Joe Lee (Eng) 3-0 Omar Abdel AzizEgypt11-2, 11-6, 11-4 (40 mins)
Joe Lee powered through to claim the first place in the main draw with a dominant performance against Omar Aziz.
Lee’s all-round quality was too much for his opponent. Lee looked comfortable in all areas of the court, combining solid length with some immaculate drop shots at the front.
A tall player, his movement has obviously improved enormously and his court coverage was generally smooth and fully athletic when he needed to stretch that extra yard.
He said: “It’s so important to win matches like these and get into the main draw. This is my first time here inRichmondand I’m hoping to do well and would love to play against one of the top guys.
“The court plays superbly and I felt good out there today. I was pleased with the result because Omar beat me the last time we played.”
Davenport North American Open, Westwood Club, Richmond, Virginia.
Ali Anwar Reda (Egypt) 3-2 Siddarth Suchde (India) 11-13, 12-14, 14-12, 13-11, 11-8 (101 mins)
Ali Anwar Reda fought back from two games down to overcome Siddarth Suchde in a marathon qualifier lasting 101 minutes.
The first four games were so close that they had to be settled on tiebreaks.
It was tense, dramatic stuff, but it wasn’t pretty. Despite both players producing some sublime winners at the front of the court, there were frequent stoppages around the left-hand service box caused by poor-length drives accompanied by accusations of blocking by both players.
At one stage, Reda yelled out “This is a blockfest.” He later revealed he was repeating a comment made earlier in the match by his opponent.
Suchde strung five points together in the opening game to move from 4-5 down to lead 9-5, but Reda dug in to draw level and then hold game ball at 11-10, only for Suchde to finish strongly to take it 13-11.
The second game was close all the way through, and again both players wasted a succession of game balls before Suchde won 14-12.
Reda led 5-2 and 8-5 in the third, but Suchde enjoyed a run of four points to lead 9-8. He held match ball at 11-10 but Reda fought back from the brink of defeat to win it 14-12.
Reda opened up a 6-4 lead in the fourth but could not sustain the momentum as Suchde gathered his composure to hold match ball at 10-9 and 11-10, but each time Reda responded before winning the 13-11 to take the match into a fifth game.
Suchde seemed to lose his focus. Despie winning the first two points, his body language betrayed his frustration as Reda roared ahead to 7-2.
Although Suchde saved two match balls from 10-6 down, the gap was too wide and Reda closed out the match 11-8.
The Egyptian said: “I was very pleased to win through to the first round of a major tournament after three months out having treatment to a calf injury and a knee problem.
“It was a difficult match on there and there were lots of stoppages, but this is a tough game and I hope we’re both friends again now.”
Suchde left the court complaining about the quality of the refereeing.
Chris Gordon (USA) beat Zac Alexander (Australia) 8-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-9, 12-10 (69 mins)
Chris Gordon backed up his phenomenal victory over Adrian Waller with a stunning comeback in the fifth game to beat Zac Alexander.
Trailing 7-2, Gordon looked like he was being blitzed off court by the Australian, but somehow managed to maintain his composure to launch an unlikely comeback.
As Gordon worked his way back into the match, Alexander lost his control. The last seven points won by Gordon told the story. Alexander hit the tin five times, Gordon simply crushed a straight backhand kill, and when match ball arrived Alexander lost the point (and a place in the first round) by conceding a penalty stroke.
When Gordon reached match-ball, Alexander requested an injury stoppage to treat a bleeding finger.
When he came back on court, he must have hoped to work his way back into the match, but a loose ball into the mid-court area could only result in one decision, and when the penalty stroke decision was called a triumphant Gordon punched the air in delight.
The New Yorker has earned his place in the first round of the Davenport North American Open the hard way. Following yesterday’s 80-minute tussle on the hot ACAC courts, Gordon’s follow-up victory took 69 minutes.
Many of the rallies had the crowd gasping, as both players hurled themselves around court to get the ball back, illustrating just how much it means to these guys to win a coveted place in the main draw of one of the world’s major tournaments.
For Gordon, competing on home soil, the chance to shine is a powerful aphrodisiac.
However, after the match he was still trying to work out how he rose to the occasion at the end of the fifth game.
He admitted: “At 6-1 down, I was conscious of only one thing, my feelings towards referee Mike Riley for having the ball cleaned between games.
“I was just stumbling around the court like a primate, trying to keep the ball in play as Zac showed how capable he is of destroying you.
“I still don’t know how I pulled it back but it’s a great feeling to reach the first round. I guess I managed to stay calm and kept chipping away. I was pleased that I held it together when Zac went off to have his cut finger looked at, because that could have been a tricky moment.”
Mathieu Castagnet (France) 3-1 Leo Au (Hong Kong) 11-5, 9-11, 11-6, 11-2 (51 mins)
Mathieu Castagnet marched into the first round after overwhelming little Leo Au fromHong Kong.
Au is a tenacious terrier of a squash player, chasing down every ball and responding with an improving array of shots, but the Frenchman was too powerful and consistent.
Castagnet drives well, hits the ball into the back corners and plays a basic game very effectively. After winning the opening game, he made a sluggish start to the second as Au raced into a 5-1 lead. Castagnet fought back to 4-5 but again theHong Kongplayer strung together another solid run of points to reach game ball at 10-6. Castagnet reduced the deficit to a single point but Au closed out the game 11-9
Au started the third game very strongly and soon built a 4-1 lead, but from that moment on Castagnet began to dominate proceedings.
