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Seeds Succeed at J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions

HP 14TC4803
Form held as three former titleholders playing their first round matches in the 2014 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions moved into the next round by demonstrating the qualities that have made them the standout players of their generation.

Current world #1 and the 2012 ToC titleholder Nick Matthew dispatched countryman and friend Adrian Grant in three games with relative ease. The reigning World Champion was in classic form , attacking the ball early at every opportunity. The outcome was never in doubt as Matthew opened up early leads in each game to run away with the match.

The two Englishmen have been playing each other since they were 12. “Psychologically it is hard to play someone you know so well, “said Matthew, one of the strongest players on the PSA Tour, mentally and physically. “So I am especially pleased to have won the match in three games.”

Egypt’s Amr Shabana, the 2006 and 2007 ToC titleholder, eliminated his countryman Omar Abdel Aziz in straight games.  The 30-year-old Aziz, who had layed two qualifying matches which went the distance before getting to his glass court main draw match, didn’t have much left in the tank to challenge the player who is called “The Maestro” by his peers.

“It is tough to play 10 games before even getting on court to play one of the greatest players ever in the game,” said Aziz after the match. “Shabs reads the ball and his opponent better than anybody else.  So you have to always keep changing your strategy with him.”  The qualifier had no answer, though, for the variety and fluidity of his 34-year-old opponent’s game.

After the match, Shabana declared, “I am as strong as I have ever been, so I am just keeping my head down and seeing how far I can go.”

James Willstrop, the third former ToC titleholder in the day’s line up,  dropped the first game of his match to Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller, one of the few players who matches his 6”4” stature. “It took me a long time to get going today,” said the Englishman. “But I became more accurate in the second game and that put more pressure on my opponent.”

Using the accuracy and touch that are his trademarks, Willstromp romped through the second game and won it 11-1.  He then had to save a game ball at 9-10 in the third game before eking out a 12-10 win. In the fourth, it was all Willstrop as he grabbed an 8-3 lead before closing out the match 11-5.  “I was a bit rusty out there today,” said Willstrop, who, like most of the players, had taken a month’s break before the start of the ToC. When asked what the difference between the two players was, Muller said, ”He just knows where to put the balls.”

Willstrop’s next opponent is Australian Cameron Pilley who ended the day’s matches with an especially authoritative 3-0 victory over Malaysia’s Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan.  Pilley, who literally led from start to finish the entire match relished his time on the glass court. “I absolutely love playing here,” he said after the match. .”I was really, really looking forward to playing today, and once I got out there, I was hitting really well and not missing much.”

South African Steven Coppinger defeated Malaysia’s Ong Beng Hee in four games to set up a second round match with Nick Matthew. Coppinger who had a breakthrough victory at last year’s ToC, said “The court felt quite familiar and it brought back wonderful memories of last year.” But memories don’t win matches, so Coppinger had to focus on the task at hand and got off to a good start, winning the first game 11-7. The second game was controlled entirely by Ong Beng Hee. With the games tied one all, Coppinger received advice from Coach David Palmer, a former world #1 and multiple world Open champion. “Having Dave in my corner was great,” said Coppinger. The advice: “When things aren’t going your way, go back to basics.”

Dutchman L.J. Anjema defeated Mohd Ali Anwar Reda  of Egypt in straight games to earn a quarterfinal match against Shabana. “it was really great until I got to 2-0, 9-4 and then I got edgy,” he said. Anjema nonetheless secured the victory. “I used to be an up and coming player that others thought could be dangerous,” says the 30-year-old. “Now it feels nice to be one of the veterans.  My technique is getting better and I am using age as my advantage.”

Another veteran, sixth seed Peter Barker, needed five games against Karim Abdel Gawad  to secure his quarterfinal spot. The Englishman had been off the tour for several months recuperating from a calf muscle that had torn in two places.  “Physically I felt good,” said Barker. “I don’t feel that I played that well, but a win is a win.”

Barker’s quarterfinal opponent is Mathieu Castagnet, who was the definition of mental toughness as he battled back from an 0-2 deficit to defeat his French rival and compatriot, Gregoire Marche. Castagnet fell behind 0-2 as qualifier Marche hit the court with great retrieving and shooting. Biut Castagnet slowed the temp of the game and disrupted Marche’s rythm to win the final three games and the match. As they shook hands at the end of the match Castagnet leaned into say something to Gregoire and pointed to his head. “You have to be more solid in the head,” said Castagnet.


Main Draw First round results

 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, NY, NY

A Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Series Gold event

Friday, January 17, 2014

[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Adrian Grant (ENG)  11-4, 11-5, 11-4  40 mins

Stephen Coppinger (RSA) bt Ong Beng Hee (MAS)   11-7,6-11,11-7,11-5  64 mins
Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) bt [Q] Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY)  11-8, 11-4, 11-9  47 mins
[7] Amr Shabana (EGY) bt [Q] Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY) 11-3, 11-6, 11-7  36 mins
[6] Peter Barker (ENG) bt Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 5-11, 11-6, 4-11, 11-7,11-3  73 mins
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt [Q] Gregoire Marche (FRA) 8-11, 9-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-4  92 mins
Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt[Q] Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS)  11-2, 11-6, 11-2  32 mins
[4] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [Q] Nicolas Mueller (SUI)  7-11, 11-1,12-10, 11-5 50 mins
[3] Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v [WC] Todd Harrity (USA)
Tarek Momen (EGY) v [Q] Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY)
Chris Simpson (ENG) v [Q] Ali Farag (EGY)
[8] Daryl Selby (ENG) v [Q] Adrian Waller (ENG)
[5] Karim Darwish (EGY) v Omar Mosaad (EGY)
Saurav Ghosal (IND) v Simon Rosner (GER)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) v Alister Walker (BOT)
[1] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Tom Richards (ENG)