Feature image courtesy of Steve Line/squashpics.com. Rochester image courtesy of Paul Schwartz.
Nearly a month after the end of the College squash season, the University of Rochester’s Lyman squash courts are still buzzing with Rochester’s Mario Yanez and Ryosei Kobayashi reaching the main draw of the Professional Squash Association (PSA) Hazlow Electronics Rochester Pro Am following victories in Wednesday’s qualifying finals.
On top of reaching the qualifying finals, Rochester’s top three—No. 1 Neil Cordell, No. 2 Yanez, and No. 3 Kobayashi—were all named All-Americans by the College Squash Association on Thursday.
Cordell led off the night against Cayman Island international Cameron Stafford who Cordell trained with just a few months ago at Stafford’s home club on the Cayman South Sound. Jesse Cramer reports:
The match started out quickly for Cameron, as he used hot ball tactics to jump out to an 8-2 lead before Cordell could find his length and width. Too little, too late, as Stafford won the first 11-4.
The second was much more steady for Cordell, as he used basic play to wear down Stafford. But Stafford fought to 7-7, never letting Cordell get too comfortable on the T. Back and forth rallies took the boys to 9-9, and then 10-10. Stafford earned a game ball at 11-10, and an ever-so-glancing tin from Cordell gave the second and a 2-0 lead to Stafford.
Again in the third, Stafford jumped out to a quick lead, finding himself up 6-1 after only a few minutes. Hard and low, again and again; that was Stafford’s tactic. But back came Cordell, and matters got exciting with Cordell 9-10 down. Unfortunately, Cordell played a slightly loose shot that Stafford anticipated, and there was no option but to award the stroke to decide the match. Stafford wins the third 11-9.
Following Jordanian Ahmad Alzabidi clinching a spot in the main round 11-8, 11-6, 11-4 against Englishman Luke Butterworth, Yanez and Brown University graduate Bradbury Thompson took the court. Cramer reports:
This match saw some classic Mexican and American styles; hard hitting, long rallies, and a diagnosable phobia of taking the ball in short. No, fans, you weren’t watching a conditioned deep game. The players traded points to 9-9 in the first, nothing between them. Thompson earned the first game ball at 10-9 up, but could not convert. Yanez got the next at 11-10, and promptly squeezed a tin out of Thompson. First game to Yanez, 12-10.
In the second, Yanez began to show his All-American class. Great shots, great speed, and steady length. A 5-1 lead quickly grew to 10-3. After Thompson saved the first game ball, Yanez played a beautiful Finnish boast (see: Hameed Ahmed) to win the second 11-4.
The third picked up where the second left off. Yanez controlled the pace, played some skillful shots (including a Selby between-the-legs volley winner), and won the game and match going away, 11-2 in the third.
Freshman Kobayashi came out on top of a grueling, three-game match that could have taken place at the CSA individuals against three-time, first team All-American Dartmouth graduate Chris Hanson. Cramer reports:
A few early errors from Kobayashi gave Hanson a 6-2 lead. But Kobayashi settled down, using some classic Kobe trickery to pull level at 7-7. It wasn’t the cleanest squash, as both players found themselves unhappy with the ref at various moments. A blood injury paused play at 10-10. Hanson earned a game ball, but Kobayashi found magic in his racquet and rolled a forehand cross-court nick. They then traded a few game balls, but neither could convert, 14-14. Amazing dives, great nicks, but neither players could win more than two points in a row, and they kept trading game balls to 18-18. One cross-court nick from Kobayashi, 19-18. Another! 20-18, first game to Kobayashi in amazing fashion.
The second saw more flair from Kobayashi, and more steady strength from Hanson. Kobayashi found himself 7-5 up, and had an amazing scrambling rally to get an 8-5 lead. Some tight play from Hanson brought him back to 7-8, including one point ending after a Pilley-sized whiff from Kobayashi. Another contentious rally, and Hanson had tied it up at 8-8. But two tins from Hanson in the next three points proved crucial, as Kobayashi won the tight second game 11-9.
In the third, Kobayashi quickly built a 4-0 lead. Although physical fatigue might have played a role, it looked as if the mental strife of losing two such close games might have caused more harm to Hanson than any amount of sprinting. Yet, he regained his focus, noticeably slowed down the pace, and fought back to 5-5. But a nick off the serve, followed by two strong rallies, gave Kobayashi an 8-5 lead that he would not relinquish. Hanson fought off two games balls from 6-10 down, but Hanson found the tin after a physical rally to give Kobayashi the game and match, 11-8.
The scoreline might read 3-0, but both players and all the fans felt as if they had just gone through a five-game thriller; well played to both competitors!
The four qualifiers enter a main draw with the likes of top-seeded world No. 64 Muhd Asraf Azan, second-seeded world No. 77 Peter Creed, and American world No. 92 Todd Harrity who won his first PSA title last month.
Thursday’s main draw first round will be streamed live at http://www.rocprosquash.com/live/
For detailed match reports, images, and more information, visit www.rocprosquash.com.
 Cameron Stafford (CAY) bt [L] Neil Cordell (ENG) 11-4, 12-10, 11-9
 Ahmad Alzabidi (JOR) bt  Luke Butterworth (ENG) 11-8, 11-6, 11-4
[L] Mario Yanez (MEX) bt Bradbury Thompson (USA) 12-10, 11-4, 11-2
[L] Ryosei Kobayashi (JPN) bt Chris Hanson (USA) 20-18, 11-9, 11-8
 Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS) v [Q] Cameron Stafford (CAY)
 Syed Hamzah Shah Bukhari (PAK) v [Q] Ahmad Albazadi (JOR)
 Aqib Hanif (PAK) v [Q] Mario Yanez (MEX)
 Zac Alexander (AUS) v [WC] Le Roy Leong (MAS)
 Lewis Walters (ENG) v Thomas Brinkman (CAN)
 Todd Harrity (USA) v Shahjahan Khan (PAK)
 Michael McCue (CAN) v [Q] Ryosei Kobayashi (JPN)
 Peter Creed (WAL) v Christopher Binnie (JAM)