Despite surrendering the third game in their first ever meeting, India’s top-seeded Ramit Tandon controlled the final of the Seattle Open against Egyptian Mohamed El Sherbini from the word “Play.”
It wasn’t that the third-seeded Egyptian, and cousin of women’s World No. 2 Nour El Sherbini, played poorly. He simply had no solutions for the puzzle Tandon was creating. Superior length and width, along with deft touch at the front by Tandon led to clear winners or loose balls from El Sherbini that, on six occasions in the opener, resulted in strokes against him. The stroke-fest continued in the second game as Tandon built an insurmountable lead before ElSherbini made a game of it with a handful of winners of his own.
ElSherbini managed to solve his self-imposed traffic jam in the third by cleaning up his errors to build a 7-1 lead that Tandon was seemingly willing to let go. But in the fourth, Tandon—who reached a career-high World No. 58 on February 1—put the hammer down and ran away with the title.
The win was Tandon’s second title in the last 12 months and second on U.S. soil, despite not currently working with a coach, he has leveraged his time on court with his training partner, Ramy Ashour, into a rise in the rankings from No. 493 in April 2017. Currently the second reserve, Tandon is hopeful of gaining entry into the the $1 million World Championships that begin in Chicago’s Union Station on February 23. But for now, the rising star can enjoy the rewards from a week of dominant play in Seattle.
Egypt’s world No. 3 Nour El Tayeb leads the $51,250 Cleveland Classic draw this week, January 31-February 4, at the Cleveland Racquet Club in Ohio.
The ninth staging of the event draws three of the world’s top ten players, with England’s world No. 9 Alison Waters and world No. 10 Tesni Evans entering the field as the three and two seeds, respectively.
El Tayeb is seeded to meet Waters, a two-time finalist in 2016 and 2017 in the semifinals, with a seeded final against Evans. Evans will open her campaign either against Cornell graduate Danielle Letourneau or Harvard graduate Haley Mendez–the only American in the twenty-four-player draw.
Sixteen players representing eleven countries squared off in the first round of the Seattle Open, a PSA Challenger event, with seven of the eight seeds coming out on top.
The one upset resembled a gladiatorial battle–or a hockey game. Matias Tuomi of Finland beat American Christopher Gordon in a four-game match that included over 30 minutes of delays due to blood injuries sustained by both players. Gore aside, the match was a display of the lethal effectiveness of driving deep along the left wall and following with a straight drop, a strategy that paid dividends for both players. Gordon worked the combination well late in the first game, coming back from 1-7 to even things 9-all. At 11-11, Tuomi took a racquet just above the eye, but following his injury break returned to take the game 13-11. Gordon gained his own 7-1 advantage in the second and cruised to a win in the game. Early in the third, though, he suffered a cut below his mouth, and after that he never got entirely back on track. Tuomi won the third and fourth, both 11-7.
Two more of the evening’s matches went to four. Daniel Mekbib of the Czech Republic and Joeri Hapers of Belgium both looked to impose pace on each other, but it was the lefty Mekbib who managed to dominate the middle of the court, sending Hapers scrambling repeatedly deep into the back right corner, particularly in the first and fourth games. Hapers found his form in the hotly contested second, taking an early lead and holding for his only game of the match.
With an emphatic forehand crosscourt nick, Frenchman Sébastien Bonmalais finished off the other four-game win, over the second Czech in the draw, Ondrej Uherka. It was one of the evening’s most entertaining matches, with both players hitting tight length and displaying soft touch at the front, and both working through interference rather than asking for lets. Bonmalais, just 20 years old, showed the influence of French stars Thierry Lincou and Gregory Gaultier, moving fluidly and using severe delays in his swing.
The remainder of the matches were decided in straight games. Englishman Lyell Fuller, Indian Ramit Tandon, and Canadians Andrew Schnell and Shawn Deliierre all notched decisive victories. Mohamed El Sherbini of Egypt had to work harder for his 3-0 win over American Faraz Khan, with the first and third games going to extra points. In the first, El Sherbini dominated a series of long, testing rallies to take a 9-3 lead, then proceeded to lose his length and find the tin. Khan came back to reach game ball at 10-9 and again at 11-10, but the Egyptian elevated his play to close out 13-11. The story in the third was a reverse of the first, with Khan going up 6-1 and ElSherbini fighting back. The tail end of the game was marked by a series of contested calls and tins from both players, with El Sherbini ultimately triumphant, 15-13.
