The fifth annual Festival of Squash in Charlottesville, Virginia, features the $25,000 Harrow Sports Charlottesville Open professional men’s draw at the Boar’s Head Resort, September 20-24.
While the professionals compete on the all-glass center court, the McAthur Squash Center’s eight adjacent courts will host US Squash-sanctioned open adult and junior silver tournaments.
The sixteen-player PSA draw kicks off Wednesday, September 20, at 12pm noon local time, with all matches scoring and streaming live on www.usprosquashseries.com/live.
Switzerland’s world No. 30 Nicolas Mueller leads the draw as the top seed in his Charlottesville debut. England’s world No. 38 Adrian Waller returns to Virginia as the two seed after reaching the 2016 semifinals.
Three Americans are set for first round action. Unseeded Timmy Lasusa is the first American in action against Egypt’s eight seed Mazen Hesham at 12:50pm. U.S. veteran Chris Gordon, world No. 63, takes on Qatar’s three seed Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi at 2:30pm. U.S. champion Chris Hanson faces Mexico’s seven seed Arturo Salazar at 5:20pm.
This past week Gregory Gaultier took another step toward redefining his pro squash career with a masterful performance at the PMI Bellevue Classic. Staged at the Boys and Girls Club Hidden Valley Field House just outside of Seattle, the sixteen-man $150,000 tournament was the richest event ever for an event its size.
Gaultier pocketed over $25,000, after working through the draw without dropping a game. In Saturday’s final, he took out Egypt’s Ali Farag 12-10, 12-10, 11-8 to win his fortieth PSA title. The win returns Gaultier to the world No.1 ranking, which, due to the PSA’s ranking algorithm, he’d lost in May despite not dropping a match.
The Frenchman is a familiar figure to pro squash fans. For the past decade he’s never been ranked lower than sixth in the world, occupying the number-one spot for nine months and winning the World Championship in Seattle in 2015. At thirty-four years old, he’s in the midst of an epic PSA winning streak that currently stands at six tournaments and twenty-seven matches—a level of play that’s bound to elevate his status in the pantheon of squash’s all-time greats.
Throughout his career, Gaultier has been known for wearing his heart on sleeve—pumping his fist and strutting around the court when he’s won a crucial point, pouting and crying to the heavens when he hits the tin or feels he’s been dealt an injustice by the referee. It’s been a common sentiment that if he could rein in his emotions, he would be nearly unbeatable.
As recently as January he delivered an astounding display of hot-blooded melodrama against Mohamed Elshorbagy in the semifinals of the Tournament of Champions. In the months following that notorious match, though, he seems to have found his long-illusive inner peace. His play has been relaxed, cool and clinical as he systematically has beaten one opponent after another. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation: is Gaultier playing well because he’s so calm, or is he calm because he’s playing so well?
Whatever the case may be, his newfound composure was on full display in the PMI Bellevue final against Farag. The quality of play was through the roof. Farag is a unique talent—he seems to glide effortlessly around the court, his thin limbs acting like rubber bands as he stretches to reach shots and then contracts back to the T. He was Gaultier’s equal through much of a match that was distinguished by long, spectacular rallies. Farag tried to disrupt the Frenchman’s rhythm with a mix of crosscourt drives and boasts; Gaultier countered with classic tight length and pinpoint shot-making. Both made one jaw-dropping retrieval after another.
Farag had one game ball in the first game and four in the second, but at those crucial moments Gaultier kept his focus and elevated his play. He took the first game with two immaculate cross-court kills, and pressured rare errors from Farag to save those games balls in the second. The intensity and entertainment value were as high as imaginable for a three-game match.
While the quality of the final was exceptional, the match of the tournament was the back-and-forth five-game quarterfinal between two veterans, James Willstrop and Borja Golan. After losing the first two games, Golan threw caution to the wind and went on a run of relentless, error-free attacking squash. For two games he was on fire, taking the third 11-2 and jumping ahead 10-1 in the fourth before closing out 11-6. The tension of the fifth game brought Golan back down to earth, but he still managed to scrap to a 10-7 lead, earning a conduct warning along the way. Willstrop looked weary, but he dug in and took advantage of loose balls to pull back even at 10-10. He then delivered his trademark shot, a spirit-crushing backhand drop, to reach match ball, and finished with an unreturnably tight backhand drive. The crowd was stunned by the remarkable comeback.
The tournament was also notable for the return of injury-plagued star Ramy Ashour. His first-round match was only his seventh PSA match of the year, and the first since retiring injured in the semifinals of the British Open in March. Ashour is famous for returning in top form after long layoffs, but things didn’t pan out that way this time. He was beaten in the second round by Marwan ElShorbagy 11-8, 12-10, 5-11, 11-6, in a match of short rallies, finished with some beautiful winners but also an uncharacteristically high number of errors from both players. Ashour’s movement looked tentative at times, but the good news is that he completed the match with his body intact.
Former Columbia No. 1 Ramit Tandon won his first PSA title against fellow Indian Kush Kumar in the final of the $5,000 SYS Open Sunday, May 14, at Southampton Youth Services on Long Island, New York.
The main draw included a raft of first round upsets that included all four qualifiers advancing to the quarterfinals. Former U.S. world juniors teammates Timmy Brownell and Spencer Lovejoy both recorded their first PSA main draw victories in the first round. Lovejoy upset seven seed Joshua Hollings in four games, before falling short in the fifth game against Trinity No. 1 Kush Kumar in the quarterfinals.
Brownell made a surprise run to the semifinals beginning with a three-game first-round upset over five seed Stu Hadden, and a five-game win over qualifier Mohammed Nabil in the quarterfinals. Kumar then dispatched Brownell 11-7 in the fifth in the semifinals.
