By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor) and ALESSANDRO DE FRANZONI in Sydney
It’s good to see the Australian Open back on the calendar with two $30k events attracting a quality international draw in both men’s and women’s events, headed up by top seeds Miguel Rodriguez (Colombia) and Nele Gilis.
Several British players have made the long journey to the University of Sydney courts to compete in the newly titled 2022 City Tattersalls Club Australian Open and England’s Jasmine Hutton proved too strong for home hope Jess Turnbull.
Hutton won her opening match 3-0 and setting up an interesting quarter-final against Japanese Satomi Watanabe, who defeated Salma El Tayeb (Egypt) in straight games.
Hutton’s partner, men’s No.5 seed Charlie Lee, beat Valentin Rapp of Germany in three tough games lasting 42 minutes and will meet Scotland’s Greg Lobban, who beat Israel’s Daniel Poleshchuk 3-0.
Colombian superstar Rodriguez, one of the most popular players in the current era, cemented his status as tournament’s favourite with a clinical performance against 2020 Australian Open champion Rhys Dowling.
“It’s my second time in Sydney, but the first time playing at a PSA event so I was really looking forward to coming back,” Rodriguez said after his match, which he won 3-0.
“My opponent is very talented. I saw his match yesterday and he was very smooth on the court. It was a bit physical in the first game today, but I tried not to give him any chances and I wasn’t making any unforced errors.
“It worked and I felt pretty much in control. The crowd was amazing and I almost felt like I was already playing in a final.”
The Colombian will face No.7 seed Martin Svec in the next round after the Czech won his match in four games. Svec lost the first game to Sandeep Ramachandran (India) 10-12, but steered the ship to claim the next three games for a 3-1 win in 42 minutes.
Aussies Donna Lobban and Rex Hedrick both qualified for the quarter-finals.
In a recent interview with Squash Mad’s Mike Dale, Lobban revealed that the Australian Open might be her final PSA tournament before she takes up a new post as head coach at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Lobban needed four games to beat 18-year-old Yasshmita Jadishkumar (Malaysia) en route to setting up an exciting quarter-final against Sabrina Sobhy (USA).
Lobban and Jadishkumar split the first two games, both decided by the tightest of margins, before the Australian got in control of the match and won 3-1.
“I am really glad I got through that, actually,” she said after the match. “Yasshmita is a very talented young player and she’s going to be one of the stars of the future. So really happy for the win, no matter the score.”
Her next opponent, Sobhy, confidently worked her way past Katerina Tycova (Germany) 3-0 in straight games.
Lobban said: “Sabrina is playing very well at the moment and she had an amazing result in the USA last week, so it doesn’t get any tougher than that. I am probably the underdog in this one, but I’m going to give everything I’ve got for sure.”
Hedrick is the only other Australian player still in the competition after he emerged victorious from the all-Aussie match of the day against Joseph White. Hedrick won 3-0 and will have a tough quarter-final against England’s No.2 seed Adrian Weller, who defeated fellow countryman Simon Herbert, also in straight games.
The other Australian top-eight seed, Sarah Cardwell bowed out of the Australian Open after losing her second round match against New Zealand’s Kaitlyn Watts. Watts was quick to secure the first two games in a close match that could have gone either way, and Cardwell could only force a fourth game before conceding the match 1-3.
Watts will face No.3 seed Oliva Clyne (USA), after the world No.20 eliminated another Australian, veteran Rachael Grinham, in straight games.
The big result of the day came courtesy of Japan’s Ryunosuke Tsukue, who eliminated fourth seed David Baillargeon (Canada) in four games.
Showing the form that took him all the way to the final at the recent Canberra Open, Tsukue bounced off the blocks first and built a solid 2-0 lead against his rival. Baillargeon managed to secure the third game and came within one point of forcing a decider, leading 10-5 in the fourth.
Tsukue denied the Canadian five game points and went on to close 13-11 on his first match point, for a 3-1 win and a spot in the quarter-finals against Andrew Douglas.
