It's day one of the Qatar QTerminals Classic taking place at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex in Doha with an action packed day in store from round one.
Stay tuned here as we bring you all the reaction from the players in action on the glass court on day one, including the likes of Spain's Borja Golan and England's former World No.1 James Willstrop.
Tandon Holds off Lobban in Thriller
India’s World No.46 Ramit Tandon kicked off the 2021 edition of the Qatar Q-Terminals Classic in style with a hard-fought 11-9, 11-7, 9-11, 12-14, 11-8 victory over Scotland’s World No.32 Greg Lobban.
The last time these two faced each other Tandon walked away with a 3-1 victory at the CIB Black Ball Squash Open earlier this year and the Indian kept up his winning streak over the Scot with a resilient performance in Doha.
29-year-old Tandon found himself 2-0 up after an accurate showing in quickfire exchanges against Lobban, who cut a frustrated figure on court. However, the Scottish player fought his way back into contention in the third before drawing back level on his fifth game ball attempt in the fourth.
The momentum looked as though it was fully in favour of Lobban in the fifth as he took the lead before Tandon turned things around to complete a topsy-turvy victory in 60 minutes.
Tandon will face the winner of Hong Kong’s Tsz Fung Yip v England’s Patrick Rooney in round two.
“It’s my first win in Doha, so I’m excited about that,” said Tandon afterwards.
“I love the city, it’s an amazing city and I’ve been coming here since I was 12-years-old when they have the junior events and unfortunately on the PSA I was yet to get a win. I think the glass court is lucky for me because my previous matches I have been on the side courts and it’s not gone down too well, so I’m excited to be here.
“I was 2-0 up, momentum going my way and then suddenly that switched. In the fifth game I was down 5-2 and I just thought let’s forget about the squash at this point, it’s all about fighting. I was a bit edgy throughout the match and not feeling the ball as well as I would’ve liked to. 5-5, 6-6 in the fifth it could go either way, so I’m glad to see it through.
“Sport, like most other things in life, is very mental and I feel for me that’s what I’m working on and trying to find that balance. Some months I’m not feeling it mentally and I have to give credit to my team, we are working on it. I started the PSA late, worked for a few years and then came to PSA. I’m a work in progress and hopefully I have more progress in the future.”
Ramit Tandon (IND) bt Greg Lobban (SCO) 3-2: 11-9, 11-7, 9-11, 12-14, 11-8 (60m)
Rooney Fights Back to Win
England’s Patrick Rooney was forced to do things the hard way in his opening match against Hong Kong’s Tsz Fung Yip at the Qatar Classic as he came from 9-5 down in the fifth to triumph.
The two had met just last week at the Cleveland Skating Club Open where Rooney took a straight-forward 3-0 victory. However, the Hong Kong player came back with renewed determination this time around as he made things difficult for Rooney, twice coming back from a game down.
It appeared as though the 28-year-old was going to sneak it in the fifth when he powered into a 9-5 lead, but Rooney held his nerve to turn the tide and set up a second round match against India’s Ramit Tandon.
“I’m happy, but I feel a bit lucky, I was in a bad position then,” said Rooney afterwards.
“Somehow managed to claw it back in the fifth and happy to get through another five-set start in Qatar. It’s a good venue, I love playing here and I’m happy.
“He’s getting back to where he was with every match and getting more match sharp. Last week I caught him on a bit of a fatigued version of himself after two 3-2s the days before. I knew if I made it tough it would be ok, but today was completely different, we both like throwing the ball short and using our shots and when he’s fresh he puts me under pressure and I have to stay really solid to get past him.
“My relationship with James [Willstrop] and Ponte has been strong for the last five or six years. I’ve learned loads from him and Malcolm and that’s what I base my game around and that’s how I want to play. Watching him play at the minute gives me more inspiration and getting into these big events, it’s first time I’ve played these top guys and that’s helped me improve.”
Patrick Rooney (ENG) bt Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) 3-2: 11-3, 9-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-9 (46m)
James off to Strong Start
England’s Declan James ensured a safe passage through to the second round of the Qatar Classic PSA Platinum event after an 11-4, 11-5, 11-7 victory over wildcard Syed Azlan Amjad.
James, who has been absent from the last few PSA tournaments, did not suffer from a slow start in Doha as he comfortably overcame Amjad, who was one of two Qatari hopes in the event after the withdrawal of Qatar No.1 Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi due to injury.
James will face Peru’s Diego Elias in the next round.
“I’ve missed it so much not being able to play the last few events since the start of August for different reasons,” said James in his post-match interview.
“I missed it so much, but it gave me a chance to go back and train for the last three months, work with my coach after the Manchester tournaments on what I needed to improve on. I’ve been watching on, these guys have been playing every week, so I’m glad to be back.
“It was an honour to be asked to be one of her Majesty’s first baton bearers for the Commonwealth Games relay. The Games are a special thing to me and to all the English guys, so to have that honour, to go to Buckingham Palace, it filled me with a great sense of pride. It also inspires me and motivates me to train hard and do the best that I can on the Tour.
