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Miguel is the Champion!

(By Thomson Chew)

Photos from the Finals
(By Paul Schwartz, Mithun Mukherjee)

On a rainy Sunday afternoon the enthusiastic squash fans packed the University of Rochester squash courts to view the final match of the 2006 Rochester Pro Am. Many of the spectators had witnessed the solid play of both players over the previous two days and were anticipating an exciting finish.

Rochester Squash Racquets Association President Bob Gerace offered a round of thanks to the tournament sponsors, volunteers, and fans for helping to bring pro squash to Rochester. Tournament Director Eric Hernady introduced the finalist Miguel Angel Rodriguez of Columbia and Yasser El-Halaby of Egypt. Miguel is on the pro tour and ranked 73. Yasser is finishing a stellar career on the Princeton University varsity squash team and is preparing himself for the pro circuit.

Game 1:

Yasser serves in and begins to dictate a fast and furious pace. The first point involves dozens of rails and boasts by both players, ending in a point for Yasser. Two unforced errors from Miguel give Yasser a quick 4-0 lead. Miguel gains the service after a stroke is awarded him. He proceeds to win the next point after a long exchange of shots that took Miguel around the four corners of the court before Yasser places his attempted winner into the tin. Despite the error, Yasser responds back with a hard and low service return along the right rail. Back on the service, Yasser continues to enforce his pace, but Miguel is settling down and playing better length. Working Yasser to the front and back, Miguel picks up the next three points to tie the game at 5-5. At this point, it appears that Miguel is stepping up the pressure and feeling more confident in his shot selection. Yasser hits the tin on the next point to give Miguel a 6-5 lead. This lead is short lived as Yasser hits a beautiful backhand volley into the knick to take control of the service again. The next three points are created by errors as Miguel hits one out of court and Yasser hits the tin twice to give Miguel the lead again at 8-7. At 8-7 the fans got a treat watching one of the longer points of the game (and match). Both players push each other around the court with rails, drops, and incredible retrievals from the front and back of the court. The point ends after Yasser retrieves Miguel’s fake to the cross court drop and plays it into the knick. After two rallies and two lets, both players pick up a point to tie 9-9. After another intense rally that ends in a let, Miguel wins the next point on a well executed cross court drop. At 10-9, Yasser fights back to 10-10 when he hits a tight drop that Miguel cannot return. With the score tied 10-10 Yasser hits a tin on the next point. At game point Miguel serves in and a long rally ensues with Yasser pushing Miguel front and back, only to end the point with a tin that gives game one to Miguel 12-10.

Game 2:

The crowd was anticipating a similar fight as game one, but after the first two points are sent to the tin by each player, the game was all Yasser. From 1-1 he proceeds to run up the score to 6-1 before Miguel scores again. Most of Yasser’s points are out right winners or errors from Miguel. It appears that Miguel left his legs off the court as he is one or more steps out of position on each point. (After the match Miguel conceded that his quadricepses were feeling the wear of game one and his previous matches.) Within several minutes Yasser is at game ball. Miguel ends the game with his fourth tin, giving Yasser an 11-2 win and added confidence for the third game.

Game 3:

Yasser starts the game with a convincing volley into side knick to go 1-0. He continues the pressure on Miguel and races to 4-0 after earning two tins from Miguel and a cross court that catches Miguel retreating to the T a step too late. At this point the crowd senses a repeat of game two. Miguel finally scores a point and serves in at 1-5. After exchanging a point each, Yasser returns the pressure on Miguel. At 6-2 both players use attacking shots to the front, but Yasser prevails with a faked drop that he drills to the back corner. Yasser continues to use his tight rails and boasts to drag Miguel back and across the court effectively. At 9-4 Miguel serves in and benefits from Yasser’s return into the tin. On the next point Miguel plays a great counter drop that Yasser cannot reach in time. Another tin by Yasser takes Miguel within two points of tying at 7-9. There is a great rally between the two as each player scrambles to retrieve well-placed shots. Yasser ends the point with a drop into the front left knick to reach game ball at 10-7. Yasser controls game point by moving the ball to the left and to the right sides at Miguel’s expense. Despite a great effort to keep the game alive, Miguel gets caught by Yasser’s tight right side rail. The game ends 11-7 and Yasser has a 2-1 lead.

Game 4:

Yasser serves in and begins to apply his backhand volley drops on Miguel, but instead of falling behind, Miguel picks up the first point. Yasser replies with a backhand volley knick to tie at 1-1. A tin by Yasser on the next point turns the serve over to Miguel. Both players trade points to reach 3-2 in Miguel’s favor. Yasser continues his steady pressure with plenty of drops to keep Miguel running and bending low to retrieve. At 4-2 Miguel gets worked around the court by Yasser, but he makes several incredible retrieves in the front and in the back of the court as Yasser hits deep and then drops and hits deep again and drops again. After losing the point to Yasser the crowd responds with an enthusiastic applause. Even Yasser had to acknowledge the athletic determination that was displayed by Miguel. Miguel hits a tin on his next shot to give Yasser a chance at 3-5. Yasser works himself back into the game to tie 6-6. Yasser wins the next point on a counter drop. Both players are attacking well and forcing errors to occur. At 8-8 a great rally occurs with both players dropping and counter dropping in the front court. A shot into the tin by Miguel gives Yasser the lead at 9-8. Another long point has Miguel benefiting this time with a well placed drop to the front left that a diving Yasser cannot reach before the second bounce. Tied at 9-9, Miguel and Yasser pound the balls down the rails. The rally continues for several shots and appears to be Yasser’s point with a deep rail up the right wall. Miguel scrambles to reach it and makes an outstretched dive toward the back wall. A snap of his wrist knocks the ball off the back wall and to the front left wall where Yasser is waiting. Despite his attempt to push Miguel back again, Miguel recovers well to attack and ends up placing a beautiful drop to the front left to win the point. At game ball Miguel completes the comeback with a winner to end the game at 11-9 and to set up a decisive game five.

Game 5:

The packed crowd is leaning in toward the glass back wall for the anticipated battle between these two great players. Miguel has fought back and is looking refreshed and confident in his new red shirt. The game starts well for Miguel as he benefits from his well placed shots, especially the boast and cross court. Yasser adds a couple of tins that allowed his opponent to reach 4-0 after a few minutes of play. At 4-0 it looks like Miguel will run away with the game. Yasser finally responds with a nifty cross court fake. At 2-4 Yasser calls for a let after he sets up near the T to play a ball with Miguel within his backhand stroke. The let stands much to Yasser’s consternation. Miguel proceeds to take control again and runs the score up to 8-3. Miguel appears to pulling out all of the moves to keep Yasser guessing. At 9-4 Yasser hits the tin on an open drop to the front left. Miguel served in at 10-4, but proceeds to hit a potential winner into the tin. Yasser picks up another point to reach 6-10. On the next match point Miguel benefits from a cross court drive that hits strangely and forces Yasser to miss-time his stroke. Game, match to Miguel Angel Rodriguez 3-2.

Final scores: Miguel Angel Rodriguez def. Yasser El-Halaby 3-2. Scores were 12-10, 2-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-6

Posted in 2006, All Tournaments

Semifinal results

(Inputs from Hugh Higgins, Mithun Mukherjee)

Photos from the SemiFinals
(by Paul Shin)

Yasser El Halaby bt. Ahmed Hamza (11-7, 12-10, 11-7)
By Mithun Mukherjee

The crowd was there not just because it was a semifinal but because Yasser was playing – like they’ve always been since Round 1. This evening, the Princetonian wildcard in the tournament was pitted against Westchester based pro and a regular Rochester visitor, Ahmed Hamza. Th game started off with Hamza tinning he first serve from Yasser but keeping it tight for the rest of the game. In the end Yasser’s low boasts and deceptive front court game got the better of him.
In the second , Hamza seemed to have hit upon something as he played lob after lob making it difficult for Yasser to stick to his front court plan. Inspite of this, Yassers excellent racquet skills took him to a 10-6 lead but then Ahmeds resilience paid off as Yasser faltered and made a couple of unforced errors, enough for Ahmed to come back and level the score 10-10. The game ended with Yasser being awarded a stroke coming down from his backswing.
In the third, Hamza raced to a quick 5-0 lead. But then Yasser resumed his frontcourt deception with a healthy dose of boasts. The tall Ahmed stretched unimaginably to retrieve every shot but Yasser clawed back to level it 7-7. He continued in s similar fashion until 10-7 and was awarded a stroke alongwith a place in tomorrows final.

Miguel Angel Rodriguez bt. Ben Gould 3-1 (8-11, 12-10, 11-7,11-9)
By Hugh Higgins

Top seeded Miguel Angel Rodriguez of Columbia moved into the finals of the Rochester Pro after he faced off against 3rd seed Ben Gould of Australia in the first of the tournament’s semi-final matches. With a large crowd watching them, top seed Rodriguez took on the retrieving machine that is Ben Gould and matched him shot for shot. It was a fast-paced first game with long rallies that featured high lobs to the back corners and deft drop shots to the front. Rodriguez, a compact and lithe player, was incredibly quick to the ball. Gould showed great shot making ability – no doubt a beneficial by-product of his doubles playing experience. The first game was very close and Gould took the early lead winning the game 11-8.

The second game flowed seamlessly from the first with both players visiting all corners of the court on almost every point. Matching each other shot for shot, Rodriguez tried to keep Gould low in the front of the court and Gould kept pushing Rodriguez back into the corners, digging impossible shots off the back wall. This was very clean squash with only a few let calls, Rodriguez kept to the short game and won 12-10 in a close tie-breaker.

With the match tied at a game apiece, the third game saw very few mistakes. This is not to saw this was safe squash, it was full of highly exciting and low percentage squash, but still there were very few errors. The players waged a battle of attrition with points that went on for 30 shots or more. Towards the end of the game, after just tinning his second shot in a row, Gould made a comment about the tin being high. Though he was only venting, this caused the crowd to murmur excitedly in the way only true fanatics can about the subtle differences between the college and pro game.

Meanwhile, the players themselves were putting on a display of almost exhibition squash, hitting impossible shots off the back wall and replying with reverse boasts and a behind the back volley by Gould that highlighted his lightning reflexes and kept him in a point when most would have given up. Rodriguez was quick throughout to ask for lets and received them to the chagrin of Gould. At 8-7, Rodriguez showed great deceptive skills and set-up for a cross-court drive off a short drop that caught Gould flat footed and even had the crowd leaning the wrong way. Gould’s problems with the tin continued to plague him and Rodriguez closed out he game at 11-7 and went up two games to one.

Rodriguez appeared for the fourth game with a determined look on his face while Gould appeared relaxed and almost Zen-like. The pace of the last two games had caused Gould, on his third shirt of the match, to seem a half-step slower than the first game and Rodriguez went up 6-1. Gould protested a not-up call by the referee to no avail, but this seemed to strengthen his resolve and he started to hit with authority. Rodriguez however, was quicker to get back to the T. With Gould going for more winners the pair had their longest point of the match, with almost 50 shots being traded. Rodriguez had a superior drop shot and went up to 9-7. On the next point Rodriguez faked not one but two different shots, purposely swinging and missing the ball on the volley in an attempt to draw a stroke from Gould, only to then hit the ball after it hit off the back wall, but still lost the point. At 9-10, however, Rodriguez hit a rail cross-court into the body of Gould, catching him off guard at mid-court for the win. Gould was visibly disappointed, but not the crowd, who were treated to superb squash and a great preview of one of the finalists. If we get a final half as good, we should consider ourselves lucky.

Posted in 2006, All Tournaments

Quarter Final Quake

(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 Rochester’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 Gould’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 Gould’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: “Imran 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.”

Khan: “It 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.”

