Veteran Walker Powers Into ToC Qualifying Finals
11 Jan 2017
Botswana's Alister Walker claimed an unexpected place in the qualifying finals of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions after upsetting higher-ranked Qatari Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi in the first qualifying round of the first PSA World Series event of the New Year in New York.
The 34-year-old former full-time touring pro, ranked 12 in the world in 2009, dusted off his rackets to play in his adopted hometown to see off world No.37 Al Tamimi 11-2, 11-7, 11-5 in 45 minutes. Walker is now one win away from his eighth appearance in the event's main draw since 2009.
Four New York City squash clubs - Princeton, Harvard, Yale and the New York Athletic Clubs - were abuzz with the excitement as they hosted 32 players from 18 countries competing in the qualifying draw for the 23rd edition of the prestigious event which is held in Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal.
With virtually all of the world's top players entered in the ToC, qualifying competitors included several players who had already made appearance on the ToC glass court while eight "local" players got to test their mettle against the world's best. When the dust settled at the end of the evening, the veterans had prevailed.
Brooklyn native Andrew Douglas, fresh off a stunning defeat of the reigning World Junior Champion at the British Junior Open Championships, was first up at the Princeton Club against Alan Clyne. The high school senior, who had a lot of fans in the stands, was poised and steady, making his opponent work hard to earn the first two games 11-7, 12-10.
By the third, the 30-year-old Scotsman's experience and tenacity carried him to an 11-4 win. Clyne will next face Egypt's Omar Abdel Meguid who needed just 23 minutes to dismiss Baltimore's David Cromwell in three games.
One of the evening's most anticipated matches was Gregoire Marche, ranked 27th in the world, facing off against Ramit Tandon, whose epic victory in the 2016 qualifying against Ali Farag left an indelible impression on the New York squash fans. The match was a true battle with Marche hanging on to win 11-9 in the fifth after 81 minutes on court. The Frenchman's next competitor had an equally arduous evening. Tsz Fung Yip of Hong Kong needed one hour and 18 minutes to defeat Welshman Joel Makin 7-11, 4-11, 11-6, 11-9, 14-12.
Kiwi Paul Coll, whose end of year victories against several higher seeded players saw him jump from 33 to 20 in the world rankings in the past month, lost little time continuing the momentum with a straight games victory over Mexican Arturo Salazar. A New Zealander is sure to earn an appearance on the Grand Central glass court as Coll will play compatriot Campbell Grayson for the right to move into the main draw.