‘Biggest win of my career, and it’s so special being here in New York’
By SEAN REUTHE in New York
Australian Ryan Cuskelly pulled off the biggest win of his career as he knocked world champion Mohamed ElShorbagy out of the 2018 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in a thrilling second round battle on day four of the PSA World Series tournament at New York’s Grand Central Terminal.
Coming into the match, ElShorbagy had won 28 of his past 30 matches on the PSA World Tour, including a run of 21 consecutive matches that saw him collect four titles on the trot, including December’s World Championship, to close the gap on Gregory Gaultier atop the world rankings.
But the Egyptian found himself out-muscled and out-hustled by Cuskelly in an absorbing encounter as the man who has called New York home for almost a decade produced one of his best-ever displays throughout a match of the highest calibre, coming through a mammoth 90 minute encounter to cause a huge upset.
“That’s probably the biggest win of my career,” said Cuskelly afterwards. “And winning here in New York in front of family and friends makes it extra special. My wife was trying to scout tickets for the day to get everyone in, so I’m really happy to pull the win off and I have to thank everyone for the great support I had today.
“I came in today with a game plan and tried to vary the pace and be aggressive when I could and just hang in there when he got on a roll. I managed to get some errors out of him and hit my winners as well so I’m really happy.”
Cuskelly will line up against another Egyptian, World No.7 Tarek Momen, for a place in the semi-finals after Momen came through to win in straight games against Peruvian World No.10 Diego Elias, who wasn’t at full fitness after suffering an injury scare against England’s Declan James in the first round.
Three-time winner Ramy Ashour (right) also booked his last eight berth after the World No.14 dispatched New Zealand’s Paul Coll in four games.
The Egyptian maverick, who is now unbeaten in 12 matches at Grand Central Terminal after winning the event on his last two appearances in 2011 and 2013, was in sublime form in the first game and, after conceding the second game to Coll, had to dig in before eventually completing an 11-4, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4 victory.
“I don’t know how it looks from the outside, but when I watch us playing I see it as very simple movement and a very simple kind of pace, but you have no idea how many details are in there,” said Ashour.
“There’s so much happening on that court, there’s so much energy, so many thoughts, different vibes and strategies. My energy affects his energy and the way he hits the ball affects the way I hit the ball. That’s why it’s a brilliant sport and why I love it so much.”
Ashour will take on World No.3 Ali Farag in a mouthwatering quarter-final fixture after a polished performance from Farag saw him oust 2015 semi-finalist Miguel Angel Rodriguez by a 3-0 scoreline.
In the women’s draw, former World No.6 Amanda Sobhy – who became the first American-born woman ever to reach the final of this tournament in 2016 – capped her return from a 10-month injury absence with a 3-1 victory over 2007 World Champion Rachael Grinham.
Sobhy ruptured her achilles while match ball up against compatriot Olivia Blatchford in the semi-finals of the Ciudad de Floridablanca last March, enforcing a gruelling period of rehabilitation, but the Harvard-graduate made a successful comeback in front of her home fans.
““It feels good to be back,” said Sobhy. “When you’re out as long as I was, just being on court is a huge accomplishment. I’ve waited for so long and I got pushed, it was my first match and it wasn’t easy.
“I’m relieved to win but I’m also really happy to be back on Tour. She has an impeccable front court game and that tested out my little leg. I’m happy that I could get the majority of her balls and maybe for my next match I’ll be slightly better.”
Sobhy will take on U.S. Open champion Nour El Tayeb after she dismantled India’s World No.20 Dipika Pallikal Karthik in just 18 minutes, while defending champion Camille Serme got her tournament up and running with a comfortable victory over Sobhy’s younger sister, Sabrina.
“I saw Sabrina play against Coline (Aumard) a few days ago and knew she would be dangerous today,” said Serme.
“I love coming back to New York, it’s so much fun to be playing here and I want to enjoy every minute of it and spend as much time on that court as I can.”
Serme will take on Australia’s Donna Urquhart for a place in the quarter-finals after the Australian overcame an injured Annie Au, while 2014 champion Nicol David and New Zealand’s Joelle King will go head-to-head after respective wins over Samantha Cornett and Heba El Torky.
World Champion Raneem El Welily was also in action and recovered from a game down to defeat former World No.2 Jenny Duncalf – despite rolling her ankle painfully at the end of the fourth game – and she will meet World No.12 Tesni Evans in the next round, with Evans seeing off World Junior Champion Hania El Hammamy.
The quarter-finals of the men’s tournament begin tomorrow (January 22), while the women’s tournament hits the second round stage – play starts from 11:00 local time (GMT-5).
All of the matches – which are held inside Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall – will be shown live on SQUASHTV (Rest of World) and Eurosport Player (Europe only).
PSA World Series, JP Morgan Tournament of Champions 2018, Grand Central Terminal, New York, USA ($165,000 prize money for both men and women):
Men’s Second Round (Bottom Half):
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 3-0: 11-9, 11-9, 11-6 (39m)
Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt  Paul Coll (NZL) 3-1: 11-4, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4 (59m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Diego Elias (PER) 3-0: 11-7, 11-5, 11-4 (25m)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-2: 12-10, 9-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-6 (90m)
Men’s Quarter-Finals (Top Half) To Be Played January 22:
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
Simon Rösner (GER) v Nicolas Mueller (SUI)
Men’s Quarter-Finals (Bottom Half) To Be Played January 23:
 Ali Farag (EGY) v Ramy Ashour (EGY)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
Women’s First Round (Bottom Half):
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt [Q] Sabrina Sobhy (USA) 3-0: 11-3, 11-8, 11-3 (21m)
Donna Urquhart (AUS) bt  Annie Au (HKG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-7, 5-1 ret.
 Joelle King (NZL) bt [Q] Heba El Torky (EGY) 3-1: 11-3, 8-11, 11-3, 11-4 (31m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt [Q] Samantha Cornett (CAN) 3-0: 11-7, 11-3, 11-4 (27m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) 3-0: 11-2, 11-5, 11-4 (18m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt [Q] Rachael Grinham (AUS) 3-1: 11-8, 9-11, 11-9, 11-3 (37m)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) bt Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 13-11, 11-9 (39m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt [Q] Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 3-1: 9-11, 11-1, 11-7, 11-4 (37m)
Second Round (To Be Played January 22):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v [Q] Mariam Metwally (EGY)
 Olivia Blatchford (USA) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v  Alison Waters (ENG)
Victoria Lust (ENG) v  Laura Massaro (ENG)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v Donna Urquhart (AUS)
 Joelle King (NZL) v  Nicol David (MAS)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v  Amanda Sobhy (USA)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY) <
Pictures courtesy of PSA