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Youssef Soliman in action

HOUSTON OPEN 2022 DAY ONE: PLAYER REACTION

The Houston Open 2022 gets underway at the Houston Squash Club in Texas today. Play begins at 12:00 (GMT -6) and you can stay up to date with all the reaction from round one right here.

Home interest comes from the top three ranked USA players, Shahjahan Khan, Todd Harrity and Faraz Khan. All three feature in round one, looking to excite the home crowd and start the new year well.

Talented Egyptian Youssef Soliman will be looking to continue his rise on the PSA World Tour as he takes on England’s Nathan Lake in round one. Lake’s compatriot and England No.2 Declan James also features in round one as he faces fellow European Dimitri Steinmann from Switzerland in the fourth match of the day.

You can watch all of the action live on SQUASHTV and keep up to date with all the live scores here.

Order of Play
Times are local GMT-6

Order of play

Kandra fights back

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The opening match of 2022 on the PSA World Tour was between World No.21 Raphael Kandra from Germany and Sebastien Bonmalais from France.

Kandra shot out of the blocks, capitalising on a slow start from his French opponent, to take a 7-1 lead in the first game before Bonmalais found his length and used his strong movement to start to work Kandra into all areas of the court and took the game 12-10.

Bonmalais was able to extend the rallies in the second game and force errors from his older opponent and took the game 11-8 to give himself a 2-0 lead.

However, Kandra used his experience to battle back and disrupt the Frenchman. He used his accuracy and unorthodox attacks to take the third and fourth games and set up a decider.

Kandra established a healthy lead in the fifth game and managed too book his place in the last 16 in 74 minutes. The German will now face World No.1 Ali Farag in the next round.

Kandra admits he struggled in the match but was happy he managed to fight back and win:

“I thought I had a plan in the beginning, I wasn’t playing too bad, I was leading 7-1 in the first game but couldn’t control my game plan. I was overwhelmed, he fought back and I had no plan to fight against it so I just let him go in the first game.” Kandra explained.

“The second was similar, I was leading and he fought back and he really wanted to win that game and for me I was missing that extra force to go though so I was 2-0 down quite quickly. But I thought to myself this is not how I want to play or start the new year and I fought back, not sure how and I got into his head a little and experience makes a big difference.

“I said to him in the end that he played well and gave me a good match but of course he’s not happy losing a match from 2-0 up, but overall I’m pleased with the win.

“We’ve all had a little break, we were all supposed to play Men’s World Teams in Malaysia but that got cancelled. I didn’t play in Egypt so lacking some match sharpness maybe but good to have played and I think I saw all corners of the court today so looking forward to tomorrow.”

Result:
Raphael Kandra (GER) bt Sebastien Bonmalais (FRA) 3-2: 10-12, 8-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-5 (74m)

Soliman defeats Lake

Youssef Soliman defeats Nathan Lake

Next on court was talented Egyptian and World No.18 Youssef Soliman, who faced Englishman Nathan Lake.

A back and forth first game saw the lead change several times throughout the game with both players playing intelligent squash to utilise the front of the court. Lake earned himself two game balls but Soliman fought back and after more game balls for Lake, Soliman took the all important first game 18-16.

Soliman continued to twist and turn the Englishman with devastating attacks and sharp volleys and although Lake lead in all three games, it was Soliman who proved to be too strong. He has now set up a last 16 encounter with compatriot Youssef Ibrahim in what could be an exciting affair.

“I am used to these kind of games now, 25/30 minute games. He played so well to contain me, not letting me volley and he was using lots of height. I think I was down in all 3 games, and when I was down I just kept pushing but it was really hard.

“I haven’t looked at anything. I just try and focus on my game and I’m not really interested to be honest.” Soliman explained when asked about his Black Ball Open match with Mostafa Asal.

“Youssef is playing so well, he’s at his highest ranking now, he’s confident, he’s so talented when he goes for his shots. We haven’t payed since juniors, never on PSA so will be an interesting one to see.”

