By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
India’s World No.56 Ramit Tandon overcame Scotland’s World No.21 Greg Lobban as day one of the men’s CIB Black Ball Open got under way.
One day after World No.1 Nour El Sherbini took the women’s title, the men’s PSA World Tour Platinum event began and Tandon led the way with an impressive 8-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-6 victory over Lobban to set up a second round with defending champion Fares Dessouky.
It’s the first time the World No.56 has reached the last 32 stage of a PSA Platinum event since the 2018 Hong Kong Open.
“Greg and I train together when he is in New York,” said Tandon. “He is also working with Nick Matthew and I have played a bit with him, so I knew Nick would have given him a plan. In the first game, I just tried to find out what he was planning to do and then from the second game on I was able to implement my game more.
“In the fourth, I think he got a bit tired from the running around of the previous games and I was lucky enough that he gave me a few points at the end.”
Meanwhile, World No.35 Youssef Ibrahim was one of four Egyptian players to prevail on the opening day of action after coming from two games down against England’s Richie Fallows.
The 22-year-old was staring down the barrel of defeat but held his nerve well to turn things around by an 13-15, 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-5 scoreline and secure a second-round meeting with France’s Lucas Serme.
“I was really nervous,” admitted Ibrahim. “I haven’t played for a while in a competitive game. I’ve been struggling with a knee injury for about three months since the last Black Ball and I’ve been trying to push and push.
“It’s also mental, I was very conservative in every point, that’s not how I play but I was very worried about every point, I wanted to win every point badly. I think that played into his game very well, I don’t want to take anything away from him, he played my weak points really well and all credit to him, he made me work for this win.”
Despite Fallows’ defeat it was a strong day for the other English players in the draw with Patrick Rooney leading the charge after defeating German No.1 Raphael Kandra in straight games as Tom Richards and Declan James also progressed.
“I think I might have played a bit smarter today,” said Rooney afterwards. “I chose the moments to attack and even when I was making an error, it was the right shot to play at the right time.”
Former World No.1 Gregory Gaultier was in full flow earlier as he headed up the French interest at the Black Ball Sporting Club.
The 38-year-old played without a knee brace for the first time since returning from his career-threatening injury as he axed compatriot Victor Crouin 3-0 in 34 minutes.
“He won three events in a row in France and beat most of the French players,” said Gaultier. “I’m not wearing the knee brace anymore and mentally, it’s a big difference for me. I was wearing something heavy and as long as you wear something you feel restricted.
“It’s a big bonus, especially now at my age. I’m training really hard, but my leg was a pain when I started to play again last year. It was always on and off in my training and at tournaments. Sometimes it was sharp pain and other times it was playable. The good thing now is that I can play squash twice a day, which is unbelievable for me coming from being on crutches to running pain free.”
Gaultier’s compatriots Lucas Serme, Baptiste Masotti and Mathieu Castagnet all followed suit with respective 3-0 wins against Switzerland’s Dimitri Steinmann and India’s Vikram Malhotra and Mahesh Mangaonkar to reach the second round.
The longest match of the day went to Spain’s Iker Pajares Bernabeu and USA’s Shahjahan Khan, who played out a thrilling 98-minute battle with the Spaniard prevailing in five, despite losing his suitcase en route to Egypt, to set up a last 32 clash against Egypt’s Mazen Hesham.
“I had a few blisters at the end, nothing too bad, but basically my suitcase was taken by mistake by someone else [at the airport],” admitted the 24-year-old afterwards.
“The case is coming back soon hopefully, but today nothing was mine. New shoes bought today, borrowed racket, shirt and shorts.
“Shahjahan is a very complete player, very good at the back and solid at the front. He made very few errors and I had to work very hard to win a single point.”
The second round begins tomorrow (March 20) and play begins at 11:00 (GMT+2). The likes of World No.1 Ali Farag, World Champion Tarek Momen and defending champion Fares Dessouky will all begin their title charges. All of the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour (excluding Europe & Japan).
Men’s 2021 CIB PSA Black Ball Squash Open, Black Ball Sporting Club, Cairo, Egypt.
Declan James (ENG) bt Leonel Cardenas (MEX) 3-0: 11-6, 12-10, 11-4 (45m)
Alan Clyne (SCO) bt [WC] Ahmed Ismail (EGY) 3-0: 11-4, 11-4, 11-9 (38m)
Ramit Tandon (IND) bt Greg Lobban (SCO) 3-1: 8-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-6 (46m)
Mohamed ElSherbini (EGY) bt Benjamin Aubert (FRA) 3-1: 8-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-9 (55m)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND) 3-0: 11-5, 11-8, 11-4 (35m)
Eain Yow Ng (MAS) bt [WC] Ahmed Wael (EGY) 3-0: 11-4, 11-6, 11-2 (32m)
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) bt Todd Harrity (USA) 3-0: 11-4, 11-6, 13-11 (33m)
Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Victor Crouin (FRA) 3-0: 11-2, 11-4, 11-6 (34m)
Youssef Soliman (EGY) bt George Parker (ENG) 3-1: 11-6, 6-11, 11-5, 11-9 (67m)
Lucas Serme (FRA) bt Dimitri Steinmann (SUI) 3-0: 11-9, 15-13, 11-7 (55m)
Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) bt Richie Fallows (ENG) 3-2: 13-15, 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-5 (62m)
Karim El Hammamy (EGY) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 3-1: 11-2, 11-6, 5-11, 11-6 (61m)
Patrick Rooney (ENG) bt Raphael Kandra (GER) 3-0: 12-10, 11-6, 11-7 (39m)
Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) bt Shahjahan Khan (USA) 3-2: 10-12, 11-7, 11-5, 9-11, 11-7 (98m)
Tom Richards (ENG) bt Edmon Lopez (ESP) 3-0: 11-7, 11-6, 11-4 (40m)
Baptiste Masotti (FRA) bt Vikram Malhotra (IND) 3-0: 11-4, 11-3, 11-4 (19m)
Second Round (Top Half March 20):
 Ali Farag (EGY) v Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY)
Mostafa Asal (EGY) v Declan James (ENG)
Alan Clyne (SCO) v Omar Mosaad (EGY)
Ramit Tandon (IND) v  Fares Dessouky (EGY)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Zahed Salem (EGY)
Mohamed ElSherbini (EGY) v Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
Miguel Rodriguez (COL) v Gregoire Marche (FRA)
Eain Yow Ng (MAS) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
Second Round (Bottom Half March 21):
 Paul Coll (NZL) v Nicolas Mueller (SUI)
Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Youssef Soliman (EGY)
Lucas Serme (FRA) v Youssef Ibrahim (EGY)
Karim El Hammamy (EGY) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Joel Makin (WAL) v Patrick Rooney (ENG)
Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) v Mazen Hesham (EGY)
Tom Richards (ENG) v Saurav Ghosal (IND)
Baptiste Masotti (FRA) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA