From BETH RASIN in New York
Alister Walker upset Wael El Hindi and Hisham Ashour overcame Cameron Pilley to provide two surprise results as a capacity crowd enjoyed a day of high-quality drama at Grand Central Terminal.
Normally it’s the flamboyant El Hindi who likes to make a fashion statement with his often outrageous squash clothing. But on this occasion he was a definite fashion victim as Walker, sporting a lime green kit, upset the seedings.
It was a day of contrasting fortunes for the five English and six Egyptian players competing in the second day of first round play in the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions. But it was nothing but good fortune for the fans who once again filled this superb venue to capacity and were treated to a day and evening of an array of squash styles, athleticism and personalities.
Four of the five players from “over the pond” won their matches to advance to the second round of the celebrated PSA squash championship while only two of the five Egyptian players on court will continue on. But it was an Egyptian player, Hisham Ashour, who punctuated the day’s play with a dramatic come from behind victory over Australia’s Cameron Pilley.
“The success of the English players is a testament, in part, to their strong physical training regimen,” observed noted coach David Pearson as he watched several of his players win their matches. No one epitomizes strength on the squash court more than current world number one and world champion Nick Matthew. The 30-year-old from Leeds was all business as he dispatched Eyptian Omar Mosaad in three games 11-5,11-9,11-7.
“The court here at Grand Central is different from what we have been playing on in the last few months,” said the tournament’s top seed.”I was just working on finding length and getting used to the movement on the court.”
Daryl Selby started off the day’s play with a three-game victory over Australian qualifier Ryan Cuskelly. The 4-11, 11-1,11-2,11-4 match scores belied the competitiveness of the match which lasted 63 minutes.
“Even though I lost the first game, I was moving well. I played with more conviction in the second,” said Selby. “He’s a gutsy, dangerous player and I didn’t want to give him any chances. When reminded of the lopsided scores in the second and third games, Selby smiled and said, “The rallies were long, but I won them all.”
Like his countrymen, Peter Barker did the simple things well – hitting accurately and to length, and capitalizing on loose balls. The end result was a “I was bit apprehensive at the start, but I feel better now that I have won,” he said after the match.
In the match that drew some of the biggest crowd reactions as the players demonstrated phenomenal athleticism in diving and scraping for certain balls, Alister Walker, world ranked No.20, upended Wael El Hindi, ranked seven places higher, 7-11,11-7,11-6,11-6.
Exuding energy in a bright lime green and shirt and bandana, Walker was thrilled to start his 2011 season with a win. “Last year was a bit disappointing for me so today’s win is a great start to this new year.”
Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller denied the English contingent a clean sweep of victories when he eliminated Adrian Grant 11-7,11-5,7-11,11-8. In the only match of the day that did not involve an Englishman or an Egyptian, Lauren Jans Anjema of the Neherlands defeated Miguel Angel Rodriguez of Colombia, 11-5,11-8,11-6.
“Last year was one of my best years,” said Anjema, referring to the fact that he cracked the top ten for the first time in his career. “But I went out on the court without any expectations and felt very relaxed today.”
Hisham Ashour was anything but relaxed in the evening’s last match against Australian Pilley. “I have been playing so well for the past two or three months; sometimes I would feel I was floating on court,” said the Egyptian.”But tonight I was so stressed.”
With Pilley enjoying a 2-1 lead in games, Ashour survived four match balls after Pilley went up 10-6 in the fourth. Both the fans in the stands and the spectators who watched the match on the closed circuit TV feed were on the edge of their seats and cheering as Ashour used a variety of shots to keep himself alive in the match.
“All I kept thinking then was that I know I am strong. I cannot lose here at the Tournament of Champions in the first round,” he said. After winning the fourth 14-12, Ashour was clearly not going to be denied. Jumping out to a 10-4 lead in the fifth, Ashour kept up the pace and the shotmaking to frustrate his opponent.
Although Amr Shabana defeated his Egyptian colleague Mohammed Abbas, 7-11,11-8,11-9,11-7, he did not sound like a happy winner after the match. Shabana admitted: “I wasn’t comfortable today. I didn’t feel sharp and I feel lucky to win.”
The players earned a total of $2,900 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 will earn $100 for his charity for every game he wins and an additional
$50 for every game won in a tiebreaker. With a total of 31 matches to be played, the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions competitors will earn a minimum of $9,300, up to a maximum of $15,500, to be donated J.P. Morgan.
J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Grand Central Terminal, New York.
First round results – Saturday, January 22, 2011:
Daryl Selby (ENG) def Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 4-11,11-1,11-2,11-4 63 mins
 Amr Shabana (EGY) def Mohammed Abbas (EGY) 7-11,11-8,11-9,11-7 44 mins
 Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) def. Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 11-5,11-8,11-6 42 mins
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) def. Adrian Grant (ENG) 11-7,11-5,7-11,11-8 61 mins
 Nick Matthew (ENG) def. Omar Mosaad (EGY) 11-5,11-9,11-7 50 mins
 Peter Barker (ENG) def. Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) 11-5,11-5,11-4 42 mins
Alister Walker (ENG) def. Wael El Hindi (EGY) 7-11,11-7,11-6,11-6 72 mins
Hisham Ashour (EGY) def. Cameron Pilley (AUS) 8-11,11-7,8-11,14-12,11-6 70 mins.
Schedule of play – Sunday January 23 at Grand Central Terminal, New York
 David Palmer (AUS) v Tom Richards (ENG) Noon
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Stewart Boswell (AUS) 1:00PM
 Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) v. Shahier Razik (CAN) 2:00PM
 Amr Shabana (EGY) v Daryl Selby (ENG) 3:00PM
 James Willstrop (ENG) v Borja Golan (ESP) 4:00PM
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Alister Walker (ENG) 6:30PM
 Peter Barker (ENG) v. Hisham Ashour (EGY) 7:30PM
 Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) v Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 8:30PM