After last years thrilling end to the squash calendar where Britain’s own Nick Matthew became the three time world champion and world number one, we started this year in New York.
The tournament of champions is held in at New York Central, it’s a very prestigious tournament with its past winners including the greats Jansher Khan, Jahangir Khan and Jonathan Power.
The venue has a similar set up to Manchester central where the World Championships were held last year, The Tournament of Champions seems to always have an excellent following with most nights been sold out. I personally viewed most of the tournament on PSA Squash TV, which is website dedicated to live squash
It was great to see the BBC covering the semi finals and finals of the world championships last year, and also Sky showing extended highlights after the event. After the disappointment of Squash not getting in to the Olympics 2020 it was brilliant to see a so called “smaller” sport get such good coverage. It amazes me how a sport played in over 175 countries across the world and 20 million people play worldwide, not being included in the Olympics 2020, it’s a very simple an portable sport, the court requires minimal space and can be erected anywhere. Squash tournaments have been held in many iconic locations around the world, attracting players and non-players to the sport. This makes squash an ideal sport for showcasing the host city. Anyway rant over.
Where were we …. Tournament of champions, with the world number two Ramy Ashour not playing due to injury it gave Nick Matthew a brilliant chance to build on last years success, the draw was wide open, it was very difficult to pick a pre tournament favourite.
Watching the early rounds there weren’t any early upsets, the Frenchman Gregory Gautier who so many times over the last few years has lost in finals agonisingly looked very strong he beat Tom Richards, Alistair Walker an Simon Rosner to get himself to the semi final. Nick Matthew an Mohammed El Shorbagy comfortably got themselves through to the quarter finals as well an the surprise package of the tournament was Amr Shabana, the Egyptian is 34 and has may PSA squash titles to his name but in the last few years has been struggling to find form in the bigger events. Shabana sprung a surprise and defeated Nick Matthew in the quarter finals and beat another Englishman in James Willstrop in the semi-final to get himself into the final. As Shabana is one of the older players on the tour he has adapted his game to become a more aggressive player early on in the rallies, trying to kill the ball early an try an not get involved in long rallies so opponents can grind him down. The Frenchmen Greg Gautier won the other semi final defeating Mohammed El Shorbagy. The final was expected to be a tight tense affair with Gautier being the clear favourite but Shabana blew him away 3-0, with Gautier only picking up 15 points in the entire match.
The next big event on the tour concluding this weekend is the British championships which should be a shootout between Willstrop an Matthew, Matthew has never lost to Willstrop in a tour event so he should expect to become the British Champion again, but nothings ever guaranteed in Sport.
Back in the club, it’s good too see members starting to dust down there squash rackets and get themselves back on the court. It’s nice to open the squash diary in a morning to see 6, 7, 8 courts booked that day. Over the past few weeks I’ve started giving a few members beginners lessons which I really enjoy, hopefully I can get a few more members playing and hopefully get a few tournaments going.
One of our long term members Steve Edmondson has been playing in the over 50 masters tournament in Coventry last weekend an did very well, an he’s competing in the British championships in a couple of weeks so good luck to Steve.