The 2019 Grasshopper Cup, PSA World Tour Gold tournament begins today, with the Squash Arena Uster hosting fixtures from the opening round – and you can watch LIVE on our official Facebook page.
Play gets under way at 13:30 (GMT+1) when England's Declan James takes on rising Malaysian talent Eain Yow Ng.
The home crowd will have a couple of Swiss stars to cheer on as the country's No.1 player – Nicolas Mueller – lines up against Hong Kong's Tsz Fung Yip at 18:30.
Mueller's younger compatriot – World No.68 Dimitri Steinmann – is also in action against Hong Kong opposition in Max Lee, while former World No.1 James Willstrop clashes with Spain's Borja Golan in one of the day's standout matches.
We'll have reports and reaction here, while you can also watch all of the action live on our Facebook page.
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James Comes Through Against Ng
England’s World No.20 Declan James booked his spot in the second round of the 2019 Grasshopper Cup after beating up-and-coming Malaysian Eain Yow Ng 3-2 in the opening match of the tournament.
The size difference between the two was substantial – James totalling 6 feet, two inches in height compared to Eain Yow’s five and a half feet – but the gap between them on the court was anything but as Ng twice fought back from a game down to level.
But James showed impressive mental strength to hold Ng off in the title decider, closing out the win by a 13-11, 8-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-5 margin to ensure he will play India’s Saurav Ghosal in the next round.
“It was a tough match, he started better than I did and was firing in shots,” said James.
“He’s a very skilful player, he’s very fast and I didn’t really know what to expect because we haven’t played each other before. I was trying to feel him out and he was straight on it from the word go.
“The match was a bit up and down, and in the fifth I managed to find a mental advantage. Around 3-3, 4-4, I got that two point lead and that was critical really. I wasn’t as accurate as I wanted to be, but I came through and showed some mental resilience, which I’m happy about.
“I need to go back and look at why I wasn’t as accurate as I needed to be because in round two I will need to bring that up a lot. He [Ghosal] has been around the top 10 in the world for many years, he’s a wonderful player, he was top eight at the World Championships a few weeks ago.
“You know what you’re going to get with Saurav, he’s highly skilful, he’s fit and he’s very fast, so I’m going to have bring my “A’ game in terms of squash and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
James, 25, is appearing at the Grasshopper Cup for the first time since 2014, where he failed to make it out of qualifying, and he is coming off the back of a run to the quarter-finals of the Citigold Canary Wharf Classic two weeks ago, where he scalped World No.10 Marwan ElShorbagy en route.
Declan James (ENG) bt Eain Yow Ng (MAS) 3-2: 13-11, 8-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-5 (67m)
Makin On Form to Defeat Marche
Joel Makin (right) v Gregoire Marche (left)
Welshman Joel Makin marched into the last 16 after a commanding 3-0 victory over World No. 17 Gregoire Marche.
Both Makin and Marche have been in fine form recently and currently sit at career-best World Rankings of No.18 and No.17, respectively. They were meeting for the fourth time on the PSA Tour and the second time in three weeks after Makin ended a two-match losing streak to the Frenchman with victory in the first round of the Citigold Canary Wharf Classic.
That match was played using a best-of-three games scoring format and, despite the scoring reverting to the traditional best of five format for this tournament, the victor was the same as Makin put in a controlled, measured performance to get the win.
The pair went toe-to-toe in some long, attritional rallies at the Squash Arena Uster, but Marche found the tin on too many occasions as Makin’s consistency saw him prevail during the crucial points.
Makin edged victories in all three games to earn his spot in round two, where World No.1 and 2017 Grasshopper Cup runner-up Ali Farag will await.
Joel Makin (WAL) bt Gregoire Marche (FRA) 3-0: 11-9, 12-10, 11-7 (56m)
Selby Beats Pilley in 85-minute Epic
Daryl Selby (right) v Cameron Pilley (left)
England’s Daryl Selby got the better of close friend Cameron Pilley to seal his place in the second round with an 11-6, 9-11, 11-4, 7-11, 16-14 victory after 85 minutes of gripping action.
At 36 years of age, Selby and Pilley are both veterans of the PSA Tour and had met eight times previously, while they also co-host the popular squash podcast ‘Comments from the Couch’.
Selby came into the match having won seven of their eight previous fixtures, with Pilley’s last win against the World No.21 coming back in 2014, and the man Yamba had lost in each of their last four matches.
The pair have contested some lengthy battles down the years, with their average match time totalling 69 minutes, and spectators at Squash Arena Uster were treated to a gladiatorial affair today.
Selby was twice able to get his nose in front – with comfortable wins in the first and third games sandwiching a second game triumph for Pilley – but a shift in momentum saw Pilley build on some consistent length hitting to draw level once again as the pair went the distance to five games for the first time since 2010.
