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.


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