The first round of qualifying for the 2014 Houston Open–the eighth U.S. Pro Series event of 2014 and second Life Time Squash Series event–at Life Time Athletic CityCentre is complete.
The Professional Squash Association event marks its second year at the Life Time Athletic CityCentre in downtown Houston and includes an increased prize money purse of $15,000 from $10,000 in 2013.
“We’re very excited to be back in Houston for the second year and having the biggest prize money for the Life Time Squash Series,” said Andre Maur, tournament promoter. “This is one of the best locations and we’re looking forward to bringing the glass court here next year. This tournament is so special as it is in one of the best locations in Houston and there is so so much to do. There’s nothing like Texas hospitality!”
The Houston Open is one of eight Life Time squash tournaments held across the country as part of the U.S. Pro Series. The tournaments also include US Squash-accredited adult draws hosted concurrently with the professional tournament.
Seattle-based teenager Shajahan Khan (pictured top, middle) provided a shock upset in the first slate of matches Tuesday evening as the eighteen-year-old clawed back from 2-1 down against Mexican world No. 76 Arturo Salazar to eliminate the top qualifying seed in five games 3-11, 11-6, 5-11, 13-11, 14-12.
Directly after Khan’s match, two other teenagers upset qualifying seeds in five games as Egyptian World Junior champion Karim El Hammamy defeated Swiss five seed Peter Heiko 7-11, 2-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-7, and Peruvian U.S. Junior Open champion Diego Elias eliminated Canadian three seed Andrew Schnell 11-6, 5-11, 6-11, 11-4, 11-8.
Boosted by winning his first professional tournament Saturday, the PSA 5 Squash Revolution NY Pro Open, American Todd Harrity (pictured left, front, during his nationals match against Chris Hanson) carried his momentum and confidence into Houston with a clinical three-game win against Jamaican national champion Chris Binnie 11-3, 11-4, 11-6. Harrity now faces Baltimore-based Pakistani Yasir Butt who defeated Local player Muhammed Sadiq in three games.
Training full-time since graduating from Princeton last year, and supported by the Elite Athlete Program (EAP), twenty-three-year-old Harrity feels his levels of play and confidence are rising, but he remains focused on improvement.
“I definitely think my game is a few levels better than it was during my senior year at Princeton,” Harrity said. “I am undoubtedly fitter and stronger, and a little more flexible than I was during my senior year. I feel that I have more variety in my game as well, have a few more shots in my repertoire, and I’m attacking with more confidence now more than ever before. It’s a work in progress though, and everything can still improve much more. I want there to be more deception in my game, and I think I still need to be faster.”
Chris Hanson, a recent graduate of Dartmouth and an EAP player, made his second professional tournament appearance after his debut in 2013 U.S. Open qualifying, and a winter hiatus due to injury. Pakistani world No. 124 Aqib Hanif spoiled Hanson’s return, however, as the twenty-seven-year-old advanced in three games 11-9, 11-7, 11-4. Hanson will aim for his first professional victory in qualifying for April’s PSA 5 Rochester ProAm. Hanif will vie for a main draw spot against Australian world No. 94 Zac Alexander.
Shahjahan Khan (PAK) bt  Arturo Salazar (MEX) 3-11, 11-6, 5-11, 13-11, 14-12
 Fred Reid (CAN) bt [L] Jahanzeb Khan (PAK) 13-11, 11-6, 11-3
Karim El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Heiko Peter (SUI) 7-11, 2-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-7
Diego Elias (PER) bt  Andrew Schnell (CAN) 11-6, 5-11, 6-11, 11-4, 11-8
 Yasir Ali Butt (PAK bt [L] Muhammad Sadiq (USA) 14-12, 11-8, 12-10
 Todd Harrity (USA) bt Christopher Binnie (JAM) 11-3, 11-4, 11-6
 Aqib Hanif (PAK) bt Chris Hanson (USA) 11-9, 11-7, 11-4
 Zac Alexander (AUS) bt Graeme Schnell (CAN) 11-7, 6-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-4
Shahjahan Khan (PAK) v  Fred Reid (CAN)
Karim El Hammamy (EGY) v Diego Elias (PER)
 Yasir Butt (PAK) v  Todd Harrity (USA)
 Aqib Hanif (PAK) v  Zac Alexander (AUS)
 Stephen Coppinger (RSA) v Lucas Serme (FRA)
 Christopher Gordon (USA) v Qualifier
 Cesar Salazar (MEX) v Qualifier
 Campbell Grayson (NZL) v Qualifier
 Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) v [WC] Joshua Masters (ENG)
 Karim Ali Fathi (EGY) v Matthew Karwalski (AUS)
 Julian Illingworth (USA) v Qualifier
 Mazen Hesham Ga Sabry (EGY) v Andrew Wagih Shoukry (EGY)