Cam Pilley on the right track as he beats Tarek Momen
By NATHAN CLARKE in New York
On the opening day of action at the 2016 Men’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions staged in the iconic setting of New York’s Grand Central Terminal it was Spaniard Borja Golan who stole the headlines as he knocked adopted crowd-favourite Miguel Angel Rodriguez out of the prestigious PSA World Series tournament at the first hurdle.
World No.5 Rodriguez, returning to the scene of his 2015 heroics when in a career-defining week he downed current World Champion Gregory Gaultier en-route to a maiden World Series semi-final appearance, was odds-on favourite to come through against the 33-year-old but found himself on the receiving end of a performance of clinical precision from Golan – which will serve to bolster his hopes of reclaiming a place within the world top ten.
It took the World No.19, who ranked as high as No.5 just 18 months ago, 35 minutes to complete the straight-games win against an under-par Rodriguez who, after a particularly ferocious rally in the heart of the second game, looked to be struggling with inhibited movement and cut a dejected figure as he left the court in front of a subdued capacity crowd who had taken the ‘Colombian Cannoball’ to their hearts 12 months ago.
“I’m really happy to win today,” said Golan. “This is one of the biggest tournaments on the circuit and the first event of 2016, so to start by beating a player of Miguel’s ability is a good confidence boost for me.
“I struggled with my consistency last year and I had a few matches where I was close to winning, but just couldn’t see it out, and I lost some of my confidence. I worked hard throughout the Christmas break and changed some of my training with the aim of feeling good on court so to get off to such a good start in 2016 is great for me.
“I’m very pleased to be in the second round and I’m just going to focus on the next match and not look too far ahead. I’m going to enjoy being on court and try to put into practice the things that I have been working on and hopefully I will continue to play well.”
Golan will now take on Hong Kong’s Leo Au in the second round after he and compatriot Max Lee impressed during first round wins over Gregoire Marche and Farhan Zaman, respectively, while defending champion Mohamed Elshorbagy began his bid to retain the prestigious title with a comfortable straight-games victory over England’s Adrian Waller.
After winning December’s Hong Kong Open in emphatic fashion, Elshorbagy, who regained the World No.1 spot on January 1st, picked up from where he left off in the first tournament of 2016 as he controlled proceedings to get past the World No.33 in just 30 minutes.
“Adrian is a good player and we have had some very tough matches in the past so I knew I had to play well today and I’m happy I was able to do that,” said Elshorbagy.
“I started 2015 in great form here by winning this trophy so I’m hoping to start 2016 in the same fashion and look forward to playing in front of the fantastic crowd here in New York once again in two days time.”
In the opening match of the tournament, Australian Cameron Pilley, who lost out to Elshorbagy in Hong Kong in his first appearance in a PSA World Series tournament final, continued his recent resurgence with a comfortable straight-games victory over Egyptian Tarek Momen.
The tall, hard-hitting Aussie cited recent changes to his game, most notably the introduction of a new grip, as the keys to his impressive run in Hong Kong, in which he defeated World No.2 Gregory Gaultier and World No.3 Nick Matthew en route to the final, and the dividends continued to come as he nullified an under-the-weather Momen during an 11-4, 11-3, 11-3 encounter.
“I finished 2015 in some of the best form of my career and with three of the biggest wins I’ve ever had,” said the 33-year-old from Yamba.
“I’m not really sure exactly what is going on but I made some changes to my game and things just seem to be going well for me. I didn’t have a long break over Christmas and New Year.
“I tried to keep in shape and keep that form from the back end of the year and I’m delighted that I was able to play so well today and turn the tables on him, because he normally beats me 3-0 when we play.”
J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions – Men’s First Round (Top Half)
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) bt [Q] Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-8, 11-2 (30m)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-0: 11-4, 11-3, 11-3 (36m)
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) bt [Q] Raphael Kandra (GER) 3-1: 11-6, 8-11, 11-5, 11-1 (45m)
 Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt [Q] Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-0: 11-8, 11-6, 11-4 (52m)
 Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Stephen Coppinger (RSA) 3-1: 7-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-6 (59m)
Max Lee (HKG) bt [Q] Farhan Zaman (PAK) 3-1: 9-11, 11-6, 11-4, 11-9 (43m)
Leo Au (HKG) bt [Q] Gregoire Marche (FRA) 3-0: 11-6, 11-9, 11-7 (55m)
Borja Golan (ESP) bt  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 3-0: 11-6, 11-6, 11-5 (34m)
Men’s First Round (Bottom Half – Played Jan 8)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [Q] Ramit Tandon (IND)
Fares Dessouki (EGY) v [WC] Todd Harrity (USA)
James Willstrop (ENG) v Alister Walker (BOT)
Tom Richards (ENG) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
 Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) v Cesar Salazar (MEX)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) v [Q] Nasir Iqbal (PAK)
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
[Q] Diego Elias (PER) v  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.
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com) courtesy of PSA