Getting under way at the NSC
The Manchester Open returns for a fourth edition, with sixteen Round One matches on two Glass Courts at the National Squash Centre.
There was plenty of home interest with five Englishmen and two Scots in action in the men’s draw and three Brits in the women’s matches.
Today’s winners will go through to meet the top eight seeds in Thursday’s Second Round.
Reports and Reaction
Ho Downs ter Sluis to Advance
In the opening match of the 2022 Manchester Open, Hong Kong’s Tze Lok Ho put in a commanding performance to over Dutch No.2 Tessa ter Sluis in straight games.
Ho, who spent last week up in Glasgow for the WSF World Doubles Squash Championships with the rest of the Hong Kong team, was playing in Manchester for the first time, but that did not show, as she was able to control much of the match.
In the mid-point of the second game, she found herself 6-1 down, but won nine straight points to turn the momentum back in her favour, and from then on, she did not look like she would be beaten. Ho now will go on to face England’s Georgina Kennedy, the No.3 seed, in the opening match of tomorrow’s place on GC1 at the National Squash Centre.
“I think for the second game, I did not start it very well. I hit some loose balls on the return of serve so I then tried to be patient, and go point-by-point to get back,” the Hongkonger admitted.
“The court is a bit dead because it is cold here. A few days ago I finished up at the World Doubles and the tin there was 13 inches, so I had to get used to this today yeah! The cross-court is so different, because in doubles it needs to be so wide! Also, the tin is different, but luckily I got used to it today!
“She maybe felt the pressure a little, but I think we both made some errors, because it’s the first game for today, so we were both a bit nervous!”
Tze Lok Ho (HKG) bt Tessa ter Sluis (NED) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 11-5 (20m)
Opening the day’s play on glass court two was Hong Kong’s Liu Tsz-Ling and France’s Marie Stephan.
Tsz-Ling was sharp out of the blocks as she made the most of the slightly colder conditions. She fired the ball in short with great effect and used to front corners well to drag Stephan up the court. The Hong Kong player secured the first game 11-7.
After a competitive start to the second game, the score was level at 7-7. Tsz-Ling had to take an injury break after appearing to roll her ankle. Stephan took full advantage of this as play continued to level the match.
Tsz-Ling came back onto court for the third game but was clearly still feeling the effects of the ankle injury. After losing the third game 11-3, Tsz-Ling was forced to retire injured and hand the match to Stephan.
“I wasn’t even supposed to be here. I got in on Friday because someone pulled out. It’s just a great experience for me to be playing on this stage and obviously it’s not great to win like that and I hope she recovers soon. It’s an amazing opportunity for me to be playing Tesni Evans tomorrow.
“I have no pressure on me, it’s all on her, I’ll try and play as long as I can and try to make it hard for her.
“I’m not used to playing on glass courts, out on the challenger tour we don’t get to play on many glass courts, so I’m just going to try and enjoy it.”
Marie Stephan (FRA) bt Liu Tsz-Ling (HGK) 3-1: 7-11, 11-9, 11-3, retired (29m)
El Sirty powers past Tandon to advance
The pair had never met before on the PSA World Tour and it was El Sirty who took a close first game 11-9. The tall frame of El Sirty managed to get ahead of Tandon and use pace and power to fire the ball past the Indian.
The young Egyptian steamrolled his opponent in the second game, moving Tandon all around the court with ease. El Sirty won the game 11-4 to take a well deserved 2-0 lead.
Tandon responded however and used his undoubted skill to break the rhythm of El Sirty. The Egyptian wasn’t able to hit with as much pace as he was always on the end of rallies and stretching to retrieve the ball. Tandon converted 11-7 to force a fourth game.
El Sirty got back to his hard-hitting style in game four. The errors started to creep back into the game of Tandon, which only spurred El Sirty on further. Tandon saved one match ball at 10-7 but wasn’t able to score again as El Sirty booked his place in round two in 40 minutes.
“He knows his game really well, I'm really happy that I adapted and made him play my game and it's such a good feeling to get the win and to be through”
“In the first game I started to hit the ball as hard as I could but that made the ball so bouncy so it wasn't doing enough to him. In the middle of the court, he's really tricky and so talented and I was just glad I managed to control the game and snatched it at the end.
“I kept him in the back In the second game and didn't let him attack me much and I dropped off in the third game but overall, I’m happy that I got back on it and won in the end.”
