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Gregory Gaultier and Nick Matthew lead seeds home in ToC

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The glass court inside Grand Central
The glass court inside Grand Central

Home heroes railroaded out at Grand Central Terminal
By NATHAN CLARKE in New York

 

America’s home heroes fell on the battlefield as Egypt’s reigning champion Mohamed Elshorbagy led the top seeds through to victory on the second day of action on the glass court at the 2016 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York’s Grand Central Station.

Local favourites Todd Harrity and Ramit Tandon crashed out of the prestigious PSA World Series tournament as the competition’s top seeds stamped their authority on proceedings inside this iconic venue.

Tournament Wildcard Harrity, the highest ranked male American player on the PSA World Tour at No.52, produced one of his most notable performances to-date on the sport’s grandest stage but, despite taking a game and frequently dominating proceedings during a back-and-forth encounter, couldn’t find enough in his locker to overcome 21-year-old Egyptian talent Fares Dessouki.

Competing at the tournament, which exposes the sport to record crowds during the week-long extravaganza in Vanderbilt Hall, for the first time in his career Dessouki at times cut a distracted figure on court as he struggled to find any consistent rhythm but the World No.21 eventually managed to secure passage to the second round 11-6, 8-11, 11-6, 11-8.

“It’s my first time here at this tournament and I enjoyed being out on the court here today,” said Dessouki. “The crowd is amazing and it was good to hear them being loud and vocal today.

“I think that he probably played better than me today but I am happy to win and I need to work hard now and try and come back better for the next match.”

Speaking after the match Harrity said: “It’s always special and exciting to play here and it was great to have so many friends and supporters behind me. It’s always a bit edgy when playing on a stage like this and while the loss is disappointing there’s lots of positives to take.”

Indian World No.255 Tandon, the former Columbia University student and current New York native, defeated Harvard graduate Ali Farag, the World No.22, in qualification to book an unexpected place in the main draw against World Champion Gregory Gaultier and acquitted himself with pride in front of vocal support during a 32-minute encounter.

While never truly troubling Gaultier, the 23-year-old, who as a part-time athlete was playing in just his 40th career match, managed to notch up a series of points courtesy of some intelligent play in a performance that will serve to bolster his credentials to one day join the tour on a full time basis while for Gaultier it was back to business as usual as he bids to begin 2016 by winning one of the sport’s most iconic titles.

“I have never played, or even seen him play before, so I had to go on YouTube to see see footage of him playing in order to prepare for the match,” said Gaultier.

“I saw he was talented and I spoke to some of the guys on tour who told me the same thing so I prepared myself to make sure I was careful on court and put the ball away when I was given any opportunity.

“I had a good break over Christmas and New Year to recharge. I was tired towards the end of last year having played so many matches during the second half of the year but I feel star and fresh here so I’m looking forward to the next round an playing in front of such a great crowd in this amazing venue.”

Nick Matthew in action against Diego Elias
Nick Matthew in action against Diego Elias

World No.3 Nick Matthew, Gaultier’s seeded semi-final opponent, began his campaign by navigating a tricky encounter with Peruvian teenager Diego Elias, the current World Junior Champion, who showed just why he is billed as a future World No.1 as he stuck with the ever-physical Matthew throughout the duration of their 65-minute battle, playing with patience and composure to trouble the 35-year-old on numerous occasions.

It was Matthew’s unrelenting physical style and his ability to retrieve and extend rallies that made the difference in the end as the exertions took their toll on the youngster during the latter stages of the match as the experienced ‘Wolf’ pulled away to secure his place in the second round 11-5, 8-11, 11-3, 11-8.

“I’ve seen him play and I’ve trained with him before but he surprised me tonight with how well and how long he managed to stick with the pace and hang in the match,” said Matthew.

“He showed a very mature all-round game and the quality of his play on the back foot was impressive. In the next round I need to make sure that I step on the gas when I’m ahead in games and not allow the opponent a chance to get back into it.

“All credit to him for how he fought back, especially in the second, but certainly a few things for me to work on ahead of the second round.” 

Results: J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions – Men’s First Round (Bottom Half)

[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [Q] Ramit Tandon (IND) 3-0: 11-4, 11-6, 11-3 (32m)
Fares Dessouki (EGY) bt [WC] Todd Harrity (USA) 3-1: 11-6, 8-11, 11-6, 11-8 (52m)
James Willstrop (ENG) bt Alister Walker (BOT) 11-7, 3-0 retired (12m)
[6] Simon Rösner (GER) bt Tom Richards (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-7, 11-1 (40m)
[8] Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Cesar Salazar (MEX) 3-0: 11-5, 11-1, 11-3 (30m)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt [Q] Nasir Iqbal (PAK) 3-1: 11-6, 9-11, 11-7, 11-7 (69m)
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Daryl Selby (ENG) 3-2: 11-7, 9-11, 11-4, 3-11, 11-8 (75m)
[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [Q] Diego Elias (PER) 3-1: 11-5, 8-11, 11-3, 11-8 (65m)

Draw: J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions – Men’s Second Round
[1] Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v Cameron Pilley (AUS)
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v [5] Omar Mosaad (EGY)
[7] Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v Max Lee (HKG)
Leo Au (HKG) v Borja Golan (ESP)
[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Fares Dessouki (EGY)
James Willstrop (ENG) v [6] Simon Rösner (GER)
[8] Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) v Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v [2] Nick Matthew (ENG)

The 2016 Men’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, PSA World Series tournament, takes place in New York’s iconic Grand Central Terminal from Jan 7 – 14, with the 2016 Women’s tournament taking place from Jan 9 – 14.

Ticket prices range from $8 for early round matches, going up to $170 for the sought-after Men’s and Women’s Finals on the evening of Thursday, January 14th. Tickets are available online at ToCSquash.com or by calling (718) 569-0594.

Watch the action from the 2016 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions on SQUASHTV from January 9-14. It’s the first tournament shown in Europe on Eurosport Player. Click here to find out more. 

Pictures courtesy of PSA 

 

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