“It’s always a great match against Diego. He’s a fine player and world class and it’s always played to a high level when we play and I’m just looking forward to getting a match of that quality. I’m desperate for these matches, to learn as much as I can. I’m here to push hard this week.”
Declan James (ENG) bt [WC] Syed Azlan Amjad (QAT) 3-0: 11-4, 11-5, 11-7 (35m)
Kandra Sends Out Wildcard Al-Malki
Germany’s World No.22 Raphael Kandra was in strong shape to open his 2021 Qatar Classic campaign as he saw off wildcard Abdulrahman Al-Malki in straight-games on the glass court at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex.
The 30-year-old wasted no time finding his accuracy as he comfortably moved past World No.126 Al-Malki in 22 minutes to march into the last 32.
“I’m very happy to reach the second round,” said the German afterwards.
“Jetlag is getting tougher the older you get, but I had enough time between the U.S. Open in Philadelphia to go back to Germany and then from Germany to here it’s only a one hour time difference, so it’s not a big deal. I’m just happy to be here competing again, the hospitality every year is fantastic and I’m lucky to play on a glass court from the first round. Tomorrow I will be back on the normal court but trying to stay in the tournament for as long as I can.
“In the beginning of the pandemic it was tough for all of us, I was trying to focus more outside of the court because we had no access. I was doing a lot of road biking, but a few years ago I played a World Championship against Tarek Momen, who afterwards won and I played a good match. There was one guy here, who helped me out and became my mental coach from then on and he helped me a lot throughout the pandemic. I think that made a big impact.
“Alan [Clyne] and Mahesh [Mangaonkar] are both good players, the range of the top 50 is so strong nowadays. I’m happy to compete and play, I don’t care who I’m going to get but I wish them a good match.”
Raphael Kandra (GER) bt [WC] Abdulrahman Al-Malki (QAT) 3-0: 11-2, 11-7, 11-5 (22m)
Mangaonkar Beats Clyne to Claim First Platinum Win
Mahesh Mangaonkar (right) takes on Alan Clyne (left)
India’s World No.55 Mahesh Mangaonkar has completed his first ever win at a PSA World Tour Platinum event after a commanding performance against Scotland’s Alan Clyne.
The 27-year-old from Mumbai had lost his last three matches to Clyne, including a 3-0 defeat to the World No.50 at the Cleveland Skating Club Open last week.
This time around, Mangaonkar was on top from the off as he showed some nice touches at the front of the court to power into a 2-0 lead.
Clyne did mount a comeback of sorts in the third game as he elongated the rallies and pushed Mangaonkar into some more punishing movements around all four corners of the court.
That revival was short-lived though as Mangaonkar took the first nine points of the fourth game, and he converted the win to set up a second round fixture with Germany’s Raphael Kandra.
“It’s like a dream come true,” said Mangaonkar.
“I’ve been playing World Series tournaments since 2014, and this is my first win in a Platinum event. I have won a few matches at the World Championship, but this is my first and it feels great. I didn’t give up and I’m really happy. I was very nervous because we played last week in Cleveland and he absolutely demolished me.
“He had that mental edge over me, so I’m glad I got through.
“I made better mental adjustments [compared to last week]. I was trying to execute my squash last week but nothing was accurate and he was all over me. This time I cleaned up my tactical game and mentally I was a bit more focused than last week, and that’s what made the switch around.
“One of the first matches I played ever here on this court was the World Junior quarter-finals with Abouelghar. I have nightmares about that match because I was 2-0 up, I was two match balls up in each game and I lost 13-11 in the fifth.
“It’s amazing how Qatar knows exactly how to take care of players. Whether it’s a Challenger event or a Platinum event, they’re all top-class, well organised, and everything is just spot on.”
Speaking ahead of his clash with Kandra, Mangaonkar said: “I tend to relax mentally going into the second round because I’ve already done the tough work. It’s going to be tougher, but mentally I will be more relaxed because I’ve got that first win.
“I’m going to look at it like a fresh start, although I still have the mind that we played earlier this year and I want to get my revenge. I love competing against him, it’s always a fair match and we’ve played a few times at smaller and bigger events. It’s definitely going to be very tough and he’s playing well at the moment.”
Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND) bt Alan Clyne (SCO) 3-1: 11-7, 11-6, 3-11, 11-2 (48m)
Golan Axes Harrity
Borja Golan in action
Spanish veteran Borja Golan earned his spot in the last 32 courtesy of a 3-1 victory over Todd Harrity of the United States.
The pair had never met on the PSA World Tour and it was 38-year-old Golan who had the better in the early stages, with ‘El Toro’ winning the first game on a tie-break before opening up a bigger gap to win the second.
Harrity steadied the ship in the third and played a faster pace, which enabled him to make a good start to the third and halve the deficit.
But Golan wasn’t to be denied and he dropped just two points in a one-sided fourth game to book his place in round two, where he will take on No.4 seed Marwan ElShorbagy.
"He gets punished in the most beautiful way there!"
golansquash</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/QatarClassic?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#QatarClassic</a> <a href="https://t.co/CdqM0EW5Su">pic.twitter.com/CdqM0EW5Su</a></p>— PSA World Tour (PSAWorldTour) October 17, 2021
“Confidence for a player is everything,” said Golan.
