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James Willstrop

TOC Day Four: Player Reaction

Round two action continues in New York today as day four of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions kicks off with another 16 players looking to book their places in the next round.

Play begins at 12:00 (GMT-4) live on SQUASHTV and you can also stay up-to-date with all the live scores from the tournament here.

Two home players feature in today’s lineup as Olivia Clyne and Olivia Fiechter take on France’s Melissa Alves and Malaysia’s Sivasangari Subramaniam respectively.

A clash between two former World No.1s will take place at 19:00 as reigning World Champion Ali Farag takes on ‘The Marksman’ James Willstrop for a place in the quarter finals. Willstrop is yet to beat Farag in a best of five match but has claimed a 2-1 win over the Egyptian in the 2017 World Series Finals.

Order Of Play
All times are local (GMT-4)

Order of play

Clyne gets day four underway with a win over Alves

Olivia Clyne all smiles after her win

Opening play on day four was home player Olivia Clyne, who was born in New York, taking on France’s Melissa Alves.

The pair last met at the CIB Egyptian Open 2021, where Clyne took the victory in a very close five-set battle. Alves only played three events after that and features in a PSA event for the first time here since November.

Alves raced out to a 7-1 lead by playing impressive, attacking squash which caught Clyne off her guard. Clyne battled back however and won the next seven points to take the lead in the game at 8-7. Clyne eventually took the game 12-10.

Clyne moved from strength to strength in game two and gave her French opponent nowhere near as many opportunities to step in front and dominate proceedings. The American found her length and hit the back corners with great accuracy to double her lead winning 11-4.

Despite Alves taking the third game to breathe more life into the affair, Clyne finished the match off in style, as she looked to be completely comfortable on the all-glass court in New York’s Grand Central Terminal. The World No.22 capitalised on her solid length hitting by moving the frame of Alves into the front corners with accurate volley drops. Clyne booked her quarter final spot for the first time in her career in 41 minutes.

Clyne had this to say after her win:

“It's funny, I've been having a bit of time with myself and trying to figure out how to play this game, I know it looks like I can and sometimes it’s touch and go, but honestly Melissa is a class player and if you give a class player balls to take in, you’re going to get munched so if I could hang in and ride that storm then maybe I’d get something to play with and in the end I did.

“I think on the whole I'm more comfortable on my backhand and when I'm hitting it well on my forehand I think I'm starting to feel good and get into it. You have to be able to play well on both sides, if you're a one-sided player you'll get nowhere these days, especially against the standard that Melissa is operating at so you need to be strong on both sides.

“We’ve been playing since juniors, so it's nice to play with players you've played a lot, I wish she wasn’t getting better all the time but I scraped through last time and I know she coming back from injury so I'm happy to get this win.

“It's crazy, I think they awarded James Willstrop with a trophy for 18 appearances but I think if you count attendances I think I'm on about 27, so I think I've got him beat. It’s no joke when you say I grew up here, I literally grew up in those stands, I was inspired by all the squash I saw, I wanted to be one of the players and dream come true that now, I am one. It's surreal and special.”

[6] Olivia Clyne (USA) bt Melissa Alves (FRA) 3-1: 12-10, 11-6, 7-11, 11-6 (41m)

Marche wins all-European battle to advance

Gregoire Marche celebrates his win

An all-European battle was next onto court as France’s Gregoire Marche faced ‘The Swiss Rocket’ Nicolas Mueller.

The Frenchman is regarded as one of the best movers on the PSA World Tour whilst Mueller's shot-making is one of the most inventive in the game. Marche was able to soak up Mueller’s attacks in the opening game and counter-attack his opponent and force Mueller into several tough movements. Marche took the first game 11-7.

The second game followed a similar pattern, Mueller showing his skill and ball placement to move Marche around the court but the intensity and consistency of the Frenchman forced errors from the racket of the Swiss. Marche showed his confidence and started to find winners of his own and after a closely contested game, Marche finished with a perfect backhand volley drop to double his lead.

Marche continued his momentum into the third game and despite Mueller levelling at 8-8, two errors from the World No.15 gave Marche two match balls to advance to the quarter finals. Mueller did well to regroup and take the next three points to give himself a game ball. The game went on further but it was Mueller who took the game in a 15 minute 14-12.

