TOC Quarters: Matthew's Athleticism stops El Hindi
Jan 26, 2010, by Rob Dinerman © 2010 SquashTalk.com , Independent News; SquashTalk LLC
TOC New York Quarters Update
The athleticism and relentlessness of two-time and current British Open champion Nick Matthew and the imaginative shot-making skills of Ramy Ashour were both on full display on Tuesday evening at the J. P. Morgan Tournament Of Champions, where both won their bottom-half quarterfinal matches to set up an interesting contrast of styles when they meet this evening in the semis. The fourth-seeded Matthew, who has been runner-up twice in this event, including last year, physically asserted himself throughout his 15-8, 4 and 7 victory over No. 8 seed Wael El-Hindi of Egypt, while the 22-year-old No. 5 seed Ashour needed to rally from two/one down in overtaking second seed and defending champion Greg Gaultier by a score of 10-12 11-7 7-11 11-5 11-6. Their impending confrontation this evening will follow the top-half semi between top seed Karim Darwish and sixth seed James Willstrop, who won their quarterfinal matches on Monday night at the expense of David Palmer and Amr Shabana respectively.
After falling briefly behind 3-2 in the opening game, Matthew scored the next three points and was never behind again the entire remainder of the match as he moved to a 10-5 advantage, mostly on the strength of his aggressive volleying and his ability to keep the play along, and dominate, the left wall, where he alternated wall-hugging lobs, severe drives and tight drop shots, all the while pressing the pace to a degree that kept El Hindi on the defensive and eventually wearing him down. The latter was playing extremely well himself, falling just short of matching Matthew in a series of almost-equally-well-played points a large majority of which, however, wound up landing in Matthew’s column. As a result, the points were more evenly played than the mounting score on Matthew’s favor would indicate.
From 5-10 in that first game, El Hindi successfully went for broke on two consecutive backhand working-boast winners and then collected a rare Matthew error on an over-hit forehand cross-court lob (one of Matthew’s most effective shots whenever he was drawn to the front-right) that drifted over the left-wall boundary line. Now at 8-10, El Hindi was denied a stroke call in his favor that would have made it 9-10 (a possible turning-point in retrospect), following which he caught the very top of the tin on a forehand drop shot, and Matthew, now with the first game in his ledger, would never look back.
He raced out to a 7-1 lead in the second, by the end of which El Hindi’s game was beginning to break down on several fronts, including when he started much too early for what he thought would be a drop shot and had no chance to recover when Matthew instead nailed the ball down the left wall for a winner; when he tinned what looked like a desperation drop-shot while pinned to the back wall in what appeared to be an attempt to “steal” a point rather than working his way through it; and when he slightly rolled his ankle late in that game, resulting in a brief play stoppage while he flexed the injured area and retied his shoe for extra support.
To El Hindi’s credit, he would then conjure up a rally from seeming oblivion at 2-5 in the third with a trio of winners (the last of which on a spectacular late wrist-flick that completely wrong-footed Matthew) to tie that game at 5-all, briefly raising hopes in the gallery that a more extended rally might be in store. But on this evening Matthew was inexorable, as he proved by snuffing the comeback bid in its tracks with a discompassionate 5-1 run to 10-6 (keyed by a shallow backhand cross-drop winner and, at 9-6, a punishing forehand drive that elicited a top-of-the-tinned forehand) that decided the outcome. El Hindi then pulled off a sensational cross-court winner capping off a fierce mid-court exchange, but at 7-10 his under-pressure forehand cross-court was backhand-volleyed by Matthew so severely and accurately that it rolled insolently out of the front-left nick to finish off the match in dramatic fashion. The British star has enjoyed considerable success in New York in the recent past (in addition to reaching last year’s Tournament Of Champions final he also swept through the U. S. Open draw when it was held in Manhattan in autumn ’07) and this week’s action is increasingly acquiring the “feel” of a Nick Matthew tournament.
NIMICK ANNOUNCES LEGENDS TOUR
Prior to Tuesday quarterfinals there were two noteworthy events, the first of which was an announcement by Tournament Chairman John Nimick at the mid-day media lunch of the formation of a Legends of Squash Tour featuring Jonathon Power and Peter Nicol (who between them won every edition of the Tournament Of Champions from 1996-2003), both of whom were present at the announcement in the wake of the exhibition match they had played the prior evening. Details will follow in a near-future squashtalk.com article, but there are already a number of prominent players who have committed to the Legends tour (Chris Walker, John White, Simon Parke and Peter Marshall, as well as others), which is expected to debut in Sheffield, UK, this September. To be eligible to compete on this circuit a player has to be officially retired from the PSA tour and have either won or reached the final of the World Open, British Open or Tournament Of Champions; been ranked No. 1 in the world; or played on a national team that won the World Team Championships.
SOBHY BEATS BLATCHFORD
Second, the two quarterfinal matches last night were preceded an Elite Junior Women’s Challenge between American stars-in-the-making Olivia Blatchford and Amanda Sobhy. Both junior standouts demonstrated their impressive skills and potential, with Sobhy winning in four games.
RESULTS, 2010 Tournament of Champions, Round of 16 [Main Draw]
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  Wael El Hindi (EGY) 11-8 11-3 11-7 (52 mins)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 10-12 11-7 7-11 11-5 11-7 (70 mins)
(TOP HALF (Played Monday)
 Karem Darwish (EGY) bt  David Palmer (AUS) 5-11, 11-4, 11-9 11-8 (63mins)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Amr Shabana (EGY) 11-5, 11-7, 11-4 (33 mins)