By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor) and DAVE WORSLEY in Tauranga
Paul Coll and Joelle King have enjoyed being in the media spotlight helping to promote the return of top-class squash to New Zealand, despite the disappointment of losing to England in the final of the Nations Cup.
After the fun and drama of launching that mixed team format, with a new scoring system and powerplay rallies worth two points, the two Kiwis now need to focus on the serious matter of this week’s New Zealand Open, where they are both top seeds.
It will be the first jointly sanctioned men’s and women’s New Zealand Open since 1993, with separate sponsors for both events, and fans will enjoy a second chance to pack out the Trustpower Baypark Arena in Tauranga and cheer on their favourites.
The names of former world champions Susan Devoy and Ross Norman are accorded legendary status in this sports-mad country, but Coll and King are flying the flag for this current generation.
They enjoyed contrasting fortunes in the Nations Cup final. King gave the Kiwis a flying start by beating England’s Sarah-Jane Perry in straight games, which meant that Mohamed ElShorbagy knew he needed to deliver an identical win, and drop fewer points, against Coll in the men’s tie to grab an unlikely victory for the visiting team.
Despite Coll’s best efforts, ElShorbagy achieved his formidable target to give victory to England by a 45-44 margin on points countback.
Now it comes down to the individual knockout draws on the PSA World Tour, where 20 different nationalities are represented.
King will face either Australian Jess Turnbull (ranked 73) or Egypt’s Salma Eltayeb (ranked 63) in the second round on Wednesday evening
Second seed Perry, who is ranked eight in the world, faces either Tomato Ho (Hong Kong) or Saskia Beinhard (Germany) in her second round tie.
Coll faces the winner of the first round tie between two Americans, Christopher Gordon and Timothy Brownell, and will be watching the Tuesday matches to formulate a plan for his opening match the following day.
Coll, the double British Open champion and Commonwealth Games singles and mixed gold medal winner, said: “This tournament has got a lot of depth. It’s super strong and has a lot of internationals – it’s going to be all go from the first round.
“It’s going to be amazing – the first time for 30-odd years we’ve had the tournament and the likes of Dame Susan (Devoy) and Stu Davenport on the trophy. I’m just super excited about just getting started.”
Coll knows he will need to take each match as it comes, but a revenge battle lies in prospect in the final against the legendary ElShorbagy, who has undergone a renaissance in form after teaming up with Gregory Gaultier.
ElShorbagy, who switched international allegiance from Egypt to England in June, overcame Coll in the U.S. Open quarter-final as well as the Nations Cup final and has already captured two higher calibre events this season, the Oracle Netsuite Open Gold event in San Francisco and the QTerminals Qatar Classic Platinum event.
ElShorbagy opens his tournament against either Charlie Lee from England or Addeen Idrakie (Malaysia) on Wednesday.
The opening day of the tournament has two New Zealanders competing, with Commonwealth Games team members Lwamba Chileshe and Kaitlyn Watts on court.
Chileshe, with a ranking of 99, takes on Canada’s David Baillargeon (ranked 69 in the world) in the late match at the Trustpower Arena at 8.30pm on Tuesday with the winner facing Colombia’s 2018 British Open winner Miguel Rodriguez, who won the Australian Open title in Sydney at the weekend.
Baillargeon enjoyed a fantastic win in his first taste of Nations Cup scoring when he upset Scotland’s world No.25 Greg Lobban on the opening day of competition last week.
Watts (at 88) is up against Lobban’s Scotland team-mate Lisa Aitken, who has a strong relationship with the Bay of Plenty area having previous played at the Devoy Squash Club. The pair clash at the Devoy Club at 2.45pm on Tuesday.
The tournament runs from Tuesday (November 8) until the finals on Sunday (November 13). The men’s Robertson Loges draw and the women’s Barfoot & Thompson-sponsored competition will be broadcast live on SquashTV and in the host nation by Sky TV.
2022 New Zealand Open, Trustpower Baypark Arena, Tauranga (November 8-13).
2022 Robertson Lodges New Zealand Men’s Open (first round):
 Paul Coll (NZL) [bye] Christopher Gordon (USA) v [9/16] Timothy Brownell (USA)
[9/16] Greg Lobban (SCO) v Charlie Lee (ENG)
 Adrian Waller (ENG) [bye]  Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT) [bye] Syed Azlan Amjad (QAT) v [9/16] Balazs Farkas (HUN)
[9/16] David Baillargeon (CAN) v [WC] Lwamba Chileshe (NZL)
 Miguel Rodriguez (COL) [bye]  Victor Crouin (FRA) [bye] Spencer Lovejoy (USA) v [9/16] Henry Leung (HKG)
[9/16] Tsz Kwan Lau (HKG) v Andrew Douglas (USA)
 Mohamed ElSherbini (EGY) [bye]  Saurav Ghosal (IND) [bye] Martin Svec (CZE) v [9/16] Leandro Romiglio (ARG)
[9/16] Sebastien Bonmalais (FRA) v Addeen Idrakie (MAS)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) [bye]
2022 Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Women’s Open (first round):
 Joelle King (NZL) [bye] Jessica Turnbull (AUS) v [9/16] Kenzy Ayman (EGY)
[9/16] Ka Yi Lee (HKG) v Salma Eltayeb (EGY)
 Sabrina Sobhy (USA) [bye]  Tinne Gilis (BEL) [bye] Sarah Cardwell (AUS) v [9/16] Olivia Clyne (USA)
[9/16] Satomi Watanabe (JPN) v Nadia Pfister (SUI)
 Salma Hany (EGY) [bye]  Nele Gilis (BEL) [bye] Alicia Mead (ENG) v [9/16] Tsz-Wing Tong (HKG)
[9/16] Jasmine Hutton (ENG) v Malak Khafagy (EGY)
 Hollie Naughton (CAN) [bye]  Tesni Evans (WAL) [bye] [WC] Kaitlyn Watts (NZL) v [9/16] Lisa Aitken (SCO)
[9/16] Tomato Ho (HKG) v Saskia Beinhard (GER)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) [bye]
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour and Squash New Zealand