Cameron Stafford (CAY) bt. Neil Cordell (ENG) 11-4, 12-10, 11-9
Ahmad Alzabidi (JOR) bt. Luke Butterworth (ENG) 11-8, 11-6, 11-4
Ryosei Kobayashi (JAP) bt. Chris Hanson (USA) 3-0
Mario Yanez (MEX) bt. Bradbury Thompson (USA) 12-10, 11-4, 11-2
Match reports by Jesse Cramer:
Cameron Stafford bt. Neil Cordell (11-4, 12-10, 11-9)
Just a couple months ago, these two trained a bit at Cameron’s home club in South Sound, Cayman Islands. Tonight they met again, but on Neil’s home court at the University of Rochester. In the knock up, it was clearly evident that Cameron had recently spent significant time in the island sun, while Cordell had just emerged pasty-white from his months-long study session in the snowy caverns of the University of Rochester library.
The match started out quickly for Cameron, as he used hot ball tactics to jump out to a 8-2 lead before Neil could find his length and width. Too little, too late, as Stafford won the first 11-4.
The second was much more steady for Neil, as he used basic play to wear down Cameron. But Cameron fought to 7-7, never letting Neil get too comfortable on the T. Back and forth rallies took the boys to 9-9, and then 10-10. Cameron earned a game ball at 11-10, and an ever-so-glancing tin from Neil gave the second and a 2-0 lead to Stafford.
Again in the third, Cameron jumped out to a quick lead, finding himself up 6-1 after only a few minutes. Hard and low, again and again; that was Cam’s tactic. But back came Neil, and matters got exciting with Neil 9-10 down. Unfortunately, Neil played a slightly loose shot that Cameron anticipated, and there was no option but to award the stroke to decide the match. Stafford wins the third 11-9.
Ahmad Alzabidi bt. Luke Butterworth (11-8, 11-6, 11-4)
This qualifying final saw the two 24-year olds turning the squash court into a conspicuously small space. Tall lads with a long reach, the two looked like pterodactyls across the T. The first game was marked with a steady dialogue between the players and ref, but squash must carry on. Some harried, early nerves took the players to 6-6. Ahmad won a massive rally to take the 7-6 lead, and carried that momentum to take the game 11-8.
The second started where the first ended; back and forth squash, sprinkled with curious glances at the referee. Ahmad squeezed a few errors and strokes out of Luke, building a 7-4 lead. A couple beautiful rallies extended that lead to 9-5, then 10-5, as Ahmad found the nick with relative ease. A Buttery tin at 6-10 down gave the second to Ahmad, up 2-0.
Ahmad continued his good play into the third, moving Luke to all four corners on his way to a 7-1 lead. Luke managed to settle down a bit, but it wasn’t enough, as Ahmad won the third 11-4.
Mario Yanez bt. Bradbury Thompson (12-10, 11-4, 11-2)
Run, Rabbit, run. 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 aren’t watching a conditioned deep game. The players traded points to 9-9 in the first, nothing between them. Brad earned the first game ball at 10-9 up, but could not convert. Mario got the next at 11-10, and promptly squeezed a tin out of Brad. First game to Yanez, 12-10.
In the second, Mario began to show his All-American class. Great shots, great speed, and steady length. A 5-1 lead quickly grew to 10-3. After Brad saved the first game ball, Mario 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.
Ryosei Kobayashi bt. Chris Hanson (20-18, 11-9, 11-8)
This match could’ve taken place at the Collegiate Squash Individuals, as both Hanson and Kobayashi are recent All-Americans. Instead of battling for pride and namely titles, tonight they fought for a spot in the main draw of the Rochester ProAm.
A few early errors from Ryo gave Chris a 6-2 lead. But Ryo 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. Chris earned a game ball, but Ryo found magic in his racquet and rolled a forehand-crosscourt 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 2 points in a row, and they kept trading game balls to 18-18. One cross-court nick from Ryo, 19-18. Another! 20-18, first game to Kobayashi in amazing fashion. How do you say “yallah” in Japanese?!
The second saw more flair from Ryo, and more steady strength from Chris. Ryo found himself 7-5 up, and had an amazing scrambling rally to get an 8-5 lead. Some tiiiiiight play from Chris brought him back to 7-8, including one point ending after a Pilley-sized whiff from Ryo. Another contentious rally, and Hanson had tied it up at 8-8. But two tins from Chris in the next three points proved crucial, as Ryo won the tight second game 11-9.
In the third, Ryo 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 Chris 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 Ryo an 8-5 lead that he would not relinquish. Chris fought off two games balls from 6-10 down, but Chris found the tin after a physical rally to give Ryo 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!