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Farag flourishes to earn Tournament of Champions breakthrough

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Farag leads the charge as four Egyptians book first-round spots

By MICHAEL CATLING & SATYA SESHADRI – Reporting from The Harvard Club Of New York City

Unranked Ali Farag was left speechless after upsetting Mexican number one Cesar Salazar to qualify for the main draw of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York for the first time in his career.

Farag, who beat Ryan Cuskelly in four games in the first qualifying round, barely looked phased by the enormity of the occasion as he overcame the world number 43 11-9, 11-4, 12-10.

Farag’s victory also heralded the first of four successes for Egypt, with Omar Abdel Meguid, Omar Abdel Aziz and Mohd Ali Anwar Reda all advancing.

A delighted Farag said: “I cannot even describe this feeling. I have dreamed of playing on the ToC glass court for ages. Because it is the only PSA Tour event all year that I play, I can become almost too desperate to win.”

But unlike last year where Farag squandered several match balls, he was the epitome of calmness as he edged a third game tie-break to book a first round encounter with world number 26 Chris Simpson.

But while Farag spent just 41 minutes on court, the seven other qualifiers endured lengthier battles to secure their passages through to the main draw.

Top seed in the qualifying draw, Nicolas Mueller, was taken the distance by unseeded Leo Au, before eventually prevailing 11-13, 11-9, 11-3, 3-11, 11-8 at the Princeton Club.

Despite losing an opening game tie-break, the world number 27 seemed to regain control of the proceedings as he edged a tight second game and then dominated the third to lead 2-1.

Against expectations, though, the Hong Kong number two clawed his way back to level the arrears but was unable to repeat the feat in the decider as Mueller eked out victory in 79 minutes.

The Swiss number one faces a daunting encounter against former world number one James Willstrop next, who was a semi-finalist at the $115,000 event last year.

Elsewhere, world number 24 Marwan Elshorbagy’s bid to join his brother Mohamed in the main draw ended in heartache after losing 3-2 to compatriot Aziz.

Aziz, who will meet two-time champion Amr Shabana in the last 32, capitalised on a shaky start by his younger counterpart to record successive 11-9 scorelines and move within one game of victory.

However, with the after-effects of Aziz’s tough five game victory over Eddie Charlton last night appearing to take its toil. Elshorbagy stormed back to force a decider.

But with the momentum seeming to favour Elshorbagy, Aziz returned rejuvenated and reeled off winner-after-winner to record a scarcely believable 11-1 victory in the final game.

World number 30 Meguid joined his compatriot in the first round after overcoming a first game wobble to defeat local favorite Chris Gordon 7-11 13-11, 12-10, 11-6.

His feat was later repeated by Reda, who became the fourth and final Egyptian to progress to the main draw after stunning world number 32 Max Lee in four games.

Although Lee won the first game 11-6, Reda clawed his way back to take the next three 11-4, 11-5, 11-7 and secure a place on the all glass court.

Reda, who will face Laurens Jan Anjema of the Netherlands on Friday afternoon, said: “This is the fifth time I have played Max and today I really wanted to win.

“All our matches in the past have been 3-1, and today that is exactly what happened. I am hoping I can get a rest day tomorrow as I could really use it.”

Meanwhile, Malaysian Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan booked a first-round meeting with big-hitting Australian Cameron Pilley, after despatching Scot Alan Clyne in four games.

The world number 35, who resides in England, raced into a 2-0 lead and despite losing the third game, a volley kill nick at 10-9 in the fourth wrapped up victory in 80 gruelling minutes.

Elsewhere, Adrian Waller will play Daryl Selby in an all-English clash on Saturday by virtue of his victory over New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson, who retired in the fourth game due to injury.

Frenchman Gregoire Marche secured the final spot in the main draw after recording a 13-11 tie-break win in the fourth and deciding game against Charles Sharpes. Marche will now need to beat compatriot Mathieu Castagnet to make the last 16 for the second successive year. 

Qualifying Finals Results:

Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-2 Leo Au (HKG) 11-13, 11-9, 11-3, 3-11, 11-8 (79m)
Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) 3-1 Alan Clyne (SCO) 11-4, 11-8, 5-11, 11-9 (80m)
Ali Farag (EGY) 3-0 Cesar Salazar (MEX) 11-9, 11-4, 12-10 (41m)
Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 3-1 Christopher Gordon (USA) 7-11, 13-11, 12-10, 11-6 (75m)
Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY) 3-2 Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) 11-9, 11-9, 7-11, 6-11, 11-1 (69m)
Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) 3-1 Max Lee (HKG) 6-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-7 (76m)
Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-1 Campbell Grayson (NZL) 13-11, 8-11, 11-7, 7-5 ret. (86m)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) 3-1 Charles Sharpes (ENG) 11-4, 11-5, 6-11, 13-11 (64m)

ToC first round draw

Picture courtesy of the Tournament of Champions website

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