Ahmed Hamza bt. Regardt Schonborn (11/6,11/8,11/7)
By Hugh Higgins

The tournament’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 Hamza’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.

Posted in 2006, All Tournaments

Round 1 action

(Input from Hugh Higgins, Doreen Smethurst, Dave Hahn, Chris Thomas, Mithun Mukherjee)

Photos from Round 1
(by Paul Shin, Thomson Chew, Mithun Mukherjee)

Ben Gould bt Joan Lezaud (11/7, 11/10(2-0), 11/5)

(By Doreen Smethurst)

In this first round match between third seed Ben Gould, and qualifier Joan Lezaud, Gould’s height, long legs, and power contrasted with the red-shoed, shorter, speedy Lezaud. Both players had several tins in the first game as they warmed up. Gould hit some wonderful crosscourt rolling nicks to being him to 7 – 5. With two strokes awarded to him, he won 11 – 7. The second game produced long rallies after a slow start with several tins. Lezaud’s quick hands made amazing returns of the powerful shots by Gould. Gould played a variety of shots and volleyed a lot, forcing Lezaud into defensive play. Several winning shots to nick and other clear winners, weren’t, becuase of Lezaud’s incredible retrieving abilities. The third game produced shot making by Lezaud and he was up 3 – 0 but several unforced errors evened the game at 3 – 3. Gould was able to move the ball from side to side and Lezaud started to tire a bit. Gould then played some killer shots at 9 – 5 which gave him the game, and the match.

Ahmed Hamza bt. Neil Hitchens (11/5, 11/7, 11/4)
By Chris Thomas

Fourth seed Ahmed Hamza returned for his third Rochester Pro to play against qualifier Neil Hitchens. In the first game, Neil was having trouble settling down against the lanky Egyptian. He had several out of court lobs, perhaps because the courts were rather warm. The more seasoned Hamza took the first game fairly easily. In the second, there were long exchanges up and down the right side wall. Again, Neil was having difficulty with his lobs going out, and again, Hamza displayed the benefit of his experience, always playing just the right shot. Again, the game to Hamza. The third game was a repeat of the first two – Neil is still young but shows great promise so maybe we’ll see him again next year. But I don’t think he’ll eat as much pizza before the match next time.

Regardt Schonborn bt. Manuel Fregoso (11/6, 11/8, 11/7)
By Chris Thomas

While most of the spectators were busy watching the first match in the return of Yasser El Halaby to professional play, they missed a tremendous match between eighth seed Reggie Schonborn and tenth seed Manuel Fregoso. The whole match was marked by exemplary text book squash with the two opponents trading tight rails, ripping crosscourts, and feathery drops over very long points. The first game was nip and tuck with Manuel catching the top of the tin just a few more times than Schonborn. The second game was again great squash, except for Fregoso throwing in a few hard reverse corners, which caught Schonborn flat-footed twice. Manuel is much too young to remember the old hardball shots like that, but they can occasionally be effective. After a series of lets in left side drop exchanges, Fregoso pulled ahead to win the game on a string of unforced errors on Schonborn’s part. The third game saw Schonborn settle down and get back to good basic squash, then unsettle again to make some more errors. However, he was able to recover his composure to take the game. The fourth game was all Reggie as he got his error rate down much lower and simply waited for Fregoso to make the first mistake. A great match from a couple of faces you will be seeing more of.

Miguel Rodriguez bt. Armando Olguin (11/2, 11/4, 11/5)
By Chris Thomas

The first point between first seed Miguel Rodriguez and tenth seed Manuel Fregoso was long, with the two opponents apparently testing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Olguin played in a seemingly nonchalant fashion but executed some very deceptive shots. Rodriguez displayed a more agressive style and was able to take the first game 11 – 2. In the second game, Rodriguez came out hard and fast. He won one point on a wicked backhand volley crosscourt right into the nick. Olguin was scrambling a bit and was making too many unforced errors, being pressed hard by Rodriguez’ power. After an exchange of right corner tins, Olguin was gentleman enough to call his ball down for the game point, 11 – 4 to Rodriguez. The third game went to Rodriguez too, and the match, as his relentless attack kept Olguin just a half step off and making too many unforced errors and loose balls.

