Mexico’s World No.23 Cesar Salazar overcame home favourite Chris Hanson in a tight five-game battle in the first round of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions taking place inside New York’s Grand Central Station.
The Mexican was pushed all the way by New York born Hanson, who is ranked over 40 places below Salazar in the World Rankings, with him forced to come from a game behind twice to book his place in the second round.
Hanson, spurred on by the packed out crowd inside the Vanderbilt Hall, roared to a one game advantage after a tight game saw him sneak the lead on the tie-break. Salazar came back strongly to draw back level before Hanson once again moved back into the lead.
32-year-old Salazar utilised his experience in the fourth and fifth to ensure he closed out a 10-12, 11-7, 4-11, 11-8, 11-5 victory to book his place in the second round place in New York where he will face India’s Saurav Ghosal.
“It’s always hard when you play against a local player,” said Salazar afterwards.
“Chris has improved a lot in the last few months and years. I tried to start very focused on my game and my strategy. I know a lot of the crowd was with him, but I tried to be very focused, but he won the first game and that was important for the confidence, but after that I tried to come back and I started to play better with my movement and shots.
“I tried to be patient and in the fifth game I think he made some important mistakes and I’m happy to be through.”
Elsewhere, Tourmament of Champions debutant Iker Pajares Bernabeu held off Malaysia’s Ivan Yuen to advance in New York. He will be joined in the second round by Hong Kong’s Tsz Fung Yip after he prevailed in a tough four-game battle with Mahesh Mangaonkar.
Cesar Salazar (MEX) bt [WC] Chris Hanson (USA) 3-2: 10-12, 11-7, 4-11, 11-8, 11-5 (60m)
Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) bt Ivan Yuen (MAS) 3-1: 11-8, 12-10, 5-11, 11-9 (69m)
Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) bt Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND) 3-1: 11-9, 10-12, 12-10, 11-7 (51m)