Tuesday, May 28, 2024

NAO: Seeds fall as Azlan roars and Palmer soars

PSA World Series Tour, North American Open First Round:
British champion Selby crashes as Azlan roars in Richmond

New British squash champion Daryl Selby admitted that he was “feeling flat” as he crashed out of the North American Open first round to lion-hearted Malaysian Azlan Iskander.
The London-based Iskander defeated Selby after losing the opening game, hitting back to win 9-11, 11-4, 11-3, 11-5 in 60 minutes.
Selby, the No.7 seed from Essex, said he found it difficult to repeat the fantastic form he showed a week ago to beat world champion Nick Matthew in the final of the British Nationals in Manchester.
Selby said: “I have to admit I was feeling a bit flat after winning the Nationals. It’s very difficult to play that well on a regular basis and Azlan played superbly today. I didn’t feel I was doing much wrong but often felt half a yard off the pace. I guess that’s a sure sign that I was feeling a bit flat. But Azza deserved to win, definitely. He hardly made a mistake.”
Asked about the draw, which paired the world No.10 against the world No.13 in the first round, Selby said: “I can’t have any complaints. I have benefitted in the past and I am sure these things even themselves out over the year. I have heard that some fine tuning might take place to sort out one or two possible anomalies, but I have no complaints.”
Iskander said that he was fine-tuning his game under coach Peter Genever in London. He said: “There are no massive changes, just some subtle adjustments about how you play certain shots. You do the same stuff all the time but Peter gets you to think creatively about some subtle differences in playing certain shots.”
Iskander meets Simon Rosner in the second round after the German No.1 beat Joey Barrington 11-2, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5 in a physical battle in which Barrington received a conduct warning for remarks made to referee Wendy Danzey.
Reigning champion Matthew was almost floored himself in the first round. He blamed the slippery floor for his flawed performance against US No.1 Julian Illingworth and needed to show his trademark resilience to avoid a shock defeat.
The world champion complained of slipping on the recently-painted court floor as he lost the opening game but he battled back to win the three tight games that followed.
Matthew, the top seed from Sheffield, eventually triumphed 8-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-7 in 49 minutes and was relieved to book his place in the second round.
Matthew said: “Julian played very well and put me under pressure for the whole match. The floor was very slippery and I was struggling badly at the start.
“Julian has come through qualifying and was obviously feeling a lot more comfortable then I was at the start. He read the conditions very well and was hitting a lot of hard, low shots that seemed to shoot through on the floor.
“Julian is constantly improving and has the type of game that could trouble a lot of the top guys, as he did with me tonight.”
Illingworth was pleased with his performance and is doing all he can to help squash grow in the US. He said: “We have a lot of schools programs in place that are introducing young people to the sport and staging major tournaments like this one helps to raise the profile of the sport in America.”
His compatriot Gilly Lane fell in straight games to an in-form Shahier Razik, the Canadian No.1 who meets Matthew in the second round. Razik won in straight games but had to fight back from game ball down in the first. He eventually won the tiebreak 12-10 and managed to close out the second and third by an identical 11-7 margin.
Former world champion David Palmer powered past Egyptian No.8 seed Wael El Hindi to book a second round meeting with New York-based Englishman Alister Walker, who overcame another experienced Aussie, Stewart Boswell, in four games of high-paced, aggressive squash.
Amr Shabana, the four-times world champion from Egypt, cruised through against Arturo Salazar but the Mexican earned the accolade of “shot of the day” for a spectacular diving recovery shot from behind his back after being sent from the front to the rear of the court several times in a row. Earlier the Mexican’s brother, Cesar, lost to a sharp-looking Jonathan Kemp from England.

Results, North American Open, Westwood Club, Richmond, Virginia:

(1) Nick Matthew (Eng) bt (Q) Julian illingworth (USA) 9-11, 11-6, 11-6 11-7 (49 mins)
Shahier Razik (Can) bt Gilly Lane (USA) 12-10, 11-7, 11-7 (59 mins)
Alister Walker (Eng) bt Stewart Boswell (Aus) 12-10, 11-9, 5-11, 11-4 (64 mins)
David Palmer (Aus) bt (8) Wael El Hindi (Egy) 11-2, 11-8, 11-7 (40 mins)
Mohd Azlan Iskander (Mas) bt (7) Daryl Selby (Eng) 9-11, 11-4, 11-3, 11-5 (60 mins)
Simon Rosner (Ger) bt Joey Barrington (Eng) 11-3, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5 (48 mins)
Jonathan Kemp (Eng) bt Cesar Salazar (Mex) 11-7, 11-5, 11-5 (24 mins)
(4) Amr Shabana (Egy) Arturo Salazar (Mex) 11-8, 11-8, 11-5 (29 mins).

Today’s schedule: Bottom half of first round draw:
[3] James Willstrop (ENG) v [Q] Yann Perrin (FRA)
[Q] Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v [Q] Martin Knight (NZL)
[Q] Stephane Galifi (ITA) v [Q] Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS)
[6] Peter Barker (ENG) v Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY)
[5] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [Q] Aaron Frankcomb (AUS)
Olli Tuominen (FIN) v Mohammed Abbas (EGY)
Hisham Mohd Ashour (EGY) v Tom Richards (ENG)
[2] Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Nicolas Mueller (SUI)

Follow the live blog on the official tournament website: www.naosquash.com

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