Pilley had the better of the opening exchanges in the decider, going 4-1 up, but he was forced into an all-out battle as Selby redoubled his efforts, and the Englishman was able to reign his opponent back in to hold match ball.
He wasn’t able to convert though as Pilley came back to send the match to a decider, and match ball changed hands multiple times during a high-quality battle for supremacy. It was Selby who came out on top to close out the win, with a second round encounter against No.4 seed Simon Rösner up next for the World No.21.
“I think I was a little bit lucky at the end, to be honest,” Selby said afterwards.
“It’s always 50-50 in the fifth game, especially when it goes to the tie-break. I guess I’m a little bit frustrated, I was 1-0 up and 9-5 up [in the second] and I feel I was playing quite well and in control of the match. I had a little bit of a concentration lapse at the end of that game and Pilley put together some good rallies.
“It’s a huge difference being 2-0 up rather than 1-1, and I’m a bit annoyed with myself, I’ve been in that situation a lot of times and concentration just lapses for a split second, and that’s all it takes at this level to let someone else back in. That was frustrating, but Pilley played very well after that, he changed his game and I thought he was very accurate with what he was doing. He didn’t really give me too many opportunities to attack him.
“You could see how well he was moving by the end of the third and fourth game, he was picking everything up at the front and putting me under a lot of pressure. Sometimes you have to just grind it out and get a win on the board. Somehow, I found a way to win.
“With me and Pilley, there’s that respect there, we both play hard and fair. At the end it gets a little bit physical, but both of us are getting tired and trying to play everything we can. When you go on court you go on court and try and beat each other, then off the court we have a lot of fun and do the podcast together, it’s always difficult, but you just have to get on with it and battle against each other, that’s the nature of the beast.”
Daryl Selby (ENG) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 3-2: 11-6, 9-11, 11-4, 7-11, 16-14 (85m)
Salem on Form to Oust Parker
Zahed Salem (left) v George Parker (right)
Egypt’s Zahed Salem was in fine form to see off World No.31 George Parker in straight games – and his reward will be a second round fixture with World No.6 Miguel Rodriguez.
Salem and Parker had met just once before on the PSA Tour, with a bruising 95-minute battle going the way of the Egyptian when they played in the quarter-finals of the Open International de Squash de Nantes last September.
But it was a straightforward victory for the World No.14 this time around as he put in a composed display to limit Parker’s ability to attack. Salem won 11-9, 11-6, 11-5 to reach the second round of this tournament for the first time.
“We played in Nantes and I knew it was going to be a very tough match because it was a five setter before,” said Salem.
“I was looking forward to winning as quick as possible. I wasn’t going for many attacks, but I was trying to keep calm and focused. In the first game, I started with a few mistakes and he was playing well.
“I had to get back on my game to focus again, and it was important to win the first one. I’m glad that I was able to win in three today.
“Me and Miguel have played a lot and last time I was able to beat him in Detroit. I’m sure he’s looking for revenge tomorrow, I’m also looking forward to this match and I hope I can play well and win.”
Zahed Salem (EGY) bt George Parker (ENG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-6, 11-5 (37m)
Golan Eases Past Willstrop
Borja Golan lunges for the ball against James Willstrop
Spain’s Borja Golan took just 23 minutes to get the better of former World No.1 James Willstrop, with a comfortable 11-2, 11-6, 11-4 victory seeing the World No.30 book a second round berth against top seed and last year's runner-up Mohamed ElShorbagy.
Willstrop led their head-to-head record 10-3 coming into the match, but the Englishman had suffered from illness in the build up to the tournament and looked off the pace as he never really got going at Squash Arena Uster.
Golan, meanwhile, was clinical and accurate with his shots in all four corners of the court as he recorded his first win over Willstrop since 2013.
“It’s so difficult to win 3-0 against James, he’s such a good player,” said Golan.
“I think today, he struggled with his movement, so I tried to take advantage of that. He played to the front a lot and his movement was not the best.
“In any tournament, I will take the 3-0 victory in 20 minutes all day long. These matches are so difficult, it’s so equal, and you play with very good players. To go through is really good for me.”
Golan and ElShorbagy will meet for the second tournament in a row, and Golan will aim to avenge a narrow 2-1 defeat at the Citigold Canary Wharf Classic two weeks ago, which was played using a best-of-three games scoring format.
Golan said: “I played good squash [in Canary Wharf] but Mohamed is the No.2 in the world. He’s such a solid and talented player and each day on court with him is different.
“I will try to give it my best and enjoy the opportunity to play again with him because there aren’t many more chances to play against the World No.1 or World No.2. I just want to enjoy the match and hopefully I can play well and maybe win, you never know.”