Moutsfa El Sirty (EGY) bt Ramit Tandon (IND) 3-1: 11-9, 11-4, 7-11, 11-7 (40m)
Cardenas Gets Big Win Over Willstrop
Mexico’s Leonel Cardenas secured one of the biggest wins of his career on the opening day of the Silver level Manchester Open, as he defeated former World No.1 James Willstrop in straight games to advance to the last 16.
Willstrop came into the tournament off the back of a long week at the WSF World Doubles Squash Championships in Glasgow, and that showed, as he struggled with his movement, something the Mexican took full advantage of.
Cardenas, who currently occupies the World No.39 spot, his highest ever in the World Rankings, was able to come through an opening game tie-break, and from there, he seemed in control, going on to win in three in under 40 minutes. His reward is a meeting with Egypt’s Youssef Soliman in the second round.
“I am really happy. Playing James Willstrop is an honour for me, I grew up watching him playing, and winning tournaments, so I am really happy with my performance,” the Mexican said.
“I tried to play with a good rhythm. I knew James was coming from the World Doubles, so I hoped he was a little bit tired, and I was able to take advantage of that!
“I am a really ambitious person, but I am taking my time. As high as I can get in the World Rankings is fine by me!”
Leonel Cardenas (MEX) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 12-10, 11-9, 11-5 (37m)
Soini Downs Gomez In Rapid-Fire Contest
The second women’s match on glass court one at the National Squash Centre on Wednesday afternoon saw Finnish No.1 Emilia Soini get the better of Spaniard Cristina Gomez in less than 20 minutes to advance to the second round.
Gomez, the Spanish No.1, was suffering through illness, but was still able to hit some quality shots throughout the contest, but her movement suffered, and Soini was able to pick her off at the right points.
After winning the first two games by an 11-5 scoreline, the third game was much tighter, but the Finn was able to battle through, taking the win in 18 minutes to set up a clash with No.7 seed Emily Whitlock on Thursday afternoon.
“We’re actually rooming with each other as we weren’t supposed to play against each other. I walked in yesterday, said ‘Hola’, and I knew she was sick. I heard from her voice, so to be fair, it was tough for her,” she said.
“She played some awesome shots, but this performance does not reflect on her level. She is super dangerous anyway. It’s tough when you know that your opponent is struggling with an illness or injury because it is a very fine line of attacking, or attacking too much. I feel like I was doing okay in the first two but she was switching her game around. It was very nerve-racking for me.
“I think why squash is such a great sport is because all shapes and sizes can play the sport and all shapes and size have their own advantages. Definitely someone who is taller can reach to the ball more and someone like James Willstrop or Adrian Waller can take one step whereas I have to take five! But then, someone who is shorter might be a little more rapid, so squash has so many different sides to it. Everybody has their own advantages.
“To be honest, England has not been my favourite country, but after ten plus years, England has finally given me something positive, my first win! Some of that might be my own mindset, but I have to change that!”
Emilia Soini (FIN) bt Cristina Gomez (ESP) 3-0: 11-5, 11-5, 11-8 (18m)
Egypt’s Hana Ramadan booked her place in the Manchester Open second round as she comfortably defeated Tsz-Wing Tong in straight games to advance.
The Egyptian has been in good form of late on the PSA World Tour and carried that into her match today. Her mix of speed and power was simply too much for the Hong Kong player. Ramadan took a 2-0 lead in just 20 minutes.
Ramadan picked up where she left off in the third game, using her speed to attack Tong and give her no time to settle on the ball. Ramadan took the match 3-0 to set up a second-round clash with Belgium’s Nele Gilis.
“I had a good start going 8-0 in the first then lost some concentration. Each game had its own challenges. I had to keep my mind to just keep pushing.
“I’ve never played Nele actually, but I’ve watched her a lot so I know how much she’s improved so I’m looking forward to that. I know she’s a very physical player so I’m expecting it to be a long match but I have to remember to step up and go for my shots as well.
Hana Ramadan (EGY) bt Tsz-Wing Tong (HGK) 3-0: 11-7, 11-9, 14-12 (32m)
Rooney Wins British Battle Against Lobban
Lobban, who played in both the men’s and mixed events at the WSF World Doubles Squash Championships last week, looked fatigued from the off, with the Englishman able to get in front of him, and stay there for the majority of the contest.