“Nowadays it’s very difficult for me to win a match. I’m a veteran player now, I still have the passion from many years and I came in with the aim to win this first match. I know every match is difficult for me in the first round and Todd is a great player, so I’m delighted with this win, and hopefully this win will give me more confidence for my next match.
“We’ve seen each other in many tournaments and I was watching his match against [Raphael] Kandra at the U.S. Open from my bed last night. I know he volleys a lot, he moves well and reads the game well, so I knew it would be a hard match.
“My movement was pretty good and I’m very happy.”
Following Friday’s retirement of Gregory Gaultier, Golan is now the oldest man competing at the elite level of the PSA World Tour and the Spaniard paid tribute to his former opponent.
“I played with Greg since I was 14 or 15 and there is only one month between us,” Golan said.
“He’s the best of his generation probably and it was very tough to play against him. But it gave you more determination to train harder because every time you stepped on court against him it was so difficult. You had to raise your level to your maximum, he’s such a powerful player, he got all the balls back and his precision was unbelievable.
“He was tough to play but also enjoyable to watch and I was lucky to play him for so many years.”
Borja Golan (ESP) bt Todd Harrity (USA) 3-1: 13-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-2 (50m)
Willstrop Eases Past Khan
England’s former World No.1 James Willstrop took just 18 minutes to dispatch USA’s Faraz Khan in straight games.
Willstrop has been in a rich vein of form recently, beating the likes of Marwan ElShorbagy and Mohamed Abouelghar at the U.S. Open earlier this month to become the oldest ever Platinum quarter-finalist.
And the 38-year-old dominated proceedings against Khan to wrap up an 11-1, 11-4, 11-3 victory.
“I have the experienced today, I’ve been here about 500 times,” said Willstrop.
“I’ve got experience on the court, it’s a tough court to play and if he hasn’t been here before that can be a tough prospect. I don’t take anyone lightly and I prepared really well. I hope it’s a sign of respect because if I let go for a couple of seconds then things can quickly change.
“You learn a lot from day’s like this and I’ve been there plenty of times before. You have to go away and think about how you can improve. I gave it everything and gave him a lot of respect today.
“I work pretty hard at home and I try and look after my body so I can play more squash because I do love playing. To come out then and get wins against players like that [at the U.S. Open] was tremendous. I was incredibly happy to be able to play at a great venue and the best tournaments.
“We’re lucky and if I can play like that and the body responds okay then I can keep going and keep playing tournaments like this one.”
Like Golan, Willstrop also weighed in on Gaultier’s retirement, saying: “You know these things are probably going to come at some point. We were playing when we were 14 and 15 years of age, so to read his message the other day was sad.
“He had a phrase about the sands of time, it was pretty deep stuff and it’s sad when it comes to an end. What a wonderful player for the game, I hope he’s happy with the response on social media because he deserves it and people love him for his charisma and the fact that he’s different and expresses himself.
“He’s been a legend and it’s sad to see him go.”
Willstrop will take on U.S. Open finalist Tarek Momen next and Willstrop says movement will be the key.
“I’ll have to be quick and move well on here, and for a big galoot like me that’s not always easy,” Willstrop said.
“He’s going to take me in short, he always does. If I play at the level like I was in the U.S. Open, I’m in with a shout. I just need to take each game, moment and rally as it comes with him because he is too good.”
James Willstrop (ENG) bt Faraz Khan (USA) 3-0: 11-1, 11-4, 11-3 (18m)
Soares Becomes First Portuguese Platinum Match Winner
Rui Soares (left) takes on Arturo Salazar (right)
World No.68 Rui Soares has become the first Portuguese player to win a match at a major PSA tournament courtesy of a quick-fire 3-2 victory against Mexico’s Cezar Salazar.
It was a back-and-forth encounter which saw both players take it in turns to rattle off points, but neither player truly enjoyed prolonged spells of superiority.
Salazar went short often and did find some joy there but also found the tin regularly as Soares came back from 2-1 down to seal his place in the second round of a Platinum event for the first time.
Soares only entered the main draw on Thursday due to a withdrawal from England’s Richie Fallows and he will take on No.2 seed Paul Coll in the second round.
“It’s unbelievable to play this tournament in Qatar,” Soares said.
“The organisation is unreal. I’ve heard a lot of good things, but it’s great to be here to play this tournament. I was really nervous to start with, it’s my first time on SQUASHTV, but I’m really happy to get that win.
“Once you start getting a couple of wins in a row you get more confidence, and the wins start coming along one after the other. It’s different coming to this kind of event after playing Challenger events, it’s unbelievable.
“It’s going to be a great experience for me to play him [Coll] on a glass court. I’m going to enjoy it the best I can and hopefully I won’t be as nervous tomorrow. I’m really pleased to be in the second round and I’ll just make the most of it.”
Rui Soares (POR) bt Arturo Salazar (MEX) 3-2: 7-11, 11-6, 4-11, 11-6, 11-6 (39m)