Ryan Donegan bt. Patrick Chifunda (9/11, 11/9, 9/11, 9/11)
By Dave Hahn

Sixth seed Patrick Chifunda (who has played in every Rochester Pro) and qualifier Ryan Donegan played a spectacular four game endurance match. It was common to see 30 or 40 stroke points with a particluarly amazing 89 stroke point in the 3rd game. Patience would best sum up this match with exceptional rail play and in most cases using every square inch of the court. Both players demonstrated outstanding athleticism. In most points there was no clear dominant player. At 2 games to 1 for Donegan, the fourth game was particularly exciting as Patrick being down 7 – 3 staged a remarkable comeback, winning the next 4 points. The next points alternated between the two but Ryan prevailed to take the final game 11 – 9.

Yasser El Halaby bt. Bernardo Samper (3-11, 12-10, 11-3, 11-6)
By Hugh Higgins

There was a large crowd on hand Friday night to watch this eagerly anticipated match between Yasser El Halaby of Egypt and Tournament #2 Seed Bernardo Samper of Columbia. El Halaby arrived at the tournament by way of Princeton, where he is their #1and a teammate of Rochester’s Brendan Bascom. Before he entered Princeton, El Halaby played on the PSA Challenger tour and was ranked within the top 70 or 80 players in the world. This tournament marks his first Pro event since entering university. Samper, ranked 84th in the world by the PSA used to play #1 at Trinity.

With a twist of the racquet to determine the serve, the match was underway. Samper took an early lead and at 4-0 when El Halaby tinned his shot, it was clear that he needed to settle himself down. After a series of very long rallies El Halaby finally got a hand out at 8-0 and seemed to start to settle into his game. It wasn’t enough, however, and with a score of 11-3, Samper’s precise aggressive shots remained dominant and the first game was on the books.

In the 2nd both players settled into a tighter game with less errors and El Halaby appeared very focused. Samper possessed great touch and equally great power that generated a tremendous amount of pace. Early in the game it was all Samper, with El Halaby being forced into splits to reach the ball in the forecourt and more often than not being rewarded with tin for his effort. The collegial attitude of both players carried the day and El Halaby started to show great racquet head control producing some great corner nicks that were just beyond Samper’s reach. The game stretched into a tie-breaker with El Halaby coming out on top at 12-10.

Early in the 3rd, the raw power of both players kept the game jammed into the back corners of the court. El Halaby went up to 6-2 when there was a tough call made by the ref that a shot of Samper’s had touched the tin line and Samper argued it. He postured well but knew the shot was down and after a few quick breaths conceded the point. El Halaby poured it on and put the game to bed at 11-3 with a superb cross-court nick.

The opening point of the fourth game saw both players sprinting to visit all four corners of the court. Drop-shot, counter-drop, cross-court lob, boast, repeat, repeat, repeat. They then proceeded to repeat the same pattern 2 points later with both players trying to prove to the other that they could retrieve whatever was thrown at them for as long as it would take. Finally, a lob landed outside the court and almost burned the hand of the fan that caught it, it was so hot. By 5-4, Samper was tiring and hit a few errors, El Halaby then missed what appeared to be an easy drop winner. This momentarily let Samper back in the match but only briefly. At 10-6 and match ball, El Halaby drove it past Samper in an amazing rally to win the match.

Lefika Ragontse bt. Patrick Bedore (11/3, 5/11, 11/0, 3/11, 11/6)
By Mithun Mukherjee

This was a see-saw match all through five games. Lefika, the athletic dredlocked Botswanian who works in Baltimore, took the first game rather easily from the Canadian Patrick who looked a little off guard. It seemed like Lefika would sail through this one. In the very next game the tables were turned and Patrick played a very tight game letting Lefika make the errors if any. Lefika shot right back resoundingly in the third winning a love game. Patrick answered in the 4th decisively with a 3/11 win. Nobody was quite sure what was going on in the heads of these two guys. The fifth game inched ahead to a 4-4 score with both players playing all corners. Finally Lefika shot ahead to an 8-4 lead and by then it was too late for Patrick to recover.

