The first PSA/WSA World Series event of the year is under way in New York, offering for the first time parity in prize money for the men’s and women’s competitors. Taking place at Grand Central Terminus, the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions gives thousands of commuters a glimpse of world class squash during their way to and from work .
The event features split rounds with quarter-finals beginning on Tue 20th and the finals on Fri 23rd Jan. Here’s a summary of some the action so far …
Colombia’s Rodriguez Makes History In New York
29-year-old Colombian World No.8 Miguel Angel Rodriguez became the first ever South American squash player to reach the quarter-finals of a PSA World Series event after beating England’s Peter Barker in a 120-minute epic at the J.P Morgan Tournament of Champions.
Two of the fittest and most fluid movers on tour, the duo served up a titanic battle of attrition that was packed with lung-bursting rallies as they tried to break each other down but it was Rodriguez, the highest ranked South American player of all time, who managed to edge it, taking the match 11-6, 8-11, 11-13, 11-9, 11-7 and record his first ever win over the World No.6.
“This is one of the best wins of my career so far because it is the first time I have beaten him and also the first time I’ve made it to the quarter-finals at one of the major events,”said Rodriguez.
“I prepared very hard for the match and I’m delighted to win. I think I played very well – it was not an easy match because he is a very tough player.”
After taking the opening game, which in itself lasted 26-minutes, Rodriguez found himself 2-1 down after Barker closed out a gritty tie-breaker in the third and the Englishman appeared to have the ascendency as he moved 9-7 ahead in the fourth game and within two points of the match.
But two consecutive errors gave the Colombian an opportunity and he pounced to keep the match alive and in the deciding game he continued to set a relentless physical pace that 31-year-old Barker couldn’t live with.
“I worked very hard on the physical side of the game last year and I played a lot of events as well so had a good rhythm and it has all paid off for me,” sad Rodriguez.
“I’ve started the year in the top ten and at my highest ever ranking and I’m into the quarter-finals for the first time so i already feel like this is definitely going to be my best year.”
In a mammoth day of action in Manhattan there were also wins for German World No.10 Simon Rösner, French World No.2 Gregory Gaultier and England’s World No.4 Nick Matthew, with Gaultier claiming the quickest win of the day with his 43-minute, 3-0 triumph over qualifier Tom Richards.
Second Round (Bottom half):
Egyptian Trio Go Forward In Grand Central
The quarter-finals of the 2015 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions will be full of Egyptian flavour after Mohamed Elshorbagy, Amr Shabana and Tarek Momen, the World No.1, No.3 and No.7 respectively, came through their second round encounters in New York’s Grand Central Terminal today (Jan 18).
World No.1 Elshorbagy, the 24-year-old Egyptian based out of Bristol, England, became the first man through to the last eight after edging his way through a challenging encounter with Swiss national champion Nicolas Mueller.
In a thrilling 62-minute encounter Elshorbagy had to be at the very top of his game to overcome an inspired Mueller, who produced one of his best ever performances on the PSA World Tour in the 11-3, 5-11, 15-13, 11-6 defeat.
With the scores tied at one-game-all a crucial tie-break in the third game ultimately determined the outcome as both men refused to give an inch in what was a brutal display of world class athleticism and shot-making. Despite having several game-ball opportunities, Mueller couldn’t convert to establish a lead in the match and Elshorbagy made the most of the reprieve to storm home.
“In that third game I told myself not to give up because I knew whoever won that game would break the other player,” said Elshorbagy.
“When I got the game ball opportunity I didn’t want to let it go. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t waste it because Nicolas played a great match and it was a very tough battle against him.”
Defending champion Shabana, who became the oldest ever winner of a PSA World Series event when he won here aged 34 in 2014, kept alive his hopes of retaining the title with a 3-1 win over Australian Cameron Pilley while Momen got the better of Indian Saurav Ghosal, winning 3-1 in a mixed performance.
Momen was in masterful form as he stormed out of the blocks and found himself one-game up after just six minutes of action, extending his lead to 2-0 with little opposition, but a series of errors allowed Ghosal back into the match before he regained his composure to move into the last eight.
“I tried to stick to a more conservative game plan against Saurav than I normally would do,” said Momen.