The curtain came down on the 2019 CSC Delaware Open at the Vicmead Hunt Club, in front of a pack crowd, with a very entertaining match and an even more deserving winner.
Lisa Aitken of Scotland landed her biggest PSA title to date with a gutsy three games to two come from behind win. For the first half of the match it looked like Tsz-Ling would walk away with her twelfth title as she controlled the T with measured length and a deceptive short game.
However, as with the semi-finals Aiken is one determined individual and playing some of her best squash. Tsz-Ling had one an opportunity in the third game to close it out, but some unforced errors at the business end of that game allowed Aitken to get back into the match.
From that point she never looked back as she dominated the “T” from that point from which TSZ-Ling had no answer.
Aitken wins her sixth PSA title, and with her current form she should add to that haul in the future.
Team USA’s Todd Harrity and Chris Hanson recorded first-round victories at the $70,000 Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Group Tuesday, January 29, at the Birmingham Athletic Club in Detroit, Michigan.
Harrity, world No. 48, defeated Trinity graduate and world No. 58 Vikram Malhotra 11-4, 11-4, 11-7, to set up a second-round clash with Egyptian world No. 10 Mohamed Abouelghar.
“The U.S. hasn’t been a dominant force on the men’s pro singles squash tour ever,” Harrity said. “Guys like Chris and I—and a bunch of good young players coming up as well—are really working hard to try to change that. When I think about these things, it’s really exciting to think about the future of squash in this country.”
Two-time U.S. champion Hanson recorded his first career PSA win over New Zealand’s world No. 42 Campbell Grayson 11-5, 11-7, 11-6. Hanson, world No. 63, will face Egypt’s world No. 17 Omar Mosaad less than two weeks after the pair faced off at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions. Mosaad won their New York City encounter in a close three games 11-8, 12-10, 11-8.
“The state of U.S. squash is getting better,” Hanson said. “At a tournament like this, where guys in the top 10 or 20 are playing, we’re not quite there yet, but with some wins like this, we’ll make it known that the Americans are making a push.”
The Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection starts its engine Tuesday, January 29, as the $70,000 PSA World Tour Silver men’s event marks its twentieth year, January 29-February 2, at the Birmingham Athletic Club in Detroit, Michigan.
First round action is set to kick off Tuesday afternoon at 4pm ET with matches streaming and scoring live on usprosquashseries.com/live.
Defending champion and world No. 8 Marwan ElShorbagy leads the field as the top seed, and is opposed by two seed and 2015 champion Miguel Angel Rodriguez. Egypt’s world No. 10 Mohamed Abouelghar and Peru’s world No. 11 Diego Elias round out the top seeds as three and four, respectively.
The first round will see the top-two U.S. men on tour in action. Following his second round appearance at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, world No. 48 Todd Harrity is in search of his second first round victory of the month against Trinity graduate and world No. 58 Vikram Malhotra.
Two-time U.S. champion and world No. 63 Chris Hanson will take on U.S.-based Kiwi Campbell Grayson in what will be a rematch from 2017 Motor City Open qualifying, which Grayson won in three games.
The Motor City Open was first held as a $12,000 draw in 1999, and has been held as a $70,000 draw since 2013.
Two-time S.L. Green U.S. Men’s Champion Chris Hanson notched his fifth career PSA title this weekend–the $11,000 Securian Open at the Commodore Squash Club in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The world No. 66 didn’t drop a game on his way to the title, fulfilling his top seeding in the draw that included three other Americans–Chris Gordon, Andrew Douglas and Faraz Khan.
Gordon, the two seed, progressed through the draw to set up an all-American final against his U.S. teammate. In the final, it was Hanson who emerged victorious 11-6, 11-6, 11-6.
“I felt good about my preparation in the lead up to the tournament last week, which allowed me to maintain focus throughout the event on each individual match,” Hanson said. “I started strong in every match, which allowed me to take control early on and helped me to not have to go to extra games.”
