Tournament of Champions 2013, Quarter-Finals:
Men’s Quarters (botttom half): Nick Matthew (Eng) 3-0  Karim Darwish (Egy) 11/5, 11/7, 11/8 (43m)
 Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 3-1  Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy) 11/9, 13/11, 13/15, 11/4 (79m)
Women’s Quarters: Rachael Grinham (Aus) 3-1 [Q] Joshana Chinappa (Ind) 8-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-8 (46m)
 Natalie Grinham (Ned) 3-1  Sarah Kippax (Eng) 10-12, 11-5, 11-4, 11-6 (43m)  Kasey Brown (Aus) 3-0  Amanda Sobhy (Usa) 11-8, 15-13, 12-10 (51m)
 Madeline Perry (Irl) 3-0  Joey Chan (Hkg) 11-9, 11-2, 11-5 (28m)
Day Five at Grand Central
Beth Rasin reports
Nick Matthew reached his sixth semifinal at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions when he defeated seventh seed Karim Darwish, 11-5, 11-7, 11-8, in quarterfinal play on the glass court at Grand Central terminal. Frenchman Gregory Gaultier will make his fifth semifinal appearance after defeating Mohammed El Shorbagy, 11-9, 13-11, 13-15, 11-4.
It was a vintage Matthew performance as he used straight and accurate rails and drop shots to keep the Egyptian with the dangerous racquet from finding many openings from which he could unleash his shotmaking prowess. Keeping the ball deep to the back corners and using a quick attacking volley, Matthew never gave Darwish a chance to gain any momentum.
Having elected to not to get on court at all on his rest day between the second round and the quarterfinals, Matthew looked fresh and eager from the very start of the match. The defending champion raced out to an 8-2 lead, and won the game 11-5.
In the second game the lead changed hands a few times, but Matthew broke away to get to 10-5, winning the game 11-7. From one all in the third, Matthew never relinquished the lead and closed out the match with an 11-8 win.
“I am pleased with my momentum in the tournament,” said Matthew. “But as you move further along each round, it gets tougher and tougher. Sometimes when you have played well, you can take it for granted. I certainly have to stay on my toes mentally for whoever my next opponent is.”
Referring to the Gaultier- EL Shorbagy match that was just going on court and would determine who he plays in the semifinal, Matthew added, with a wry smile,” Hopefully they will knock ten bells out of each other.”
In fact, the semifinal between Gaultier and the El Shorbagy did at times resemble a slugfest. It was a fast and furious start from the very first point of play in the match between the third seeded Frenchman and the sixth seeded Egyptian. Both men were hitting the ball quickly and with tremendous pace.
Gaultier, however, managed to use the corners of the court more effectively than his opponent, and made El Shorbagy cover a lot of court. At 5-3 in the first game, the ensuing rally lasted several minutes with Gaultier winning the point on an El Shorbagy error. Although Gaultier seemed to be dictating the rhythm of the rallies, El Shorbagy hung tight and managed to close the gap to 9-10. Gaultier won the game, however, at 11-9.
Gaultier shot out to a 6-1 lead in the second, but again, El Shorbagy stayed close and tied the score at 11 all. The Frenchman, continuing to pull his opponent from corner to corner, snatched the second game 13-11. The intensity of Gaultier’s competitive desire to win this match was abundantly evident from the double fist pump and loud shout of self-encouragement before he left the court for the 90-second game break.
There was no lack of competitive desire on the young Egytian’s part. He continued to pummel the ball in an effort to overpower his opponent, but instead, Gaultier used the pace to his own advantage by picking up the ball quickly.
Gaultier, the 2009 ToC champion, looked as though he would close the match out in three straight games when he had match ball at 11-10, 12-11 and 13-12. The young Egyptian showed no fear as he fought off each match point, twice with gutsy cross court roll out nick winners. El Shorbagy won the third game 15-13.
The 29-year-old Frenchman, known for his mercurial temperament, demonstrated patience and mental fortitude in the fourth game. Continuing with his game plan to contain El Shorbagy’s potential power and explosive strength, Gaultier earned his semifinal berth with an 11-4 fourth game victory.
“He’s young and hungry,” said Gaultier after the match. “But I am old and hungry. I had to play very accurate shots and have good length, so I could keep him from volleying the ball. And I had to be aggressive at the right time.”
Shot selection was a key component of the match outcome:
“I was not playing the right shot at the right time,” El Shorbagy shared in his post- match analysis.
For Gaultier, the most important element of his winning game was the fact that, ”I kept my focus, stayed calm and relaxed.”
Becoming a father for the first time this fall has had a beneficial effect on Gaultier’s competitive mien. Now that squash is no longer the most important thing in his life, the new father has been more relaxed on court, and very possibly playing the best squash of his career.
Grin hams celebrate ToC semi
Rachael Grinham celebrated her 36th birthday by giving herself the gift of a semifinal appearance at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions. The veteran Australian ended Joshana Chipanna’s Tournament of Champions journey with an 8-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-8 win over the 26-year-old qualifier from India. Chipanna started strong, winning the first game by pinning Grinham to the back corners of the court with deep rails and cross courts.
In the second, Chipanna continued to create opportunities to attack by forcing short returns from Grinham as she scrambled to retrieve balls from back of the court. But the fleet footed Australian started reading Chipanna’s shots, which were not precise enough to be winners. Grinham was retrieving everything that Chipanna hit, and using the lob to push Chipanna to the back of the court herself.
The third game was all Grinham as she won 11-4. The momentum shifted early in the fourth as Chippana took a 7-2 lead, but Grinham chipped away at lead and eventually won the game 11-8. “I really thought I was going to lose that fourth game,” Grinham said, “and then next thing I knew, I had won it!”
Grinham’s semifinal opponent will be none other than her sister Natalie, who now represents the Netherlands in international competition, having married former Dutch player Tommy Berden. The sisters last competed against each other at the Texas Open in April 2011 when Rachael won in straight games.
Natalie dropped the first game of her match to England’s Sarah Kippax, The 35-year-old mother regained her focus in the second, and won the next three games in authoritative fashion, 11-5,11-4, 11-6. She was cheered on by 2 ½ year old son Kieran.
“Last year, I found it difficult to be away from Kieran as much as I was,” said Natalie, “but I wasn’t quite ready to stop playing. So I decided that I would have Kieran travel with me this year.”
The biggest dilemma for the semifinal contest with her sister will be finding a babysitter for Kieran, since Rachael usually looks after her nephew while Natalie is playing!.
Kasey Brown earned her tip to the semifinals with a 3-0 victory against American Amanda Sobhy. Brown, who now resides in Greenwich, Connecticut, was quite familiar with the attacking game of the Harvard sophomore and effectively contained Amanda’s attack by making sure to hit the ball deep in the court. Brown was also buoyed by the presence at the match of her coach Rodney Martin.
Brown will play Ireland’s Madeline Perry in the semifinal. After grabbing the close first game her match with Hong Kong’s Joey Chan 11-9, top seed Perry made short work of the remaining two games by winning 11-2, 11-5.
When Chan was asked what the difference was between her first round and the quarterfinal, she replied, “The speed of the ball. Madeline was very strong today; she kept m in the back of the court for most of the match.”