While the two reigning gold medallists eased into the third round of the squash singles events at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, the opening day of action belonged to Jamaica after the Caribbean country's only two male players – Christopher Binnie and Lewis Walters – caused major upsets to reach the last 16.
Binnie, ranked at No.65 on the PSA World Rankings, was up against World No.13 Saurav Ghosal and the number three seed from Kolkata took the opening two games and looked to be coasting to his anticipated place in the next round.
But world No.65 Binnie, who had already played a 1st round match in the afternoon session, kept his focus and drew level. In a topsy-turvy decider, favourite Ghosal moved forward to match-ball at 10-8.
But, undaunted – and cheered on by a significant weight of Jamaican support from the crowd – Binnie battled through to claim his shock 5-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9, 12-10 triumph in 74 minutes.
“I felt pretty confident going into the match and even though I went down two love I kept on pushing,” said a delighted Binnie afterwards.
“We had all the Jamaican contingent here tonight – a big crowd tonight and that was great.”
Binnie’s Doubles partner Walters, ranked at No.260 in the world, also claimed a shock win of his own as he beat Peter Creed, the 15th seed from Wales ranked over 200 places higher, 7-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-9 in 48 minutes.
Just a few hours later, the 30-year-old Games debutant continued his unscheduled run by seeing off Malta’s Daniel Zammit-Lewis 11-7, 11-9, 11-4 to claim his slot in the last 16 round.
On the decider, the eight-time Caribbean champion explained: “I was just trying to play one point at a time and keep calm. I think I controlled my emotions pretty well. He made a couple of errors at eight-all and put a couple of balls in the middle where thankfully I didn’t hit the tin. He had a couple of match balls and I was lucky to pounce on a couple of good ones at the end. I’m just happy to get through.
“It’s the biggest day of my career for sure – even though it’s a short career so far – but it’s only the second round so I have to put some perspective on it. But I have to enjoy this – he’s top 20 in the world and it’s the first top 20 win I’ve ever had. But I’ve been working really hard and hopefully tomorrow I can be close to this again to try and put in another good performance.”
Defending champions Nick Matthew and Nicol David both reached the third round without incident. Englishman Matthew, the men’s gold medallist both in 2010 and 2014, began his 2018 campaign by despatching Ugandan Ian Rukunya 11-2, 11-6, 11-2. The 37-year-old favourite, who plans to retire at the end of this season, will now face Indian Vikram Malhotra, the 16th seed, for a place in the quarter-finals.
David is also going for a third successive gold medal. The only player competing in the singles event for the sixth successive time, David overwhelmed Maltese left-hander Colette Sultana 11-1, 11-4, 11-2 in 23 minutes.
“It was a good match – it's always good to see new countries coming to the Commonwealth Games,” said the third seed.
“The set up here is amazing – you can see that the Games has always improved every single time, the venue is amazing and we've been looked after really well.
“I'll be playing Samantha Cornett – it'll be a good match and I'll definitely have to be sharp from the word go.
“It all started for me in 1998 where the opportunity was there for me to participate in this event. We had so much support from the Malaysian government to take squash to the next level and I was lucky enough to keep getting that support from Malaysia up to now.
So these Games are really important to Malaysia, for myself – but most importantly for squash being in a multi-sport games like this where the medals are held in the highest regard. So everyone's going for it.”
Cornett was the first woman to claim her place in the third round after beating Mary Fung-A-Fat, from Guyana, 11-5, 11-2, 11-4 in 18 minutes.
“It feels very good to be the first player through to the last 16,” said the 27-year-old tenth seed from Toronto, one of only two Canadians competing in the 2018 Games.
“I know that our guys, and the other women, would love to be here too – but they didn't qualify. We had to qualify, so Squash Canada sent us to the World Doubles to try and get us in the top five, which was Commonwealth Canada's criteria. Nikki (Todd) and I finished in fifth place so we are here.
“This is the biggest event I've been a part of – it's pretty tough going. It's huge and I'm delighted to be part of it.”
On the prospect of playing David, Cornett added: “I really respect her – on court and off – and I know it's going to be a fun match.”
One of the event's biggest prospects is Tesni Evans, the sixth seed from Wales who has enjoyed some major scalps in recent months.
