Shabana and Matthew to Meet in Semi-finals of J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
From BETH RASIN in New York
Two-time champion Amr Shabana and twice runner-up Nick Matthew claimed their anticipated places in the semi-finals of the 2011 JP Morgan Tournament of Champions after prevailing in the quarter-finals of the PSA World Series event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.
With reigning champion James Willstrop meeting Ramy Ashour in the other semi-final, spectators and TV viewers watching live in the USA for the first time are guaranteed two highly explosive match-ups between English and Egyptian opponents.
Fourth-seeded Shabana gave his opponent Laurens Jan Anjema a lesson in the art of the sport as he moved his Dutch opponent to all four corners of the court and then some in his 11-7, 9-11,11-8,11-8 quarter-final victory at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in Grand Central Terminal.
“I played my heart out,” said Anjema after the match, “but tonight you could see why Amr’s been a four- time world champion. He can attack from the most difficult positions and when you are on the receiving end, it is brutal.”
In all but the second game, Shabana, a two-time Tournament of Champions titleholder, jumped out to an early lead, giving him a cushion of several points from which to play a controlled attacking game.
Routinely throughout the match Anjema was left guessing as to which way to turn to retrieve a Shabana shot; the Egyptian’s sterling and consistent stroke technique enabled him to hold his shot until the very last moment, forcing the Dutchman to scramble for balls.
Although Anjema snared the second game 11-9, it was the telegenic Egyptian’s night from start to finish. He even offered up some theatrical humor as as he fell to the court floor with an exaggerated flourish when midway through the match the strapping Dutchman’s racquet came perilously close to Shabana’s head. After the match, when asked if he was happy with the evening’s result, Shabana replied, “I am not sad.”
Sometime training partners and good friends Peter Barker and Nick Matthew contested the evening’s second match with current world No.1 Matthew in control from start to finish.
In each successive round of play at these championship, Matthew has continued to punctuate his top ranking status with strong, confident play that has left no doubt in his competitor’s minds as to his rightful position at the top of the sport.
“I thought I played OK tonight,” said Barker after the match won by Matthew 3-0, “but Nick showed why he’s World Champion.” Barker went on to explain that Matthew’s attention to detail, strong work ethic and additional weapons in his squash shotmaking arsenal have combined to make Matthew the top professional in the game.
While the lead exchanged hands a few times in the first game before Matthew finished it out 11-9, the next two games were all Matthew’s. In the second, Matthew jumped out to a 4-1 lead and allowed Barker to tally a mere four points. Barker enjoyed a momentary lead at 2-1 and 3-2 in the third, but once again the lad from Leeds took up his game a notch to win the third, 11-6.
After the match when a spectator commented that Matthew made the game look easy, the wry 30-year-old replied, “Oh no. I am the one who makes the game look hard. Shabana makes it look easy.”
The Matthew – Shabana showdown in the semi-finals will be preceded by the contest between Ashour and Willstrop. Both matches will be telecast live on espn3.com.
In the ToC Women’s Showcase exhibition match at the start of the evening, India’s Dipika Pallikal defeated American Amanda Sobhy 11-7, 8-11, 11-4, 11-6.
The evening’s play earned a total of $700 to be donated by J.P. Morgan to CitySquash in conjunction with the inaugural J.P. Morgan Charity Challenge – Scoring Points for Urban Youth Education for the benefit of tournament charities StreetSquash and CitySquash. For every game won in the championship, J.P. Morgan is donating up to $150 to the tournament charities.
The players in the top half of draw are playing for the benefit of StreetSquash; the other half is competing for CitySquash. Each player earns $100 for his charity for every game he wins and an additional $50 for every game won in a tiebreaker. The StreetSquash donation now totals $6,450; for CitySquash it is curre ntly $3,850.
J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Grand Central Terminal
Quarter-final results – Tuesday, January 25, 2011
 Amr Shabana (EGY) def.  Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) 11-7, 9-11,11-8,11-8 63 mins
 Nick Matthew (ENG) def.  Peter Barker (ENG) 11-9,11-4,11-6 52 mins
Dipika Pallikal (IND) def. Amanda Sobhy (USA) 11-7, 8-11,11-4, 11-6 31 mins
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Olivia Blatchford (USA) v Vanessa Akinson (NED) 6:00pm
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v.  James Willstrop (ENG) 7:00pm
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v .  Amr Shabana (EGY) 8:00pm
Official Website: www.tocsquash.com