The Atlanta METAL Open celebrated its twentieth year with its first Indian champion–Vikram Malhotra–who captured the $10,000 title Sunday at Life Time Athletic Sandy Springs in Georgia.
Malhotra, a Trinity College graduate, has now won six PSA titles since returning to the Pro Tour in 2015 with the Atlanta METAL Open representing his third U.S. Pro Series title following the 2015 Betty F. Griffin Memorial Florida Open and 2016 Charlotte Open.
In Atlanta, Malhotra progressed through the draw as the two seed, enduring a five-game semifinal against Mexico’s Edgar Zayas, which Malhotra pulled off 11-9 in the fifth. The twenty-eight-year-old only needed three games in the final, however, against Egyptian top seed Mohamed Reda, who also made it through a five-game semifinal against Portugal’s Rui Soares.
In the final, Malhotra twice needed overtime against Reda to prevail in three games 13-11, 11-9, 15-13.
“It feels great to win, but I’m more relieved than anything,” Malhotra said. “Two of the three games went to to extra points and I really had to dig deep to win today. Very happy that my training, fitness and coaching all paid off and made the difference.”
The Atlanta Open was first held in 2000.
“This was my twentieth Atlanta Open,” said Andre Maur, Life Time Grand Prix Tour Director and Atlanta Open founder. “It’s the flagship of all of our events. It’s where it all started and it’s grown in both prize money and the amateur player involvement and this tournament set the tone for the rest of our Life Time events that we’ve added to the tour since 2012.”
Australia’s Donna Urquhart earned her second career U.S. Pro Series title and eleventh career PSA title in a flawless weekend of squash at the second annual Bahl & Gaynor Cup hosted by the Cincinnati Country Club in Ohio.
Urquhart, world No. 15, captured the $25,000 title without dropping a game all tournament, culminating in a three-game final victory against England’s two seed Victoria Lust. Egypt’s unseeded Rowan Reda Araby caused the biggest surprise in the sixteen-player draw, upsetting one seed Emily Whitlock in the first round before reaching the semifinals where Urquhart ended her run.
“You dream of weeks were it all comes together and you keep playing at the top of your game,” Urquhart said. “I just can’t believe it happened here, I am so happy”
Urquhart matches her biggest career title in Cincinnati, equaling her $25,000 Monte Carlo Classic triumph in December 2017. The result marks Urquhart’s second title on U.S. soil, following up the $10,000 Seattle Open in 2015.
The 2018 Bahl & Gaynor Cup saw a $15,000 increase in prize money from the inaugural $10,000 Bahl & Gaynor Cup in 2017.
Competing in her first Cleveland Classic in four years, New Zealand’s Joelle King upset world champion Raneem El Welily to claim her first PSA title since 2016 Monday night at the Cleveland Racquet Club in Ohio.
King spent majority of 2014 and 2015 on the sidelines following a severe Achilles injury, but has been resurgent in the past two season, returning to the world’s top ten and a strong fall of 2017 that saw the world No. 9 reach the Macau Open final, U.S. Open semifinals and Carol Weymuller final.
King met Team USA’s Amanda Sobhy in the semifinals after the Harvard graduate upset two seed and world No. 7 Sarah-Jane Perry in the quarterfinals. King would go on to defeat Sobhy in three games, but gave her opponent credit in what was just her second PSA tournament after her own ten-month Achilles injury layoff.
“I think Amanda did a fantastic job in only her second tournament back after her injury,” King said after the semifinals.
In the final, King recorded just her second career victory against world No. 2 El Welily in their fourteenth career match up. After defeating El Welily for the first time in four games at the Carol Wemuller this fall, King went one better in the Cleveland final, winning 11-8, 11-8, 11-8 after thirty-five minutes.
The $50,000 Cleveland Classic title is King’s eleventh career PSA title, and third career U.S. Pro Series title.
The nineteenth Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection fittingly concluded with one of the best matches in tournament history, when Marwan ElShorbagy took down Paul Coll 11-9 in the fifth Sunday in Birmingham, Michigan.
A packed Birmingham Athletic Club gallery witnessed an intense ninety-six minute final between ElShorbagy, the top seed and new world No. 4, and Coll, world No. 13, who both reached their first career final appearance in Detroit.
The Egyptian edged his Kiwi opponent at the very end of the match converting on his first championship ball to win 11-9, 9-11, 11-8, 8-11, 11-9.
“It was a tough match,” ElShorbagy said. “It was the longest of my career. It doesn’t get any tougher than beating Paul on this court with how it plays. The points never ends. I had to be very strong mentally.”
The match was decided on a difficult stroke call that left both players initially unsure of what the call was.
“It’s a tense part of the match and anything can happen,” Coll said. “I was scrambling. It probably was a stroke, but I’m obviously disappointed to lose like that. I forced a few things at times. He made me a bit edgy on my backhand volley because I could feel him behind me trying to get a stroke.”
