(Inputs from Hugh Higgins, Jonathan Hager, Chris Thomas)
Photos from the Quarterfinals (by Paul Schwartz, Mithun Mukherjee)
Yasser El Halaby bt. Lefika Ragontse (11/3, 11/3, 13/11)
By Chris Thomas
El Halaby came on the court resplendent in what appeared to be checked boxer shorts but were no doubt high performance athletic wear. In the game one, the first few points were short and error prone as the players appeared to be feeling the court and each other out. El Halaby then turned up the juice and won a number of points on hard crosscourts that just passed by Ragontse. El Halaby was able to maintain control of the T and Ragontse spent a fair amount of time circling and retrieving, with the game quickly going to the controller. Initially in the second game, both players were going for winners, some but not all successful. El Halaby then returned to the hard crosscourts to gain a few more points. Just for fun, he also threw in a couple of beautiful boasts right into the nick. Another boast into the nick, but this time it pops up and Ragontse retrieves but tins to end the game. In the third game, El Halaby again started going for winners but found the top of the tin too frequently. Ragontse’s short game was slightly inaccurate and El Halaby took advantage to move his opponent around the court. A rally ensued with Ragontse making amazing recoveries back and forth from one corner of the court to the other. Through sheer determination he won the point, earning a high-five from his opponent. This was followed by another corner-to-corner rally, this time to El Halaby, and Ragontse finding himself on the floor decides to take a bit of a rest break. Ragontse doesn’t let up and evens the score at 9 – 9. El Halaby slips and Ragontse earns a stroke point to make it game point. However, he lets the ball loose in the middle and El Halaby puts it away to tie it again. At this point, El Halaby turns on his reserves and quickly wins the next two points to take the match 3 – 0.
Ben Gould bt. Imran Khan (11/6, 13/11, 11/8)
By Hugh Higgins
The tournaments 3rd seed Ben Gould of Australia, who is the Australian no. 12 and world no. 90 took on one of Rochesterâ€™s adoptive sons, Imran Khan of Pakistan who was the no. 4 seed in the Qualifying event.
Imran who, had been to Rochester every year for this Tournament since its inception and has returned many other times to give lessons at our local clubs had already had to play two qualifying rounds and the round of 16 in the main draw to reach this point. Ben Gould a tall Aussie with a great reach has played Imran many times in the past and both players were looking forward to a great match.
The first game bore this out with a great many long, long rallies reaching 30 or 40 shots, with both players testing each other out and gently probing for weaknesses. After a sweat-drenching 20 minutes the first game ended 11-6 in Gouldâ€™s favor.
Gould returned early from the break, eager to get started. Imran changed tactics on the tall man, going constantly from lob to drop shot in a hi-lo pattern that was designed to force Gould to move his longer body over more space to hopefully tire him out. Gould countered by trying to create pressure on Imran and reduce his shot options by an unending series of very tight rails. At a 10-10 tie-breaker Gould kept the ball on Imran;s backhand side and finally won the game 13-11 when Imran tinned his drop to Gouldâ€™s backhand.
Imran came back in the 3rd a little less patient and increased the pace of the game, forcing points but more often than not finding tin. Gould, for his part was stretching side to side cutting off volleys on alternate sides of the court so that he resembled a giant Albatross spreading its wings. Gould hit a backhand flick down the wall and into the nick that was so good that it even got a smile and applause from Imran. Imran, perhaps a little tired from his harder schedule lost the match with a series of drops that ended with a score of 11-8.
Gould: â€œImran was very fit today. We used to train together down in Wilmington and are great friends. I just happened to get through today. It was a great match.â€
Khan: â€œIt was a tough match. The best part for me was that there was only one let the entire match. It was a very clean match, there were no strokes called.â€
Ahmed Hamza bt. Regardt Schonborn (11/6,11/8,11/7)
By Hugh Higgins
The tournamentâ€™s fourth seeded Ahmed Maged Hamza of Egypt, PSA no. 123 took on South African Regardt Schonborn, PSA 164 in a very exciting and fast paced match.
Both players came out in hitting the ball low and with tremendous power. The ball traveled around the court at an unbelievable pace with both players stood in the middle of it all battling for control of the T.
Schonborn held his shots beautifully holding Hamza still waiting to see which corner the ball would travel to. There was lots of bumping around the T and the first game was slowed down somewhat by lets. As the referee worked hard to control the players frustration with each other while Hamza slowly but surely edged ahead to win the game.
The second game continued the physical struggle to control the T. The players cleared for each other, albeit grudgingly and with some degree of blocking. No mistake though, this was great squash, and lightening paced. Hamza showed great deception with a reverse boast that caught Schonborn flat-footed and held on to go up 2 games to none with a score of 11-8.
The third and final game went as the first two, with Hamza, being taller than Schonborn, was slightly slower to clear and Schonborn was a little quicker to the ball but just could not put it away on the determine Egyptian. The third game was hard hitting and cleaner than the first two, but Hamzaâ€™s shot-making ability guaranteed him the win 11-7.
Miguel Angel Rodriguez bt. Ryan Donegan (13/15, 11/1, 5/11, Donegan retd.)
By Jonathan Hager
Plagued by infected foot blisters, Ryan Donegan was almost able to upset #1 seed Miguel Angel Rodriguez but Ryan had to give in to injury in the end. Ryan displayed an amazing number of nicks but defaulted in the fourth game due to injury. Miguel showed amazing speed and retrieving skills grinding away at Ryans feet. The only balls he could not retrieve were roll out nicks. In the end, he won by default.