10 - 12
11 - 4
11 - 7
11 - 7
Saturday, January 21
Qualifier Miguel Angel Rodriguez upended Hisham Ashour in a hard fought five-game thriller in opening round play in the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions. The 26-year-old Colombian was a whirling dervish on court, using his extraordinary speed and quickness to cover every corner of the court. Ashour was bold and boisterous. The standing room only crowd in Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central was captivated.
“I knew it was going to be tough tonight,” said Rodriguez, “but I also knew this was going to be my opportunity to get to the second round.” Rodriguez won the first game 11-7, but Ashour stepped up with a mix of power and shotmaking to win the next two 11-9 and 11-8. The momentum shifted back to the South American as he tied the match by winning the fourth game 11-5.
Ashour surged ahead in the fifth, 4-2 and 7-4, but Rodriguez was determined and tied the game at seven all, at which point it was anyone’s match to win. “At seven all I said to myself, ’I am not tired, I am not injured, I can get to all the balls,” shared Rodriguez after the match. Rodriguez flung himself at balls that seemed ungettable until he got his racquet on them. Ashour responded by hitting length followed by drops, followed by lobs, and led again at 9-8. But in the end Rodriguez got to more balls and won the match 11-9.
Rodriguez faces another Egyptian in the second round, two-time titleholder Amr Shabana, who defeated fellow countryman and tournament roommate Mohd Ali Anwar Reda in three straightforward games. Shabana has enjoyed a recent run of exceptionally fine play on a par with his days at the top of the world rankings. “I know I am just as god as anyone on the PSA tour,” the 32-year-old veteran said post-match. “But now every day it is about wanting to play” Shabana’s desire was evident as he moved Reda to the back of the court with crisp rails, forcing a defensive response that provided the opening to hit a winner. Shabana punctuated match ball with a bit of flair as he did a double pump fake before dropping the ball to the left front corner to claim his place in the second round.
In the day’s opening match, top seed Nick Matthew looked strong and fit as he defeated Wael El Hindi in four games. “I played well for 2 ½ games.” the Englishman said. “Midway through the third, it got a bit scrappy and I lost my concentration.” Matthew’s countryman Peter Barker walked by as Matthew offered this self-assessment and reassured his friend that “it’s good to have a little rough going now because you’ll be better prepared for the later rounds.” This is especially true for the former world #1 who was forced to take a break from squash at year-end due to injury. Matthew’s next opponent is compatriot Adrian Grant. The Englishman survived a strong showing by qualifier Alan Clyne of Scotland who nabbed the second game before succumbing to Grant.
Mohammed El Shorbagy, the 21-year-old older brother of yesterday’s giant killer Marwan El Shorbagy, defeated Pakistan’s Amir Atlas Khan in four games. “It is good to be able to win even when you are not playing your best,” was El Shorbagy’s philosophical assessment of his own play. Khan, who feels strongly about reviving Pakistan’s standing in the squash community, could not maintain the early leads he established in the first and third games, ultimately succumbing to El Shorbagy’s all-around attacking game. El Shorbagy next plays the hard hitting Australian Cameron Pilley who ousted Finland’s Ollie Tuominen in three games.
Gregory Gaultier, the tournament’s third seed and the 2009 titleholder, moves into the second round with a straight games victory over Borja Golan Santin. His opponent will be Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller who defeated qualifier Stephen Coppinger of South Africa in four games.
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bts. Wael El Hindi (EGY) 11-5,11-6,9-11,11-7
Adrian Grant (ENG) bts. [Q] Alan Clyne (SCO) 11-5,16-14,9-11,11-5
Cameron Pilley (AUS) bts. Olli Tuominen (FIN) 11-7,11-3,11-8
 Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) bts. Aamir Atlas Khan (PAK) 11-4,10-12,11-7,11-5
 Amr Shabana (EGY) bts. Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) 11-7,11-8,11-7
[Q] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bts. Hisham Ashour (EGY) 11-7,9-11,8-11,11-5, 11-9
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bts. Borja Golan Santin (ESP) 11-5,11-9,11-9
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) btw. [Q] Stephen Coppinger (RSA) 11-7,11-4,9-11,11-4
Noon  James Willstrop (ENG) v. Mohammed Abbas (EGY)
1:00 PM Daryl Selby (ENG) v. Simon Rosner (GER)
2:00 PM  Nick Matthew (ENG) v. Adrian Grant (ENG)
3:00 PM  Peter Barker (ENG) v. Shahier Razik (CAN)
4:00 PM Tom Richards (ENG) v. [Q] Marwan El Shorbagy (EGY)
6:30 PM  Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) v. Cameron Pilley (AUS)
7:30 PM  Amr Shabana (EGY) v. [Q] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
8:30 PM  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v. Nicolas Mueller (SUI)