Hanson’s match up against Gordon was their first on the PSA World Tour. Hanson had won their most recent encounters in the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Championship semifinals.
“The final with Gordo was very enjoyable since we were both happy to make the final and have an incredible amount of respect for each other’s squash,” Hanson said. “Even though I was confident in myself, I knew I would have to produce some of my best squash to beat him on the day.”
Hanson ends the 2018 calendar year with three PSA titles and a second national title. January will see Hanson compete in Grand Central Terminal for the first time in his career as one of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions men’s wild cards.
“I’m very happy to finish 2018 with a win,” Hanson said. “I can take that confidence into my preparation for ToC 2019 and the rest of the season.”
Four of Team USA’s top-ranked players on the PSA Tour are set to compete in the $11,000 Securian Open this week, December 5-8, at the Commodore Squash Club in St. Paul Minnesota.
The U.S. Pro Series event is seeded for an all-American final between two-time S.L. Green U.S. Men’s champion Chris Hanson, the top seed, and U.S. veteran and world No. 85 Chris Gordon, who slots into the draw as the two seed.
Two-time S.L. Green U.S. Men’s finalist Andrew Douglas is set for this third professional appearance this fall. The Penn sophomore has risen to world No. 119 as the fourth-highest ranked U.S. player on the men’s tour following his wild card appearance at the FS Investments U.S. Open in October. Douglas, the seven seed, could face Gordon in the semifinals in the bottom half of the draw.
Faraz Khan, world No. 128, joins his U.S. teammates in the draw with a first round match up against Trinity graduate and six seed Juan Camilo Vargas.
Match play begins Wednesday, December 5, from 12pm local time, 1pm ET.
Team USA’s Olivia Fiechter lifted the first PSA title of her career–the inaugural Women’s Rhode Island Open–Sunday, November 18, at the Nicol Squash Club in Providence, Rhode Island.
The twenty-three-year-old from Philadelphia entered the draw as the three seed, following her ascendancy to a career high world ranking in November. The Princeton graduate’s ranking was boosted by a wild card appearance at the FS Investments U.S. Open, which propelled Fiechter from world No. 115 to 79.
Fiechter fulfilled her seeding by recording two victories en route to the semifinals where she met fellow Princeton graduate and top seed Nicole Bunyan. The match up between the two Tigers was the closest match of the tournament extending to five games with Fiechter edging her old teammate 6-11, 11-9, 6-11, 13-11, 12-10.
“It’s never easy playing a friend and especially a former teammate whom you’ve always looked up to, but it was also fun to know that a Princeton tiger would definitely be advancing to the final on Sunday,” Fiechter said. “Nicole and I train together occasionally so I knew she is playing at a really high level and that it was going to be a really tough match up. She’s one of the toughest competitors I know so I knew she was going to push me mentally and physically. It couldn’t have been much closer and it’s a shame there had to be a loser, but I was of course thrilled to sneak out the win in the end and was proud of myself for hanging in there in the tough moments.”
Egypt’s world No. 112 Menna Nasser reached the final with an upset over two seed Kace Bartley in the semifinals to reach her third career PSA final. In her PSA final debut, Fiechter edged the Egyptian 11-6, 11-9, 13-11 to clinch the title.
“I’m beyond excited to have captured my first PSA title in Rhode Island,” Fiechter said. “I was lucky enough to have my coach, Peter Nicol, and parents there to support me throughout the week and to be able to share this win with them made it all the more special. I knew there were some really strong and experienced players in the draw but I went in feeling confident that If I played my best squash, I’d have a good shot at making it to the end.”
The Rhode Island Open was Fiechter’s third tournament of the fall, having reached the Nash Cup quarterfinals in September and the U.S. Open last month.
“Given that this was my first tournament since the U.S. Open in October, I was able to put in a lot of hard work in the 4-5 weeks leading up to this event and so it’s an amazing feeling to know that that hard work paid off,” Fiechter said. “While I of course aim to win any tournament I enter and set high expectations for myself, I also know that time and experience go a long way on tour and that results don’t happen overnight; for this reason, capturing my first title in the first six months of my career is an incredible feeling and I hope to use the momentum from this win as a confidence booster for my upcoming tournaments.”