Three-time J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions winner Ramy Ashour defeated fellow Egyptian Mazen Hesham to cap a triumphant return to New York’s Grand Central Terminal as he made his first appearance at the PSA World Series tournament since 2013.
A litany of injuries over the past five years have prevented Ashour from becoming a regular fixture at the tournament, but he had won his last 10 matches in New York, a run which encompassed title wins at both the 2011 and 2013 instalments.
And, on day two of the 2018 edition, the 30-year-old maverick profited from a series of errors from Hesham to take an 11-5, 11-8, 13-11 victory through to round two, where he will take on World No.11 Paul Coll after the Kiwi beat Zahed Mohamed.
“It’s been a while, last time I came here was 2013 and it’s like a dream come true,” said Ashour.
“The tournament is prestigious, everyone wants to win the Tournament of Champions. It’s really good to be back, a lot has happened and I wasn’t sure when I would be back here and when I would win again on court.
“On the last point I was just looking around and absorbing everything. I don’t even want to win it, I just want to play because I’ve won it three times before and I want to be here. I’m just grateful for everything I’ve been through and I’m glad to be back.”
Ashour will be joined in the last 16 by World Champion Mohamed ElShorbagy after he claimed a 21st successive win on the PSA World Tour courtesy of a 3-0 victory over Hong Kong’s Leo Au.
ElShorbagy has won four tournaments in a row – including last month’s PSA World Championships – and picked up where he left off in 2017 to complete an 11-8, 11-6, 11-6 triumph.
“I played him during my junior career and I know how dangerous he is,” said ElShorbagy, who won the Tournament of Champions in 2015 and 2016.
“He’s been in very good form, he beat Ramy in Hong Kong and he took his team into the semis of the World Team Championships last month as well.
“He’s been playing very well and I had to be focused from the first point.”
ElShorbagy will face Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly for a place in the last eight, while compatriot Ali Farag also won on day two with a 3-1 victory against Kiwi qualifier Campbell Grayson.
“To get off to such a start against a tricky opponent is always good and I’m very glad to be through to the second round,” said Farag.
“Campbell likes to play at a mid-pace and he is very accurate, so I had to push up the court a little bit and play with more intensity and I’m happy I was able to do that in the third and the fourth.”
Colombia’s former World No.4 Miguel Angel Rodriguez awaits Farag in round two in a repeat of their quarter-final meeting at the World Championships last month, in which Farag prevailed.
Rodriguez made his breakthrough at this event back in 2015 when he beat current World No.1 Gregory Gaultier en route to a maiden World Series semi-final and he advanced to the second round of this year’s tournament courtesy of a 14-12, 11-8, 11-5 victory over Tsz Fung Yip.
“Yip is a very talented player, he’s very fast and he’s a big guy,” Rodriguez said.
“The last time I played him, I lost in Hong Kong two years ago but I was ready to play this match. The end of the year for me was excellent, so I’m trying to keep that momentum and it worked.”
World No.7 Tarek Momen, meanwhile, defeated compatriot Mohamed Abouelghar in a captivating five-game encounter and he will take on Peruvian World No.10 Diego Elias, who required four games to beat England’s Declan James.
Elsewhere, qualifying for the women’s tournament came to an end today with Harvard Junior Sabrina Sobhy beating World Junior Champion Rowan Elaraby to ensure that there will be four American women in the main draw of the Tournament of Champions for the first time in history.
Sobhy – who will compete alongside older sister Amanda, United States No.1 Olivia Blatchford and 15-year-old wildcard Marina Stefanoni – will take on World No.3 Camille Serme in round one.
Meanwhile, Amanda is set to make her return from a 10-month injury absence against 2007 World Champion Rachael Grinham after the Australian defeated United States No.3 Haley Mendez in the final round of qualifying.
