5:24 am
25 Feb 2018

Müller Derails Defending Champion In ToC Shock At Grand Central

21 Jan 2018

Switzerland's Nicolas Müller secured the biggest win of his career when he ousted defending champion Karim Abdel Gawad, the world No.4 from Egypt, from the 2018 JP Morgan Tournament of Champions on day three of the PSA World Series event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.

The 28-year-old from Zurich came through a tense five-game match with England's Adrian Waller to reach the second round - then put in one of the best displays of his career as he dominated and controlled the court from the off, taking Gawad out of his comfort zone and playing a high-tempo attacking game that saw him take the first two games untroubled.

The world No.27 then found himself a point away from a straight games triumph at match ball in the third - but the tension told as he snatched at a golden opportunity at 11-10 up, allowing Gawad back in to punish him. The 4th seed took the next two games to send the match into a decider. Mueller refused to give in, however, and held his nerve to take a massive 11-6, 11-6, 11-13, 3-11, 11-9 victory.

"I'm really over the moon," said the 11-time Swiss champion afterwards.

"That's one of best matches that I have played in a long time and it is one of the biggest wins of my career.

"To knock out the defending champion here in New York, inside Grand Central, is pretty special."

2012 winner Nick Matthew got the better of long-term domestic rival James Willstrop after prevailing by a 3/1 margin against his fellow Yorkshireman to avenge his defeat to Willstrop at the same stage of last year's tournament.

The duo have contested one of the sport's most captivating rivalries ever, but it was one dominated by Matthew between 2007-2017 as the Sheffield man struck up 19 consecutive wins until a momentous win for Willstrop in New York last January.

"I was relieved to get over the line there and progress in this great tournament," said Matthew.

"I read before the match that this was the 60th time [including 36 PSA World Tour meetings] that James and I have played and that's an absolutely incredible statistic.

"No matter whether it's the first time or 60th time, James is an incredible player and hopefully there will be one or two more chapters left yet."

World No.1 Gregory Gaultier stands between Matthew and a place in the last four after the 35-year-old powered past English qualifier Tom Richards in straight games.

Germany's Simon Rösner made it four European victories out four in the men's draw after he defeated World Championship runner-up Marwan Elshorbagy, coming through a scrappy affair to win it in five. The top-ranked German will now face best friend Müller for a place in the semi-finals.

The women's draw saw two players from the USA in action, with the country's number one player, world No.13 Olivia Blatchford, taking out Hong Kong's Liu Tsz-Ling by a 3/0 scoreline to set up a second round fixture with England's world No.8 Sarah-Jane Perry.

"Being out here is incredible, I've been watching this [in the crowd] since I was in diapers, so to have a win on this court is massive for me," said Blatchford, who is one of four American women in the main draw of a PSA World Series event for the first time in history.

"Playing for my country is one of the biggest honours and privileges that I have ever had in my life. I know how good the US is, I'm proud that the ladies are leading the way and I feel very blessed to be a part of it."

Blatchford's compatriot, Marina Stefanoni, today became the youngest player ever to compete at the Tournamant of Champions - but the 15-year-old bowed out after going down in straight games to world No.5 Nouran Gohar, despite acquitting herself well showing some deft touches and vicious drives that belied her tender years.

2016 champion Nour El Sherbini, the world No.1, kicked off her campaign by easing past Hong Kong's world No.19 Joey Chan with a 3/0 victory in 29 minutes - seeing her through to face fellow Egyptian Mariam Metwally, who upset India's world No.14 Joshna Chinappa.

"Joey is a very tricky first round, so I was trying to put her deep in the back of the court," said El Sherbini.

"In the first game I was doing well, I hit zero errors, but after that she was playing better and I found the tin more. But I'm really happy to finish it in three and I'm looking forward to the next round."

Meanwhile, England's two-time runner-up Laura Massaro lives to fight another day after digging in to come through a difficult encounter with compatriot Fiona Moverley, eventually edging an 11-9, 9-11, 11-9, 11-13, 11-8 victory to ensure she will take on another fellow countrywoman Victoria Lust in the last 16.

There was also a victory for 2015 runner-up Alison Waters after her first round opponent, world No.18 Salma Hany, retired shortly after the second game had started. Waters will take on Gohar in the next round.