After win over Marwan, Declan James meets top seed Mohamed
By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor) and SEAN REUTHE (PSA)
Ryan Cuskelly stepped up the pace to overpower James Willstrop in the opening match of the second round of the Citigold Wealth Management Canary Wharf Squash Classic. But it was Declan James who raised the roof with a phenomenal victory over Marwan ElShorbagy in the final match of the night.
Willstrop is a hugely popular figure, having played in 15 of the 16 editions of this tournament, winning the title four times. And a full-house crowd cheered him all the way through the first game as he appeared to be taking control of the match.
However, Cuskelly received some words of wisdom from coach Robert Owen between games and revved up the pressure as soon as he returned to the court.
A sustained period of high-paced, intense squash saw Willstrop moved out of his comfort one. A flurry of mistakes flowed from his racket as Cuskelly took the game 11-5 to eve things up.
The Australian left-hander stuck to the script in the third game and Willstrop continued to struggle to stay in touch.
Owen said: “I told Ryan after the first game to step up the court and volley everything as early as possible. When you allow James to play at his own pace he will chop you to pieces but suddenly he was being forced to twist and turn.
“Playing the best of three it allows you to play at that high pace for two whole games. It’s not like you could be on there for another hour and a half.
“James was still trying to work his way back into the match but Ryan stuck to his task and kept the pace up right to the end.”
Cuskelly said: “The first game, you know, if you play at James’s pace, he is just going to pick you off all day, so I was in that slow to medium pace and he was just too comfortable.
“Rob Owen told me to step it up a bit and be a bit more aggressive and hit in front of the ’T’. That’s what I did, and it was tiring.
“I tried to just not let him settle. When James sets on the ball, he is probably the best in the world. He can put the ball away, especially on the backhand. I have watched him so much that I think like I know where he is going to hit it, sometimes.
“[At those times] I just try to charge up behind him and whack the hell out of it. It is always good playing James. I love watching him play, so it was good to play well again.
“I have seen those [WIllstrop’s fakes] before as well. He has done it against [Karim Abdel] Gawad a few times, and a few other guys. He is good at that, but I was lucky to read it today.”
Tarek Momen had to come from a game behind to overhaul Germany’s Raphael Kandra in the second round of the Citigold Wealth Management Canary Wharf Classic.
The World No.3 lost the first game on a tie-break, after holding a healthy lead. However, he was able to battle back to book his place in the quarter finals.
After battling back from a game behind, the Egyptian now has a day’s rest ahead of his quarter final match, in which he will face Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly.
“It is warm, but at the same time, the ball dies pretty well at the front. I thought I started the match quite well, but them somehow, along the way, I lost my tactics,” Momen admitted.
“He just upped the pace and started hitting some beautiful drop shots at the front. It was a great comeback from him to win that game after being 8-4 down.
“It put me under a lot of pressure, because when you are 1-0 down in a best of three format, it is not the best feeling. I am very happy with the way I turned it around in the second and the third.
“I got my tactics right again, and I had Mazen [Hesham] and Fares [Dessouky] with me, in the corner. They just had to remind me of what I should be doing. It worked pretty well and I am very happy with the way I played towards the end.”
Top seed Mohamed ElShorbagy survived a furious onslaught from fired-up Spanish veteran Borja Golan to reach the quarter-finals.
ElShorbagy squeezed home 11-7, 9-11, 11-8 in 48 minutes of dramatic squash.
The best-of-three format encourages players to compete at a ferocious pace and these two mixed powerful drives with some superb touch at the front of the court.
Even ElShorbagy applauded when Golan rushed into the front right corner and somewhow got his body in a position to play an astonishing boast.
Frequently, however, Golan clipped the top of the tin and let out bloodcurling cries that echoed round the vast glass ceiling of the East Wintergarden amphitheatre.
However, he rallied strongly to win the second game, aided by a couple of slams into the tin by ElShorbagy.
The third game was fairly even all the way through and both players kept the video referee busy until the Egyptian finished strongly to close out the match.
“Borja is such an experienced player on tour. We have had so many great battles before, and today I knew it was going to be another battle again,” ElShorbagy said.
“When I had that lead in the second game, I thought I had him a bit. It is always a mistake when you do that against an experienced player like him.
“Obviously, he took advantage of that and the third, I was so lucky. He gave me a few mistakes which were at times when he was attacking in the rally. I have to thank my lucky stars for winning today.
“Every season is always more difficult than the season before. You get to be studied, the longer you stay there, and every season is a different challenge, every day is a different challenge.
“I like to challenge myself, and right now, I am in a completely different challenge in my career. I expect myself to be up for it. I have to adapt, that is my job, and that is what I will have to do on a daily basis, and I cannot wait to see what happens for the rest of this event.”
England’s World No.20 Declan James claimed arguably the biggest win of his career as he upset Egypt’s World No.10 Marwan ElShorbagy at London’s East Wintergarden earlier today to reach the quarter-finals of the Citigold Wealth Management Canary Wharf Classic.
Nottingham-based James had never been able to get the better of a player inside the world’s top 10 before and was appearing in the second round of the prestigious PSA World Tour Gold tournament for the first time.
But, in front of a packed and vociferous house at the East Wintergarden, the 25-year-old played some of his best squash to come back from a game down against last year’s semi-finalist ElShorbagy. James edged it 7-11, 11-5, 11-9 in 45 minutes and celebrated with gusto after a pinpoint volley drop saw him convert the second of his match balls.
“I think, for me, it was more mental over anything else,” said James. “I have been saying for quite a few months now that I wanted to get that win over a top 10 guy. I have made no secret about the fact that has been one of my main goals. I feel like this season, I have started to play at a level that is capable of contending with these guys, but I haven’t got over the line, so this means so much to me, it really does.
“It is just so exciting. I just remind myself every day of how fortunate I am to play squash for a living because it is not always fun when you’re training hard and you’re feeling tired. I am just reminding every day to enjoy myself as much as I can because when I enjoy it, I play well, and vice versa, so I am literally just trying to enjoy every day on the court at the moment.”
Defending champion Mohamed ElShorbagy – Marwan’s older brother – will play James in the next round after he kept his title defence alive with a testing 2-1 triumph against Spanish veteran Borja Golan.
Citigold Wealth Management Canary Wharf Squash Classic, East Wintergarden, Canary Wharf, London, England..
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com, courtesy of PSA), PATRICK LAUSON, ARTYOM LISS