After winning two qualifying matches, Tandon progressed through the draw without dropping a game, including in the semifinals against two seed Clinton Leeuw. In the final, Tandon defeated his compatriot 11-3, 11-2, 11-3 in thirty-one minutes.
Sixteen-year-old Egyptian Rowan Elaraby claimed two women’s U.S. Pro Series titles in just as many weeks this month in Virginia—the $5,000 Richmond Open, April 15, and $10,000 Sentara Martha Jefferson Charlottesville Open, April 23.
In Richmond, April 13-15, Rowan entered the Richmond Open as the two seed and didn’t drop a game on the way to her third career PSA Tour title, including a final upset over Canadian top seed Nicole Bunyan.
This weekend, Elaraby entered the Charlottesville Open as the eight seed and opened her tournament with a three-game win in the first round. The world No. 69 then defeated the tournament’s top three seeds to claim the title, three seed Vanessa Chu in the quarterfinals, one seed Ho Tze-Lok in the semifinals, and two seed Danielle Letourneau in the final 7-11, 11-6, 7-11, 11-6, 11-9 in fifty-two minutes.
Elaraby, Egypt’s top-ranked U17 player, has now already competed in five U.S. pro series events in 2017.
Mexican nineteen-year-old Jesus Camacho upset the top three seeds on his way to winning the largest title of his career—the $10,000 Madison Open—this weekend at Madison Squash Workshop in Wisconsin.
Camacho first upset England’s five seed Chris Fuller in a four-game, first-round match, before taking out Seattle-based three seed Shahjahan Khan in a three-game quarterfinal.
The Cuautitlan Izcalli-native pulled off two major upsets in the final two rounds of the tournament. First, a three-game upset over two seed and U.S. champion Chris Hanson to reach Sunday’s final. In the final, Camacho held off a two-game comeback from top seed Piedro Schweertman to win the title 13-11 in the fifth game.
The Madison Open marks Camacho’s second career PSA Tour title in addition to the $5,000 2016 British Virgin Islands Open, and first U.S. Pro Series title.
Egpyt’s soon-to-be world No. 1, Karim Abdel Gawad, won his second PSA Tour title on U.S. soil this season, the $70,000 Life Time Hutkay.fit Houston Open at Life Time Athletic in Texas.
The men’s world champion progressed through the draw with four, four-game wins. The draw saw four Egyptians advance to the semifinals including Gawad, four seed Fares Dessouki, three seed Tarek Momen and eight seed Mohamed Abouelghar.
Gawad defeated Momen in Sunday’s fifty-nine-minute final 11-6, 5-11, 11-6. The tile marks Gawad’s second on U.S. soil this season in addition to the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in January, and fifth of the season on the PSA Tour.
“I’m really happy to be playing this well since August,” Gawad told tournament director Andre Maur. “It’s important for me to keep winning and playing my best squash as much as I can. It’s really tough to do, but it’s part of our game and we all have to do it. I won here in January, and of course this tournament so I love playing on this court in Houston. Thanks to all of the sponsors and organizers for putting on this great event. Looking forward to coming back next year.”
Gawad is set to take over the world No. 1 ranking in May, which will mark the twenty-five-year-old’s first time ascending to the world’s top ranking.
S.L. Green U.S. men’s champion Chris Hanson enters the $10,000 Madison Open as the two seed this weekend at Madison Squash Workshop in Wisconsin.
The twenty-six year old is making his second PSA appearance since claiming his first national title last month. Hanson, world No. 92, is predicted to face fellow American Faraz Khan, the seven seed, in the second round Friday, April 21, and Seattle-based Pakistani Shajahan Khan in the semifinals Saturday, April 22.
If the draw plays out according to seeding, Hanson will meet Dutch world No. 72 Piedro Schweertman in Sunday’s final.
Last month one week after the S.L. Green, Schweertman defeated Hanson in a five-game, first-round match at the $15,000 Manitoba Open.
The Madison Open is live streaming and scoring all weekend on www.usprosquashseries.com/live. First round matches begin Thursday, April 20, at 5:30pm local time, 6:30pm ET.
French world No. 2 Camille Serme continued her unbeaten start to 2017 after she mounted a superb comeback from two games down to retain her Cleveland Classic title at the expense of England’s former world No. 3 Alison Waters in Pepper Pike, Ohio.
Serme, the twenty-seven-year-old from Créteil, has been in scintillating form over the past few months, with victories at the Delaware Investments U.S. Open and J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions cementing her status as the form player on the Women’s Tour.
Serme surged through to the final without dropping a solitary game, with Egyptian qualifier Nadine Shahin, number eight seed Tesni Evans and World No.8 Sarah-Jane Perry all falling by the wayside as the rampant Frenchwoman went on to set up a repeat of the 2016 final with Waters, who was the only player to have beaten Serme in the latter’s 16 previous matches coming into the final.
Waters looked to be set to get the better of her opponent once more after going two games ahead courtesy of some disciplined length hitting, putting the current World No.10 on the cusp of a first PSA World Tour title since the 2014 Carol Weymuller Open.
But Serme responded in the third by attacking at the front of the court on the backhand side and, after winning it by an 11-7 margin, she ground out a victory in the fourth to level the scores and set up a dramatic fifth-game showdown.
With the match edging towards its conclusion, both players played an attritional brand of squash with neither competitor giving many loose shots away as they sought to gain the upper hand. But it was Serme who changed up her game intelligently, incorporating the lob to great effect as she closed out a 10-12, 9-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-7 victory to lift her third PSA World Tour title in her last four tournaments.
Serme and Waters will be in action at the upcoming Windy City Open presented by Guggenheim Partners and EquiTrust Life Insurance Company, which will be shown live on SQUASHTV between February 23 – March 1.