He surged through to lead 5-4, and Au won only four more points after that. After taking the third game 11-6, Castagnet cantered into an 8-0 lead in the fourth.
Au battled bravely, as he always does, but Castagnet quickly reeled off the final points to book his place in the first round draw.
He said: “All the professional players train very hard with the ambition of making the main draw in amazing tournaments like this, so I am very happy.
“The atmosphere is great and I was pleased to win front of my new American fan club. i have a billet with a lovely American family and it was nice to see them here to watch me play today.
“I am looking forward to the first round and hope to stay a lot longer.”
Nafizwan Adnan (Malaysia) 3-0 Cesar Salazar (Mexico) 11-7, 16-14, 11-9 (52 mins)
For a three-love, this was as close as it gets. In the end it came down to one simple fact. Nafizwan Adnan played the big points better.
As expected, these two phenomenal athletes put everything into this qualifying final, chasing balls down as though their lives depended on it.
From 7-7 in the first game the Malaysian won four points in a row to win 11-7.
The second was an epic struggle as Salazar kept his nose in front for most of the game, but despite holding game ball five times, he could not convert any of them and Adnan sneaked it 16-14.
In the third, Salazar hit back from 4-1 down to lead 7-6 but that was the last time he was in front.
Adnan won three points in a row to lead 9-7 and they exchanged the next four points before the Malaysian clinched victory 11-9 in 52 minutes of compelling, competitive squash.
Adnan’s favourite shot, the forehand overhead volley smash, was in evidence as he neared the finishing line.
When I asked him if it was a shot he learned from badminton, he replied: “No. I got it from Ramy Ashour. The Master!”
Adnan said how proud he was of having such a fine role model as Nicol David blazing a torch for squash inMalaysia, and also for squash’s bid for a place in the 2020 Olympic Games.
He said: “We are all so proud of Nicol inMalaysia. With seven world titles, she is a great champion and it was wonderful to see her with Roger Federer inAmsterdamsupporting the Squash 2020 bid.
“It is a very good time for squash inMalaysiawith the new circuit being created by Azlan Iskandar and we look forward to welcoming a lot of professional players who want to come and train and play these weekend tournaments.”
Shawn Delierre (Canada) 3-0 Kristian Frost (Denmark) 11-1, 11-8, 11-8 (52 mins)
Shawn Delierre added the Canadian Maple Leaf to the Stars and Stripes as he booked his place in the first round of the Davenport North American Open.
He overcameDenmark’s Kristian Frost in a physical battle that frequently tested the patience of the match officials.
Blocks, pushes, lets, strokes and conduct warnings abounded but ultimately it was the Canadian who played the more intelligent squash to win in straight games.
He absolutely blitzed his way through the opening game to win it 11-1 as his opponent struggled to work his way into the match.
Delierre constructed a 4-1 lead in the second game and that platform was enough for him to stay in front for the rest of the game.
The third game turned ugly. Frost was frequently warned by central referee Wayne Smith for playing the man instead of the ball and at one stage, despite winning a penalty stroke, Frost also received a conduct warning for excessive physical contact.
Ultimately, Delierre’s tighter control up and down the backhand line won him the match.
Afterwards he said: “I get so nervous before and during big matches that sometimes it flies off the scale and I know I’ve got to try and get that aspect of the game under control.
“But I think I’m finally beginning to see some rewards for all the years of hard work I’ve put in and some things are finally beginning to make sense.
“I worry about enjoying things too much. I don’t know how to sum up my style of play. I guess it could be ‘Ask for a let’ but I think I’m changing all that.
“I felt I was hitting the ball well and moving well, so I need to keep doing that in the first round.”
Campbell Grayson (NZ) 3-1 GregoireMarche(France) 11-4, 11-8, 9-11, 13-11 (70 mins)
There was to be no repeat performance by GregoireMarche. After his dramatic run in the Tournament of Champions inNew York, he was denied a place in the main draw of the davenport North American Open byNew Zealand’s Campbell Grayson.
Grayson played solid, determined squash to win the first two games before the fireworks began in the third.
Marchewas staring a straight-games defeat in the face as he trailed 7-5 but he produced a superb spell of attacking genius to win the game 11-9.
He looked unbeatable as he raced into a 6-0 lead in the fourth but Grayson patiently worked his way back into the game to lead 8-7.Marchethen regained the lead and held game balls at 10-9 and 11-10 but Grayson stuck to his guns to win a place in the first round.
The final stages of the match were pure, raw sporting drama, played out by two totally committed athletes who mixed astonishing retrieving with devastating winners.
Marchedived across the court on numerous occasions to keep the rallies going in breathtaking style and was distraught after such a narrow defeat, especially having held a commanding lead in the fourth game.
A relieved Grayson said: “He was pretty unplayable for ah while there and I just tried to stay in the match and hang in there. Luckily I was able to work my way back in and get through to the main draw.
“His diving was incredible, but all the French boys are like that.
“The court here plays slightly differently toNew York, maybe because of all the buzz around the place in Grand Central. But it’s a little bit cooler here so you can be rewarded for attacking with accuracy at the front.”