Monday, April 15, 2024

Waller renders Pilley powerless as Willstrop destroys Grant


ADRIAN WALLER completed a massive victory over Australian Cameron Pilley at the Hong Kong Open to set up another possible giant-killing act against Egyptian maestro Ramy Ashour in the last 16.

Waller, the 23-year-old left-hander from Enfield, London, overcame Pilley 7-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 in 54 minutes at the Hong Kong Squash Centre.

On a cool court, Pilley’s celebrated pace was less effective than usual. The world number 14 won the opening game before Waller settled into a steady rhythm to take the second.

His confidence grew and he maintained his line and length to frustrate an opponent who likes to pick off winners.

England’s Australian national coach Chris Robertson will now be plotting a game plan for Waller (pictured above) against top seed and defending champion Ashour. They have a rest day to formulate a plan of action against a mercurial opponent who enjoyed his return to competition with a straight-games victory over Nafizwan Adnan.

Ashour showed no signs of the hamstring problems that have plagued him recently as he dismissed the Malaysian qualifier 11-8, 11-4, 11-5. However, the Egyptian admitted afterwards that his physical condition was still weighing heavily on his mind.

He explained: “I will stay worried for the rest of the tournament. I’m not going to be over cautious, but just cautious, and will stick strictly to what the doctors have advised me to do, whether it’s the practice time, the warm up, the stretching. That way, if something happens – God forbid – I know I would have done everything possible.”

Meanwhile, James Willstrop (pictured left in blue) opened his account in the Hong Kong Open with one of the most devastating demolition jobs seen on the PSA Tour for years.

The world number five dismantled fellow Englishman Adrian Grant 11-1, 11-3, 11-1 in just 28 minutes to stun the crowd and lay down a marker in the final event of the year.

Willstrop destroyed the 33-year-old Londoner, currently ranked 23 in the world, with a performance that suggests he means business after disappointing performances at the Worlds in Manchester and the Qatar Classic.

“Sometimes, you just hit the mark, don’t you. And if you could know in advance when you are going to do it, or how, it would make the matches much more relaxing,” said Willstrop afterwards.

“I am hungry I guess. I am fresher than most of the players, having lost quite early in Manchester and Qatar. I have the utmost respect for Adrian, we had some massive battles over the years, and even last year, here, it was a scrappy four games, exactly the opposite of today really.

“But when you get as old as I am, you know you shouldn’t get carried away with a game like that. Things just change during a tournament, so you move on, take confidence from it of course, but forget about it and think about the next round.”

Grant’s assessment was pretty succinct: “Wow that was bad,” he Tweeted.

German number one Simon Rosner ended the challenge of England’s Tom Richards 11-5, 11-8, 11-8 with few problems to book a second-round meeting with Willstrop.

He said afterwards: “Tom is maybe struggling to find his rhythm at the moment, after his injury. He is still struggling form wise, but he is such a good player, I’m so happy to get through.

“Now I can relax and get my head right for my next match against Jimbo who looked very convincing today! I’ll have to raise my game, but then again, you always have to raise your game when you play a top four player. And after that, we will see.”

Chris Simpson was delighted with his win over Steve Coppinger, although the South African was perhaps unlucky not to take a game. The world number 25 willl meet Spain’s Borja Golan in the last 16 after the number seven seed defeated Ong Beng Hee in straight games.

Fresh from winning the title in Edmonton, Marwan Elshorbagy delighted himself and the large Egyptian contingent with a tough four-game win over Ryan Cuskelly, setting up a meeting with older brother Mohamed, who beat the home crowd favourite Leo Au in straight games.

Round One – Men’s Results so far:

[3] James Willstrop (Eng) 3-0 Adrian Grant (Eng) 11-1, 11-3, 11-1 (28m)
Simon Rosner (Ger) 3-0 Tom Richards (Eng) 11-5, 11-8, 11-8 (42m)
Marwan Elshorbagy (Egy) 3-1 Ryan Cuskelly (Aus) 11-8, 10-12, 11-7, 11-8 (54m)
[5] Mohamed Elshorbagy (Egy) 3-0 Leo Au (Hkg) 13-11, 11-1, 11-5 (30m)
Chris Simpson (Eng) 3-0 Steve Coppinger (Rsa) 11-8, 12-10, 11-5 (51m)
[7] Borja Golan (Esp) 3-0 Ong Beng Hee (Mas) 11-5, 11-6, 11-5 (36m))
[1] Ramy Ashour (Egy) 3-0 [Q] Nafiizwan Adnan (Mas) 11-8, 11-4, 11-5 (25m)
Adrian Waller (Eng) 3-1 Cameron Pilley (Aus) 7-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-5  (54m)

Round One – Men’s Draw:

[4] Nick Matthew (Eng) v Daryl Selby (Eng) – 19:30pm
Saurav Ghosal (Ind) v Lucas Serme (Fra) – 20:15pm
Nicolas Mueller (Sui) v Grégoire Marche (Fra) – 18:00pm
Mathieu Castagnet (Fra) v [6] Amr Shabana (Egy) – 18:45pm
[8] Tarek Momen (Egy) v Max Lee (Hkg) – 13:30pm
Olli Tuominen (Fin) v Omar Abdel Meguid (Egy) – 14:15pm
Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy) v Joe Lee (Eng) – 16:30pm
Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned) v [2] Gregory Gaultier – 17:15pm

 Pictures by Steve Cubbins (SquashSite)

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