Rooney needed just 34 minutes to take the victory, and with it, he moves through to the second round of the Silver level competition, where he will face No.2 seed Marwan ElShorbagy.
“In the back of my mind, I knew he might be a bit fatigued. I tried to make the first as hard as possible, and then tried to follow up on that, not let up any pressure, and that worked as well!
“[It’s] good to be back, playing in front of a home crowd. I can take a lot of confidence from that, I thought I was hitting the ball well, moving well. Coming off a week of doubles, I thought I would be a lot worse off today, but I was okay, and I am looking forward to tomorrow.”
Patrick Rooney (ENG) bt Greg Lobban (SCO) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-1 (34m)
Khan beats Clyne in 5 games to progress
USA’s Shahjahan Khan has moved through to the second round as he’s beaten Scotland’s Alan Clyne in a gruelling five games on glass court two at the National Squash Centre.
Clyne started the better of the two and used his pace and counter-attacking abilities to capitalise on some loose shots from Khan. After taking the first game 11-4, Khan responded to level the match at 1-1.
In a tense third game, both players were doing all that they could to get ahead. The rallies were being extended with both players determined to not give an inch to their opponent. Clyne took the game 13-11 to take a crucial lead.
Khan showed his fighting spirit however and continued to play his energetic style of squash. He twisted and turned the Scotsman and recovered to take the fourth and fifth games, 11-8, 11-4 and book his place in the second round.
“Alan is a tough competitor, this is my fourth time playing against him this season. It was a good game and he had me on the ropes at times playing beautiful squash. I had to just fight for it and found my rhythm in the fifth game.
I’m excited to be playing Gawad tomorrow, I’ve never played him. I’m just excited to play these top guys, I played Diego Elias recently and I think the more I can get on court with these guys the better. But I’m just going to try and enjoy my squash and relax tomorrow because that’s when I’m at my best.”
Shahjahan Khan (USA) bt Alan Clyne (SCO) 3-2: 4-11, 11-8, 11-13, 11-8, 11-4 (69m)
Hutton Takes Out Courtice
Hutton, who beat Courtice in five games a week ago today at the Annecy Rose Open, made a confident start as she hit her targets and gave her opponent little time on the ball to take a two-game advantage.
World No.55 Courtice recovered to hold six game balls in the third game as Hutton lost her focus, however a display of attacking squash from the latter saw her come back to within two points. Courtice stepped up the court and went on the attack herself to save off the comeback from her opponent and halve the deficit.
Hutton wasn’t to be denied though and she kept her composure in a crucial fourth game to record an 11-6, 11-8, 8-11, 11-7 victory in 40 minutes.
“My concentration was really poor, I was dipping in and out and I did it again in the third today, where I was leading and I kept making some silly errors at stupid times, which wasn’t good enough. But I’m happy to pull through in the fourth.
“I’m trying to stay mentally tough when it’s getting tight. Some people use techniques where they just take it point by point, I’m trying to do that a bit more.”
Hutton will take on No.5 seed Nadine Shahin for a place in the quarter finals.
Jasmine Hutton (ENG) bt [WC] Julianne Courtice (ENG) 3-1: 11-6, 11-8, 8-11, 11-7 (40m)
Castagnet Causes Waller Upset
The 35-year-old was a picture of composure as he kept an increasingly frustrated Waller at arm’s length to complete an 11-5, 12-10, 11-9 victory which will see him take on India’s Saurav Ghosal in the next round.
Waller showed glimpses of his considerable talent throughout the contest but let his frustrations with some of the refereeing decisions bubble through to the surface and he was warned with the prospect of a code of conduct at the beginning of the third game.
Castagnet refused to get drawn into any discussions with the referee and kept his head down as he prevailed in some attritional rallies down the side walls. Waller had leads in the second and third game, but his winners were often followed by errors, which handed momentum back to Castagnet just when he was beginning to threaten his opponent.
“It’s always been a pleasure for me to play in front of a crowd where I have felt a lot of support, even if we are in England. We had a really great battle, I knew it wouldn’t be easy for him today because he had to play the World Doubles last weekend and he had to use a lot of energy. When we played the first couple of rallies and he was starting to talk to the ref, I knew that I had to push as much as I could.
