England’s Joe Lee claimed the biggest scalp in the first qualifying round of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions when he denied Alan Clyne, the world No28 from Scotland, a place in the qualifying finals of the first PSA World Series event of the year in New York.
London-born Lee, a 23-year-old who celebrated a career-high world No42 ranking this month, clearly knows what it takes to beat the higher-ranked Scot as he marched to his fourth victory in five successive meetings with the qualifying event’s top seed, winning 11-8, 11-5, 11-9 in 67 minutes.
Lee will now line up against Campbell Grayson for a place in the main draw of the championship which celebrates its 16th year at Grand Central Terminal. New Zealander Grayson defeated Jamaican Christopher Binnie 11-4, 11-6, 11-8.
But the was no lack of desire in the attempts to experience competing in one of the world’s most famous railway stations. Hometown favourite Christopher Gordon looked as though he would please the packed crowd at the Harvard Club when he grabbed a convincing 2/0 lead against Kuwait’s Abdullah Al Muzayen and had two match balls in the third. But the young Kuwaiti, on his first trip to NY, was unfazed and fought back to win the third 12-10.
Gordon again had two match balls at 10-8 in the fifth but Al Muzayen used his speed and shot-making to neutralise the New Yorker’s reach, ultimately prevailing 5-11, 6-11, 12-10, 12-10, 12-10 in 89 minutes.
Harvard player Ali Farag also had an opportunity to win his match against Mathieu Castagnet of France when he took a 10-8 lead in the fourth. But the Frenchman remained tough and grabbed the game 13-11. The fifth game was marked by several long rallies where the players moved the ball to all corners of the court.
The lead changed hands several times and again Ali had match balls at 10-8. But Castagnet was not to be denied and closed out the match, winning 11-9, 6-11, 6-11, 14-12, 13-11 after 95 minutes.
There were three former world number ones and the current top-ranked PSA player at the Harvard Club – although none played. Karim Darwish, Amr Shabana and Ramy Ashour were there to cheer on the young Egyptian, while Gregory Gaultier was supporting his fellow countryman Castagnet.
At the other end of the spectrum, veteran Shahier Razik of Canada made short work of his tall opponent, the Cayman Island’s Cameron Stafford. Hong Kong’s Max Lee ended Wael El Hindi‘s return to the PSA World Tour with an 11-9, 12-10, 11-3 victory.
Frenchman Gregoire Marche‘s pace and power were too much for England’s Luke Butterworth. Englishman Chris Simpson dismissed Trinity University Assistant coach Andres Vargas (by way of Colombia) 11-6, 11-9, 11-2 by punishing every loose ball.
1st qualifying round:
Joe Lee (ENG) bt Alan Clyne (SCO) 11-8, 11-5, 11-9 (67m)
Campbell Grayson (NZL) bt Christopher Binnie (JAM) 11-4, 11-6, 11-8 (37m)
Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) bt Cesar Salazar (MEX) 10-12, 11-1, 11-7, 12-10 (59m)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Zac Alexander (AUS) 11-7, 12-10, 11-3 (36m)
Max Lee (HKG) bt Wael El Hindi (EGY) 11-9, 12-10, 11-3 (36m)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Luke Butterworth (ENG) 11-2, 11-6, 11-0 (22m)
Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 12-10, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9 (70m)
Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) bt Siddharth Suchde (IND) 9-11, 13-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-6 (112m)
Julian Illingworth (USA) bt Leo Au (HKG) 6-11, 11-8, 11-7, 12-10 (82m)
Shawn Delierre (CAN) bt Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS) 11-5, 11-8, 10-12, 11-8 (91m)
Abdullah Al Muzayen (KUW) bt Christopher Gordon (USA) 5-11, 6-11, 12-10, 12-10, 12-10 (89m)
Chris Simpson (ENG) bt Andres Vargas (COL) 11-6, 11-9, 11-2
Shahier Razik (CAN) bt Cameron Stafford (CAY) 11-6, 11-3, 11-7 (28m)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Ali Farag (EGY) 11-9, 6-11, 6-11, 14-12, 13-11 (95m)
Yasir Ali Butt (PAK) bt Martin Knight (NZL) 11-4, 11-7, 11-5 (38m)
Marwan El Shorbagy (EGY) bt Robbie Temple (ENG) 14-12, 11-6 ret.
Qualifying finals line-up:
Joe Lee (ENG) v Campbell Grayson (NZL)
Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) v Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
Max Lee (HKG) v Gregoire Marche (FRA)
Adrian Waller (ENG) v Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS)
Shawn Delierre (CAN) v Julian Illingworth (USA)
Chris Simpson (ENG) v Abdullah Al Muzayen (KUW)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v Shahier Razik (CAN)
Marwan El Shorbagy (EGY) v Yasir Ali Butt (PAK)