3:58 pm
21 Feb 2019

Farag Downs Willstrop in ToC Grand Central Thriller

19 Jan 2019

World No.2 Ali Farag got the better of former world No.1 James Willstrop in the standout match on day three of action in the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, the PSA World Tour Platinum event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.

Farag can overtake current world No.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy at the top of the PSA World Rankings if he wins the tournament and his Egyptian compatriot exits the event at the semi-final stage or earlier.

And the Harvard-graduate kicked off his title challenge in New York after coming through a thrilling 51-minute battle with Englishman Willstrop, the 2010 champion. The pair played out a series of exhilarating rallies under the chandeliers of Grand Central's Vanderbilt Hall and received a standing ovation as they departed the court.

"I grew up watching James - he is one of the players I look up to and it is never easy to share a court with him," said Farag, who will play Willstrop's compatriot Daryl Selby in the next round.

"He has better ball control, he is smarter than me. I just try to play as fast as possible. Thankfully, I was able to win and I am very happy to do so.

"I consider it a privilege every time I get on the court with him. I feel very honoured to be sharing a court with the likes of James and Nick [Matthew] and Greg [Gaultier]."

The day's biggest upset of the day saw world No.17 Omar Mosaad send sixth-ranked Miguel Rodriguez to an early exit to follow up his win at the Black Ball Open in Egypt last month.

Colombian Rodriguez started well in New York to go a game ahead, however a crucial second game went the way of Mosaad on the tie-break, and the Egyptian played some scintillating squash in the third and fourth games to consign Rodriguez to an early exit.

"I am really happy because I did a good job today, I think, and Miguel as well," said Mosaad.

"It is not easy to play Miguel. Especially because we have had a couple of matches that were very tough. I needed to be strong mentally today, I pushed 100% today and I want to thank my coaches and my wife, who is supporting me today."

World No.7 Paul Coll escaped with a 3/1 victory over US No.1 Todd Harrity after the New Zealander almost let a two-game lead slip.

Coll was in control as he dropped just six points over the course of the opening two games, but Harrity, backed on by his home crowd, battled his way back into the match as he unsettled the Kiwi and hit a number of winners at the front of the court.

Harrity's resurgence continued into the fourth as he built up a 7-0 lead, but Coll was able to arrest his drop off in intensity and fought back to close out the win in four games. The 26-year-old will line up against India's Saurav Ghosal for a place in the last eight.

"I became a bit too passive," Coll said.

"Obviously I was concerned [after going 7-0 down in the fourth] and I tried to get myself back into it. I just had my coach's voice in my head going nuts at me."

There was also a victory for world No.4 Tarek Momen, who claimed a hard-fought 3/2 win over world No.10 Mohamed Abouelghar, winning 10-12, 11-4, 4-11, 11-7, 11-6 in 68 minutes. Momen will play France's Gregoire Marche in round three, while Scot Greg Lobban also advanced into the last 16.

The women's tournament got underway with US duo Haley Mendez and Marina Stefanoni seeing their tournaments come to an end at the hands of Dutch player Milou van der Heijden and Egypt's Zeina Mickawy, respectively.

Meanwhile, former world No.5 Low Wee Wern capped her first appearance at the tournament since 2016 with a 3/1 victory over Mayar Hany of Egypt at the Harvard Club of New York.

"I'm a bit nervous, I've played it before but I didn't appreciate it when I was in the top 10, I just took it for granted and it was just another match for me," said Low, who will now take on No.6 seed Nouran Gohar in the next round.

"After being out for 21 months, I really missed it and this time around I think I will appreciate it a bit more."