It looked as though Mueller’s efforts for taking the third game had taken too much out of the Swiss No.1 to mount a serious challenge in the next game. Marche took full advantage of this and piled the pressure onto his fellow European. Marche kept his quality high and impressively closed the match out to move into the last eight.

“Nicky is probably my best friend on tour, apart from the French boys, we’ve been playing for maybe 20 years and he was beating me all the time when I was young and we have a long history and today you could see it on court today. I'm really pleased to win this one, after losing the third having had match balls it's not easy to come back and I think I was a bit more ready physically to push in the fourth and I'm really happy to win this one.

“It’s been a long season, we had Europeans last week and it was a tough week and I came straight to this, I had three days to recover and get ready for this one, it’s going to be a long week again but that’s what we train for and it’s good to see it's paying off.

“How can you say no to this venue? When I was a kid it was a dream to play here, and I remember 12 years ago when I came for the first time I was over the moon, and to be able to play and win matches on this court is the best feeling so I’ll just keep going and go again tomorrow.”

[4] Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-1: 11-8, 11-9, 12-14, 11-3 (58m)

Naughton scores first win in New York to reach the quarters

Hollie Naughton

No.8 seed Hollie Naughton booked her place in the quarter finals of the Tournament of Champions 2022 as she beat England’s Lucy Turmel in 31 minutes to progress.

Both players struggled to settle into any rhythm in the first game as the rallies were short and scrappy. With lots of action to the front of the court, there was nothing between the two as the score reached 9-9. Naughton earned the first game ball and took the game at the first time of asking 11-9.

The Canadian’s momentum continued in the second game and fired the ball in short to test the movement of Turmel who had her right hamstring heavily taped. Naughton showed no signs of slowing down and took the game 11-6.

Turmel returned to court after a 3-minute injury break looking to try and find some sort of rhythm in her first Tournament of Champions second round appearance. Naughton was desperate to stay in control of the T, but the Englishwoman was proving to be very stubborn. Naughton regrouped at moved through to earn herself four match balls at 10-6. She finished the match off with a perfect backhand drop to reach the quarter finals.

Naughton’s thoughts after her win:

“I knew I had to come out strong, Lucy is such a dangerous player when you give her time, I'm really just happy that I managed to do what I set out to do, I could tell she had a bit of a niggle as she was moving around, which isn't easy to play against, so I'm happy to come off in three.

“It's an incredible venue, this is the first time ove won on this court and the second time I've played on it. I think everyone dreams of playing on this cour and winning on this court, there's not much more of a cool venue, you've got 100s of thousands of people standing out there and wondering what squash is and we try to put on a show for them to entice them to play it.”

[8] Hollie Naughton (CAN) bt Lucy Turmel (ENG) 3-0:11-9, 11-6, 11-6 (31m)

Rodriguez battles past Dussourd to reach final eight

Rodriguez & Dussourd after the match

Miguel Rodriguez has moved into the quarter finals of the Tournament of Champions for just the second time in his career as he’s beaten France’s Auguste Dussourd in straight games.

The Frenchman defeated compatriot Baptiste Masotti in round one to set up the second round place. ‘The Colombian Cannonball’ got to work on his accurate play early in the first game. The loose drives from Dussourd were picked off by Rodriguez clinically as he took the first game 11-5.

More of the same followed from Rodriguez as the experience of the Colombian allowed him to maintain his concentration throughout the second and third games. The young Frenchman tried his best to settle into a rhythm and impose his own game but the No.5 seed’s touch to the front partnered with exquisite length wouldn’t allow it.

After losing the second game, Dussourd came out firing in the third game and started to move the South American a lot more than he had done in the opening two games. Dussourd’s aggressive and positive play was rewarded as he gave himself a lifeline by taking the game 11-8.

Dussourd took a lengthy injury break after impact to his right knee early in the fourth game and upon returning onto court, Rodriguez got back to winning ways. He exposed the movement of his opponent by holding and pushing the ball around the court which proved too much for Dussourd in the end.

Rodriguez took the fourth game 11-6 to win in four games and set up a quarter final match with either No.1 seed Ali Farag or James Willstrop.

“This is my 15th time at the TOC, I'm very glad and happy,” said Rodriguez.

