Top women’s trio shine brightly under the Vanderbilt Hall chandeliers
By NATHAN CLARKE in New York
On the opening day of women’s action at the 2016 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, which for the first time in tournament history is offering equal prize money across both the men’s and women’s draws, title favourites Nicol David, Laura Massaro and Raneem El Welily, the defending champion, signalled their intentions to triumph on the sport’s grandest stage with a trio of dominant first round performances.
Under the stunning chandeliers of Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall, the trio, who are currently embroiled in a compelling battle for dominance atop the world rankings, ruthlessly dispatched their opposition as they sent warning signs to each other ahead of what promises to be a crucial week in the World Rankings race.
After enduring a series of disappointing results during the second half of 2015, recently deposed No.1 El Welily, for whom victory here 12 months ago laid the foundations for her surge towards dethroning Nicol David and ending the Malaysian’s nine-year rankings reign, hinted at a timely return to form as she powered past Tesni Evans.
The victory sees her move closer to a potential semi-final encounter with in-form Massaro, who took out home hope Olivia Blatchford with a composed performance.
“I’m really happy to be back here in New York,” said El Welily, who came through 11-6, 11-6, 11-5 after 30 minutes. “It’s a great crowd, great venue and great atmosphere to play in and I’m happy with how I played today.
“I was trying hard to make sure I moved up the court and increased the pace and I’m glad that it worked. It’s a good start and hopefully I can keep it going.”
David, who at World No.3 is at her lowest ranking in ten years, returned to form in December with a decisive victory at the 2015 Hong Kong Open and she picked up from where she left off prior to the Christmas break with a destructive victory over England’s Victoria Lust, dropping just seven points throughout the 25 minute match.
“It’s great to be back here in New York in what is one of the most amazing places in the world to play squash,” said David.
“There’s no better way than to start the year here, especially now that this tournament has taken a huge step and is offering parity in prize money between men and women for the first time ever. Hopefully I can continue to play well this week.”
While the top seeds moved through unscathed there were surprise victories for qualifiers Mariam Metwally and Coline Aumard, who took out established World Series performers Dipika Pallikal and Sarah-Jane Perry, respectively.
In the men’s draw, 2015 winner Mohamed Elshorbagy came through a difficult second round encounter with a resurgent Cameron Pilley.
Elshorbagy beat Pilley less that a month ago to take the Hong Kong Open title and once again consigned the dogged Australian to defeat as he played at an intense pace to out gun the 33-year-old in an exhibition of ferocious hitting.
“Cameron has been playing really well lately so I knew it would be difficult tonight and I’m really pleased that we managed to play a high quality match in front of this amazing crowd here in this amazing place because that always makes it even more special,” said Elshorbagy.
“I felt good throughout the week in Hong Kong and came here wanting to defend my title. I started 2015 in the best way possible by winning here and I’ll be giving everything I have this week in order to do the same thing at the start of 2016.”
Elshorbagy’s victory was the quickest of the men’s programme, with number five seed Omar Mosaad and number seven seed Mathieu Castagnet, both taking 73 minutes to beat Nic Mueller and Max Lee, while the resurgent Borja Golan took 80 minutes to overcome Hong Kong’s Leo Au.
J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Grand Central Terminal, New York, USA.
Men’s Second Round (Top Half):
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 3-0: 11-5, 11-9, 11-9 (47m)
 Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-1: 11-5, 11-4, 12-14, 11-7 (73m)
 Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Max Lee (HKG) 3-2: 10-12, 11-8, 10-12, 11-2, 11-4 (73m)
Borja Golan (ESP) bt Leo Au (HKG) 3-2: 11-6, 11-5, 11-13, 4-11, 11-4 (80m)
Men’s Second Round (Bottom Half):
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Fares Dessouki (EGY)
James Willstrop (ENG) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
 Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) v Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
Women’s First Round:
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt [Q] Tesni Evans (WAL) 3-0: 11-6, 11-6, 11-5 (30m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt [Q] Deon Saffery (WAL) 3-0: 11-5, 11-4, 11-9 (25m)
 Delia Arnold (MAS) bt Rachael Grinham (AUS) 3-1: 7-11, 13-11, 11-7, 11-6 (37m)
 Alison Waters (ENG) bt Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 3-1: 8-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-8 (37m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt [Q] Yathreb Adel (EGY) 3-0: 11-5, 11-7, 11-6
Heba El Torky (EGY) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 3-1: 9-11, 11-5, 12-10, 11-9 (42m)
[Q] Coline Aumard (FRA) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-0: 14-12, 11-9, 11-4 (56m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [Q] Olivia Blatchford (USA) 3-1: 11-6, 11-3, 5-11, 11-7 (38m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt Donna Urquhart (AUS) 3-0: 11-7, 11-5, 11-9 (31m)
 Emily Whitlock (ENG) bt [Q] Misaki Kobayashi (JPN) 3-0: 11-5, 11-6, 11-9 (36m)
[Q] Mariam Metwally (EGY) bt  Dipika Pallikal (IND) 3-0: 11-7, 12-10, 11-6 (34m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [Q] Samantha Teran (MEX) 3-0: 16-14, 11-2, 11-1 (27m)
 Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt Low Wee Wern (MAS) 3-2: 11-9,, 7-11, 9-11, 11-7, 11-7 (50m)
 Joshna Chinappa (IND) bt [WC] Kanzy Emad El Defrawy (EGY) 3-2: 8-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-7 (59m)
 Annie Au (HKG) bt Joey Chan (HKG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 12-10 (35m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt Victoria Lust (ENG) 3-0: 11-2, 11-3, 11-2 (25m)
Women’s Second Round:
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v  Amanda Sobhy (USA)
 Delia Arnold (MAS) v  Alison Waters (ENG)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v Heba El Torky (EGY)
[Q] Coline Aumard (FRA) v  Laura Massaro (ENG)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Emily Whitlock (ENG)
[Q] Mariam Metwally (EGY) v  Nour El Sherbini (EGY)
 Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) v  Joshna Chinappa (IND)
 Annie Au (HKG) v  Nicol David (MAS)
The 2016 Men’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, PSA World Series tournament, takes place in New York’s iconic Grand Central Terminal from Jan 7 – 14, with the 2016 Women’s tournament taking place from Jan 9 – 14.
Ticket prices range from $8 for early round matches, going up to $170 for the sought-after Men’s and Women’s Finals on the evening of Thursday, January 14th. Tickets are available online at ToCSquash.com or by calling (718) 569-0594.
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com) courtesy of PSA