Egyptian Tarek Momen clinched a Davenport North American Open second round clash with No2 seed Nick Matthew in Virginia – but had to overcome a phenomenal fight-back from local hero Christopher Gordon in the PSA World Series battle at the Westwood Club in Richmond.
With Momen (pictured with Gordon) leading by two games to love, and seemingly in control, qualifier Gordon stepped up the pace, improved his accuracy and reduced his error count.
The New Yorker won the third 12-10 and saved five match balls in an astonishing fourth game before winning it 21-19.
“It was raw, compelling drama all the way through this PSA World Series battle,” said event spokesman Alan Thatcher. “A passionate crowd at the Westwood Club cheered every rally Gordon won but Momen stuck to his task in the fifth and powered home 11-5 after 85 minutes of superb sporting entertainment.”
Tournament director Gus Cook said: “We need American television executives, and every IOC official in the States, to see a tape of this match to understand the excitement and energy that squash can bring to the TV screen and the Olympic Games.”
After the match, a relieved Momen said: “I played Chris here six years ago and that was a 3/2 win, and that was at the back of my mind the whole time.
“Chris kept coming back and played a great match,” added the 25-year-old world No11 from Cairo. “Plus, he had the support of a fantastic home crowd, and I just hope they can cheer for me tomorrow against Nick.”
Gordon, who said he had stumbled around the court like a primate during his qualifying final victory against Australian Zac Alexander, added: “I feel I may have evolved a little over the past two days.
“It was a very special occasion, playing on the glass court in a major world tournament here on American soil, and the crowd were simply amazing.
“Tarek is a superb squash player, but from my point of view I think I played well and felt that I deserved to be here on a world-class stage,” said the Hartford-based world No58.
Matthew, the Richmond champion in 2010 and 2011, had earlier powered his way past Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema, winning 11-4, 11-3, 11-3 in 40 minutes.
The Englishman admitted he was determined to avoid the mistakes that cost him so dearly in last year’s tournament, when he was kept on court for too long in the early rounds and ran out of steam when he faced Ramy Ashour in the semi-finals.
This time he meant business from the word go, playing his usual high-pace attack with devastating results.
Crisp volleys, firm drives and tight drops all found their target as he overwhelmed a hard-working opponent.
“LJ is a very dangerous opponent and I wanted to avoid the mistakes I made last year when I spent so much time on court in the early rounds,” said world No2 Matthew.
“James (Willstrop) and Ramy seem to be good at getting their matches over and done with quickly and I need to do the same more often.
“Having said that, no tournament is ever won in the first couple of days but it can easily be lost, so you have to be careful when you come up against opponents like LJ.
“This is a great tournament and it always seems to build momentum as the week goes on, so there’s plenty of work still to be done.”
Leading 9-6 in the fifth game, Butt struck Gawad in the face with his elbow in an accidental collision. The 21-year-old from Cairo lay motionless on the floor for several minutes but recovered after treatment to win the game 11-7 and clinch a place in Wednesday’s draw against compatriot Shabana, the four-time world champion.
NAO action image courtesy of Dan Bogosh
1st round (lower half of draw):
4 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [Q] Joe Lee (ENG) 11-6, 11-6, 11-7 (36m)
Adrian Grant (ENG) bt Shahier Razik (CAN) 11-6, 9-11, 11-3, 11-3 (46m)
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt [Q] Yasir Ali Butt (PAK) 11-3, 7-11, 7-11, 11-4, 11-7 (55m)
7 Amr Shabana (EGY) bt Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 11-8, 11-8, 11-6 (37m)
6 Peter Barker (ENG) bt [Q] Campbell Grayson (NZL) 10-12, 11-4, 11-3, 11-6 (53m)
Olli Tuominen (FIN) bt Max Lee (HKG) 12-10, 11-7, 11-7 (38m)
Tarek Momen (EGY) bt [Q] Christopher Gordon (USA) 11-9, 11-7, 10-12, 19-21, 11-5 (85m)
2 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) 11-4, 11-3, 11-3 (40m)
2nd round line-up:
1 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Cameron Pilley (AUS)
8 Omar Mosaad (EGY) v Simon Rosner (GER)
5 Karim Darwish (EGY) v Hisham Mohd Ashour (EGY)
3 James Willstrop (ENG) v Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
4 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Adrian Grant (ENG)
7 Amr Shabana (EGY) v Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
6 Peter Barker (ENG) v Olli Tuominen (FIN)
2 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Tarek Momen (EGY)