Final: Marche collects biggest title
France’s Gregoire Marche claimed his biggest PSA title to date as he beat Zahed Salem in a five-game final in Pittsburgh.
Both players came out a little tight for these finals, and the match began with some early attacking shots and some unforced errors without the traditional feeling out period. Salem in particular instantly began probing the front of the court, but Marche responded, taking game 1 as Salem hit a series of tins in a row.
In game 2, the players had trouble staying out of each other’s way, and the flow of the match was broken up by a series of lets and strokes, and Marche pushed his lead to 2-0 in games.
Marche pressed to end the match in the third game, and looked poised to finish the match, leading 9-6. Salem rallied, with attack-heavy squash to tie and eventually take the third game despite facing a match ball.
It was Marche’s turn to attack in the fourth game, but the faster pace favored Salem, and he took the game 11-6. Going into game 5, Salem had all the momentum, but also was playing a second consecutive grueling match (after a very intense semifinal match with Mueller), while Marche had only dropped one game all tournament.
Ultimately, Salem looked simply too tired in the fifth, and his aggressive shotmaking caught up to him. Marche extended rallies and forced Salem into errors, and won the game and the match.
Semi-Finals in Pittsburgh
Franc’s Gregoire Marche and Egyptian Zahed Salem will contest an unexpected Pittsburgh Open final after both produced upset semi-final wins.
Marche, having beaten Mexico’s Arturo Salazar in the last round, beat twin brother Cesar in three quick games while Salem came from a game down to beat second seeded Swiss Nicolas Mueller.
Match points from Steven Becker-McKee
Gregoire Marche 3-0 Cesar Salazar
Marche opened with very crisp length, probing Salazar’s movement, and jumped out to an early lead. He pressed his advantage, forcing Salazar into guessing. Marche looked very sharp, and quickly closed out the match 3-0.
Zahed Salem 3-1 Nicolas Mueller
Mueller showed no sign of fatigue from a long match the night before and opened the match aggressively. He jumped out to an early lead and easily took game one behind excellent length and drops. Salem responded in game two and adjusted well to Mueller’s game plan.
Salem won 11-5, but the game felt closer than the score indicated. In game 3, Salem continued to push the pace, and Mueller seemed to finally be feeling the effects of two 5 game matches in as many days, and Salem took game 3. In game 4, Mueller came out with a renewed focus on straight length, hitting fewer boasts. Both players looked like they viewed this as a must win, and the intensity and skill level on both sides was the highest of the tournament.
Mueller survived 2 match balls before he earned one of his own, up 12-11. Salam bore down, and closed out the match, 3-1.
Down to the last four in Pittsburgh
Match Points from Steven Baicker-McKee
Marche started the match with a series or early winners, and jumped out to an early lead in game one, before faltering as Salazar rallied via aggressive shotmaking to take the first game.
Marche pushed the pace and wore down Salazar to take the next three games.
Cesar Salazar 3-1 Leo Au
It was Au’s turn to jump out to an early lead in game two, using lobs and drops to control the pace, but Salazar rallied to take the second game. In the third, Au again emphasized drops and lobs, but Salazar seemed determined to extend rallies and test the fitness of Au.
Ultimately, Salazar took games three and four over in a battle of similar styles.
Zahed Salem 3-0 Nafiizwan Adnan
In the first game, both players seem content to pursue an aggressive shot pattern featuring lots of rallies ending in the front of the court. Salem ultimately finished upfront more frequently, and took the first game.
Adnan jumped out to a 6-1 lead in game two, behind more consistent length, but Salem rallied to take game two.
Salem pressed the attack and the game returned to the front of the court with lots of attacking before Salem took game three, and the match.
Nicolas Mueller 3-2 Ramit Tandon
Tandon jumped out to an early lead in game one, controlling the rallies with aggressive shotmaking, frequently changing the pace. Mueller rallied, however and took game one after trailing 6-9.
Mueller came out attacking in game two, and jumped out to an early lead 5-2, before Tandon strung together some impressive shot making to win game two. Tandon came up short in the first rally of the third and was forced to take an injury timeout. He labored through the rest of the game, and Mueller looked poised to win in 4.
Arturo takes out top seed in Pittsburgh
Round Two of the upgraded Pitsburgh Open saw the seeds enter the fray, and two fell – top seed Ryan Cuskelly losing out in four games to Arturo Salazar, who joins twin Cesar in the last eight, and seventh seed Youssef Soliman beaten in five by in-form Indian Ramit Tandon.
Round One complete in Pittsburgh
Steven Baicker-McKee reports
We have 3 courts going and player refs for the first two rounds, so no match times and not much detail to report!
The two matches of the day were Harrity’s win over Mangaonkar. Mahesh went up 10-5 in game one, but Todd fought his way all the way back to up 11-10. Mahesh evened it up at 11 all, but then Todd closed it out at 13-11. Losing that game seemed to take a lot out of Mahesh. He won game two handily, but then seemed to fade down the stretch and Todd controlled the last two games.
The match of the night was Yuen versus Avilla, which also featured a comeback. The points were long and the players covered the court with amazing speed and grace. Alfredo won game 1 handily and hung on to win game 2 11-9. But Ivan’s attacking drops improved over the match, and his touch in front opened up the back of the court and he was able to take the last 3 games at 5, 7, and 7.