I was so pumped for the match. I had to wait three days, I'm feeling great, this year has been amazing for me, very busy and I have accomplished many goals in this period so I'm just grateful for the opportunity to be here and win again.

“Both are very different [playing for team Colombia] playing for my country is something special, I've been playing for my country since I was 15 years old. This year we had the Pan American Games in Guatemala, I played mixed doubles then the team event and we won the title and now I’m here again, I wanted to focus on this tournament, it's very special for me and now I'm looking forward to tomorrow’s match.

“I think I stayed on his pace in the third, in the first and second games I was playing my plan A and I was picking up the pace and controlling and in the third one I was playing too much on the backhand side and with the same rhythm so he got some confidence so I had to pick up the pace and play faster in the fourth.”

[5] Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt Auguste Dussourd (FRA) 3-1: 11-5, 11-7, 8-11, 11-6 (66m)

Fiechter Comes Back to Beat Subramaniam

Olivia Fiechter in action

USA’s Olivia Fiechter overturned a match ball against World No.20 Sivasangari Subramaniam to book her place in the quarter finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions for the first time.

Fiechter had won a thrilling five-game contest at the Cincinnati Gaynor Cup in February and repeated the trick in New York amidst a cracking atmosphere inside Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall.

It was a match in which Fiechter had to draw on her fighting spirit as well as her accuracy with a racket, particularly with an impressive Subramaniam managing to engineer a match ball opportunity in the fourth game after coming back from a game down.

The Malaysian will perhaps consider herself unfortunate to receive a no let decision when match ball up, which was immediately followed by an error and then a well-constructed rally from Fiechter to draw level at two games apiece.

And it was the American who had the bit between her teeth in the decider as she dominated proceedings, closing out an 11-9, 8-11, 6-11, 12-10, 11-5 victory in 54 minutes to reach the last eight.

“The last time we played I think she had a few match balls in the fourth as well, so when you’ve done it before it definitely adds to that self belief in those hard and challenging moments,” said Fiechter.

“She’s such an incredible player, she was pounding the ball so severely and for a while I was just trying to weather the storm. I have so much respect for her, she’s playing at Cornell while playing on the tour and I couldn’t have done that when I was at Princeton. Now she’s at her highest ranking of 20, so I’m at a loss that I was able to find a way to win, especially in front of this crowd.

“She had an incredible junior career, so she’s always been a player to watch. Now we’ve played twice and I’m sure we’re going to play many more times once she graduates.

“It’s definitely a strange feeling [being seeded] because the last two times I played this event I barely got into the draw. The fact I’m playing my first match on day four is a little strange. When I was eight years old I came up to the ToC and it was the first professional tournament I went to with my first coach Bill Lane, and I sat up in these stands all day long.

“There’s something magical about this court and it’s been a lifelong dream to play on here. To do it in front of my family, friends and loved ones is extremely special.

“I never get to play in front of my parents and it’s my mum’s birthday week and mother’s day is coming up, so I’m going to dedicate this one to her I think. My coach Peter [Nicol] is in the crowd here and I remember getting his autograph when I was eight years old here, so to have him coaching me and playing on this court is incredible, this is definitely going to be one that I will never forget.”

[5] Olivia Fiechter (USA) bt Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS) 3-2: 11-9, 8-11, 6-11, 12-10, 11-5 (54m)

Farag Beats 2010 Champ Willstrop

Ali Farag (fore) takes on James Willstrop

World No.2 Ali Farag laid down a marker for the rest of the tournament as the Egyptian put in an assured display to get the better of 2010 champion James Willstrop in three games.

Farag, the 2019 champion, had won his last four matches against the English veteran and played an aggressive brand of attacking squash which saw him step up the court and take the ball early, twisting and turning his 38-year-old opponent in the process.

Willstrop’s trademark accuracy and unerring control was evident in the third with some lovely touches and pinpoint lobs to the back of the court, whilst the smiles on both players faces after a number of the rallies made it evident that they were both enjoying the occasion.

Farag was able to take the sting out of the match though after falling 5-3 behind in the third and he was duly rewarded with an 11-2, 11-4, 11-6 victory which will see him take on Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez for a place in the semi finals.

“We don’t want him to retire any time soon, he’s such an asset to our sport,” Farag said.