Result:
Youssef Soliman (EGY) bt Nathan Lake (ENG) 3-0: 18-16, 11-9, 11-7 (60m)

ElSherbini survives

Mohamed ElSherbini in action

The first home player took to the court in the third match of the day, as USA’s Todd Harrity faced Mohamed ElSherbini for a place in the last 16.

Harrity was clinical in the first game and took full advantage of some loose attacks from ElSherbini taking the game 11-8.

As expected, the Egyptian responded in the second game and used his attacking boast to great effect, dragging Harrity to the front of the court and following up with fast volleys around the middle to equalises the match at 1-1.

With the conditions starting to warm in the third game, the rallies extended which better suited Harrity. The American earned himself a 10-6 lead to take the third game but ElSherbini forced a tie-break, it was not enough to deny Harrity however and he took the game 12-10.

El Sherbini showed his skill in the fourth game and managed to take the game 11-8 to set up a decider. The Egpytian continued his momentum in the fifth and extended the court making Harrity do some extreme movements, eventually taking the game 11-7 and advancing to the second round.

ElSherbini admitted he didn’t feel completely himself in todays match but is just glad to be through:

“Today I just feel a little bit empty. Yesterday I had a long flight and just didn’t get to relax a lot so today I’m not playing very well but I’m glad I could turn it around and play smart squash.

“I just want to come and play my best squash, with no regrets. I don’t want to be empty like today, I want to fire up and play good squash and hopefully I will, I usually start a tournament slow but hopefully I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Result:
Mohamed ElSherbini (EGY) bt Todd Harrity (USA) 3-2: 8-11, 11-5, 10-12, 11-8, 11-7 (69m)

Steinmann stuns James

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Another all European battle closed out the afternoon session at the Houston Open 2022. Dimitri Steinmann of Switzerland took on England’s Declan James.

It was a competitive start between the two, with contrasting styles of play on show it made for an interesting encounter. The speed of Steinmann was causing problems for the tall Englishman throughout the opening exchanges and Steinmann’s counter work was simply too good. The Swiss took the opening two games 14-12, 11-8.

More followed in the third as James tried to push up the court, that only left space for Steinmann to exploit, which he did with style. A healthy lead was capitalised on as Steinmann advanced through to round 2, 3-0.

“Its great, I think I played really well today, moving well so its a great feeling

“I’ve been trying to win that title for 5 heras, and finally achieved it so playing on a high right now.” Steinmann said about his first National title win.”

Steinmann sets up a match with Mostafa Asal and is looking forward to the encounter:

“I’m looking forward to it, it’s going to be a quick fire match and I’m looking forward to it.”

Result:
Dimitri Steinmann (SUI) bt Declan James (ENG) 3-0: 14-12, 11-8, 11-6 (47m)

Mueller Requires Five Games to Beat Khan

Nicolas Mueller (left) takes on Faraz Khan (left)

Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller booked his place in the second round after beating USA’s World No.53 Faraz Khan by a 3-2 margin.

Mueller was making his debut at the Houston Open and had previously played Khan on one previous occasion, with the World No.25 winning a round one clash at the U.S. Open in October of last year.

While that match went in Mueller’s favour by a 3-1 scoreline, the Swiss was pushed hard by his opponent today in a back-and-forth encounter which saw Khan fight back from a game down on two occasions.

Khan was warned by the referee a couple of times during the match for dissent and was unfortunate to be caught by Mueller’s racket in the fifth. However, Mueller kept a calm head to secure an 11-8, 8-11, 12-10, 7-11, 11-4 victory in 67 minutes.

“It was a very tough battle,” said Mueller afterwards.

“We played last time at the U.S. Open, which I won in four close games, so I knew what to expect, but I think he played a bit better this time. I was happy to get a good start in the fifth, I’m sorry I hit him, I didn’t mean to. I was lacking a bit of aggression and a bit of fire, but I found my way in the end and I’m happy to be through.”

Mueller will line up against Egyptian shot-maker Mazen Hesham in the last 16.

“Mazen is one of the most charismatic players on the PSA World Tour,” he said.

“He’s very special, very funny, a very attacking player and it’s always a nice and fair match with him. I’m very much looking forward to playing him in two days.”

