James Willstrop changes tactics as match moves indoors
By SEAN REUTHE
Colombian Cannonball Miguel Angel Rodriguez and three-time World Champion Nick Matthew slumped to surprise first round defeats on the opening day of main draw action at the 2016 NetSuite Open, losing to former World No.1 James Willstrop and French World No.29 Gregoire Marche, respectively, in San Francisco.
Rodriguez’s match with Willstrop was due to be held at the glass show court on Justin Herman Plaza, but, with the scores locked at 3-3 in game one, a rapid change in temperature meant that the court became too wet and slippery to play on.
After a short delay, the match was moved to the Bay Club San Francisco, where Willstrop’s unparalleled accuracy and intelligent shot selection saw him take the match in straight games to leave Rodriguez without a win so far this season.
“It wasn’t the match either of us wanted, we wanted to be on that big stage tonight,” said Willstrop, who will face Simon Rösner for a place in the last four.
“The difference the courts over there [Justin Herman Plaza] and here is a million miles. If we had both written down a game plan before, it would have completely changed. It’s like going from clay to grass, that’s the situation we had, so it’s an interesting challenge and we had to get our heads round it.
“I had to break up the pace and stick with it, because you can’t win rallies easily on this court. The ball sits up, it’s bouncier and he gets every single ball I throw at him, so it’s an almighty challenge to win a rally off him. I had to be very patient.”
Elsewhere, last year’s runner-up Matthew was making his first PSA World Tour appearance of the season, while Marche had won his biggest ever Tour title just three weeks previously at the Open International de Squash de Nantes.
And the difference in match fitness between the two showed as a fine display from Marche enabled him to power to an 11-5, 11-3, 11-8 victory in 43 minutes to set up a quarter-final clash with Peru’s Diego Elias.
“It’s not the result I wanted, but I’m delighted to be back on the PSA World Tour at the NetSuite Open,” said Matthew.
“I came up against a sharp opponent. I have to keep working hard and working smart to get back to the level I want to be at. I’m confident I will get better as the season goes on.”
Peruvian two-time World Junior Champion Elias also caused a big shock on day one, with a sensational come from behind victory over Egyptian World No.10 Ali Farag.
Coming less than a week after he reached the final of the Al Ahram Squash Open NEWGIZA in front of the iconic Great Pyramid of Giza, Harvard graduate Farag looked to have carried his fine form into San Francisco after nullifying Elias’s attacking threats to go two games to the good.
But Elias responded brilliantly and the World No.34 took advantage of a tiring Farag to battle to an an extremely hard-fought 8-11, 6-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-7 victory.
“I felt so good on court and I’m so happy to get the win,” said Elias. “I was just playing point by point, I wanted to play my best squash, be happy and enjoy it. Even when I was 2-0 down, I just tried to keep enjoying the match.”
World Champion Gregory Gaultier will take on Australian No.1 Ryan Cuskelly in the next round after respective wins over Saurav Ghosal and Max Lee, while Marwan ElShorbagy and Cameron Pilley will face off in the other quarter-final.
The Women’s event saw United States No.1 Amanda Sobhy book her place in the last eight courtesy of a victory over English qualifier Fiona Moverley.
The match featured a series of quick-fire rallies as both players took a game apiece, before Sobhy moved on to wrap up the win in four and set up a quarter-final meeting with Hong Kong’s Joey Chan.
“She had a few good shots, but I’m happy I regrouped,” said Sobhy
“She was hitting winners left and right, especially on her backhand side so I just dug in and stuck to my game plan. I’m happy to win.”
World No.2 Laura Massaro is through after beating Sobhy’s compatriot Olivia Blatchford and she will take on compatriot Victoria Lust in the quarter-final. Malaysia’s eight-time World Champion Nicol David and fourth seed Joelle King were also winners, setting up respective fixtures with Nour El Tayeb and Heba El Torky.
2016 NetSuite Open, Justin Herman Plaza and Bay Club, San Francisco, USA.
Men’s First Round Results
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 3-0: 11-9, 11-4, 11-1 (30m)
 Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Max Lee (HKG) 3-1: 9-11, 14-12, 11-4, 11-9 (71m)
 Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt Stephen Coppinger (RSA) 3-1: 12-10, 11-8, 2-11, 11-7 (92m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [Q] Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-1: 11-8, 9-11, 11-8, 11-7 (43m)
[WC] James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 3-0: 12-10, 11-6, 11-4
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt [Q] Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT) 3-1: 11-7, 11-6, 8-11, 11-4 (45m)
[Q] Diego Elias (PER) bt  Ali Farag (EGY) 3-2: 8-11, 6-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-7 (75m)
[Q] Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt  Nick Matthew (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-3, 11-8 (43m)
Men’s Quarter-Final Draw (Top Half): To be played on September 28th
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v  Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
 Cameron Pilley (AUS) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
Men’s Quarter-Final Draw (BottomHalf): To be played on September 29th
[WC] James Willstrop (ENG) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
[Q] Diego Elias (PER) v [Q] Gregoire Marche (FRA)
Women’s First Round Results
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt Olivia Blatchford (USA) 3-0: 11-6, 11-6, 11-8 (31m)
 Victoria Lust (ENG) bt [Q] Sarah Cardwell (AUS) 3-0: 11-8, 13-11, 13-11 (39m)
 Heba El Torky (EGY) bt [Q] Samantha Teran (MEX) 3-1: 11-7, 9-11, 11-5, 11-8 (42m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt Line Hansen (DEN) 3-0: 13-11, 11-9, 11-9 (37m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt [Q] Fiona Moverley (ENG) 3-1: 11-5, 10-12, 11-9, 11-4 (31m)
 Joey Chan (HKG) bt Coline Aumard (FRA) 3-2: 8-11, 11-0, 11-7, 6-11, 11-9 (59m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt [Q] Low Wee Wern (MAS) 3-1: 11-3, 9-11, 11-4, 11-1 (39m)  Nicol David (MAS) bt [WC] Reyna Pacheco (USA) 3-0: 11-3, 11-1, 11-3 (18m)
Women’s Quarter-Final Draw: To be played on September 28th
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v  Victoria Lust (ENG)
 Heba El Torky (EGY) v  Joelle King (NZL)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) v  Joey Chan (HKG)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v  Nicol David (MAS)
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com)