Alister Walker prevails in the fifth
Jan 24 , 2008, by Martin Bronstein for SquashTalk.com , Independent News; © 2008 SquashTalk LLC
Martin Bronstein reporting from Grand Central Terminal: Saturday Evening session
DARWISH UNTROUBLED BY BLUNT RAZIK
|Karim Darwish was playing just too well for Shahier Razik. Photo: ©2009 Debra Tessier|
I am quite sure that Karim Darwish, now heading the Egyptian domination of world squash, would like to have had a better workout than offered by the brief resistence show by Shahier Razik, who is Egyptian by birth and Canadian by adoption. After a brief first game, won by Darwish 11-3, Razik managed to up his game to prolong the second game to nearly 14 minutes before losing 11-8 and then offered almost no resistance in the third game which Darwish won 11-2 in under five minutes.
Now I know length of game is not always a reliable yardstick for quality of squash, but tonight it was. Darwish is playing very well and mentally he is on a roll having overtaken Amr Shabana at number one and beaten him twice in the last three months. So all said and done, he will be a hard man to beat. But somebody of Shahier’s experience should certainly be able to trouble him more than he did tonight.
When I first saw Razik in Cairo playing in the world junior champs in 1996 he was a totally different player to all around him, gliding round the court and soft dropping everything to an inch above the tin.
After turning pro, those qualities were left behind and he become a marathon man and has featured in some of the longest matches of the last five years. At least he could have used that fitness to push Darwish a little harder, but perhaps Darwish was playing just too well to be drawn into long down-the-wall duels. Sometimes it is hard to tell whether a player is in the zone or his opponent is playing so badly, he is allowing him the freedom of the court.
After 34 minutes - with only sporadic periods of pulse-fastening squash, Darwish had his ticket to the second round and a meeting with Adrian Grant.
RAMY’S BIG BROTHER FAILS TO CONTROL URGES
|The second match featured two more Egyptians, the gorgeous Wael el Hindi and Hisham Ashour, elder brother of Ramy.. Photo: ©2009 Debra Tessier|
The second match featured two more Egyptians, the gorgeous Wael el Hindi and Hisham Ashour, elder brother of Ramy. Hisham has everything needed to beat el Hindi – except the mental strength and composure. His racket work is sublime – you can see the family resemblence – and some of his shots are a sheer joy to behold. He also likes to attack the ball well before it gets to the back wall and while that can be very exciting it can also lead to too much exuberance and errors by the boat-load.
He lost he first game 11-4 and then cruised to a 5-0 lead in the second after a brilliant spell of squash, but then the magic disappeared and El Hindi overhauled him to win 11-8. If only Hisham could learn just a tiny bit of discipline and recognise when a ball is just too low or tight to attempt a kill, if only…..
That was the extent of the fight and the third game flashed by in about four minutes, El Hindi winning 11-3 to end the 28 minute match. A match, 28 minutes long? Is there any other sport where the contest is over so quickly except a first round knock out in boxing?
ADRIAN GRANT STEMS THE EGYPTIAN TIDE
|Omar Abdel Aziz came out firing on all cylinders in overdrive against Adrian Grant. Photo: ©2009 Debra Tessier|
It was left to Adrian Grant, ranked 11 in the world, to stop the Egyptian tsunami. He faced qualifier Omar Abdel Aziz ranked 44 in the world and as fearless as all his countryman. On paper Aziz should not have lasted 30 minutes but he didn’t know – or recognise – those sort of odds. He came out firing on all cylinders in overdrive with the turbo on full and took the first two games, the first after a tie- break and the second 11-8 from an opponent who seemed unable to formulate a game plan for himself or a defence against Aziz. As he was to tell me later: “ I was spaced out - there were no thought processes in my head.”
In the third game, Grant stepped forward, stopped hacking and began to move his opponent to the front of the court. He was also hitting winning length and three points were won on the best length shots seen so far in the first round, the ball touching the side wall behind the service box to die at the back wall. Grant still did not have it all his own way and Aziz made him work hard for every point. But now relaxed, Grant definitely had the upper hand and took the game 11-9 after leading 10-6 and surviving a fighting comeback from Aziz.
The fourth game gave all sorts of wrong signals as Grant raced through to win 11-1 in a matter of four minutes. Was Aziz now paying for all his running? Was Grant about to ease to victory? No and no. Aziz was saving himself and the fight was on again in the fifth, Aziz surging to a 7-4 lead with the help of some strange calls and lucky bounces. Still Grant believed in himself , still went short to make Aziz work and pulled back to tie the game at 9-9. Finally the packed Vanderbilt Hall had something to hold its breath about, even to cheer and applaud about.
