Waller Wows Grand Central Crowd
English qualifier Adrian Waller made an impressive debut in his first appearance on the famed glass court in New York’s Grand Central Terminal in the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, defeating 11th seed Olli Tuominen in the first round of the $97,500 PSA World Tour squash event, the opening event of the 2010 PSA Super Series.
The 20-year-old Englishman, who defended four match balls in the fifth game, smiled broadly as he cooled down after his 60 minute victory. “I am really pleased with how I was able to come back in the fifth,” said left-hander. Although Waller won the first two games in commanding fashion, Tuominen looked to have the match well in hand after he secured the third and fourth games, and was one point from a match victory at 10-6.
But the young man from Enfield held steady under the pressure from the Finnish veteran 10 years his senior, tying the score at 10 all. Although he didn’t convert his first match ball at 11-10, Waller finally clinched victory 11-6, 11-4, 2-11, 6-11, 14-12.
Waller will face seventh seed David Palmer in the second round. The 33-year-old Aussie, now based in Orlando, Florida, started the match with his 23-year-old countryman Aaron Frankcomb with a lot of pace and kept it up throughout his three game victory. “I wanted him to know that he was going to be in for a hard match,” Palmer said of his attacking strategy. “And I want to try to keep the matches as short as possible.”
It was not a short match for Mohd Ali Anwar Reda who needed 76 minutes to vanquish his Egyptian countryman, 13th seed Tarek Momen. Like the champion athlete whose name he shares and wears on his sweatshirt - Muhammad Ali - Reda did “float like butterfly and sting like a bee” in the first two games, but lost focus and lost the next two games.
“He changed his game and cut down on the errors and I got defensive,” said Reda of his mid-match lapse. “Then in the fifth it was anyone’s game.” Momen took an early 5-2 lead, but Reda rebounded to forge ahead 7-5 and then 10-7. An unforced forehand error into the tin by Reda and a passing rail shot by Momen narrowed Reda’s lead to10-9. Reda’s crosscourt forehand to the back of the court forced an error from Momen which secured his 11-5, 11-9, 9-11, 8-11, 11-9 victory.
Next up for Reda is an opponent he will face for the first time, sixth seed James Willstrop. The 26-year-old Englishman, who has given Tournament of Champions’ fans several memorable matches, has a special affinity for the championship. “It is such an absolute pleasure to play here,” said Willstrop after his 11-7, 11-2, 11-5 victory over qualifier Shaun le Roux, a fellow Yorkshireman.
“I am so pleased for every match I get to play in Grand Central,” added the 2008 runner up.
Top seed Karim Darwish, ranked world number one for most of 2009, opened the evening session of play with an authoritative victory over American wildcard entry Gilly Lane, 11-3, 11-3, 11-9. The 28-year-old Egyptian was pleased to be back on court after the December holiday hiatus when he had a chance to rest and recuperate from a back injury. And even though he lost, Lane was revelling in his first foray on the Grand Central court.
“I have been coming here since I was 15,” said the 24-year-old Philadelphia native whose home base is now Amsterdam. “I can’t believe that nine years later I am now playing on this court. I just wish I could have been out there longer.”
After his victory, Darwish remained on court while Tournament Director John Nimick was presented with a proclamation from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recognising the Tournament of Champions’ unique status as a major sports championship in a landmark building and declaring Tournament of Champions week “Squash Week” in New York City.
Darwish’s next opponent will be fellow countryman Hisham Mohd Ashour who eliminated qualifier Yasser El Halaby in three games. El Halaby, a four-time collegiate champion at Princeton University who works in banking in New York City, was no match for his exuberant opponent who spent his year end break playing exhibitions and teaching squash clinics at various clubs and schools in the US.
Rounding out the quartet of Egyptian players into the second round is two-time champion Amr Shabana who ousted his training partner Omar Abdel Aziz in three games. Shabana’s next opponent will be England’s Alister Walker who defeated Amr Swelim. “I love New York City and this tournament,” said Walker. “There is such great energy here and you can take that out on court with you.” Walker, who was thrilled to have his father watching him play for the first time in 10 years, attributed his victory in a very closely contested three game match to experience. “It’s knowing how to win the big points,” he said after the match.
Win the big points he did, nabbing an 11-9, 13-11, 12-10 victory to ensure that his father, who travelled from Botswana to see Walker play, will have another opportunity to see his son in action under the glittering chandeliers in Grand Central Terminal.
RESULTS: JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, New York, USA
 Karim Darwish (EGY) bt Gilly Lane (USA) 11-3, 11-3, 11-9 (34m)
 Hisham Mohd Ashour (EGY) bt [Q] Yasser El Halaby (EGY) 11-7, 12-10, 11-7 (32m)
 David Palmer (AUS) bt Aaron Frankcomb (AUS) 11-6, 11-7, 11-3 (32m)
[Q] Adrian Waller (ENG) bt  Olli Tuominen (FIN) 11-6, 11-4, 2-11, 6-11, 14-12 (60m)
 Amr Shabana (EGY) bt Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY) 12-10, 12-10, 11-8 (33m)
 Alister Walker (ENG) bt Amr Swelim (ITA) 11-9, 13-11, 12-10 (44m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt [Q] Shaun le Roux (ENG) 11-7, 11-2, 11-5 (29m)
Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 11-5, 11-9, 9-11, 8-11, 11-9 (76m)
Remaining 1st round line-up:
 Renan Lavigne (FRA) v Simon Rosner (GER)
 Wael El Hindi (EGY) v Mark Krajcsak (HUN)
 Stewart Boswell (AUS) v Rafael F Alarcon (BRA)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v [Q] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
 Julian Illingworth (USA) v [Q] Nicolas Mueller (SUI)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v [Q] Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
 Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) v [Q] Bernardo Samper (COL)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [Q] Alan Clyne (SCO)
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