Imran Khan bt. Jose Angel Becceril (11/9, 5/11, 11/9, 11/6)

The match got off to a breathtaking start with the first two points lasting almost two minutes each…..AND at a furious pace. At 6-9, it seemed like Jose was almost there but Imran clawed back doggedly keeping up the pace to snatch the game from Jose, 11-9. The second game saw some splendid front court nicks and drops with Jose slowing down the speed of the game which worked in his favor. In the third, it was a neck-to-neck game until 10-9 with Imran getting lucky on a serve whcih dropped dead in the back corner to give him the game. The Pakistani played a consistent front court game in the 4th to win the match 11/6.

Posted in 2006, All Tournaments

Qualifier Round 2 – The final four tickets !

Qualifier Round 2 action
(Input from Thomson Chew)

Photos from the Qualifiers
(by Mithun Mukherjee)

Match 1: Ryan Donegan (USA) played Scott Fitzgerald (Wales) to a 3-1 win. The final scores were 11-6, 11-4, (9-11), and 11-8.

Game 1 saw Ryan controlling the T and using good width and tight rails to work Scott around the court. The use of tight drops to the backhand side earned Ryan many points as Scott arrived too late to retrieve them.

Game 2 saw much of the same tactics as game one. Ryan kept the balls deep on Scott, adding well hit cross courts and deception to keep Scott off balance. Several errors by Scott gave Ryan enough room to relax and close out the game with a nice front left wall drop into the knick.

Game 3 started with Ryan under the pressure from Scott. Scott used deeper cross courts to pull Ryan back and to force weaker returns. Both players used their tight drops to end long points. With the score at 8-8, Scott earned a stroke against Ryan. The next point ended in a let after a long rally with both players making great retrievals from awkward positions in the court. At 9-9 both players were looking tired and several lets follow as each player cleared slowly. Ryan contested two lets, requesting that they be strokes, but to no avail. Scott had game ball at 10-8, but Ryan responded with a well timed backhand drop into the knick to get to 9-10. At the second game ball Scott finished the point with a nice fake and drop shot into the left hand knick to win 11-9.

Game 4 started fast with both players trading serves after long points. At 6-7, Scott kept the pressure on Ryan with deeper rails and cross courts, forcing errors from Ryan. At 8-8, Ryan completed the point with a terrific cross court volley knick. At match ball Ryan droped the ball to the front left corner for the winner and a trip to the first round Friday night.

Match 2: Imran Khan (PAK) handled Yasunori Ishiwata (JPN) to a 3-0 win by playing mostly error-free games. The scores were 11-2, 11-7, and 11-1.

Imran controlled the T and worked Yasunori around the court with tight rails and cross-courts. Despite some great retrieving by Yasunori, he could not overcome Imran’s better court positioning and shot making. Imran, a familiar player to the local crowd, earns his spot in the first round Friday night.

Match 3: Neil Hitchens played Brendon Bascom (USA) to a 3-0 win. The scores were 11-6, 11-6, and 11-2.

Game 1 saw the local favorite, Brendon, start off slowly against the Englishman. He could not keep up with the constant pressure from Neil’s cross courts and rails. Several errors placed Brendon behind, allowing Neil to control the pace of the game and push Brendon into compromising positions that led to loose returns and a few tins.

Game 2 saw a similar game plan from Neil. He controlled the ball and kept Brendon moving around the court. The game ended quickly with Neil coming out 11-6.

Game 3 showed Neil starting off fast and cruising to a six point lead before Brendon picked up two points. The continued errors from Brendon and the precise drops and effective use of the boast from Neil led to an 11-2 win and a place in the next round Friday night.

Match 4: Joan Lezaud (FRA) defeated Takehide Hota (JPN) 3-0. The score were 15-13, 11-4, and 11-7.