Former World No.2 Jenny Duncalf was also a victor as she edged experienced Mexican Samantha Teran 16-14 in the fifth game of a dramatic 80-minute clash at the Yale Club and she will take on World Champion Raneem El Welily in round one.
The main draw of the women’s tournament begins tomorrow (January 20), while the men’s tournament reaches the second round stage.
Play starts from 12:00 local time (GMT-5) and action from the glass courts inside Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall will be shown live on SQUASHTV (Rest of World) and Eurosport Player (Europe only).
Results – First Round (Bottom Half): 2018 Men’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt [Q] Campbell Grayson (NZL) 3-1: 11-6, 7-11, 11-4, 11-4 (50m)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt [Q] Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) 3-0: 14-12, 11-8, 11-5 (42m)
Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt [Q] Mazen Hesham (EGY) 3-0: 11-5, 11-8, 13-11 (44m)
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt Zahed Mohamed (EGY) 3-0: 11-4, 11-6, 11-6 (44m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 3-2: 11-5, 11-9, 9-11, 7-11, 12-10 (70m)
Diego Elias (PER) bt [Q] Declan James (ENG) 3-1: 11-8, 11-5, 8-11, 12-10 (62m)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Omar Mosaad (EGY) 3-1: 8-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-9 (54m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Leo Au (HKG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-6, 11-6 (32m)
Draw – Men’s Second Round (Top Half): To Be Played January 20
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [Q] Tom Richards (ENG)
James Willstrop (ENG) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v Simon Rösner (GER)
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
Draw – Men’s Second Round (Bottom Half): To Be Played January 21
 Ali Farag (EGY) v Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL0
Ramy Ashour (EGY) v  Paul Coll (NZL)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v Diego Elias (PER)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) v  Mohamed ElShobagy (EGY)
Results – Final Qualifying Round: 2018 Women’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
 Mariam Metwally (EGY) bt  Nada Abbas (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-3, 13-11 (31m)
[L] Sabrina Sobhy (USA) bt  Rowan Elaraby (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 11-4, 11-9 (24m)
 Jenny Duncalf (ENG) bt  Samantha Teran (MEX) 3-2: 11-3, 10-12, 9-11, 11-9, 16-14 (80m)
 Liu Tsz-Ling (HKG) bt  Nele Gilis (BEL) 3-2: 5-11, 11-9, 4-11, 11-7, 12-10 (51m)
 Rachael Grinham (AUS) bt Haley Mendez (USA) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-3 (26m)
Yathreb Adel (EGY) bt  Mayar Hany (EGY) w/o
 Heba El Torky (EGY) bt  Hollie Naughton(CAN) 3-2: 11-0, 11-6,11-13, 10-12, 11-4 (45m)
 Samantha Cornett (CAN) bt  Danielle Letourneau (CAN) 3-0: 11-8, 11-6, 11-3 (27m)
Draw – Women’s First Round (Top Half): To Be Played January 20
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v Joey Chan (HKG)
[Q] Mariam Metwally (EGY) v  Joshna Chinappa (IND)
 Olivia Blatchford (USA) v [Q] Liu Tsz-Ling (HKG)
[Q] Yathreb Adel (EGY) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v [WC] Marina Stefanoni (USA)
Salma Hany (EGY) v  Alison Waters (ENG)
 Emily Whitlock (ENG) v Victoria Lust (ENG)
Fiona Moverley (ENG) v  Laura Massaro (ENG)
Draw – Women’s First Round (Bottom Half): To Be Played January 21
 Camille Serme (FRA) v [Q] Sabrina Sobhy (USA)
Donna Urquhart (AUS) v  Annie Au (HKG)
 Joelle King (NZL) v [Q] Heba El Torky (EGY)
[Q] Samantha Cornett (CAN) v  Nicol David (MAS)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND)
[Q] Rachael Grinham (AUS) v  Amanda Sobhy (USA)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) v Hania El Hammamy (EGY)
[Q] Jenny Duncalf (ENG) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)