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Matthew Makes Quarterfinal

The masters of the game reigned supreme today in second round play at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in Grand Central Terminal as all the remaining seeds advanced to the quarterfinals.

Squash fans filled the Grand Central Terminal stands in the early evening for the highly anticipated Matthew – Shabana match. The prospect of watching these two former world #1s battle in the second round, when normally they would be at least at least a quarterfinal pairing, was tantalizing. And for two games the quality of the squash was on par with a final.  Defending champion Nick Matthew looked especially strong as he eliminated two- time ToC champion Amr Shabana in straight games. “It was a lot like chess out there,” said Matthew after the match. “We have played each other a lot recently and we know each other’s games so well.”

Matthew established early that he would be digging after every ball, and using the volley attack. Shabana showed himself ready to respond in the first two games. The result was lengthy points in which each player was probing for an opening and patiently waiting for the opportunity to hit an attacking shot. Although Shabana is generally considered the better shotmaker, it was Matthew who found more openings. Maintaining at least a two point lead throughout the first game, Matthew won the first game 11-8. At 7-6 in the second, Matthew ran off four straight points to go ahead 2-0. Matthew closed out the match with an 11-8 third game win.

“My game plan was not to have a game plan,” said Matthew. “I felt like I had been overthinking my recent matches, so I decided to just go out and enjoy playing“

The Englishman’s next opponent is another former world #1 from Egypt, Karim Darwish, who dispatched India’s Saurav Ghosal,  11-3, 11-5, 12-10. Darwish was especially forceful when he was down two game balls at 8-10 in the third. “I did not want to go into a fourth game,” he said after the match. So he used a volley attack to win three quick points and ensure a place in the ToC quarterfinals.

Top seed James Willstrop was the day’s first victor, defeating Tarek Momen in four games. “It has been a long time since I have played this early,” said Willstrop, referring to his noon start time. Although he had a 10-8 lead in the first game, it slipped away as Momen hit two front court winners, and Willstrop tinned a fairly easy drop shot.  “I wasn’t disheartened,” Willstrop said.  “It was a testing opening game .I am a big bloke and I need to get my body moving and Tarek makes you move, so I felt like I was just getting started.”

After winning the second game 11-8, Willstrop really picked up momentum and nabbed the third, 11-2. Shooting out to a 6-3 lead in the fourth, Willstrop’s continuing momentum was momentarily halted when Momen asked for an injury time out. With no apparent problems, Momen returned to the court, and the Englishman picked up where he had left off and closed out the match with an 11-6 third game win. ”I was pleased with my accuracy and variety on the court today,” said the victor.

Willstrop will play South African Steven Coppinger in the quarterfinals. Coppinger earned his way to his first ToC quarterfinal by defeating Adrian Grant in five games.

The remaining two former ToC titleholders in the draw, Gregory Gaultier and Ramy Ashour, were ruthlessly efficient in their quest for another title as they won their matches in straight games. “Playing here in Grand Central is unbelievable,” the Frenchman said after his match. “But when you get on court you have to focus on what’s in front of you.” Gaultier’s focus, foot and racquet speed kept Tom Richards off balance for most of their match.

Gaultier will next play Mohammed El Shorbagy who dismissed qualifier Gregoire Marche, 11-8,11-9, 11-7 “I felt a bit flat today,” Said El Shorbagy,” so I am really glad I managed to win in three.” Asked to comment on his quarterfinal pairing with Gaultier, the young Egyptian said, “Of the top four players, I find Gregory the toughest to play. He’s so quick and he attacks and defends well.”

Ashour eliminated Germany’s Simon Rosner in classic “Ramy style” – extraordinary shotmaking and great reach. The two have known each other since their junior playing days. “Ramy is just too good,” Rosner said after the match. “You just never know what he is going to do with the ball.”

Omar Mosaad, who defeated Malaysia’s Ong Beng Hee, 11-8, 11-8, 11-6, will be Ashour’s next opponent.

[1] James Willstrop (ENG) bt. Tarek Momen (EGY) 11-13, 11-8,11-2, 11-6  62 mins

[4] Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt. Simon Rosner (GER) 11-8, 11-8, 11-5    35 mins

Stephen Coppinger (RSA) bt. Adrian Grant (ENG)  11-6,11-9,7-11,9-11,11-1  90 mins

[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt. Tom Richards (ENG) 11-3, 11-6, 11-4  45 mins

[8] Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt. Ong Beng Hee (MAS) 11-8, 11-8, 11-6  38 mins

[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt.  Amr Shabana (EGY) 11-8, 11-6, 11-8  50 mins

Mohd El Shorbagy (EGY) bt. Gregoire Marche (FRA) 11-8,11-9, 11-7  41 min

Karim Darwish (EGY) v. Saurav Ghosal (IND) 11-3, 11-5, 12-10  38 mins