Borja Golan (ESP) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 11-2, 11-6, 11-4 (23m)
Home Favourite Mueller Reaches Round Two
Nicolas Mueller (left) v Tsz Fung Yip (right)
Swiss No.1 Nicolas Mueller got his campaign off to a winning start on home soil as he defeated Hong Kong’s Tsz Fung Yip 3-1 in front of a vocal home crowd.
Mueller, known on tour as the “Swiss Rocket’, is a real crowd favourite at the Grasshopper Cup and has starred in some memorable matches since his first appearance here in 2012.
The World No.28 was backed to the hilt at Squash Arena Uster, with every winner greeted by a crescendo of cheers and the sound of cow bells ringing as the spectators got behind their man.
Mueller was pegged back by Yip after taking a one-game lead, but he rose to the occasion to come out on top with victories in third and fourth games, and his reward is a second round matchup with World No.8 Mohamed Abouelghar.
“I’m very pumped,” said Mueller afterwards.
“I’ve been playing well over the last two or three weeks, and I was glad I peaked at the right moments. This season hasn’t been the best, but I’m very happy to be here and happy to play like this in front of my home crowd, it was amazing.
“I’m one of those people that would rather play in front of 10,000 people rather than two people. There are a couple of people who prefer it the other way round, but I thrive during moments like that, especially when you know that most of the people in the crowd are rooting for you.
“I’m looking forward to the match with Abouelghar because he is one of the fairest players out there, and I know it’s going to be a good spectacle for the crowd.”
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) bt Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) 3-1: 11-6, 7-11, 11-6, 11-7 (38m)
Lee Halts Wildcard Steinmann
Hong Kong’s Max Lee came through a closely-contested encounter with tournament wildcard Dimitri Steinmann as he triumphed by a 3-1 scoreline.
Zurich-based Steinmann had lost in the qualifying stages of this tournament in both 2017 and 2018, but played well above his current World Ranking of No.70 in the world as he tested Lee throughout the 60-minute encounter.
With the spectators in his corner, Steinmann narrowly missed out on taking the opener but send the crowd into raptures when he edged the second game on the tie-break to draw level.
The third game was all Lee as the man from Hong Kong restored his lead, but he found it difficult to shake off a tenacious Steinmann in the fourth. There was little between the two until Lee pulled away from 8-7 to finally get the win over the line by an 11-8, 10-12, 11-6, 11-7 scoreline.
“He has a very traditional game, he defends very well and it’s difficult to find angles to attack from,” said Lee afterwards.
“I had to be strong and hit a good length. It was a tough battle, I got through the first game, but then he hit some tricky angles from the front and lots of winners from the back as well. I tried to come back at the end but lost in the tie-break.
“In the third and the fourth, I just tried to be strong and move him around. It was good to get through because it’s been a bit of a long time since I won the big matches. I’m happy to get through today and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
“I know the feeling of having the crowd behind the players because at the Hong Kong Open, the crowd is behind all the Hong Kong players. Today, it was the opposite and I tried to be focused because you have to fight and keep the spirit going.
“I got a bit excited towards the end, but mentally I had to stay calm and got through by playing good squash.”
Max Lee (HKG) bt [WC] Dimitri Steinmann (SUI) 3-1: 11-8, 10-12, 11-6, 11-7 (60m)
Frenchman Castagnet Downs Simpson in Day’s Last Fixture
Mathieu Castagnet (right) v Chris Simpson (left)
Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet defeated England’s Chris Simpson by a 3-0 scoreline to keep up his fine recent form.
The World No.26 made it to the semi-finals of the Citigold Canary Wharf Classic two weeks ago and picked up where left off there by beating Simpson 13-11, 11-7, 11-8 in 55 minutes.
It was their first meeting since the 2016 edition of the Grasshopper Cup – with Simpson winning 3-0 on that occasion – but Castagnet was too strong for his opponent today as he reversed the scoreline.
The 32-year-old will play Canary Wharf Classic runner-up Tarek Momen in round two.
“I’m really happy to go through to the second round against Tarek Momen, Chris is such a great player and it’s never been easy to beat him 3-0,” said Castagnet.
“He has some good retrievals and he’s really solid, so I’m happy to get the second game, I felt that made the difference. It was really crucial.
“If I’m feeling okay and not struggling with injuries, I would like to give my best against Tarek. He’s maybe a bit tired from all the results he’s had over the past few weeks. I will try and find a game plan against him and will try to get through to the quarters.
“It depends if my calf gets torn again. I’ve torn both calfs approximately 10-12 times, and no-one can explain why. I want to keep playing matches and I’ll see how I feel.
“If I’m not getting injured again, I will try and get back into the top 20 and will see what I can do.”
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Chris Simpson (ENG) 3-0: 13-11, 11-7, 11-8 (55m)