Grant won the next point to get to match ball after 92 minutes all and served carefully – Aziz loves to smack the serve into the nick. This time he had to wait for it off the back wall and when he drove it down the right wall, on to Grant’s backhand, Grant with his back almost on the back wall, fearlessly caressed a long drop shot to the right front for a glorious winner – a wonderful shot to end a well-fought contest, one that was easily the best match of the first round. We spectators deserved it – we had waited all yesterday and today for it!
I congratulated Grant on his glorious final shot.
“Well I had to do it otherwise it would have meant a tie-breaker,” he said, an explanation that was a bit obtuse. What happened in those first two games?
“I was spaced out. The floor was a bit uneven and there were some strange bounces. I wasn’t relaxed in my swing and I had no thought processes. It was a focus thing. Once I started to move up the court instead of hacking, I started to relax. He played very well and he wasn’t frightened, but even when I was 2/0 down I still knew I would win.”
Did he really want such a long much in the first round?
“I’m glad it was that long. I’ve got used to the court now and got the bugs out. I’ve done back-to-back matches before so it doesn’t matter who I play, I know I shall be fit enough and ready for the court,” he said.
[MEDICAL NOTE: The 92 minutes included a 15 minute break while a plaster and bandage were applied to Grant’s knee and elbow after he had dived in the second game. Why it takes that long is beyond me. Shouldn’t those medical bandages be immediately at hand?]
HUNGAR IAN QUALIFYER PUSHES ISKANDER
|World number 13 Azlan Iskander took 5 games to finish off qualifier Mark Krajcsak. Photo: ©2009 Debra Tessier|
Mark Krajcsak is the only Hungarian – as far as I know –to make the top 50 in the PSA rankings. He’s a good player and you have to wonder how he got that good living Hungary. Who else plays the game? But he was good enough to push the world number 13 Azlan Iskander of Malaysia to five games in the last match of the day. Considering that Krajcsak is ranked 46 right now, his performance must surely give him motivation to get back into tourning again.
This was a good match –not quite as dramatic as the Grant/Aziz match, but a good tussle that keep the spectators involved. Iskander won in the end, but he must have been very relieved when he hit the final winner.
First round, bottom half of draw
 Ong Beng Hee (MAS) bt [Q] Jonathan Kemp (ENG) 11-8, 11-4, 14- 12 (37mins)
 David Palmer (AUS) bt [Q] Tarek Momen (EGY) 12-10,11-8, 11-6.(43mins)
Alister Walker (ENG) bt  Borja Golan (ESP) 9-11, 14-12, 11-1, 11-3. (61mins)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt[Q] Daryl Selby (ENG)11-0,11-3, 6-1 ret. (19mins)
 Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) v [Q] Mark Krajcsak (HUN) 12-10,1-11, 11-5, 10-12, 11-4 (73 mins)
 Wael El Hindi (EGY) bt Hisham Mohd Ashour (EGY) 11-4, 11-8, 11-3 (28mins)
 Adrian Grant (ENG) bt [Q] Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY) 10-12, 11-8, 9-11,
1-11, 11-9. (92 mins)
 Karim Darwish (EGY bt Shahier Razik (CAN) 11-3, 11-8, 11-2 (32 mins)
FIRST ROUND (top half, played Friday )
 Amr Shabana (EGY) bt [Q] Renan Lavigne (FRA) 11-8, 11-7, 11-5 (31mins)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) W/O Stewart Boswell (AUS) injured
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt Olli Tuominen (FIN) 9-11, 11-7 , 11-7, 11-8.
[Q] Yasser El Halaby (EGY) bt  John White (SCO) 12-10, 4-11,12-10,8-11, 11-7 (68 mins)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 9-11,11-8, 11-7, 11-5 (52mins)
 Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) bt [Q] Amr Swelim (EGY) 14-12, 11-7, 11-5. (40 mins)
 Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt Julian Illingworth (USA)11-4, 11-6, 11-6 (41mins)
 Peter Barker (ENG) bt Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 12-10, 11-4, 11-1 (35mins)
|All Photos: ©2009 Debra Tessier|
|All Photos: ©2009 Debra Tessier|
|Aziz attempts another dive to save match point against Grant. All Photos: ©2009 Debra Tessier|
|All Photos: ©2009 Debra Tessier|