Seven Brits chase a place at Grand Central
By BETH RASIN in New York
Two all-British battles are among the qualifying finals to determine which players win through to gain coveted place on the all-glass court inside New York’s Grand Central Terminal for the first round of the 2018 Tournament of Champions, one of the world’s most popular tournaments.
Top qualifying seed Alan Clyne (Scotland) meets Welsh number one Joel Makin, while another Scot, Greg Lobban, tackles England’s Tom Richards.
Lobban and Richards both dealt with the pressures of facing American hopes on their home soil. New York’s own Chris Gordon (below) made a determined run at Richards in front of a highly partisan crowd at the Harvard Club.
After dropping the first game quickly, Richards said: “I just had a lot of mishits and he definitely had the home court advantage,” referring to the fact that the Harvard Club was Gordon’s home club in his junior playing days and the crowd was clearly in his favor.
The 31-year-old Englishman recovered to win the second and third games, but didn’t close out the match until the fifth.
“I managed to stay on the T and make Dylan run. That’s what the top 10 guys do to me,” was Scotland’s Greg Lobban’s assessment of his victory over America’s 23-year-old Dylan Cunningham.
Lobban, who is looking to make it to the ToC glass court for the first time after first playing the event in 2015, was thinking positively about his chances. “I would like to think I can keep up with these main draw players.”
English trio Declan James, Adrian Waller and Chris Simpson all made it through after beating Josh Masters, Youssef Ibrahim (Egypt) and Faraz Khan (USA).
India’s Ramit Tandon thrilled the fans with a five game, 77-minute victory over 16th seed Arturo Salazar of Mexico at the renowned New York Athletic Club. A native of Kolkata who remained in New York after graduating from Columbia University, Tandon is currently ranked no. 80 in the Professional Squash Association world rankings, 36 spots lower than his opponent. But in tonight’s encounter the difference between the two was infinitesimal.
The match opened with bullet-quick, short rallies. Tandon’s clinical precision, superb ball control and court awareness unsettled Salazar and the Indian won the first game 11-7. The start of the second game was entirely different from the first, marked early by atrociously long rallies mostly won by a refocused Salazar.
After Salazar took an early 6-2 lead, Tandon responded by hitting winning nicks in the front of the court and dying length in the back to even the score at 7 all. The 30-year-old from San Luis Potosi fought back by intensifying the pace on the ball and eked out a 13-11 second game win.
Salazar opened to a 6-3 lead in the third, but Tandon clawed back to 8-8. A couple of unforced errors gave Tandon two game balls at 10-8, but it was only at 12-10 in the tiebreaker that the 25-year-old won the game. In the fourth, Salazar again took a lead at 7-4 lead, but this time, he held onto it and evened the match by winning the game 11-7.
After his third shirt change of the evening, Tandon mounted an early attack in the decider, jumping out to quick 5-1 lead. The crowd favorite won on his second match ball, 11-5.
Tandon will face world no. 38 Waller of England, who was a man on a quick mission as he dispatched Princeton University freshman Youssef Ibrahim in 31 minutes 11-5, 11-4, 11-6.
Two Frenchmen will face other for a spot in the main draw. The 27-year-old Gregoire Marche, showcasing his extraordinary retrieving ability with a few jazz splits thrown in for good measure, eliminated 19-year-old Andrew Douglas of Brooklyn in three games, while 25-year-old Lucas Serme overcame England’s Nathan Lake.
J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Grand CENTRAL TERMINAL, NY, NY, USA.
Men’s Qualifying First Round (Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018):
 Alan Clyne (SCO) bt. [L] Chris Hanson (USA) 3-1; 6-11, 11-5, 11-2, 11-7 (55m)
 Declan James (ENG) bt Joshua Masters (ENG) 3-0; 11-3, 11-7, 11-9 (37m)
 Grégoire Marche (FRA) def [L] Andrew Douglas (USA) 3-0; 11-6, 15-13, 11-4 (44m)
 Max Lee (HKG) bt [L] Spencer Lovejoy (USA) 3-0; 11-4, 11-5, 11-5 (25m)
 Greg Lobban (SCO) bt [L] Dylan Cunningham (USA) 3-0; 11-3, 11-7, 11-6 (34m)
 Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) bt. Mohamed Red (EGY) 3-1, 9-11, 11-4, 11-2, 11-9 (47m)
 Adrian Waller (ENG) bt. [L] Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) 3-0; 11-5, 11-4 11-6 (31m)
 Mazen Hesham (EGY) bt. Peter Creed (WAL) 3-0 ; 11-4, 11-4, 11-8 (42m)
 Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT) bt Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu (IND) 3-0; 11-8, 11-2, 11-7 (35m)
 Tom Richards (ENG) bt Christopher Gordon (USA) 3-2; 4-11, 11-8, 11-6, 7-11, 11-4 (55m)
 Campbell Grayson (NZL) bt Olli Tuominen (FIN) 3-0; 11-6, 11-4, 11-7 (41m)
 Lucas Serme (FRA) bt Nathan Lake (ENG) 3-0; 12-10, 11-9, 11-3 (51m)
 Raphael Kandra (GER) bt. [L] Alister Walker (BOT) 3-0; 8-11, 11-3, 11-6, 15-13 (41m)
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt. Ben Coleman (ENG) 3-1; 3-11, 11-5, 11-8, 13-11 (70m)
 Chris Simpson (ENG) bt. Faraz Khan (USA) 3-1; 11-3, 9-11, 11-6, 11-9 (40m)
[L] Ramit Tandon (IND) def  Arturo Salazar (MEX) 3-2; 11-7, 11-13, 12-10, 7-11, 11-5 (77 m)
SCHEDULE OF PLAY
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
5:30 PM NYAC  Grégoire Marche (FRA) v.  Lucas Serme (FRA)
6:30 PM NYAC  Adrian Waller (ENG) v. L] Ramit Tandon (IND)
6:00 PM Yale Club  Greg Lobban (SCO) v.  Tom Richards (ENG)
6:45 PM Yale Club  Alan Clyne (SCO) v.  Joel Makin (WAL)
6:15 PM Harvard Club  Max Lee (HKG) v.  Campbell Grayson (NZL)
7:00 PM Harvard Club  Declan James (ENG) v.  Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT)
6:00 PM Princeton Club  Raphael Kandra (GER) v.  Tsz Fung Yip (HKG)
6:45PM Princeton Club  Mazen Hesham (EGY) v.  Chris Simpson (ENG)
Pictures by MIKE PEPPER PHOTOGRAPHY courtesy of ToC and from Squash Mad archives