Spread across four squash clubs in Philadelphia, the qualifying finals for the Delaware Investments U.S. Open was characterised by marathon opening matches as players battled for a place in the first PSA World Series event of the new season.
At Drexel University, which will be the host venue for all men’s and women’s matches from tomorrow, Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez followed up his opening win over home favoirite John White with a less spectacular and less noisy 3/1 victory over Siddarth Suchde that was no less satisfying.
“It was important for me to reach the main draw again here in this wonderful tournament,” said Rodriguez, whose matches 2011 with Ali Anwar Reda and Thierry Lincou were early highlights of the event. “I had to be more focused today, more steady, and I did my job,” added the in-form Colombian.
His job only gets harder as he faces defending champion Amr Shabana on Sunday.
That match took 78 minutes, and was followed by a 77-,minute 3/1 win for South Africa’s Steve Coppinger over Kiwi Martin Knight. After losing the first two games Knight surprised his opponent with sharp attacks to take the third 11/2 but couldn’t capitalise on slender leads in the fourth as Coppinger closed out the match.
“He changed his game completely,” admitted Coppinger, “and I wasn’t ready for it. But I’d come back from a few points down in the second so I knew I could do it again in the fourth.
Over at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia Hong Kong’s Max Lee took his opening game against France’s Greg Marche 16/14 before completing another 3/1 win, this one taking 70 minutes. That was followed by an untypically quick win for Canadian number one Shahier Razik, beating Matthew Karwalski, 3/1 in 54 minutes.
Merion Cricket Club saw two Egyptians advance – Omar Abdel Aziz beat Alan Clyne in 81 minutes – you guessed it 3/1 – while Karim Abdel Gawad skipped past Ryan Cuskelly in straight games in one minute short of half that time.
Fans at Germantown Cricket Club were cheering on the last remaining US player, and Julian Illingworth came within a whisker of progressing as he came from two games down against Aamir Atlas Khan.
To the disappointment of the home crowd he finally fell just short as the Pakistani saved a match ball to prevail 14/12 in the fifth after 91 minutes of drama which included contentious moments, a conduct warning for dissent, a stoppage for blisters and more!
Far less dramatic was Joe Lee’s straight game win over Mexican Cesar Salazar, boosting the English contingent in the main draw to seven.
Delaware Investments U.S. Open 2012, Men’s Qualifying Finals:
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Col) bt Siddarth Suchde (Ind) 11-7, 7-11, 11-7, 11-5 (78m)
Steve Coppinger (Rsa) bt Martin Knight (Nzl) 11-6, 11-9, 2-11, 11-9 (77m)
Racquet Club of Philadelphia:
Max Lee (Hkg) bt Gregoire Marche (Fra) 16-14, 9-11, 11-6 , 11-3 (70m)
Shahier Razik (Can) bt Matthew Karwalski (Aus) 11-5, 6-11, 11-7, 11-5 (54m)
Merion Cricket Club:
Omar Abdel Aziz (Egy) bt Alan Clyne (Sco) 11-4, 5-11, 11-8, 11-3 (81m)
Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy) bt Ryan Cuskelly (Aus) 11-8, 11-8, 11-7 (41m)
Germantown Cricket Club:
Aamir Atlas Khan (Pak) bt Julian Illingworth (Usa) bt 11-9, 11-3, 8-11, 3-11, 14-12 (90m)
Joe Lee (Eng) bt Cesar Salazar (Mex) 11-9, 11-4, 11-3 (43m)