It was another long day at Victoria Squash in Rotterdam, the Dutch City of Sports, as men’s qualifying concluded and women’s qualifying began for the World Open Squash 2011, the biggest and most valuable squash event ever held in the Netherlands.
There was first-time success in reaching the main draw for over half the men’s field, including two who joined their brothers and one who got an unexpected birthday treat.
Quiet start for the women
Not too much to report in the women’s side, with sixteen straight-game wins, all but two of them taking half an hour or less, but there was still little for the home fans to celebrate as 11 of their 12 players went the same way as their 16 male counterparts yesterday.
The sole home winner over the first two days of competition was Milou Van Der Heijden who overcame compatriot Daniel Rossmeissl. Several of the Dutch had chances to take games though, particularly Milja Dorenbos, Cigany Sillevis, Melissa Meulenbelt and Daphne Jalgersma who all stalled within sight of the finishing line in at least one game.
All today’s winners meet one of the qualifying seeds in tomorrow’s second round with those winners going on to the qualifying finals on Monday.
Sixteen qualify for Men’s Main Draw
The sixteen men’s qualifying finals were all heavily disputed, with world junior champion Marwan El Shorbagy the only one who managed to win in less time than the longest women’s match as he beat Germany’s Jens Schoor in straight games to join his brother Mohamed in the main draw, where he meets Pakistan’s Farhan Mehboob.
“Today, I played well, in particular on the volleying, was comfortable on the T,” said Marwan. “But Jens is a very good player, so dangerous at the front …. I had to play my best today to beat him. I think my mum must be crying at home, as this is my first time qualifying for the Worlds…”
Simon Rosner won’t be the only German in the main draw though, as Raphael Kandra, on his 21st birthday, beat Julien Balbo in 75 minutes with the Frenchman struggling with a turned ankle in the latter stages of an oft-times brutal encounter. Kandra’s reward is an encounter with hard-hitting Aussie Cameron Pilley.
“Yes, my first ever world Open!!!!” said a delighted Raphael. “And as it is my birthday today, it’s a good reason for cancelling the party that I had planned at home (I live not too far away from here). You can say that actually, I made my own birthday gift!!!!”
Another Frenchman who struggled with injury towards he end of his match was Yann Perrin who lost out to Mexico’s Cesar Salazar – also joining his (twin) brother in the main draw – leaving Greg Marche the only French winner on day as he beat Australian Matthew Karwalski to leave the Aussies six-strong in the main draw following Zac Alexander‘s win over Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet.
“For about 3, 4 months I feel good, I feel strong, and that my squash is getting better,” said Cesar. “I want to thank the Mexican Government who understand that we need to travel to Europe to play more tournaments, and helps the top four with funding. And yes, it’s my first time getting into the Worlds!!!!!”
The longest match of the day, at 76 minutes, saw another first time qualifier in South Africa’s Clinton Leeuw who came from 2/1 down to deny England’s Robbie Temple. ”
Two Englishmen did make it through to the last 64, as Joe Lee overcame fierce resistance from compatriot Eddie Charlton and Adrian Waller denied South Africa a second qualifier as he beat Shaun Le Roux. Waller meets Daryl Selby while Lee faces Canada’s Shahier Razik.
As seems to be compulsory on these occasions, two of the longest matches were left until last. Two youngsters battled it out on court 9, Malaysia’s 21-year-old Ivan Yuen taking a 2-1 and match-ball lead over 20-year-old Finn Henrik Mustonen, who stormed back to take the match in 76 minutes. Mustonen faces third seed Karim Darwish, as he did in last week’s Qatar Classic.
The final match on court one promised to be even longer as Steve Finitsis held a substantial lead in the fourth against Omar Abdel Meguid, but the Egyptian clawed it back to take the fourth 12/10 in a match that featured 58 decisions in its 73 minutes. Meguid meets compatriot Omar Mosaad.
Stephane Galifi and Campbell Grayson got the ‘plum’ draws, with the veteran French/Italian set to taske on defending champion Nick Matthew, while Kiwi Grayson meets 2008 champion Ramy Ashour, the second seed.
For Galifi, it’s his third time in the World Open main draw, but he’s still very pleased: “What’s at stake is enormous when we try and qualify for such a tournament. You can never play relax in the qualifiers, so much pressure, people may think it’s easy, but it’s not. And from the psychological point of view, it’s one of the hardest things to do. He played so well, and I’m so proud to win this one…”
The men’s first round takes place over two days, starting on Sunday and concluding on Monday.