Game 1 was well played by both players, but Joan proved the stronger of the two with his hard, tight rails, wide cross courts, and excellent retrievals from the back and from the front of the court. Each player traded rails and cross courts, working each other front and back. At 8-8 Takehide hit a nice tight drop that left Joan scrapping the side wall. A great rally follows with Joan winning it to tie the score 9-9. Both players exchanged points through 13-13 until Joan completed the game by winning the next to points.

Game 2 showed Joan come out with steady pressure on Takehide. He jumped to a 7-3 lead. Following several unforced errors from Takehide, Joan cruised to a comfortable 11-4 win.

Game 3 began with Joan controlling the T and moving Takehide around the court. At 5-3 Joan crushed a volley into the knick to go up 6-3. Takehide gets close at 5-7 with a backhand volley kill into the knick. After trading the next few points, Joan has match ball at 10-6, but he tins his rail. Takehide serves in but ends up hitting the tin on his next shot, giving the match and a place in the next round to Joan.

Posted in 2006, All Tournaments

Qualifiers under way

The 2006 version of the Rochester Pro Squash Tournament got underway with some very exciting matches featuring some excellent up and coming talent.

Scott Fitzgerald bt. Ben Oliner (11-8, 11-7, 11-9)

The first match of the day was between 281st ranked Welshman Scott Fitzgerald and 321st ranked American Ben Oliner.

The first game got underway to an enthusiastic crowd, with both players stating relatively slow and testing each other out up and down the right-hand rail. Both players showed great form and fitness with some very long rallies counter-scored by tentative but effective attacks to the forecourt. At the 4-3 mark there was a very exciting rally with Oliner playing retriever to Fitzgerald’s shot-making ability from the T. There were some almost impossible returns by Oliner but Fitzgerald went on to win 11-8.

At the start of the second game Oliner seemed to be wearing the mental stress of the previous long game. Fitzgerald took this advantage and came out more aggressively than previously in the match. By the time a stroke was awarded to Fitzgerald at the 3-0 mark, it seemed that Oliner was getting tired and making mental errors. Fitzgerald won the game 11-7 with a low cross-court to the nick after a long and impressive series of tight rails.

In the third game it was Oliner who came out attacking, trying to work on breaking down Fitzgerald’s fitness. Fitzgerald countered by physically using every inch of space he could on the court and the end result was a series of lets that slowed the game down. Fitzgerald seemed to have slightly more experience at tight match play and used it to his advantage, holding his shots and refusing to give up the T. After a miss hits on Fitzgerald’s part, he put the game away, with the match nearing the hour mark.

Yasunori Ishiwata bt. Julio Silva Caseiro (12-10, 8-11,11-3,11-1)

Twenty four year old Japanese speedster Yasunori Ishiwata defeated Julio Silva Caseiro 3-1 in one of the first matches of the morning.Ishiwata was notable for his lightning quick speed to the front wall and a deceptive boast that never appeared to bounce. Caseiro has a clean, tight backhand but struggled with unforced errors that gave Ishiwata a lot of breathing room.

Imran Khan bt. Joe Millman (11-4,11-6,11-4)

From the start, Khan set a fast pace with powerful rails and crosscourts, taking the slightest opportunity from all positions to maintain the tempo. The beginning of the second game saw Millman briefly in the lead, taking advantage of some slower balls, before Khan resumed driving the ball relentlessly close to the nick. In the third, Millman demonstrated several beautiful drop shots, trying to change the pace. Khan responded with great length and closed out the match.

Neil Hitchens over Jay Fleishman (11-4,11-1,11-6)

Fleishman had power. Hitchens had precision. Hitchens controlled the first two games with fine camouflaged front court boasts and precise drops, the second game adding several crosscourt nicks and delightful misdirection. Fleishman was competitve in the third with a flurry of power, but could not react fast enough to take advantage of the few loose balls that that produced from Hitchens. And precision won.

