After two defeats already this year by the four-time world champion from Egypt, England’s Nick Matthew gained his revenge in the second round of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions when he beat Amr Shabana in straight games to progress to the quarter-finals of the first PSA World Series event of the year at Grand Central Terminal in New York.
“Squash fans filled the Grand Central Terminal stands in the early evening for the highly anticipated Matthew/Shabana match,” said tournament spokesman Beth Rasin. “The prospect of watching these two former world number ones (pictured above) battle in the second round – when normally they would be at least at least a quarter-final pairing – was tantalizing.”
For two games the quality of the squash was on par with a final. Defending champion Matthew looked especially strong as he eliminated Shabana, a two-time ToC champion, 11-8, 11-6, 11-8 in 50 minutes.
“It was a lot like chess out there,” said Matthew, who lost to the illustrious 33-year-old from Cairo in the pool section of this month’s ATCO PSA World Series Finals in London, and then in the final! “We have played each other a lot recently and we know each other’s games so well.”
Matthew established early that he would be digging after every ball, and using the volley attack. Shabana showed himself ready to respond in the first two games. The result was lengthy points in which each player was probing for an opening and patiently waiting for the opportunity to hit an attacking shot.
Although Shabana is generally considered the better shot-maker, it was the 32-year-old from Sheffield who found more openings. Maintaining at least a two-point lead throughout the first game, Matthew won the first game 11-8. At 7-6 in the second, the second-seeded Englishman ran off four straight points to go ahead 2/0. Matthew closed out the match with an 11-8 third game win.
“My game plan was not to have a game plan,” Matthew explained. “I felt like I had been overthinking my recent matches, so I decided to just go out and enjoy playing.”
The Englishman’s next opponent is another former world No1 from Egypt Karim Darwish – who despatched India’s Saurav Ghosal 11-3, 11-5, 12-10. Darwish was especially forceful when he was down two game balls at 8-10 in the third. “I did not want to go into a fourth game,” said the No7 seed after the match. So he used a volley attack to win three quick points and ensure a place in the ToC quarter-finals.
Top seed James Willstrop was the day’s first victor, defeating young Egyptian Tarek Momen in four games. “It has been a long time since I have played this early,” said the Englishman, referring to his noon start time. Although the former world number one had a 10-8 lead in the first game, it slipped away as Momen hit two front court winners, and Willstrop tinned a fairly easy drop shot.
“I wasn’t disheartened,” Willstrop said. “It was a testing opening game. I am a big bloke and I need to get my body moving and Tarek makes you move, so I felt like I was just getting started.”
After winning the second game 11-8, Willstrop really picked up momentum and nabbed the third 11-2. Shooting out to a 6-3 lead in the fourth, Willstrop’s continuing momentum was momentarily halted when Momen asked for an injury time out. With no apparent problems, Momen returned to the court, and the Englishman picked up where he had left off and closed out the match with an 11-6 fourth game win.
“I was pleased with my accuracy and variety on the court today,” said the victor.
Willstrop will play Stephen Coppinger in the quarter-finals. The unseeded South African earned his way to his first ToC quarter-final by defeating England’s Adrian Grant in 11-6, 11-9, 7-11, 9-11, 11-1 in 90 minutes.
It was Coppinger’s first Tour win over former world No9 Grant – and earned the 28-year-old world No23 from Cape Town his first ever appearance in the last eight of a PSA World Series event.
“Playing here in Grand Central is unbelievable,” said Frenchman Gaultier after his 11-3, 11-6, 11-4 victory over England’s Tom Richards. “But when you get on court, you have to focus on what’s in front of you.” Gaultier’s focus, foot and racquet speed kept Richards off balance for most of their match.
Gaultier will next play Mohamed El Shorbagy who dismissed French qualifier Gregoire Marche 11-8, 11-9, 11-7. “I felt a bit flat today, so I am really glad I managed to win in three,” said the 22-year-old Egyptian. Asked to comment on his quarter-final pairing with Gaultier, El Shorbagy said: “Of the top four players, I find Gregory the toughest to play. He’s so quick and he attacks and defends well.”
Ashour eliminated Germany’s Simon Rosner in classic ‘Ramy style’: extraordinary shot-making and great reach. The two have known each other since their junior playing days.
“Ramy is just too good,” Rosner said after the match. “You just never know what he is going to do with the ball.”
1 James Willstrop (ENG) bt Tarek Momen (EGY) 11-13, 11-8, 11-2, 11-6 (62m)
Stephen Coppinger (RSA) bt Adrian Grant (ENG) 11-6, 11-9, 7-11, 9-11, 11-1 (90m)
8 Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt Ong Beng Hee (MAS) 11-8, 11-8, 11-6 (38m)
4 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt Simon Rosner (GER) 11-8, 11-8, 11-5 (35m)
3 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Tom Richards (ENG) 11-3, 11-6, 11-4 (45m)
6 Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) bt [Q] Gregoire Marche (FRA) 11-8, 11-9, 11-7 (41m)
7 Karim Darwish (EGY) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 11-3, 11-5, 12-10 (38m)
2 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Amr Shabana (EGY) 11-8, 11-6, 11-8 (50m)
1 James Willstrop (ENG) v Stephen Coppinger (RSA)
4 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v  Omar Mosaad (EGY)
3 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v  Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY)
2 Nick Matthew (ENG) v  Karim Darwish (EGY)