Ryan rocks Gawad to win his biggest title in Halifax
By NATHAN CLARKE and FARLEY MacLEOD
Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly captured his biggest ever PSA World Tour title after scalping top seed Karim Abdel Gawad in three tough games, winning 16-14, 11-8, 11-6 in the final of the Welaptega Bluenose Classic, PSA M35 tournament.
The Australian No.2 has targeted a place in the world’s top 16 by the end of the season as he gears up for qualification at the upcoming Qatar Classic, the second PSA World Series tournament of the season.
The World No.22 is in the midst of some of his best ever form after he lifted the Bluenose Classic title, which was his first ever PSA M35 crown.
Cuskelly downed a trio of seeds en-route to the title and stunned Egyptian duo Marwan Elshorbagy and Karim Abdel Gawad in the semi-final and final, respectively. The New York-based 28-year-old is clearly delighted with his recent progress on the PSA World Tour.
“My aim was to be in the main draws of the big tournaments by the end of the year which I have accomplished, now I want to be in the top 16 by the time the season ends,” said Cuskelly.
“Beating the World No.10 [Elshorbagy] and the World No.12 [Gawad] is a massive confidence boost as they have both beaten me the last few times we have played so to get my revenge in the same tournament is extra special.”
The number four seed reached the final without dropping a single game and achieved his place in the showpiece event after easing past World No.10 Marwan Elshorbagy, who was struggling with illness, in the semi-final. Gawad had also been in near flawless form in the build up to the final, seeing off Shawn Delierre, Alfredo Avila and surprise package Andrew Schnell en-route.
World No.22 Cuskelly started brilliantly and soared into an early lead after putting his Egyptian opponent under pressure at the front of the court. Gawad came into the match more as it went on but it was Cuskelly who stayed patient and picked his openings well to edge the opening game by a 16-14 margin of victory.
Cuskelly built up another lead in the opening stages of a second game which excited the gathered spectators Homburg Centre, Canada with a superb flurry of attacking volleys bringing the crowd to their feet time and time again. A tin from Gawad handed Cuskelly the game as the Australian No.1 doubled his advantage.
It was Cuskelly again who started the quicker of the two in game three as he romped to an unassailable lead. Gawad battled back in a bid to try and save the match but Cuskelly stood firm to complete a 16-14, 11-8, 11-6 victory which yielded the 14th PSA World Tour title of his career.
“In the first game it was really high quality and I did a lot of work,” said Cuskelly.
“I think I was probably pushing the pace too much and I was a bit too keen to get on there and win. When you do that you are just putting it on Gawad’s racket and, if you do that, he puts in the winners so I tried to slow it down and be aggressive when I got the loose balls.”
Cuskelly, a 14-time PSA World Tour title winner, currently sits at a career-high ranking of World No.22 and he puts his improvement down to a different approach to training.
“I haven’t changed too much, just the intensity of my training has gone up,” Cuskelly said.
“I believe I can beat top 20 players now, which is huge. My coach, Rodney Martin, has been a huge influence on getting me to the level I’m playing at now. I wouldn’t be there without him.”
Cuskelly is set to appear at the Qatar Classic later this week and goes head-to-head with England’s Ben Coleman in the first round of qualifying as he kick-starts his bid to reach the main draw.
Welaptega Bluenose Squash Classic 2015:
Result – Final:
 Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-0: 16-14, 11-8, 11-6 (66m)
Match Analysis by Farley MacLeod
A pre-match survey of the crowd suggested that they were in agreement with the world rankings, that Gawad was the favorite today. However, it was also noted that Cuskelly has had some excellent wins lately, and has been steadily improving of late. Over the last couple of days, Cuskelly has shown us his impressive skills with wins over LJ Anjema and Marwan Elshorbagy.
To start, Cuskelly was able to achieve a 5-2 lead. He impressed with straight shots from the front, putting Gawad under pressure, and the Egyptian demonstrated the style of play his country is known for, precise and aggressive drop shots. Gawad evened the score at 6-6, before Cuskelly once again gained the advantage, going up 8-6. Through the later part of the game, Gawad continued shooting for the nicks, with mixed results.
The rallies got longer as the game went on. Cuskelly showed more patience, but Gawad continued to apply pressure. Extra points were needed to decide this one, after the score was tied 10-10. It took some time before either player was able to score the required two points in a row to win the game.
It became apparent at this point that squash fans in Halifax were not going home disappointed or wishing for more today. Cuskelly gained a new nickname – “The Archer” for his arrow-straight shots, which often got him out of trouble and put Gawad under pressure. The Australian ended the game 16-14 after 25 minutes with a kill shot the Egyptian couldn’t reach.
To start the second game, The Archer maintained his momentum from the previous game, working the Egyptian around the court, making him work significantly harder in the first half of the game. The second half of the game was very tight, but Cuskelly never surrendered the lead he built. The game ended with an amazing flurry of shots, with both players successfully diving for shots, trading lightning-fast volleys, until Gawad hit the tin, giving the victory to Cuskelly 11-8. This was another lengthy game at 22 minutes.
Each of the first four points of the third game was decided by the referees, two ‘strokes’ and two ‘no lets’, all against the Egyptian, to give The Archer a 4-0 lead. Lead referee Graham Waters instructed Gawad “you need to make more effort to clear”. This seemed to be a pattern that persisted through the game.
Cuskelly shot out to a 9-2 lead, before Gawad was able to string a few points together. It wasn’t enough, as Cuskelly scored with a perfect drop to go to match ball, and earned a stroke from the referees to seal the deal. Unfortunately, the referees’ decisions played a prominent role in the third game, as they decided nine of Cuskelly’s 11 points.
In post game interview Gawad acknowledged “I didn’t play my best today, and Ryan played really, really well, and I was under pressure the whole match”.
Cuskelly noted, “In the first it was really high quality and I did a lot of work. I think I was probably pushing the pace too much, a bit too keen to get on there and win, but you are just giving it on Gawad’s racquet, and if you do that, he puts in the winners. So I tried to slow it down and be aggressive when I got the loose balls.
Halifax’s squash fans got their wish today, a match filled with intensity, shot making, precise shots, and drama. It was no small feat for the Australian to conquer two higher-ranked Egyptian players on his way to the title of 2015 Welaptega Bluenose Squash Classic Champion. Cuskelly demonstrated that his squash game is on the rise, and we have yet to see him reach the peak of his career.
Pictures by Camilla Holmvall