Swiss No.1 Nicolas Mueller got off to a winning start at the 2019 Grasshopper Cup as he overcame Hong Kong’s Tsz Fung Yip by a 3-1 scoreline earlier today to reach the second round of the PSA World Tour Gold tournament.
The entirety of the first round took place at Squash Arena Uster today, and Zurich-based Mueller booked his place in the last 16 courtesy of an 11-6, 7-11, 11-6, 11-7 triumph over Yip.
The World No.28 was backed to the hilt by partizan home support, with every winner greeted by a crescendo of cheers as the spectators got behind their man, and he will play World No.8 Mohamed Abouelghar for a place in the quarter-finals.
“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.”
Mueller’s younger compatriot, Dimitri Steinmann, was also in action against Hong Kong opposition as the tournament wildcard fell in four games to World No.24 Max Lee, who will now go on to play former World No.1 Karim Abdel Gawad in the next round.
Like Mueller, 21-year-old Steinmann had the home crowd in his corner, and he put in a tenacious performance as he played well above his current World Ranking of No.70. He drew level after conceding the opener, but Lee’s experience came to the forefront in games three and four as he closed out the win in 60 minutes.
“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,” Lee said.
“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.”
The longest match of the day was contested by two veterans of the sport as England’s Daryl Selby and Australia’s Cameron Pilley, both 36, played out a gripping 85-minute battle, which went the way of the former.
Selby and Pilley are close friends – even co-hosting the squash podcast ‘Comments from the Couch’ together – and they put on nn enthralling spectacle which went all the way to five. Both players held three match balls in the decider, and it was Selby who was able to convert to record an 11-6, 9-11, 11-4, 7-11, 16-14 victory.
“I think I was a little bit lucky at the end, to be honest,” said Selby.
“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.”
Selby will play No.4 seed Simon Rösner in the next round, while top seed and 2018 runner-up Mohamed ElShorbagy will line up against Spain’s Borja Golan after Golan took just 23 minutes to see off England’s World No.15 James Willstrop.
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. 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 a second tournament in a row after the latter beat the Spaniard in the Citigold Canary Wharf Classic two weeks ago.
There were also wins for Welshman Joel Makin, England’s Declan James, France’s Mathieu Castagnet and Egypt’s Zahed Salem.
The second round begins on Wednesday March 27 as the likes of ElShorbagy, Rösner, Gawad and Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez begin their tournaments after receiving byes through to the last 16. Halle 622 will host the rest of the Grasshopper Cup from the second round onwards and action will be shown live on SQUASHTV (rest of world), Eurosport Player (Europe only) and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour.
Result – First Round: 2019 Grasshopper Cup
Borja Golan (ESP) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 11-2, 11-6, 11-4 (23m)
Zahed Salem (EGY) bt George Parker (ENG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-6, 11-5 (37m)
Max Lee (HKG) bt [WC] Dimitri Steinmann (SUI) 3-1: 11-8, 10-12, 11-6, 11-7 (60m)
Daryl Selby (ENG) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 3-2: 11-6, 9-11, 11-4, 7-11, 16-14 (85m)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Chris Simpson (ENG) 3-0: 13-11, 11-7, 11-8 (55m)
Declan James (ENG) bt Eain Yow Ng (MAS) 3-2: 13-11, 8-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-5 (67m)
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) bt Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) 3-1: 11-6, 7-11, 11-6, 11-7 (38m)
Joel Makin (WAL) bt Gregoire Marche (FRA) 3-0: 11-9, 12-10, 11-7 (56m)
Draw – Second Round (Top Half): To Be Played March 27th
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v Borja Golan (ESP)
Zahed Salem (EGY) v  Miguel Rodriguez (COL)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Max Lee (HKG)
Daryl Selby (ENG) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
Draw – Second Round (Bottom Half): To Be Played March 28th
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v [9/16] Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
Declan James (ENG) v  Saurav Ghosal (IND)
 Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) v Nicolas Mueller (SUI)
Joel Makin (WAL) v  Ali Farag (EGY)