Andrew Dent reports
Australian number one Cameron Pilley moved a step closer to a semi-final against defending champion Ramy Ashour when he downed fellow countryman Matthew Karwalski in the first round of the HI-TEC Australian Open in Canberra on Thursday.
Pilley had too much experience for the improving Karwalski, winning in straight games 11-7, 11-5, 11-7.
Ashour, the 23-year-old Egyptian, closed out the first round with a typically flamboyant 11-6, 11-6, 11-6 win over New Zealand qualifier Kashif Shuja to get his title defence underway.
“Kashif’s a legend of the tour, he’s been around for a long time and I think we put on a good show,” Ashour said, adding that he was in great shape for the start of the new season. “I’ve been working a lot on my body, which I haven’t always done in the past,” he said. “It’s more mental than physical but I feel great.”
Ashour will play young Englishman Olivier Pett who was impressive in his 11-4, 11-5 11-7 win over Hong Kong’s Dick Lau.
Pilley was always ahead of Karwalski, who has moved to Florida to train with former Australian number one David Palmer. He took early leads in the first two games then from 3-6 down in the third, he won eight of the next nine points to clinch the match.
“Matt’s improved a lot in the last 12-18 months, training with Palmer has definitely helped,” Pilley said. “He’s trying to replicate the way Dave plays and trains, so it was a good hit-out.
“It’s been a while since I played a proper competitive match so I wasn’t too sure how I was going to feel or hit it, so I was quite pleased. I’ve had worse first round results than that before.”
Pilley now takes on Zac Alexander, who beat wildcard Rex Hedrick in another all-Australian clash. After trading two tight opening games, Alexander changed tactics at the start of the third and went on the attack, wrapping up the last two to take the contest 11-8, 7-11, 11-2, 11-3.
“I wasn’t even really playing, I was just trying to feel my way into it,” Alexander said later. “Rex is so steady and fit and patient, he’d do that all day. The problems I’ve had in the last season are because I’m not playing enough attacking squash, I’ve been trying to play a length game and beat people by doing nothing with the ball.
“I think I can move the ball around pretty well so I have to be more aggressive and more positive. If I can be more aggressive and open up the court more it gives me chances to end the rallies – I’m not a grinder so I have to take matters into my own hands.”
Eighth seed Nafiizwan Adnan joined fellow Malaysian Ong Beng Hee in the second round with a straightforward 11-7, 11-5, 11-5 win over Gonzalo Miranda. Adnan was never in any trouble as he downed the qualifier from Argentina in just 25 minutes.
“I played him a few weeks ago at the Victorian Open in Melbourne and I beat him comfortably there,” Adnan said. “I was quite confident coming into the match because I knew how to play against him.”
Adnan will next take on Egyptian Omar Abdel Aziz, who beat New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson 11-3, 2-11, 11-7, 11-7. Aziz beat Adnan at their last outing, in Qatar last November, but the Malaysian said he was confident of gaining revenge.
“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I have improved a lot,” he said. “My confidence is good and my fitness is good so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Hong Kong’s Leo Au prevailed over Austrian qualifier Aqeel Rehman 11-7, 11-7, 10-12, 11-6.
Men’s Round One (Top):
 Ramy Ashour bt Kashif Shuja 11-6, 11-6, 11-6
Olivier Pett bt Dick Lau 11-4, 11-5 11-7 (29m)
 Nicolas Mueller bt Aaron Frankcomb 11-5, 11-7, 11-6 (38m)
Leo Au bt Aqeel Rehman 11-7, 11-7, 10-12, 11-6 (47m)
 Nafiizwan Adnan bt Gonzalo Miranda 11-7, 11-5, 11-5 (25m)
Omar Abdel Aziz bt Campbell Grayson 11-3, 2-11, 11-7, 11-7 (52m)
Zac Alexander bt Rex Hedrick 11-8, 7-11, 11-2, 11-3 (51m)
 Cameron Pilley bt Matthew Karwalski 11-7, 11-5, 11-7 (34m)