Brendan Bascom (Rochester) bt. Iain Crozier (Canada) (12-10, 12-10, 8-11, 14-16, 11-7)

In what was undoubtably the most watched match of the first round in the qualifying, Rochester’s own Brendan Bascom, who plays #2 at Princeton took on world-ranked #215 Iain Crozier from Canada.

With the crowd behind Brendan the first game was fast paced. The compact and muscular Bascom played an aggressive attacking game while the taller Canadian used his reach to try and be more patient. After trading hand-outs for 7 or 8 points the pair found themselves in a tie-breaker. With both players playing near errorless squash Bascom hit a low attacking volley that Crozier could not get to in time to win the first 12-10.

In the 2nd game, Crozier became more aggressive and went up 10-6 before Brendan fought back hard to get to their second tie-breaker. To the delight of the ever growing crowd Brendan went up 12-10 to win the second after a beautiful cross-court winner to finish the game.

The third game was characterized by much shorter rallies as both players appeared tired after two straight tie-breakers. Crozier went up to an impressive 10-5 but then tinned his game winning shot, leaving the crowd hopeful for Bascom to come back and win in three. Crozier, evidencing incredible racket head control held on to win 11-8.

In the marathon fourth game, Crozier emerged tired, with Bascom taking firm control and making his presence known. Brendan won a flurry of points by hitting hard and out pacing the Canadian and was rewarded with his first clear led of the match. Bascom went up 8-4 before Crozier battled back to their third tiebreaker in four games. By this time the other two qualifying matches were long finished and the crowd surged behind the court to lend the hometown favorite their support. The tie-breaker was suspenseful and colorful squash to say the least. The players traded points to 13-all. Brendan went up after a great nick winner to 14-13 to match –point. In the most controversial call of the match Bascom hit a cross-court lob that both players continued to play, but the referee called out to give the point to Crozier. Bascom seemed to be clearly agitated by the call and lost the game 16-14.

After settling down between games Bascom emerged tired but also in control of his game and displayed the ability to hit nicks at will. Crozier, also appearing tired between games, had clearly given his best to win the previous tie-breaker, and just like that at 11-7, the Rochester Pro, has a Rochester player advancing to the 2nd Qualifying Round.

Crowd support was suprisingly great for a first round and it can only get better. Local TV station RNews was at hand to cover the event and interviewed tournament director, Eric Hernady and some of the players.

More to come this evening as the players get ready for Round 2 to decide the last four to earn a spot in the main draw! Match reports, photos coming soon – watch this space !

(Inputs from Hugh Higgins, Jonathan Hager, Chip Nimick, Eric Hernady, Chris Thomas, Mithun Mukherjee)

Qualifying Draw- Jan 26th
Round 1:
Ryan Donegan (BYE)
Scott Fitzgerald bt. Ben Oliner (11-8,11-7,11-9)
Imran Khan bt. Joe Millman (11-4, 11-6, 11-4)
Yasunori Ishiwata bt. Julio Silva Caseiro (12-10, 8-11,11-3,11-1)
Neil Hitchens bt Jay Fleishman (11-4, 11-1, 11-6)
Brendon Bascom bt Iain Crozier (13-1, 13-11, 8-11, 14-16, 11-7)
Joan Lezaud bt. Patrick Harris (11-5, 11-3, 11-8)
Takehide Hota (BYE)

Posted in 2006, All Tournaments

Welcome to the 5th Annual Rochester Pro Squash Tournament

Welcome to the 5th annual Rochester Pro Squash Tournament, presented by the Rochester Squash Racquets Association. This is a sanctioned $4K Satellite event on the Professional Squash Association world tour and boasts a 16 man qualifying draw and a 16 man main draw. The players are rated from No. 70 to No. 200 in the world and hail from USA, Australia, Egypt, Pakistan, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Botswana, Zambia, Japan, Argentina, Wales, England, France and Brazil.

We couldn’t have done this without the generous contributions and support from the local squash community.Please take a moment and look down the list of those who have helped so much.

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Posted in 2006, All Tournaments