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)


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