“He’s such a fast player and we have very similar styles so mentally he is a tough opponent for me and he made it very hard for me today so I’m just really pleased that I managed to stick to my plan and get through.”
Second Round, Top Half:
Sobhy Sinks Low In Grand Central Upset
Unseeded US squash star Amanda Sobhy defeated world No.7 Low Wee Wern of Malaysia in five games to provide unexpected home interest in the women’s quarter-finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, the WSA International 100 event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.
“I knew that I had to be mentally prepared to get everything back, because Wee Wern is a great mover and super consistent,” said the 21-year-old Harvard University senior. Sobhy started strong, winning the first game 11-7, but dropped the next two by the identical scores, 5-11, 5-11.
Down 4-7 in the fourth, the Long Island native was undaunted, reeling off seven straight points to win the game. “I have been working on my fitness, and I got a second wind,” Sobhy remarked. “I usually play better when I am behind.”
That come-from-behind courage was called upon in the fifth game as the seventh-seeded Malaysian took a 7-5 lead – but Sobhy once again refocused and ran off six straight points to earn a return trip to the iconic ToC glass court.
“I am so happy to have won in front of the home crowd cheering me on,” said the jubilant US No.1, who played her match in front of a capacity crowd.
Egyptian interest in the semi-finals is already guaranteed as two compatriots – Nour El Tayeb from Cairo and Nour El Sherbini from Alexandria – face each other in the quarter-finals. Both are university students as well as top 10 squash players.
El Tayeb overcame surprise English qualifier Victoria Lust. The 21-year-old Egyptian – who leapt from the lower reaches of the world top 30 to No8 during last year – controlled the contest from start to finish.
“Last year I couldn’t even get into the qualifying draw and now I am in the quarterfinals,” said El Tayeb after the match.“During the past year, I have been working on my movement, position to the ball and fitness. The biggest difference is that a year ago I could beat a top 10 player but then lose to a much lower-ranked player in the next match. Now I am more consistent.”
El Tayeb will need that consistency against El Sherbini, who last year rocketed from 27 to 4 in the rankings. The 18-year-old, who is juggling her first year of college studies with playing professional squash, had to take her exams a week early to be able to play in the ToC.
The academic course-load does not seem to have affected the teenager’s game; she dismissed Hong Kong’s world No.10 Annie Au in just 21 minutes. “The start of the match was very good for me, and gave me confidence, and that was really important,” said El Sherbini.
France’s Camille Serme had her hands full with 20-year-old Kanzy El-Defrawy, the acrobatic 20-year-old Egyptian who gives the term playing with abandon new meaning. Fearlessly diving to the floor to return her opponent’s shots, the Trinity junior – ranked just 66 in the world – delighted the crowd with here energetic, never-say-die, play.
Although El-Defrawy took the first game, world No6 Serme confidently claimed the next two in commanding style. Down 2-7 in the fourth, the 25-year-old Frenchwoman remained calm, patiently chipping away until she took the game 12-10 to win the match.
“Glad, happy and relieved,” was how the Serme described her feelings after the match. “I was a little surprised at how much energy Kanzy had, because she played three tough qualifying matches before today.”
Serme progresses to face second seed Laura Massaro. The Englishwoman, runner-up in 2014, played with authority as she defeated 18-year-old Egyptian qualifier Salma Hany Ibrahim, 11-4, 11-4, 11-3.
“The last time we played, it went to five, so this first round was a potential banana peel,” said the world No.3. “I am glad to get it out of the way.”
RESULTS: Women’s JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, New York, USA
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Annie Au (HKG) 11-3, 11-7, 11-7 (21m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt [Q] Victoria Lust (ENG) 11-5, 11-6, 11-2 (25m)
Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Low Wee Wern (MAS) 11-7, 5-11, 5-11, 11-8, 11-7 (61m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) 11-7, 15-13, 11-7 (39m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt [Q] Kanzy El-Defrawy (EGY) 9-11, 11-3, 11-5, 12-10 (59m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [Q] Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY) 11-4, 11-4, 11-3 (32m)
Remaining 1st round matches:
 Nicol David (MAS) v Rachael Grinham (AUS)
 Alison Waters (ENG) v [Q] Samantha Teran (MEX)