardenas’ lack of clearing. Emotions ran hot as Cardenas fought off two game balls to draw level at 10-all. Then it was 11-11, and then 12-12, and then 13-13. Douglas reached his second game ball at 14-13 and then, with a cracking cross-court into the front left corner and a barbaric victory yawp, took the game. A third upset seemed nigh. The second game was another chippy affair as clearing and other interference continued to be common issues of debate between the players and the referee. One new-to-squash spectator proclaimed that “the ref is too busy in this sport.”

Cardenas took it 11-8 with his own version of a primal scream and then next with more ease at 11-4. Douglas, like Hell, was not easily conquered, and the two traded points to start the fifth, reaching 4-all, 5-all, 6-all and 7-all, each with a concomitant ratcheting up of the tension. Spectators were again on the edges of their seats as Cardenas finally got a little bit clear with a 10-8 game ball.

Douglas won that point but lost the next, and the match, 11-9, 3 games to 1. It is rumored that Cardenas ate more grits for breakfast Saturday morning to prepare for the semifinals.

[2] Victor Crouin 3-0 [8] Nick Sachvie, 11-5, 13-11, 11-6.

The final tilt of the evening was billed as the “Battle of the Billets” as both players have absolutely charmed their host families, who turned out to root for their new favorite pro athletes. Victor Crouin’s #1 fans, Brittain and Libby, were in the front row with their new best friend Timmy Brownell and were delighted to see Brownell’s Harvard teammate Crouin parlay a tight 6-5 lead into a seemingly easy 11-5 win in game 1. Sachvie put up a mighty effort in the second and took Crouin to extra points before the Frenchman edged him out 13-11.

Though evincing audible frustration at his own play in the first two games, Sachvie steeled himself for a win-or-go-home third. At first, it looked like a fourth game would be in order as the Canadian built a 6-2 lead, but that was not to be as Crouin calmly reasserted control, rattling off nine straight points to win the match. Both players returned to their billets, one happy, one not, but both exceedingly comfortable and well-cared for by the Holles and the Krivskys. One additional note: Crouin stayed well away from the grits; we’ll have to see if that has any bearing on his semifinal match against Cardenas.

Seven seeds progress in round one

John McMurry reports : 

* Top seeds go through with the exception of [7] Mario Yanez, who retired due to injury up 2-1 in the 4th

* Over 100 spectators attend the opening round at Old School Brewery & Squash Club

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First round play took place today in the $12,000 CenterState Bank Marietta Open, a Professional Squash Association-sanctioned Challenger 10 event at the Old School Brewery & Squash Club. 16 players were reduced to eight in two sessions that stretched throughout the day.

Of the top 8 seeds, all but one went through. Seventh seeded Mario Yanez was forced to retire when, though up 2-1 in the fourth, he suffered a calf injury that left him unable to play after the allotted three minutes of injury time.

A large and enthusiastic, but mostly new to squash crowd cheered from the gallery, on more than one occasion clapping at inappropriate times, though the applause was well meant. More than 100 spectators attended throughout the day, ranging from area squash players and teaching pros to friends and neighbors who were curious about the strange goings on at the private home near Marietta Square. The event is being staged as a fundraiser for Good Samaritan Health Center of Cobb, a local medical clinic for those in need.

[1] Vikram Malhotra 3-0 Edgar Ramirez 

Fresh off his 10th PSA tour title, Malhotra defeated the 24-year old out of Bogota in three. The crowd appreciated the lengthy and acrobatic rallies, but the outcome was rarely in doubt as Malhotra ended the first and the third with four and five point runs, respectively. It was the second where the Colombian put up the stiffest resistance, even fighting off a game ball at 8-10 before bowing 11-9 to the Indian.

[7] Jesus Camacho 3-0 Reuben Phillips 

Phillips had a game ball in the second, and it seemed that had fate dictated otherwise, the match could have gone in his direction. But Camacho fought it off, won the game and took the third. The local kids still love Reuben, their coach, as much as ever.

[6] Christopher Binnie 3-0 Jean-Pierre Brits

The 3-0 scoreline belied the closeness of the match in the first two games. The South African got out to a fast start at 5-0, but Binnie climbed back to 6-7. Back-and-forth the points went, 7-8, 8-8, 8-9 before Binnie won the final three rallies to seal the first game.

Game 2 started out the opposite way with Binnie racing to a 3-0 lead, then 8-2. Brits clawed his way back to 9-10 before yielding again, 11-9 to Binnie. That momentum to Binnie then seemed insurmountable and the Jamaican pulled away in the third, winning 11-4.

[3] Shehab Essam 3-0 Arshad Iqbal Burki

An injured and listless Burki was no match for Essam and he succumbed to the world #70 in a quick three (14 min). Essam may benefit from a great deal more rest than the other first round winners when it comes to the quarters.

