Alister Walker returns to the Steel City to defend his 2011 Three Rivers Capital Pittsburgh Open title as the top seed in 2014—the first edition of the Pittsburgh Open to be held since the Botswana international’s first title three years ago at the Rivers Club.
Opposing world No. 19 Walker (pictured accepting the trophy in 2011) in the $25,000 sixteen-player main draw as the two seed, is Egyptian world No. 16 Karim Abdel Gawad who makes his Pittsburgh Open and U.S. Pro Series debut.
U.S. champion Chris Gordon makes his first U.S. Pro Series appearance of 2014 in the main draw and faces 2014 Atlanta Open champion and world No. 43 Cesar Salazar in the first round.
2014 Seattle Open champion and 2009 Pittsburgh Open champion, Joel Hinds, enters the main draw as the Wild Card facing Finn Olli Touminen in the first round. Touminen is coming off a strong performance at the Motor City Open where he upset world No. 11 Tarek Momen to reach the quarterfinals as a qualifier.
The Pittburgh Open has been a staple on the U.S. circuit for years dating back to the early 1990’s. The tournament had a brief hiatus that ended five years ago when Steven Baicker-McKee became tournament director. The event started small with $5,000 and $6,000 prize purses, and in 2014 the revitalized tournament returned to the $25,000 level. Baicker-McKee says the club is happy so see some familiar faces return to the Rivers Club.
“We are particularly excited this year to have some of our recent winners back to play again, including Alister Walker who won three years ago and Joel Hinds who won five years ago,” said Baicker-McKee. “We are also excited to have Olli Tuominen back to Pittsburgh, as he played in the event back before we took the hiatus.”
The first round of qualifying played out Wednesday evening as five Rivers Club members combated professionals in hopes of reaching Thursday’s qualifying finals. Their efforts were to no avail however, as all club members were dispatched in three games and twenty-one minutes or less. All club members will still have the chance to play at the club throughout the weekend in amateur draw hosted alongside the professional tournament.
“The crowd seemed to get quite a kick out of watching the pros toy with our local players in the qualifiers,” said Baicker-McKee. “I am continually impressed by what a friendly, polite, appreciative, and professional group the PSA players are. So many professional athletes seem to feel entitled and special, but these elite squash players are models of how sports figures should behave. For example, tonight, we were building some platforms to elevate an area of seating, and one of the pros, without being asked, came over and helped us for a good hour.
“We always host a player or two in our house, and find it to be an incredibly rewarding experience from a cultural as well as personal perspective. Plus, they will always agree to hit with me!”
All four of Thursday’s qualifying finals ended in three games to complete the main draw. Twenty-year-old Pakistani Farhan Zaman defeated Nigerian Baba Runde Ajagbe 11-5, 11-4, 11-9. Fortunately for Ajagbe, a main draw withdrawal led to a Lucky Loser spot for which the twenty-six-year-old from Lagos was randomly drawn.
Baltimore-based Pakistani Yasir Ali Butt defeated Canadian Fred Reid, PSA world No. 121 and Squash Doubles Association world No. 18, 11-6, 11-8, 12-10.
Seventeen-year-old Pakistani Syed Ali Mujtaba Shah Bokhari defeated American Adrian Leanza 11-7, 11-5, 11-8, and now faces two seed and world No. 16 Karim Abdel Gawad.
Brazilian Vinicius Rodrigues defeated British Virgin Islands international Joe Champion 11-5, 11-4, 11-9, to face top seed Walker in Friday’s first round of main draw play.
First qualifying round:
Syed Ali Mujtaba Shah Bokhari (PAK) bt Steve Baicker-McKee (USA) 11-8, 11-5, 11-3
Adrian Leanza (USA) bt David Linz (USA) 11-4, 11-2, 11-2
Vinicius Rodrigues (BRA) bt Tom Arbogast (USA) 11-3, 11-3, 11-3
Joe Chapman (IVB) bt George Satler (USA) 11-4, 11-4, 11-9
Yasir Ali Butt (PAK) v bye
Fred Reid (CAN) bt Alex Reynolds (USA) 11-5, 11-0, 11-7
Baba Tunde Ajagbe (NGR) bt Le Roy Leong (MAS) 11-2, 11-5, 8-11, 13-11
Farhan Zaman (PAK) v bye
Syed Ali Mujtaba Shah Bokhari (PAK) bt Adrian Leanza (USA) 11-7, 11-5, 11-8
Vinicius Rodrigues (BRA) bt Joe Chapman (IVB) 11-5, 11-9, 11-8
Yasir Ali Butt (PAK) bt Fred Reid (CAN) 11-6, 11-8, 12-10
Farhan Zaman (PAK) bt Baba Runde Ajagbe (NGR) 11-5, 11-4, 11-9
 Alister Walker (BOT) v [Q] Vinicius Rodrigues (BRA)
 Henrik Mustonen (FIN) v Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS)
 Cesar Salazar (MEX) v Chris Gordon (USA)
 Olli Tuominen (FIN) v [WC] Joel Hinds (ENG)
 Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v [Q] Yasir Ali Butt (PAK)
 Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) v [LL] Baba Tunde Ajagbe (NGR)
 Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) v [Q] Farhan Zaman (PAK)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v [Q] Syed Ali Mujtaba Shah Bokhari (PAK)