The title marks ElShorbagy’s eighth career PSA Tour title
“I’m really pleased to win my first-ever Motor City Open,” ElShorbagy said. “This is great for me, it’s amazing. I’m so happy. To come back here next year and see my name on the wall will mean a lot to me.”
Hong Kong’s world No. 30 Max Lee claimed his twelfth career PSA Tour title—and first career U.S. Pro Series title—when he lifted the $25,000 Three Rivers Capital Pittsburgh Open trophy this weekend at the Rivers Club.
The first round included a number of major upsets. Egyptian qualifier Karim El Hammamy upset Scotland’s one seed Alan Clyne in four games. 2011 Pittsburgh Open champion Alister Walker returned to the Steel City as the Wild Card and made the most of the opportunity with a first-round upset against Campbell Grayson, and just falling short in the quarterfinals against three seed Tsz Fung Yip, 14-12 in the fifth.
England’s Ben Coleman began his surprise run to the final with a first-round upset against Qatar’s four seed Abdulla Al-Tamimi. Coleman, world No. 51, then dispatched Team USA’s eight seed Todd Harrity in the quarterfinals, and reached the final courtesy of another upset against six seed Joel Makin.
Lee progressed through the draw as the two seed, including a difficult four-game semifinal against Hong Kong teammate Yip. in the final against England’s Coleman, it was Lee who decisively claimed the title 11-2, 11-7, 11-5 in forty-three minutes.
The Pittsburgh Open concludes a busy week of squash in western Pennsylvania following the SDA Pittsburgh Golf Club Challenger the previous weekend. The Pittsburgh Open was first held in 1993.
Team USA’s Todd Harrity enters his second PSA tournament of 2018—the $25,000 Three Rivers Capital Pittsburgh Open—as the eight seed this weekend at the Rivers Club in western Pennsylvania.
Last year, the Princeton graduate pulled off a first-round upset against Karim Ali Fathi to reach the Pittsburgh quarterfinals. Now world No. 50, Harrity is predicted to reach the finals again, but first but get past England’s world no. 60 Richie Fallows in the first round, Thursday, January 25, at 5:20pm ET.
Should the American advance, he is predicted to face Qatari four seed Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi in what would be a rematch of the 2017 quarterfinals.
U.S. teammates Chris Hanson, Chris Gordon, Faraz Khan and Dylan Cunningham all failed to progress through qualifying and join Harrity in the main draw. Columbia graduate Ramit Tandon was one of four qualifiers and will face Hong Kong’s three seed Tsz Fung Yip in the first round.
Number five seed Jesus Camacho came out on top in the Betty F. Griffin Memorial Florida State Florida Open final after a straight games win over David Baillargeon.
The victory sees Camacho claim his second U.S. Pro Series title in two weeks after he prevailed in the Securian Open in Minnesota at the beginning of December.
The Mexican, who came through a hard-fought five-setter in the semi-finals to defeat England’s Joe Green, had no such problems in the Florida final, defeating the Canadian fourth seed Baillargeon 11-6, 11-6, 11-7.
Result – Life Time Florida Open 2017 final
 Jesus Camacho (MEX) v  David Baillargeon (CAN)11-6, 11-6, 11-7
The 2017 Carol Weymuller Open final will be a rematch of the 2015 final between Egypt’s Nour El Sherbini and New Zealand’s Joelle King Monday night at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn.
World No. 1 Nour El Sherbini is on the brink of tournament history with a potential record of three consecutive titles in Brooklyn. After bowing out of the U.S. Open presented by Macquarie Investment Management in the quarterfinals earlier this month, El Sherbini appears to be back on form. El Sherbini avenged her quarterfinal loss against U.S. Open champion Nour El Tayeb by dispatching her compatriot in a four-game quarterfinal.
In Sunday’s semifinals, El Sherbini defeated her third Egyptian opponent of the tournament, Salma Hany, in three games to advance to her third consecutive Carol Weymuller final.
“I’m feeling good and playing much better, feeling my shots and attacking more,” El Sherbini said after her semifinal victory. “In the final it will be tough one with whoever wins–whether it’s Raneem or Joelle—it’ll be tough. I’m looking forward to another Weymuller final.”
King, world No. 10, pulled off her first career win against Egypt’s world No. 3 Raneem El Welily in their thirteenth career matchup. King avenged her recent U.S. Open semifinal loss against El Welily 11-6, 3-11, 11-9, 14-12 to advance to her second career Carol Weymuller final.
“Finally! I’ve never beaten Raneem ever, not even since the juniors,” King said. “Through juniors she was the player that we all idolized. It was one of those matches where I didn’t know what the score was really. I just tried to play every point the best I could. In the fourth I just tried to take the ball as early as possible and I think from 10-10 we both played some great squash. Tomorrow is just another day, just going to try and recover and play my game and to be ready from the first point.”
In the 2015 final, El Sherbini defeated King 11-5, 11-6, 11-3.
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.