[4] Leonel Cardenas 3-1 Timothy Brownell 

An exciting but controversial match closed out the afternoon session. Cardenas took game 1, but the Harvard man came storming back in the second, winning a tight 11-9. The court seemed very small as there were many collisions and play stoppages for referee decisions. Lets and strokes ensued, as did discussions with the referee from an array of strengths of argument, but Brownell weathered the distractions and took the second 11-9.

The next two went to Cardenas and the chippiness continued, but the players shook hands and parted on good terms. It must be said that Brownell is the hit of the tourney, having endeared himself to several local kids who have become diehard Brownell fans who were heartbroken at his defeat.

Andrew Douglas 3-2 [5] Mario Yanez

The first match of the evening was an exciting affair and well played by both contestants. Yanez took the first with ease, but Douglas came back in the second to build a 10-7 lead. Yanez fought off two game balls but succumbed on the third as the Penn Quaker leveled the match. The third went 11-4 to Yanez. Both players evinced fighting spirits in the fourth as some spectacular squash ensued, but the Man from Aguas Calientes suffered a calf injury at 7-7. Given three minutes to recover, he was unable to return to court and conceded to Douglas.

[8] Nick Sachvie 3-0 Faraz Khan

What many had predicted would be the tightest match of the evening, particularly given the closeness of the opponents’ rankings went 3-0 to the Canadian, much to the delight of Gavin, the one Canadian kid in the gallery, and Sachvie’s host family who have grown quite attached to Nick.

The first two games were indeed tight, rapid affairs, both going to Sachvie by 11-9 scores. Scores in the third were back-and-forth in the early going at 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, and 4-4, but then Sachvie ran off an impressive string of rallies to close out the match 11-4.

[2] Victor Crouin 3-1 Noah Browne

The last tilt of the evening was in many ways the most exciting, and not just because the crowd had had a few Dry County IPAs by then! Crouin handily took the first with several runs to get to 11-3. The Browne that came back on court for the second came to play. Dramatic rallies were the order of the day and the score seesawed back and forth until at last Browne took two in a row to win 12-10.

The third went back and forth in a similar fashion, the difference being it was Crouin who put two points together to take the game 11-9. The Bermudan had clearly left it all on the court by the fourth as the Frenchman cruised to an 11-2 win.

All set to go in Marietta, GA, USA!

John McMurry reports

Professional squash players from around the world began descending upon Marietta, a suburb of Atlanta, GA, on Tuesday for the 2019 CenterState Bank Marietta Open, with some traveling very far for the opportunity.

Shehab Essam, world-ranked #70, flew in from Cairo, Egypt. Jean-Pierre Brits, WR #135, came in from Dallas but will return to his home in Pretoria, South Africa, upon the conclusion of the tournament. Three players from Mexico, three Americans, and players from India, England, Jamaica, Pakistan, Canada, Colombia, France and Bermuda round out the international draw. Many of the players are presently US-based and will be arriving from origins such as Hartford, New York and Boston.

#1 seed and WR #61 Vikram Malhotra will be coming into the tournament hot, having recently captured his 10th Professional Squash Association title at the Delhi, India leg of the HCL SRFI Indian Tour.

Other players in the draw have recently moved up the rankings. #2 seed Victor Crouin of France, rose to #64 in the world in the Professional Squash Association September rankings. As a member of the Harvard squash team, Crouin is also the reigning US Collegiate Squash Association individual national champion.

Other top seeds, including Essam, Leonel Cardenas and Christopher Binnie, the 9-time and reigning Caribbean squash champion, enjoyed a rise in the rankings. All told, 7 of the 16 players in the tournament are now ranked in the top 100.

The court is booked as players will train Wednesday in anticipation of their first round matches, getting to know the court and shaking off the cobwebs from travel. The first round begins Thursday in a single elimination draw that culminates with Sunday finals. Players will be competing for a share of the $12,000 purse and the precious ranking points that come with victory.

The CenterState Bank Marietta Open will take place at the Old School Brewery & Squash Club, a private home court in Marietta. Several years ago Marietta resident, homebrewer and squash enthusiast Jonathan McMurry realized a dream when his saint of a wife let him build a court at their home alongside his rather homebrewing operation. About a year ago, a neighbor and fellow homebrewer who works for CenterState asked McMurry what a pro tournament sponsorship would cost, and the CenterState Bank Marietta Open was born.

Other sponsors include local businesses Signature FD, Atlanta Gastroenterology, The Barnes Law Group, Brand Mortgage, Gregory Doyle Calhoun & Rogers, Momar, Inc (makers of “Sqwash,” the official court cleaning product of the Marietta Open) and CourtTech. The beer sponsor is Dry County Brewing Company of Kennesaw, GA and the wine is courtesy of Emerald Hare, a California winery with Marietta roots.

The event is also a fundraiser for Good Samaritan Health Center of Cobb. In lieu of admission, attendees are asked to consider a donation to the charity, which for more than a decade has provided quality healthcare to the needy in Cobb County, GA.