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Egypt’s Ali Farag played focused and composed squash to defeat Mexico’s Cesar Salazar in three games in the final qualifying round of the J.P. Morgan tournament of Champions and earn his first trip to the iconic Grand Central Terminal glass court.
“I cannot even describe this feeling,” said the exhilarated 22-year-old after the match. “I have dreamed of playing on the ToC glass court for ages.”
For Farag, the pressure of the Tournament of Champions qualifying draw is exacerbated by the fact that the Harvard University senior plays only one professional tournament during the year. “Because it is the only PSA Tour event all year that I play, I can become almost too desperate to win,” he said. Indeed, in last year’s ToC qualifying, Farag had more than one match ball, but couldn’t convert them for the coveted trip to the glass court.
Farag’s game plan was to mitigate Salazar’s foot speed by holding his shots as long as possible. The first game seesawed back and forth until Farag stepped up to take command and win the game 11-9. The second game was all about the Farag attack and too many unforced errors by Salazar. Farag seemed to have the match well in hand at 10-7 in the third, but Salazar managed to tie the game at 10 all. “I started thinking about the match balls I had last year,” Farag explained. “But then I composed myself.” Two points later, Farag won the game 12-10 and was on his way to a first round main draw ToC match in Grand Central terminal where he will play England’s Chris Simpson, the lowest ranked player in the main draw other than the qualifiers.
All the other qualifiers had to fight lengthier battles to secure their appearances on the Grand Central glass court. Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller, the top seeded player in the qualifying draw, needed five games and 79 minutes to defeat Leo Au of Hong Kong. The first game was a back and forth battle as both players played solid defense and hit attacking shots when they had an opening. Au drew first blood as he eked out the 13-11 first game win. Muller won a close second game 11-9 and completely dominated the third, winning 11-3. Au clawed his way back with effective attacking shots in the fourth. The fifth game was another seesaw until the very end when Muller, with more life in his legs, closed out the victory 11-8. Muller meets 2011 ToC champion James Willstrop in his opening round in the main draw.
Mohd Adnan of Malaysia took a quick 2-0 game lead against Alan Clyne. The Scotsman then ratcheted up his play with clean, attacking squash to win game three. At 10-9 in the fourth, Adnan hit a volley kill into the nick to earn a main draw first round match against Australian Cameron Pilley. .
Local hopes were dashed when Christopher Gordon of the US could not overcome Egypt’s Omar Abdel Meguid. Although Gordon won the first game 11-7, Meguid claimed the second and third games in overtime and the fourth 11-6. He next plays compatriot Tarek Momen.
Omar Abdel Aziz defied the seedings as he defeated countryman Marwan El Shorbagy in five games. Aziz’s first round opponent is two-time ToC champion Amr Shabana.
The fourth and final Egyptian into the main draw is Mohd Ali Anwar Reda who dropped the first game to Hong Kong’s Max Lee but recovered quickly to win in four games. Reda will meet Laurens Jans Anjema of the Netherlands on the glass court.
Adrian Waller will play countryman Daryl Selby in the main draw by virtue of his victory over New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson, who retired in the fourth game due to injury. Frenchman Gregoire Marche, who defeated England’s Charles Sharpes with a 13-11 overtime win in the fourth and deciding game, faces compatriot Mathieu Castagnet next.
 Nicolas Mueller (SUI) bt.  Leo Au (HKG) 11-13, 11-9, 11-3, 3-11, 11-8 79 mins
 Mohd. Nafizwan Adnan bt.  Alan Clyne (SCO) 11-4, 11-8, 5-11, 11-9 80 mins
Ali Farag (EGY) bt.  Cesar Salazar (MEX) 11-9, 11-4, 12-10 41 mins
 Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) bt. Christopher Gordon (USA) 7-11,13-11,12-10,11-6 75 mins
 Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY bt.  Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) 11-9, 11-9, 7-11, 6-11, 11-1 69 mins
 Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) bt  Max Lee (HKG) 6-11,11-4,11-5, 11-7 76 mins
 Adrian Waller (ENG) bt.  Campbell Grayson (NZL) 13-11, 8-11, 11-7, 7-5 ret, injury 86 minutes
 Gregoire March (FRA) bt. Charles Sharpes (ENG) 11-4, 11-5,6-11,13-11 64 mins