“I have a lot of respect for James and that’s why I played so well today. Usually, in the first round you start a little bit off, but you can’t afford to do that against someone of James’s calibre. When he was being introduced when we were warming up, I was thinking that I was watching James here either live or behind a screen in Egypt and I dreamed of being on this court one day, let alone with him.

“This is the second time we’ve shared this court, and as James mentioned, it’s the most spectacular court that you can play a sport on, not only squash.

“I’m very grateful, I’m living the best times of my life. Our baby girl is growing so fast and it’s exciting to watch her develop week in and week out. To be fair, I’m doing all the light work, Nour [El Tayeb] is doing all the hard work, she’s the one waking up with the baby.

“She’s back home now and they’re probably both asleep. I’m extremely happy with my squash, obviously I would have loved to stay at the World No.1 spot for longer, but it’s an exciting challenge to try and get it back.”

[1] Ali Farag (EGY) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 11-2, 11-4, 11-6 (26m)

Gohar Gets Title Challenger Under Way Against Letourneau

Nouran Gohar (right) takes on Danielle Letourneau

Egypt’s Nouran Gohar got her attempts to win a maiden Tournament of Champions title under way as the 24-year-old dispatched Canada’s Danielle Letourneau in a comfortable 3-0 victory.

Both of their previous matches had been under the half an hour mark and Gohar made that a hat-trick as she completed an 11-4, 11-4, 11-6 win to set up a last eight battle with Letourneau’s compatriot, Hollie Naughton.

World No.1 Gohar is arguably the hardest hitter on the women’s tour, but Letourneau was able to keep up with the pace of Egyptian’s hitting and made the rallies as long as she could in an attempt to put points on the board.

Gohar’s supreme accuracy – in particular from the back left corner where she hit a range of winners both short and long – saw her nullify her opponent though and she will move through to the quarter finals of this event for the sixth time.

“I just moved to the States at the end of December last year because I got married, so I moved here with my husband and we’re living in Stamford right now,” said Gohar.

“There have been big changes in my life recently, but I can’t really complain about it, I had a good time last year and I’m still enjoying it out here. I have a second home here, Egypt is always in my heart, but I have friends here in the stands cheering, so it feels good to have them there.

“I want it [to win the event] badly. At the beginning of this year when I was sitting goals, I definitely had it at the back of my mind to get back to World No.1. I want to win every title that I’ve never won before and ToC is on top of the list after the World Champs.

“I will be hungry and I will do everything on court to try and add this to my career.”

[1] Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt Danielle Letourneau (CAN) 3-0: 11-4, 11-4, 11-6 (26m)

Ibrahim Takes Out Steinmann… Again

Youssef Ibrahim (right) takes on Dimitri Steinmann (left)

World No.12 Youssef Ibrahim overcame Switzerland’s Dimitri Steinmann in a match that had a whiff of deja vu about it given they had already met earlier on in the tournament.

The unique circumstance arose due to Mostafa Asal’s withdrawal prior to the event due to a positive COVID-19 test, meaning a ‘lucky loser’ was randomly chosen to take Asal’s spot in the second round, which would have pitted him against Ibrahim.

Steinmann was selected following his first round defeat to Ibrahim and, coincidentally, would end up facing the Egyptian in successive rounds.

This time around, Ibrahim quickly stamped his authority on the match and rose to a two-game advantage.

World No.42 Steinmann came alive in the third game and forced Ibrahim into all four corners of the court, but the Egyptian was equal to him and he soon closed out an 11-2, 11-5, 12-10 victory to reach he quarter finals of this event for the first time.

“I prepared like any other match, I just think I needed to be a bit more sharp than usual,” said Ibrahim, who will play Saurav Ghosal next.

“Normally when I lose to someone, the day after the tournament I want to play them again and I think I have a good chance to beat him, so that’s how I thought he would feel after we played the first match. I warmed up pretty well and was pretty sharp from the first couple of points.

“I’m happy to be mentally consistent and hold him off again.

“I feel better that I don’t have to play him for the third time. I’m looking forward for tomorrow, I’m feeling fresh and it’s going to be a good match.”

[8] Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) bt Dimitri Steinmann (SUI) 3-0: 11-2, 11-5, 12-10 (37m)

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