2022 Day ONE : People’s Sunday

The 2022 Optasia Championship got under way today at The Wimbledon Club with eight first round matches – the busiest day of the tournament.

There were five Englishman in action today, all up against 9/16 seeds, with today’s eight winners going through to face the top eight seeds in Round Two on Monday and Tuesday.

You can Watch Live on SquashTV, follow on Live Scoring and our social feeds, and we’ll have updates and reaction here with a roundup at the end of the day.

Optasia Championship 2020 : Round ONE, Sun 6th Mar

[9/16] Mohamed ElSherbini (Egy) 3-1 Shahjahan Khan (Usa)   11-9, 9-11, 11-5, 11-4 (55m)
[9/16] Eain Yow Ng (Mas) 3-1 Adrian Waller (Eng)                 7-11, 13-11, 11-6, 11-8 (58m)
Nicolas Mueller (Sui) 3-1 [9/16] Iker Pajares (Esp)                    11-8, 11-5, 8-11, 11-2 (52m)
James Willstrop (Eng) 3-0 [9/16] Raphael Kandra (Ger)                    11-9, 11-3, 11-6 (35m)

[wc] Joe Lee (Eng) 3-0 [9/16] Cesar Salazar (Mex)                               11-7, 11-1 rtd (24m)
[9/16] Saurav Ghosal (Ind) 3-0 Patrick Rooney (Eng)                       11-4, 11-6, 11-8 (41m)
[9/16] Youssef Soliman (Egy) 3-0 Lucas Serme (Fra)                      11-8, 11-6, 11-2 (39m)
George Parker (Eng) 3-1 [9/16] Karim El Hammamy (Egy)         8-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-9 (51m)


Parker provides fourth upset

George Parker (Eng) 3-1 [9/16] Karim El Hammamy (Egy)      8-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-9 (51m)

George Parker only found out yesterday that he would be competing at The Wimbledon, but the young Englishman took full advantage of the opportunity as he came from a game down to beat Youssef Soliman, creating the fourth seeding upset of the opening day.

“It’s a weird one, being called up late into the draw, it’s sort of less pressure in a way,” said Parker.

“I didn’t expect much today, I just got the call up yesterday and I’m happy to be in and playing. I got back from America last Saturday and it’s just good to be back and playing after covid.”

Soliman adds to Egyptian interest

[9/16] Youssef Soliman (Egy) 3-0 Lucas Serme (Fra)                      11-8, 11-6, 11-2 (39m)

Egyptian interest in round two – already heavy – was increased as Youssef Soliman ousted Frenchman Lucas Serme in three games in which he became increasingly dominant.

“I had to play a solid game to make sure I got this first round win,” said Soliman

“I can take confidence from it and I’m happy with my performance. It’s definitely an exciting court and we are used to the blue court so it’s quite different but it’s nice.

“I’m still based between Cairo and Bristol but more Cairo now, 70-30 in Cairo now and we’ll see next year where I’m based, I haven’t decided yet. I play at the Ahly club in Cairo, we’re trying to build a strong Egyptian League team. It’s a big thing in Egypt, when you’re a junior now your schedule is like three days in a row against top 10 guys. It’s tough but it’s interesting at the same time.”

Ghosal ends Rooney hopes

[9/16] Saurav Ghosal (Ind) 3-0 Patrick Rooney (Eng)    11-4, 11-6, 11-8 (41m)

Pontefract team-mates Saurav Ghosal and Patrick Rooney locked horns in the second match of the evening session, and it was the Indian who emerged triumphant in three games.

“I think it’s just about adapting to the court as much as possible,” said Saurav.

“I think I have things to do on a squash court that help me depending on what court I’m playing on, so I just have to adapt accordingly. That’s our job to adapt wherever we play and whatever the opponent throws at us, we try to do the best that we can. I did what I wanted to do for the most part because Patrick is a very good squash player. He’s doing really well over the last year especially. He’s played at Pontefract a bit and you can see all the stuff that’s in his game that comes from Pontefract. It was a bit of a role reversal so I’m happy to pull through that.

“It’s almost a year since Malcolm  passed away and it has been very difficult for everyone that is associated with him and Pontefract Squash Club and the town in general. I actually haven’t been back since because of all the restrictions in place but I can’t even imagine the club or the town centre without him. Whatever I am as a professional squash player is majority of it down to what Malcolm taught me as a player and a person. We all remember him and James [Willstrop] is carrying his legacy on and it will be untouched and something that can never be substituted for.

“It was taking it one month at a time, I feel I have a few more accomplishments left in me and I feel I can improve more as a squash player. Physically and mentally I have the drive to it and that’s what pushes you to come back. Having the memories of playing big tournaments, like this, in front of crowds, like this – that’s what gives you the motivation to come back.”

Wildcard Joe through to Round Two

[wc] Joe Lee (Eng) 3-0 [9/16] Cesar Salazar (Mex)      11-7, 11-1 rtd (24m)

Wildcard entry Joe Lee took advantage of an injured Cesar Salazar to advance to a round two meeting with Diego Elias.

The Englishman took a close first game, but in the second it was clear that Salazar was struggling, and after losing it 1-11 he retired.

“To be honest from the first shot, I didn’t really feel him on my shoulder,”

“Which I thought was a bit unusual as he wasn’t pushing up. So that it was just a bit of a mental challenge as I knew he wasn’t moving as well as he usually does, but he still played pretty constructively in that first game. I managed to do enough and then found what I needed to do in the second. It would have been nice to have a go at him at 100%, but I’ll take the win.

