Malhotra meets Willstrop in second round
By NEHA JAIN – Squash Mad Correspondent in Mumbai
India’s Mahesh Mangaonkar fought back from two games down to beat Baptiste Masotti of France in the first round of the CCI International in Mumbai.
His reward is a second round clash with No.2 seed Marwan ElShorbagy, who is returning to action after missing most of the season through injury.
MANGAONKAR / MASSOTI
The first two games stretched into the night, with Massoti denying Mangaonkar any way forward. It was only in the third game that Mangaonkar managed to really get into the match, taking it to make the set score 1-2. He fed off his win, and it was all Mangaonkar from there as he took a fast lead to 7-3 and took the fourth, giving his home crowd no reason to leave at all and keeping them transfixed.
The fifth game saw fiery squash from both players, with Massoti fighting to make up for losing the previous two games and Mangaonkar looking to complete his comeback. Moving into the second half of the game, they stood at 6 all. Still, no one was going anywhere… but in the end Mahesh pulled through, going from 0-2 down in games to winning in a tough 3-2 encounter. That sends three out of five Indians that played today through to the second round.
CREED / IBRAHIM
No stranger to the CCI courts, Welshman Peter Creed took the lead in the first game against Egypt’s Youssef Ibrahim, going up 5-3. He used a lot of variation in terms of both shots and pace to outplay Ibrahim. However, the Egyptian did well to stay withCreed, bringing the score level to 8 all. Sending Creed on the wrong foot a couple times helped, and Ibrahim managed to take the next few points, along with the first game.
With fellow player and friend Joshua Masters coaching him between games, it was an early start for Creed as he went up 0-3. He went on to take a 7-2 lead, keeping the ball slightly tighter than hi opponent. But some very good drop shots from Ibrahim saw him inch closer to Creed as he brought his score up to 7-8. But it was Ibrahim who Combined with Ibrahim’s inconsistency gave the former the game, making the set score level at 1-1. Ibrahim brought back the focus to be more consistent in the third game, and went
10-7 up. A stroke at 8-10 gave Ibrahim the game, unsettling Creed as he came off court for the two minute break. In the fourth and final game, it was Ibrahim who had the slight edge over Creed, which enabled him to take the match, 3-1.
PAJARES / LOPEZ
In the battle of the Spaniards, it was the higher seeded Iker Pajares who took the lead at 2-0 against Edmon Lopez. They began each game with both players going hand-in-hand, but as the each respective game went on, it was Pajares who play the more attacking game and force points off Lopez. Pajares won in straight games, which earns him a place in the second round tomorrow, where he is up against the world #18 and the higher seeded of the tournament’s Swiss contingent, Nicolas Müller.
TANDON / MASTERS
The first match featuring one of six Indians in the Main Draw promised to be a crackling encounter. Tandon began very well, putting Masters under pressure right from the start. His movement around the court coupled with an accurate attacking game saw crowd-favourite Tandon take the first game, 11-9. Masters came into the second game overall more in control, taking a 5-1 lead over Tandon.
Tandon did force some mistakes out of Masters, bringing his score up to 5-6, and a beautifully played straight forehand volley saw him draw level with Masters’ score. Frustration on Masters’ end seemed to give Tandon even more confidence as he went on to win a slew of shots and take the second game, the business end of which Tandon had full reign over.
Masters played some good shots to the front in the third game, seeing him get a two point cushion quickly, at 6-4. Tandon levelled the score, but a fearless forehand nick off the serve from Masters followed by a stroke in his favour saw Masters regain his two-point lead.
But nothing seemed to get in the way of Tandon’s demeanour; he remained calm yet attacking, seeing him once again overtake Masters and get to match ball. Masters just couldn’t lengthen the rallies as would have helped him to regain his momentum, and Tandon snatched the match, in straight sets.
EL HAMMAMY / JAGTAP
Initiating play on the glass court today was Mumbai native Aditya Jagtap. Up against the higher ranked Karim Elhammamy, Jagtap began as cool as a cucumber and fed off Elhammamy’s initial mistakes to take a lead. As the game went on, Jagtap only got more comfortable on court as he began varying his shots and getting the better of El Hammamy, taking the first game.
But the artistic Elhammamy took control of the second game, taking a 7-2 lead by calmly rallying with Jagtap before attacking accurately. Jagtap showed no signs of defeat and defended well, even playing some beautiful cross-drops that died gently in the nick, but Elhammay matched him in terms of shot quality and went up to 9-6. It was a well-fought comeback from Jagtap, which saw the game locked in at 10. Elhammamy fought well for a game that was crucial to him, but Jagtap’s fight that got him through to take the game, 12-10.
A crucial game through and through, with Jagtap looking to cause a major upset and Elhammay fighting to stay in the match, the third game began with both players locked in at 2-2. The rallies were now longer, with both players keeping the score in sync. A dying length and a stroke in his favour saw Elhammamy with the two-point cushion, but Jagtap leveled again. But Elhammamy defied Jagtap of the game, taking the set score to 1-2.
With compatriot Mohamed Reda in his corner coaching him between games, Karim Elhammamy seemed the calmer of the two as he walked on for the fourth game.
However, the tides changed slightly after a Jagtap had to go off court to have a
bleeding injury taken care of. Jagtap just stuck with his opponent till he finally went to 8-7 up. At 9-9, waves of excitement went through the crowd as they got behind their homeboy. At 10-10, it was pure tension. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t even type properly. But a bummer to the crowd it was as elation swept over a very tired El Hammamy as he took the final game in a nail-biting and very long encounter.
MALHOTRA / GAMAL
Gamal took the first game against, Vikram Malhotra, the second Indian to take to the court today. Gamal looked in form throughout the game and even into the second game, in which Malhotra did well to rally and keep the score level at 6 all. Just in time, he took his game to the next level and levelled the match at one set all.
The third game began with Malhotra the surge of adrenaline he found towards the end of the second game, and he took a 9-2 lead. He played high intensity squash and kept the pace up, pinning Gamal to the back before going in for the attack. An error from Gamal saw Vikram find himself at game ball. Gamal fought to stay in the match, taking a couple points before a dying boast from Malhotra won him the game, sending him 2-1 up.
Malhotra kept up, never letting his energy levels die. He went in at another lead,
going up to 8-1. Gamal fought back, however, almost levelling the score, but Malhotra took away the match, giving the crowd something to go berserk about. Malhotra is set to face former World Number One and reigning Commonwealth Games Champion, James Willstrop from England.
CCI International (JSW Indian Squash Circuit 2019), Mumbai Cricket Ground, India.
Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) beat Peter Creed (WAL) 11-8, 11-13, 11-8, 11-6 (47 mins)
Mohamed Reda (EGY) beat Dimitri Steinmann (SUI) 8-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-9 (55 mins)
Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) beat Edmon Lopez (ESP) 11-7, 11-3, 11-4 (43 mins)
Ramit Tandon (IND) beat Joshua Masters (ENG) 11-9, 11-6, 11-8 (36 mins)
Ben Coleman (ENG) beat Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu (IND) 6-1 retired.
Karim El Hammamy (EGY) beat [WC] Aditya Jagtap (IND) 8-11, 10-12, 11-7, 13-11, 11-7 (84 mins)
Vikram Malhotra (IND) beat Mazen Gamal (EGY) 9-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-7 (45 mins)
Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND) beat Baptiste Masotti (FRA) 9-11, 6-11, 11-3, 11-4, 11-8 (55 mins)
Pictures courtesy of NITESH SQUARE