“In my opinion, when a player is starting to talk to the ref, but not in the right way, it’s not right. It gave me some information that my opponent was not really focused on the game and was more focused on himself and the environment. It’s a good strategy to keep pushing to put him in trouble and make him work a lot on the court.
“I’m going to play another match on the PSA World Tour, but I hope it’s not going to be too difficult on my body. But I will enjoy playing of course.”
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 12-10, 11-9 (48m)
Adel Overcomes Nasser
The 26-year-old had beaten Nasser in two of their previous three encounters and she made it two wins on the bounce to set up a second round fixture with No.1 seed Sarah-Jane Perry.
“I’m very happy to be through, Menna is a very close friend of mine, so it’s hard to play a close friend in the first round,” said Adel.
“I’ve been struggling a lot lately, I lost my mum due to COVID recently, so it was hard to get back to playing. I was struggling as well to get my visa for the US events, it all happened at the same time, so it wasn’t the best time for me.
“I just want to say thank you to Laura Massaro because my bag didn’t arrive, and she actually had to drive to get my racket, so I owe it to her today. She said that I better make it happen at the end of the day.”
Yathreb Adel (EGY) bt Menna Nasser (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-3, 11-3 (22m)
Serme shocks Mueller
An all-European clash took place to close out play on glass court two on day one of the Manchester Open 2022 as Swiss No.1 Nicolas Mueller took on France’s Lucas Serme.
Mueller has been in great form of late on the PSA World Tour and would have been looking to carry that form into this week’s event.
Serme is always a tricky customer for all the top players and he was playing accurate and stubborn squash right from the start today. The Frenchman was soaking up Mueller’s attacks and counter-attacking superbly. Serme took the opening game 13-11 in 16 minutes.
The momentum continued for Serme in the second game. He continued to make life tricky for Mueller and wasn’t giving ‘The Swiss Rocket’ any angles to attack. Serme moved from strength to strength and doubled his lead, winning 11-7.
Serme started the third game superbly, moving to a 7-2 lead. Mueller started to fight back however and got the score back to 9-9 and give himself a fighting chance in the match. Serme found yet another gear however and constructed two near-perfect rallies to claim an upset on day one and book his second round place.
“I’m really happy with this win. It’s actually my first win of the year. I just tried to play with no expectation today and enjoy it. I could feel when I was in the match that I was moving well and hitting good shots so I just tried to keep that going.
“I’ve been working a lot on the mental side of my game and I just felt good on there today and I was in a good head space, which is the most important thing for me.”
Lucas Serme (FRA) bt Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-0: 13-11, 11-7, 11-9 (43m)
Parker beats Wildcard Herbert
England’s George Parker beat fellow Leicester man Simon Herbert to earn his spot in the second round of the Manchester Open for the second year in succession.
Parker, the World No.30, had never played Herbert on the PSA World Tour, but Herbert has showed a winning touch on the PSA Challenger Tour, with two titles to his name courtesy of wins at the Cheam Squash Squared Classic and the 3rd Silvester Trophy.
20-year-old Herbert certainly showed signs of his potential as the World No.124 displayed some nice touches against his higher-ranked opponent, but Parker was in control for the majority of the fixture, and completed an 11-7, 11-4, 11-2 triumph to set up a second round meeting with Welshman Joel Makin.
“We train together two or three times a week, so he knows my game and I know his,” said Parker.
“He’s very explosive and aggressive around the middle. I had to try and limit his options today and get the ball deep. He maybe forced it a bit too much, but he’s a young kid and he’s got a lot ahead of him, so he needs to keep his head up.
“At my first big tournaments, I was nervous. I was playing junior squash when I was 18, 19, 20 and you have to get that out of you because you’re used to winning a certain way. Then you bring that to the men’s game against people from No.50 in the world who are fit and strong and they answer all the questions you give them with your attacking squash.
“He’ll learn, he’ll get more disciplined as he plays more matches. It’s his first [big tournament] so I’m sure he’ll improve a lot.
“I want to be a top 20 player, and I think I should be. I’m working a lot on the mental side, I’ve struggled a lot over the years with my behavioural problems. I’ve been seeing a guy who has been helping me.
“We’ve not done many sessions, but it’s definitely changed my mindset and how I see the way I behave. I want to change for the future, I think I can do it, I need to change my lifestyle a bit and get more experience, but I definitely think I can be a top 20 player.”
George Parker (ENG) bt [WC] Simon Herbert (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-4, 11-2 (28m)