“I feel like I’m ready to start playing at this level again, maybe even beyond what I was before my injury. This is great opportunity for me and things have gone my way today and I have another great opportunity in a couple of days.

“Diego has beaten me a couple of times on his way up the rankings. It’s been five or six years since we last met, so I’m looking forward to having a go at him.”

Willstrop waltzes past Kandra

James Willstrop (Eng) 3-0 [9/16] Raphael Kandra (Ger)     11-9, 11-3, 11-6 (35m)

Former World #1 James Willstrop created an upset of sorts as he eased past Germany's 9/16 Raphael Kandra in straight games. After edging a tight first, Willstrop dominated the next two games to set up a clash with Marwan ElShorbagy in round two.

“I’m just trying to get selected at the moment,” said Willstrop.

“I’m really pleased to put in a performance like that. It’s getting a little bit tight with the English players and I do want to get there now I’ve gone on this long, it’s an unbelievable opportunity to play in Birmingham.

“It was an amazing reception we got today and I haven’t had that for a while, it was really great.

“Malcolm has left a big gap at Pontefract, so Vanessa, I, Jane and Matt at Pontefract are trying to fill that, which is impossible but we’re making a go of it. We’re working with young players and trying to keep Patrick Rooney, Sam Todd and Hollie Naughton] the pros that are up there, working.

“I’m not doing much because I’m still trying to play, but I enjoy a bit of coaching. It helps me because I have to analyse things and analysing other player’s games helps mine a little bit.

“The body usually feels alright, there are always a few niggles going on, but I think as the lockdown progressed you realised that the Commonwealth Games was building. That gave us oldies a bit of a rest and the young ones couldn’t catch us up. I’ve managed to maintain that position so it gives me a chance in the summer.

“It will be great to make that and then we’ll see where we are after that.”

First upset as Mueller takes out Pajares

Nicolas Mueller (Sui) 3-1 [9/16] Iker Pajares (Esp)      11-8, 11-5, 8-11, 11-2 (52m)

The first upset of the day saw Nicolas Mueller take out Spain's Iker Pajares in four games.

The Swiss raced into a two game lead, and at 6-2 in the third it looked like a comfortable win, but Pajares fought back to reduce the deficit.

It was all Mueller in the fourth though as he won 11-2 to move into a match against Gregoire Marche.

“I was playing very well in the first two and a half games, I had a big lead in the third but then I thought about winning the game instead of focusing on what I was doing,” Mueller said.

“Iker had a few big rallies, he won those and got some confidence. I was very happy to get a good start in the fourth, I wanted to make sure the lead was big enough so he couldn’t come back again.

“The state of squash in Switzerland is getting better and better. We have another Swiss guy who just missed out on coming into this tournament, he’s like 36 in the world, his nickname is ‘The Jet’ and he is playing very well. He beat me the last time in the Nationals, after 14 years in a row he finally got one. I’ve just got to make sure it’s a one-off and I keep on winning those events.”

Ng recovers to deny Waller

[9/16] Eain Yow Ng (Mas) 3-1 Adrian Waller (Eng)       7-11, 13-11, 11-6, 11-8 (58m)

Malaysia's Eain Yow Ng came from a game down to win the second match of the day.

Adrian Waller took the first and narrowly lost out in the second before the 9/16 seed stayed ahead throughout the next two games to advance to a Round Two meeting with Joel Makin.

“The court conditions were tough,” said Eain Yow.

“In the first game I thought Adrian really took it to me, he was playing his shots well and hit some amazing winners. In the second game I felt I wasn’t hitting my lines or my targets, but I just had to stick to it. I know I’m fit enough to go the distance, I kept playing hard and made sure I picked up every ball.

“I wanted to make it as hard as possible for him, and then once I got a bit more confident I was taking it short, I’m happy to get through today.

“We’ve got so many role models, Nicol David for sure, Ong Beng See, Azlan Iskandar and Nafiizwan Adnan as well. It’s not easy for us because to play at the highest level you have to move overseas. I’ve been here in Bristol for two or three years now, and I’m happy that I made that move.

“I play with Mohamed ElShorbagy and Marwan ElShorbagy, Youssef Soliman as well. They’re a lovely bunch in Bristol, Hadrian Stiff has been amazing, he’s pushed me to improve and keep working hard. It’s been a big thing for me to move over, and I think it’s been good.”

ElSherbini takes the opening match

[9/16] Mohamed ElSherbini (Egy) 3-1 Shahjahan Khan (Usa)   11-9, 9-11, 11-5, 11-4 (55m)

The first match of the Championship saw Egypt's Mohamed ElSherbini advance round two after a four game win over USA's Shahjahan Khan.

After two close opening games -with Khan going 4-0 up in both - were shared, ElSherbini eased through in the next two games.

ElSherbini now faces top seed Ali Farag in Round Two on Monday.

“We train together all the time, but he’s super heated,” said ElSherbini.

“It’s different, playing in England compared to Egypt. I’m used to England, I used to come here a lot to play the British Open when I was a junior. Egypt is pretty hot and we get to train a lot in the heat outside, so I think it makes a difference.

“It’s very difficult to answer why Egypt are so dominant. There are multiple factors, we are very competitive at a young age within our club. We have a lot of role models starting with Ahmed Barada, Amr Shabana, Ramy Ashour and Mohamed ElShorbagy. These guys have inspired us to become better squash players.”