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14 Apr 2024

Illingworth Topples Tuominen In Grand Central Upset

11 Jan 2008

Julian Illingworth, the three-time US National Champion, delighted a vocal and partisan capacity crowd in Grand Central Terminal in New York when he upset world No17 Olli Tuominen in four games of determined squash in the opening round of play in the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions.

"I liked the match up with Olli going into tonight's match," said the 23-year-old from New York who made history in last year's Tournament of Champions when he became the first American to make it to the second round. "I knew he wasn't going to outshoot me."

Although the 28-year-old Finn stormed to a 9-4 lead in the first game, Illingworth was unfazed, winning the game 11-9. In the second game, Illingworth led most of the way until Tuominen snatched the lead at 11-10. But again the American held fast and won the tiebreak 5-3. Visibly tired in the third, he took the gamble of letting the game go at 2-11. The gamble paid off; he won the fourth game 11-8.

As Illingworth put ice packs on his sore legs after the match, he compared this win to his historic 2007 performance. "Last year I was lucky," he said referring to his having made it into the main draw as a lucky loser and then playing a qualifier in the first round. "This year, playing the 10th seed, I really earned the victory."

Illingworth will next play Egypt's Wael El Hindi, the fifth seed who ended the evening's matches with authority, defeating qualifier Regardt Schonborn of South Africa in straight games. El Hindi's fellow countryman Ramy Ashour, the tournament's top seed, making his first appearance on court after injuries derailed him at year end, delighted the spectators with his trademark shot-making as he swept past the hometown wild card entrant Christopher Gordon 11-6, 11-5, 11-5.

Omar Elborolossy and Mohammed Abbas also moved into the next round, but 15th seed Omar Abdel Aziz was sent packing by Australian qualifier Ryan Cuskelly in a 115-minute marathon match. Surprisingly, the experienced Egyptian did not take advantage of his opponent's badly cramping legs in the fifth game, keeping the ball in play deep in the court instead of making Cuskelly move to the corners.

After the match, the 20-year-old from New South Wales almost couldn't believe his good fortune: "Just being able to play here in the Tournament of Champions for the first time is unbelievable. This atmosphere is so amazing - it is what we play squash for," said Cuskelly after his 11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 7-11, 11-8 victory. "I feel really lucky to have come out with a win."

Cuskelly's second round opponent will be compatriot David Palmer, the third seed and two-time World Champion who cruised to a 3-0 victory over Ireland's Liam Kenny. In the contest between the tournament's two Colombian players, it was the younger 22-year-old Miguel Angel Rodriguez who prevailed in straight games over 25-year-old qualifier Bernardo Samper.

1st round (top half of draw):
[1] Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt Christopher Gordon (USA) 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 (39m)
[15] Omar Elborolossy (EGY) bt Matthew Giuffre (CAN) 11-7, 10-11 (0-2), 11-6, 11-2 (54m)
[5] Wael El Hindi (EGY) bt [Q] Regardt Schonborn (RSA) 11-7, 11-5, 11-7 (37m)
Julian Illingworth (USA) bt [9] Olli Tuominen (FIN) 11-9, 11-10 (5-3), 2-11, 11-8 (62m)
[3] David Palmer (AUS) bt Liam Kenny (IRL) 11-7, 11-5, 11-5 (37m)
[Q] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt [14] Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY) 11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 7-11, 11-8 (115m)
[7] Mohammed Abbas (EGY) bt [Q] Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) 11-5, 11-7, 11-8 (35m)
[13] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt [Q] Bernardo Samper (COL) 11-9, 11-5, 11-10 (2-0) (39m)