Australian Steve Finitsis claimed the biggest upset in the qualifying finals of the Saudi PSA World Open Squash Championship when he beat Mexican Arturo Salazar to earn his first appearance in the premier event on the PSA World Tour which will be held at Sunset Beach Resort in the Saudi Arabian city of Al-Khobar in December.
Players from 20 nations met at St George’s Hill Lawn Tennis & Squash Club in Weybridge, England, to compete for 16 qualifying places available in the $327,500 event – the richest international squash championship of all-time.
It took only 16 minutes for Queenslander Finitsis, the Netherlands-based 27-year-old world No73, to qualify when Salazar, ranked 24 places higher, retired injured after two games – with the score standing at 11-4, 11-3 in the Australian’s favour.
Egyptian Karim Abdel Gawad, Malaysian Muhd Asyraf Azan and Englishman Adrian Waller will also be making their World Open debuts after St George’s success. In one of the longest battles of the day, 19-year-old Gawad, from Cairo, recovered from 2/1 down to beat Dutchman Piedro Schweertman 11-8, 10-12, 15-17, 11-5, 12-10 in 78 minutes.
Waller, a 20-year-old left-hander from Enfield, fought back from a game down to overcome France’s Gregoire Marche 8-11, 11-5, 11-3, 11-1, while Azan was leading Arthur Gaskin 10-12, 11-8, 11-9, 8-1 when the Irishman was forced to retire with an injury.
Joe Lee fully exploited home advantage when he caused the only other qualifying upset. Son of the club’s head coach Danny Lee, the 20-year-old world No74 defeated US opponent Gilly Lane, ranked 50 in the world, 11-1, 4-11, 11-6, 14-12 in exactly one hour to earn his second successive appearance in the World Open main draw.
Italian Stephane Galifi, the highest-ranked player in the draw, was taken the full distance in the opening match of the day. The 31-year-old world No48 needed 70 minutes to defeat Mexican Cesar Salazar – the twin brother of Arturo – 11-7, 6-11, 7-11, 11-6, 11-7.
Two established players on the PSA Tour will return to World Open action after injury lay-offs. Mohammed Abbas, the 29-year-old former world No13 who has been suffering with a long-term foot injury, beat South African Clinton Leeuw 8-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-2 to earn his eighth appearance in the championship since 2002.
Top-ranked Spaniard Borja Golan, who was out of action for eight months following major knee surgery, battled to an 8-11, 11-3, 10-12, 11-1, 11-8 win in 92 minutes over India’s Siddharth Suchde to secure his fourth World Openappearance, but his first since 2008.
Stephane Galifi (ITA) bt Cesar Salazar (MEX) 11-7, 6-11, 7-11, 11-6, 11-7 (70m)
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Piedro Schweertman (NED) 11-8, 10-12, 15-17, 11-5, 12-10 (78m)
Julien Balbo (FRA) bt Ivan Yuen (MAS) 11-7, 11-4, 11-9 (39m)
Borja Golan (ESP) bt Siddharth Suchde (IND) 8-11, 11-3, 10-12, 11-1, 11-8 (92m)
Joe Lee (ENG) bt Gilly Lane (USA) 11-1, 4-11, 11-6, 14-12 (60m)
Kashif Shuja (NZL) bt Kristian Frost Olesen (DEN) 11-5, 11-2, 3-11, 11-8 (51m)
Mohammed Abbas (EGY) bt Clinton Leeuw (RSA) 8-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-2 (52m)
Alan Clyne (SCO) bt Max Lee (HKG) 8-11, 11-6, 12-14, 11-8, 11-7 (84m)
Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Gregoire Marche (FRA) 8-11, 11-5, 11-3, 11-1 (46m)
Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) bt Charles Sharpes (ENG) 11-2, 11-7, 11-8 (34m)
Jan Koukal (CZE) bt Dylan Bennett (NED) 8-11, 6-11, 13-11, 11-8, 11-9 (66m)
Chris Simpson (ENG) bt Christopher Gordon (USA) 11-5, 11-3, 11-7 (35m)
Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS) bt Arthur Gaskin (IRL) 10-12, 11-8, 11-9, 8-1 ret. (48m)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Laurence Delasaux (ENG) 11-6, 14-12, 12-10 (50m)
Robbie Temple (ENG) bt Aqeel Rehman (AUT) 3-11, 11-6, 11-4, 11-7 (43m)
Steve Finitsis (AUS) bt Arturo Salazar (MEX) 11-4, 11-3 ret. (16m)