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ToC: New York is no Olli-day for reigning champion Amr Shabana

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Egyptian maestro Amr Shabana begins his New York title defence with a stylish victory
By NATHAN CLARKE – Squash Mad PSA Correspondent

The action gets under way inside the Vanderbilt Waiting Hall at Grand Central
The action gets under way inside the Vanderbilt Waiting Hall at Grand Central

Amr Shabana began the defence of his J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions title in New York’s stunning Grand Central Terminal today (Jan 16) with an impressive 3-0 win over Finland’s Olli Tuominen.

The 2014 champion was in sublime form as he dispatched his fellow 35-year-old 11-7, 11-4, 11-3 to move into the second round and set up an encounter with Cameron Pilley after the powerful Australian pulled off a 3-1 victory over Karim Abdel Gawad.

Shabana became the oldest-ever winner of a PSA World Series event when he clinched the 2014 title with victory over French World No.2 Gregory Gaultier, and he will be aiming to build on his own record in 2015 as he bids to win PSA World Tour title number 50.

“I’m feeling very good about the match today because you never really know how you’re going to get on until you actually get on court,” said Shabana.

Amr Shabana holds aloft the ToC trophy in 2014
Amr Shabana holds aloft the ToC trophy in 2014

“Olli is a fighter and he never gives you any points so I had to be focused today and I’m very happy to get the win.

“I went on holiday with my family over the Christmas break before getting back into training and I feel like it’s starting to pay off.

“At my age you can’t really step up training or anything ahead of events – it’s all about putting in the effort and the hard work and I’ve been working hard every day to get my mind sharp and be ready for battle.

“Squash is a very tough sport and it’s not the kind of sport where you can cruise along. You have to enjoy it and you have to be in there 100 per cent especially against the players these days so I’m just happy to be in the mix.”

Earlier in the day World No.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy got off to a winning start in 2015, opening his campaign with a 3-0 victory over American wildcard Todd Harrity, in a repeat of their 2014 encounter, ending all hopes of home success in the process.

Harrity was the only US representative in the main draw and despite putting in a valiant performance against the Egyptian, in which he forced Elshorbagy to work hard to earn every point, he couldn’t find enough in his locker to cause an upset and eventually fell to an 11-6, 11-7, 11-8 defeat.

Elshorbagy went 23-matches unbeaten in 2014, a run that saw him win four consecutive tournaments including the US Open and Hong Kong Open, before falling to Ramy Ashour during the final of the 2014 World Championships and he’ll be keen to resume winning ways in the ‘Big Apple’ and will now face Swiss national champion Nicolas Mueller in the second round.

“I’m very happy to be back in New York and Todd has definitely improved since we played here last year,” said Elshorbagy.

“This is one of the best events we play on tour and the atmosphere is always fantastic so I’m looking forward to being on court again in a few days.”

Elsewhere there were wins for Chris Simpson, Tarek Momen and Saurav Ghosal while Spaniard Borja Golan survived a huge scare against qualifier Ong Beng Hee, coming from two-games down against the Malaysian to win 3-2 and move into the second round, which gets underway on Sunday.

Laura Massaro Tweets a picture of her banner hanging inside Grand Central Terminal
Laura Massaro Tweets a picture of her banner hanging inside Grand Central Terminal

The Tournament of Champions is one of the highlights of the squash calendar and many players arrive early to prepare for the tournament and soak up the atmosphere in this electric city.

NickPeterNYCLaura Massaro was delighted to see a massive poster of herself hanging in the station, while Nick Matthew posted a picture on Twitter of him training with the perfect warm-up partner, former world champion Peter Nicol, who now lives in the Big Apple.

Number three seed Matthew begins his 2015 ToC campaign against England team-mate Daryl Selby.

JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, Grand Central Terminal, New York.
Results – First Round, Top Half:

[1] Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) bt [WC] Todd Harrity (USA) 3-0: 11-6, 11-7, 11-8 [37m]
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) bt [Q] Campbell Grayson (NZL) 3-1: 9,11, 11-3, 11-4, 11-9 [59m]
Chris Simpson (ENG) bt [Q] Cesar Salazar (MEX) 3-2: 11-5, 8-11, 10-12, 13-11, 11-6 [99m]
[6] Borja Golan (ESP) bt [Q] Ong Beng Hee (MAS) 3-2: 12-14, 9-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-8 [76m]
[7] Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-7, 14,12 [42m]
Saurav Ghosal (IND) bt [Q] Alan Clyne (SCO) 3-0: 11-7, 11-5, 12-10 [49m]
Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-1: 12-10, 11-13, 11-8, 12-10 [79m]
[4] Amr Shabana (EGY) bt Olli Tuominen (FIN) 3-0: 11-7, 11-4, 11-3, [31m]

Draw – First Round, Bottom Half: (Saturday Jan 17)
[3] Nick Matthew (ENG) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) v [Q] Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v [Q] Diego Elias (PER)
Stephen Coppinger (RSA) v [8] Simon Rösner (GER)
[5] Peter Barker (ENG) v Gregoire Marche (FRA)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) v [Q] Joe Lee (ENG)
Alister Walker (BOT) v [Q] Tom Richards (ENG)
Max Lee (HKG) v [2] Gregory Gaultier (FRA)

Image of Amr Shabana courtesy of PSA and ToC

 

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