Harvard heroics as home-town hero Chris Gordon falls to French rival
From BETH RASIN in New York
A mix of veterans and new faces advanced in first round qualifying matches for the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, the world’s largest spectator squash event.
On his very first visit to New York City, Lucas Serme enjoyed a day of sightseeing before earning a hard fought four-game victory over American Chris Gordon.
With the partisan crowd at the Harvard Club cheering him on, Gordon snagged the first game 11-7. The second game was nip and tuck the whole way, as both players pushed each other to the four corners of the court. After Gordon couldn’t convert two game balls at 12-11 and 13-12, Serme closed out the game at 15-13.
“I think the difference in the end was fitness,” said the 22-year-old Frenchman, who closed out the match 11-6, 11-1. Serme’s next opponent will be Scotsman Alan Clyne, who eliminated Faraz Khan in straight games.
In a 90-minute epic encounter, Peru’s 18-year-old Diego Elias, the 2014 World Junior Champion, fought back three match balls in the fourth game to defeat 22-year-old Greg Lobban of Scotland.
Elias’ next opponent will another ToC newcomer, 20-year-old Mazen Hesham of Egypt, who attacked his way to victory as he defeated Malaysia’s Muhd Asyraf Azan in straight games, in just 24 minutes.
Playing error-free squash, punctuated by deceptive holds, Hesham prevented his opponent from scoring a single point in the second game, and kept Azan constantly guessing as to where the ball might end up.
Veteran Ong Beng Hee of Malaysia, who won the 1998 World Junior title, played what he called “jetlagged squash” to defeat American Chris Hanson in four games.
He will next take on Mohamed Reda, who dropped the first game 14-16 to Shawn Delierre of Canada before winning the next three games in a 74-minute-contest. “The difference in the end was my shooting,” said Reda, who recently moved to Philadelphia from Egypt with his wife Engy and three-month-old son.
Tom Richards and Joe Lee both advanced against fellow Englishmen. Richards beat Eddie Charlton and is next slated to play ToC first-timer Mahesh Mangaonkar of India, while Lee takes on New Zealand’s Martin Knight after beating Surrey neighbour Charles Sharpes.
Cesar Salazar of Mexico meets Aussie Zac Alexander, Egyptian Mohd Abouelghar plays Aussie Ryan Cuskelly, and Alfredo Avila of Mexico goes up against Grayson Campbell of Australia.
It was a tough night for North America as every USA and Canadian player fell at the first hurdle, but central and southern America is still well represented in the shape of Mexico and Peru.
Results title (i.e. First Round):
Ong Beng Hee (MAS) bt Chris Hanson (USA) 3-0: 11-8, 11-6, 10-12 [53 mins]
Mohamed Reda (EGY) bt Shawn Delierre (CAN) 3-1: 14-16, 11-6, 11-8, 11-9 [74 mins]
Lucas Serme (FRA) bt Chris Gordon (USA) 3-1: 7-11, 15-13, 11-6, 11-1 [69 mins]
Alan Clyne (SCO) bt Faraz Khan (USA) 3-0: 11-9, 11-8, 11-6 [29 mins]
Zac Alexander (AUS) bt Leo Au (HKG) 3-2: 9-11, 5-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-5 [74 mins]
Cesar Salazar (MEX) bt Ahmed Kalek (EGY ) 3-1: 7-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-6 [48 mins]
Martin Knight (NZL) bt Mike Lewis (USA) 3-0: 11-4, 11-7, 11-4 [31 mins]
Joe Lee (ENG) bt Charles Sharpes (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-3, 11-8 [40 mins]
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) bt Bradley Ball (ENG) w/o
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Shahier Razik (CAN) 3-1: 11-8, 9-11, 11-4, 11-9 [64 mins]
Campbell Grayson (NZL) bt Raphael Kandra (GER) 3-2: 11-9, 11-5, 8-11, 11-7 [55 mins]
Alfredo Avila (MEX) bt Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) 11-2, ret. 3 min
Tom Richards (ENG) bt Eddie Charlton (ENG) 3-1: 9-11, 11-8, 11-5 11-3 [54 mins]
Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND) bt Samuel Kang (SGP) 3-0: 11-2, 11-9, 11-6 [23 mins]
Diego Elias (PER) bt Greg Lobban (SCO) 3-2: 10-12, 11-8, 3-11, 13-11, 11-2 [90 mins]
Mazen Hesham (EGY) bt Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS) 3-0: 11-4,11-0, 11-8 [24 mins]
Pictures by BETH RASIN