Result
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) bt Faraz Khan (USA) 3-2: 11-8, 8-11, 12-10, 7-11, 11-4 (67m)

Mosaad Completes Comfortable Win

Omar Mosaad takes on Bernat Jaume

World No.23 Omar Mosaad achieved a straightforward victory over Spain’s Bernat Jaume to seal his spot in the second round.

It was their first meeting on the PSA Tour and Mosaad was in fine form as he stormed to victory, winning three games without reply.

Jaume was able to put points on the board in the first two games, but Mosaad turned up the heat in the third as he dropped just a solitary point.

“It’s really tough to play in the first tournament of the year,” said Mosaad, who is known on tour as the ‘Hammer of Thor’.

“I was a little bit nervous and he’s such a good player. I needed to stick with my game, especially in the first game, and I’m really happy to make it through in three today.”

Up next for Mosaad is a last 16 clash with Frenchman Gregoire Marche, who is playing at a career-high ranking of No.12.

“I think it’s going to be a good match, he’s [Marche] such a good player,” Mosaad said.

“He’s very fast on the court and he has some good shots, so it will be a good test for me. I’ve got some training in over the past two or three months, so I’ll put everything into it and I hope I can win.”

Result
Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt Bernat Jaume (ESP) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-1 (27m)

Salazar Through as Injury Halts Iqbal Comeback

Nasir Iqbal (centre) gets helped off court following his injury against Cesar Salazar (back)

An injury sustained by Pakistani wildcard Nasir Iqbal brought his first round fixture with Mexico’s Cesar Salazar to a premature end in the penultimate match of the day.

Salazar was making his first appearance since October, 21 and is ranked at World No.75 – 55 places below this time last year – after suffering from the effects of COVID-19. Iqbal, the World No.79, hadn’t played since September, but tested his opponent in the opening two games, losing out by a tie-break in both.

27-year-old Iqbal had the bit between his teeth in the third as he took a 10-5 lead but fell to the floor after chasing down a drop into the front left corner and was left writhing in agony.

He then had no choice but to shake hands with his opponent after a short injury break, meaning Salazar progresses to the last 16, where he will play No.4 seed Marwan ElShorbagy.

“It’s always hard to talk about the match when it finishes like this,” Salazar said.

“He’s a really talented player and he was playing very well in the third game. I played very well in the first two games, last year I couldn’t play 100 per cent after COVID, so of course I’m happy with the victory today.

“I’m happy to come back and I hope to be ready for my next match.”

Result
Cesar Salazar (MEX) bt [WC] Nasir Iqbal (PAK) 3-0: 12-10, 12-10, 5-10 retired (40m)

Khan Comes Through Thrilling Five-Gamer

Shahjahan Khan (fore) in action against Lucas Serme (back)

Shahjahan Khan assured that there would be home representation in the second round of the PSA World Tour Gold level Houston Open, as he got the better of Frenchman Lucas Serme in the final match of the opening day’s play.

Coming into the contest, Serme had won their only previous meeting, but it was Khan who held a lead after three games, having fought back from losing an opening game tie-break to win both the second and third games.

The Frenchman then won the fourth game to send the contest into a decider, before then having two match balls to win the match. However, Khan saved both to force a tie-break, and he then won the next two points as well, to take it 12-10, and book his spot in the last 16 at Houston Squash Club.

“Credit to Lucas, he fought well! I thought he was done in the fourth but again all respect to him as an experienced player. We are good friends, he gave respect. Last time we played four games and it was longer than this so I knew what would happen and I was mentally fit today,” Khan said after the match.

“It was physical, but it was also mental playing a good friend. My coaches, including Ong Beng Hee, he has been really helpful! Bridget from US Squash, Adam and all these guys. My mental game is all because of one guy, a close friend of my late uncle. He has been really helpful.

“To be honest, because of lockdown, everyone was in the same boat. I was really depressed, I didn’t know what was going to happen and I had some issues personally, but I feel like I fought well today.”

Result
Shahjahan Khan (USA) bt Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-2: 10-12, 11-9, 11-6, 8-11, 12-10 (81m)

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