The World No.12 from Rhyl beat Guyana's Taylor Fernandes 11-5, 11-7, 11-3 to earn her place in the last 16 round.
On the possible pressure she faces, 25-year-old Evans said: “It's a good thing, I think. Obviously compared to four years ago there's a lot more pressure and a little bit more expectation – but I still think there are a lot of other people with a lot of pressure on them as well.
“The field is so strong that anyone could almost do it – and because it's the Commonwealth Games, everyone's going to give probably 10 or 15 percent more than they would do in another match if they can. So I don't think of it as pressure, but another opportunity.”
In the longest – and, arguably, most popular – win of the day, Aussie Rex Hedrick upset the form book by overcoming Malaysia's 13th seed Eain Yow Ng in five dramatic games.
RESULTS: Commonwealth Games Squash, Gold Coast, Australia
Men's 1st round:
Ian Rukunya (UGA) bt Stephen Henry (FIJ) 11-2, 11-3, 11-2 (17m)
Xavier Koenig (MRI) bt Yusif Mansaray (SLE) 11-3, 11-3, 11-8 (18m)
 Vikram Malhotra (IND) bt Manda Chilambwe (ZAM) 11-6, 11-5, 11-2 (26m)
Evan Williams (NZL) bt Jacob Kelly (CAY) 11-9, 11-5, 13-11 (27m)
Othneil Bailey (SVG) bt Hardeep Reel (KEN) 12-14, 4-11, 11-4, 11-6, 13-11 (37m)
Ernest Jombla (SLE) bt Klaus Pragassen (SEY) 13-15, 11-4, 11-7, 6-11, 11-9 (39m)
Daniel Zammit-Lewis (MLT) bt Kale Wilson (TRI) 13-11, 11-8, 11-8 (32m)
Lewis Walters (JAM) bt  Peter Creed (WAL) 7-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-9 (48m)
 Campbell Grayson (NZL) bt Jason-Ray Khalil (GUY) 11-3, 12-10, 11-2 (24m)
Kevin Moran (SCO) bt Jules Snagg (SVG) 11-7, 11-8, 17-15 (27m)
Farhan Zaman (PAK) bt Joe Chapman (IVB) 11-6, 9-11, 11-4, 11-6 (27m)
Christopher Binnie (JAM) bt Jason Doyle (SVG) 11-5, 11-6, 11-8 (23m)
Micah Franklin (BER) bt James Fayia (SLE) 11-2, 11-3, 11-1 (15m)
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt Sailesh Pala (FIJ) 11-3, 11-3, 11-4 (18m)
Rex Hedrick (AUS) bt  Eain Yow Ng (MAS) 13-11, 6-11, 8-11, 11-9, 12-10 (93m)
Sunil Seth (GUY) bt Shawn Simpson (BAR) 11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 11-4 (32m)
Tayyab Aslam (PAK) bt Neville Sorrentino (IVB) 11-3, 11-4, 11-4 (15m)
Michael Kawooya (UGA) bt Madako Junior Suari (PNG) 12-10, 11-3, 11-6 (23m)
Ravindu Laksiri (SRI) bt Romit Parshottam (FIJ) 11-2, 11-2, 11-5 (12m)
 Harinder Pal Sandhu (IND) bt Cameron Stafford (CAY) 11-3, 11-13, 11-6, 11-8 (45m)
Ivan Yuen (MAS) bt Mandela Patrick (TRI) 11-4, 11-2, 11-6 (22m)
Kelvin Ndhlovu (ZAM) bt Christian Navas (GIB) 11-4, 11-0, 11-3
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Ian Rukunya (UGA) 11-2, 11-6, 11-2 (20m)
 Vikram Malhotra (IND) bt Xavier Koenig (MRI) 11-4, 11-3, 11-0 (16m)
 Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) bt Evan Williams (NZL) 7-11, 11-5, 11-8, 11-6 (50m)
 Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Othneil Bailey (SVG) 11-2, 11-4, 11-3 (18m)
 Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt Ernest Jombla (SLE) 11-7, 11-3, 11-2 (18m)
Lewis Walters (JAM) bt Daniel Zammit-Lewis (MLT) 11-7, 11-9, 11-4 (33m)
 Campbell Grayson (NZL) bt Kevin Moran (SCO) 11-9, 11-0, 11-9 (31m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt Farhan Zaman (PAK) 11-5, 11-1, 11-7 (27m)