The American No.6 seed was dangerously close to becoming the third upset of the day when he trailed by two games against England’s Tom Walsh in his second-round match. Douglas didn’t lose composure and mounted an epic comeback to claim a spot in the next round, closing off the decider 11-8 after over an hour on court.
Earlier in the day, top women’s seed Belgian Nele Gilis had a good opening match against Jacqueline Peychar, taking a solid 3-0 win without conceding more than four points in any of the games.
“It’s very warm here in Sydney so it took a bit of getting used to the hot court, but I thought I played really well and I am already looking forward to the next round,” said the world No.13 after the match.
“To have such a big prestigious event like the Australian Open back on is amazing. It’s my first time playing, so I am really excited about it.”
Gilis will face German Saskia Beinhard in the quarter-finals, after the German defeated young Australian Alex Haydon in four games.
City Tattersalls Club Australian Open 2022, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia (men’s $30k and women’s $30k PSA Challenger Tour events).
Men’s Second Round:
 Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt Rhys Dowling (AUS) 3-0: 11-2, 11-5, 11-9 (26m)
 Martin Svec (CZE) bt Sandeep Ramachandran (IND) 3-1: 10-12, 11-3, 11-4, 11-3 (41m)
 Andrew Douglas (USA) bt Tom Walsh (ENG) 3-2: 9-11, 11-13, 11-7, 11-5, 11-8 (60m)
Ryunosuke Tsukue (JPN) bt  David Baillargeon (CAN) 3-1: 11-3, 11-4, 5-11, 13-11 (48m)
 Greg Lobban (SCO) bt Daniel Poleshchuk (ISR) 3-0: 11-8, 11-7, 11-5 (34m)
 Charlie Lee (ENG) bt Valentin Rapp (GER) 3-0: 11-7, 11-5, 14-12 (43m)
 Rex Hedrick (AUS) bt Joseph White (AUS) 3-0: 12-10, 11-5, 11-5 (40m)
 Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Simon Herbert (ENG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-8, 12-10 (37m)
Men’s Quarter Finals (Friday, October 28):
 Miguel Rodriguez (COL) v  Martin Svec (CZE)
 Andrew Douglas (USA) v Ryunosuke Tsukue (JPN)
 Greg Lobban (SCO) v  Charlie Lee (ENG)
 Rex Hedrick (AUS) v  Adrian Waller (ENG)
Women’s Second Round:
 Nele Gilis (BEL) bt Jacqueline Peychar (AUT) 3-0: 11-3, 11-2, 11-4 (24m)
 Saskia Beinhard (GER) bt Alex Haydon (AUS) 3-1: 8-11, 12-10, 11-6, 1-8 (47m)
 Satomi Watanabe (JPN) bt Salma Eltayeb (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-5, 11-4 (25m)
 Jasmine Hutton (ENG) bt Jessica Turnbull (AUS) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-6 (29m)
 Olivia Clyne (USA) bt Rachael Grinham (AUS) 3-0: 11-2, 11-8, 11-8 (23m)
Kaitlyn Watts (NZL) bt  Sarah Cardwell (AUS) 3-1: 11-8, 11-3, 7-11, 11-6 (39m)
 Donna Lobban (AUS) bt Yasshmita Jadishkumar (MAS) 3-1: 14-12, 11-13, 11-5, 11-7 (36m)
 Sabrina Sobhy (USA) bt Katerina Tycova (GER) 3-0: 11-4, 11-5, 11-1 (24m)
Women’s Quarter Finals (Friday, October 28):
 Nele Gilis (BEL) v  Saskia Beinhard (GER)
 Satomi Watanabe (JPN) v  Jasmine Hutton (ENG)
 Olivia Clyne (USA) v Kaitlyn Watts (NZL)
 Donna Lobban (AUS) v  Sabrina Sobhy (USA)
Pictures by Gregg Porteous courtesy of Squash Australia