Salazar Stuns Willstrop To Claim Historic US Open Breakthrough
8 Oct 2017
Unseeded Cesar Salazar pulled off a major upset on the opening day of main draw action in the 2017 US Open Presented by Macquarie Investment Management when he downed England's former world No.1 James Willstrop to become the first Mexican ever to reach the last 16 of the PSA World Series event.
The 29-year-old world No.19 - who twelve months ago lost an agonising fifth game tie-break to eventual champion Mohamed Elshorbagy in the event's first round - showed impressive composure as he recovered from dropping the opening game to prevail in a mammoth 82-minute five-game encounter that saw the pair produce squash of the highest calibre.
Utilising his speed and agility to attack the fifth seed and force a high tempo, Salazar was rewarded when he held off a late Willstrop surge to come through 5-11, 11-9, 10-12, 11-6, 11-9 and set up a second round match with German Simon Rösner.
"I think the US Open is one of my favourite tournaments - I love coming to play here," said Salazar, whose twin brother Arturo, a qualifier, lost out to England's Daryl Selby in his first round match.
"I worked really hard in pre-season and this is a good start for me. To beat a really top player like James you have to play your very best and some more, so I'm really happy with my performance.
"I tried to play intelligent squash and hit the four corners. I felt I moved well and played aggressive squash. There was a moment in the fifth game when I thought about last year and got a little tense, but I forced myself to relax and it's a great result for me. I hope to be ready for the next match."
Rösner defeated Scotland's Greg Lobban 3/0 while last year's runner-up Nick Matthew, the 37-year-old Englishman competing at the US Open for the last time in his career, made a successful start to his title bid with a 3/0 win over Egyptian Zahed Mohamed.
"My focus today was to try and close the door on him when I was ahead because these young guys are so good nowadays - they're a little bit faster than me so I have to be clever," said Matthew, who was celebrating his 12th appearance in the US Open after making his debut in 2003.
"I'm enjoying the challenge and I can enjoy a couple of days now before I'm back on court on Monday - I just want to do myself justice in these next matches."
In the Women's draw, England's recent NetSuite Open champion Sarah-Jane Perry suffered a surprise defeat to Egyptian Salma Hana Ibrahim in the opening match of the day.
Ibrahim, the world No.19 from Alexandria, played free flowing attacking squash to come through 11-7, 11-3, 12-14, 11-6 and knock the 27-year-old No.7 seed out at the first hurdle and set up a second round encounter with compatriot Nour El Tayeb.
"I'm very happy with the performance today," said the 21-year-old following the match.
"SJ has been playing really well recently but I knew I had to keep the ball tight as much as I could and not give her many opportunities.
"I had a match ball in the third and I felt a little scared, so when I went match ball up again in the fourth I just told myself to go for it and be fearless and it worked."