Christopher Binnie (JAM) bt  Saurav Ghosal (IND) 5-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9, 12-10 (74m)
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt Micah Franklin (BER) 11-6, 11-3, 11-3 (29m)
Rex Hedrick (AUS) bt Sunil Seth (GUY) 11-4, 11-2, 11-3 (32m)
 Alan Clyne (SCO) bt Tayyab Aslam (PAK) 11-6, 11-7, 9-11, 11-7 (60m)
 Daryl Selby (ENG) bt Michael Kawooya (UGA) 11-4, 11-5, 11-7 (21m)
 Greg Lobban (SCO) bt Ravindu Laksiri (SRI) 11-8, 11-8, 11-6 (24m)
Ivan Yuen (MAS) bt  Harinder Pal Sandhu (IND) 11-8, 11-6, 11-1 (33m)
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt Kelvin Ndhlovu (ZAM) 11-5, 11-7, 11-2 (26m)
Women's 1st round:
Amanda Haywood (BAR) bt Caroline Laing (CAY) 11-9, 11-5, 9-11, 5-11, 11-7 (40m)
Colette Sultana (MLT) bt Samantha Hennings (CAY) 11-7, 11-3, 11-4 (20m)
Deon Saffery (WAL) bt Madina Zafar (PAK) 11-8, 11-4, 11-6 (22m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt Amanda Haywood (BAR) 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 (15m)
 Amanda Landers-Murphy (NZL) bt Mihiliya Methsarani (SRI) 12-10, 11-9, 11-4 (23m)
Aifa Azman (MAS) bt  Lisa Aitken (SCO) w/o
 Tesni Evans (WAL) bt Taylor Fernandes (GUY) 11-5, 11-7, 11-3 (17m)
 Donna Urquhart (AUS) bt Faiza Zafar (PAK) 11-1, 11-2, 11-4 (16m)
 Christine Nunn (AUS) bt Dianne Kellas (MLT) 11-3, 11-3, 11-2 (16m)
 Nikki Todd (CAN) bt Khaaliqa Nimji (KEN) 11-4, 11-8, 11-7 (17m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt Alison Mua (FIJ) 11-1, 11-3, 11-6 (13m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt Colette Sultana (MLT) 11-1, 11-4, 11-2 (23m)
 Samantha Cornett (CAN) bt Mary Fung-A-Fat (GUY) 11-5, 11-2, 11-4 (18m)
 Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) bt Charlotte Knaggs (TRI) 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 (19m)
 Alison Waters (ENG) bt Meagan Best (BAR) 11-5, 11-1, 11-8 (22m)
 Joshna Chinappa (IND) bt Lynette Vai (PNG) 11-3, 11-7, 11-2 (16m)
 Tamika Saxby (AUS) bt Eilidh Bridgeman (CAY) 11-4, 11-2, 11-1 (16m)
 Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS) bt Alison Thomson (SCO) 11-7, 11-13, 11-8, 11-8 (39m)
Men's 3rd round line-up:
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v  Vikram Malhotra (IND)
 Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) v  Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS)
 Cameron Pilley (AUS) v Lewis Walters (JAM)
 James Willstrop (ENG) v  Campbell Grayson (NZL)
Christopher Binnie (JAM) v  Joel Makin (WAL)
 Alan Clyne (SCO) v Rex Hedrick (AUS)
 Daryl Selby (ENG) v  Greg Lobban (SCO)
 Paul Coll (NZL) v  Harinder Pal Sandhu (IND)
Women's 3rd round line-up:
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v  Amanda Landers-Murphy (NZL)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) v Aifa Azman (MAS)
 Donna Urquhart (AUS) v  Christine Nunn (AUS)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v  Nikki Todd (CAN)
 Nicol David (MAS) v  Samantha Cornett (CAN)
 Alison Waters (ENG) v  Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND)
 Joshna Chinappa (IND) v  Tamika Saxby (AUS)
 Joelle King (NZL) v  Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS)