Battle of the big guns as top four fight through
By GRANT WHITE in Charlottesville
Charlottesville, VA – The fourth time was the charm for the top four seeds in the Harrow Charlottesville Open. In all three previous editions (’13-’15), spoilers emerged from all over the tournament draws to crash the semi final party. But as the event and host venue McArthur Squash Center celebrate their fourth birthdays, the four top seeds have all made it through to compete under the Friday night lights in the Ville.
On his way to the semis Diego Elias, the #3 seed and 2015 World Junior Champion, crossed paths with #5 seed Alfredo Avila, who had shown a hot hand and lightning feet against wild card Anthony Graham in the opening round.
Elias advanced in straight games but Avila put up stiff resistance the whole way through. Of the match, Elias noted “I’ve known Alfredo for a long time; we’ve trained together quite a bit so we both knew some of what we could expect. I had to play well today to earn the win. Three games, but every game was a lot of work.”
The evening’s second quarter final featured top seed Ryan Cuskelly against unseeded Arturo Salazar. Cuskelly cruised 11-5 in the first but Salazar increased the pressure in the second frame and looked poised to draw even, only to watch Cuskelly stop, drop, and roll the overhand cross court nick to extinguish the game 13-11.
Salazar, however, continued in hot pursuit through the third, boldly going up and down the left wall against southpaw Cuskelly. This time Salazar converted his work to take the third 11-9. Cuskelly, though, found a deeper well to draw from in the fourth and poured it on early to go up 9-0 en route to an eventual 11-1 finish.
“Arturo played very well in the third. I also lost focus a little bit. I tried to channel any frustration I was feeling,” said Cuskelly of the sharp turnaround he made in the fourth. “The main thing for me was to find my length again. I got on the ball early, was a bit more aggressive, and that opened things up for me to get my length right again.”
Two former Charlottesville Open champions, Stephen Coppinger (2015 winner) and Alister Walker (2014 winner), went out for the 7:15 duel. Coppinger turned MSC’s center court into an operating room.
He scrubbed in for the surgery and before you could say “anesthesiologist,” Walker had been cleanly removed from the draw, with the chart marked 11-2, 11-9, 11-5. Coppinger is looking strong again and, like last year, he’s into the semis without dropping a single game.
In the evening’s final quarter final, Adrian Waller allowed himself to introduce himself to the home crowd with a 3-1 victory over Campbell Grayson. Waller was characteristically strong from the middle of the court and attacked anything that wasn’t battened down to a side wall with a flurry of hard and fast and soft and fast volleys.
Before Grayson could adjust, Waller had put a pair off 11’s in the books and was up 2-0. Grayson managed to stretch the match out with an 11-9 win in the third. But Waller went back on pattern to put the match down with an 11-8 bedtime story in game four.
The line-up for Friday night will start with Cuskelly vs Elias at 6:00 pm. The tallboys, Coppinger and Waller, will tilt at 7:15. You can watch live via LiveStream.com, where the broadcast is on the UVASquashClub channel.
Post-match Q & A with Diego Elias
Q: It’s your first time down here to Charlottesville. How have you been enjoying the tournament thus far?
A: It’s a good time and I’m really enjoying myself here on this court, on all of the courts at McArthur. It’s been great to have good crowds watching from the stands and all of these kids [from Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Blue Ridge] here seeing squash too.
Q: You got the win in three games over Alfredo. You looked very strong and focused. How did you feel the match went?
A: I’ve known Alfredo for a long time; we’ve trained together quite a bit so we definitely are familiar with each other’s games. I felt like I played well today against Alfredo. Every game was a lot of work so it was good to win in three.
Q: Any special preparations for the semis?
Nothing special. I’m just going to rest tonight so I can come tomorrow, have a hit, concentrate, and play my best in my match [against Ryan Cuskelly.]
Post match Q & A with Ryan Cuskelly
Q: A really close match the first three games. Then after losing the third you came out and absolutely withered Arturo Salazar. Did you make any conscious adjustments between games?
A: I don’t think it was anything conscious. I was disappointed after losing the third. Arturo played very well. I also lost focus a little bit. So I tried to channel any frustration I was feeling. And mostly just made the effort to get on the ball early, be aggressive as much as possible, and the major thing was to find my length again. I knew moving well would be the way to do that. So I did my best to move quicker, a little more spring to the ball. And it worked out well for me.
Q: So you’re in your second semi-final in as many years here at the Charlottesville Open. Does anything stand out this time around?
I love it here in Charlottesville. It’s a great court and I enjoy playing on it in this atmosphere. I drove down [from Greenwich] with Campbell [Grayson] and Abdulla [Al Tamimi], which was a fun trip. Great company in the car and relatively close to home for a pro event.
Q: Do you have any thoughts about the next round or how you will prepare?
A: Really I’m just taking it one match at a time. Diego will be a tough opponent but I’m looking forward to it and hoping to play my best squash thus far in the tournament.
PSA M25 Harrow Charlottesville Open 2016, McArthur Squash Center, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, USA.
(3) Diego Elias (PER) DEF (5) Alfredo Avila (MEX): 3-0 | 11-9, 11-8, 11-8 (37 mins)
(1) Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) DEF Arturo Salazar (MEX): 3-1 | 11-5, 13-11, 9-11, 11-1 (51 mins)
(2) Stephen Coppinger (RSA) DEF Alister Walker (BOT): 3-0 | 11-3, 11-9, 11-2
(4) Adrian Waller (ENG) DEF (6) Campbell Grayson (NZL): 3-1 | 11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8
Pictures courtesy of UVA Squash