Day ONE at the 2021 CW Classic

The 18th edition of the Canary Wharf Classic kicked off today with eight best-of-three first round matches on “People’s Sunday”.

Canary Wharf Squash Classic 2021 : Round ONE

Adrian Waller (Eng) 2-1 Eain Yow Ng (Mas)      11-6, 4-11, 11-9 (39m)
Baptiste Masotti (Fra) 2-0 [wc] Charlie Lee (Eng)    11-8, 11-8 (28m)

Iker Pajares (Esp) 2-0 Mathieu Castagnet (Fra)    11-6, 11-7 (37m)
Declan James (Eng) 2-1 Raphael Kandra (Ger)    7-11, 12-10, 11-3 (40m)

James Willstrop (Eng) 2-0 Mohamed Abouelghar (Egy)   11-6, 11-8 (36m)
George Parker (Eng) 2-0 Daryl Selby (Eng)      11-9, 11-9 (25m)

Saurav Ghosal (Ind) 2-0 Greg Lobban (Sco)    11-6, 11-5 (26m)
Youssef Soliman (Egy) 2-1 Borja Golan (Esp)     11-7, 7-11, 11-9 (55m)

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Soliman takes the hard way past Golan

Egypt’s Youssef Soliman was forced to do things the hard way in the final match on the first day of action as he overcame experienced Spaniard Borja Golan in a 55-minute battle.

Soliman started well to take the first game, before the typical dogged Golan came to the fore in the second and took full advantage of errors from the Egyptian to draw back level.

It continued to be a tight battle between the two in the third game, with Golan saving two match balls before Soliman was able to convert on the third attempt to set up a last 16 clash with New Zealand’s Paul Coll.

“I was excited and nervous about getting onto this court,” said Soliman afterwards.

“I played Borja in Chicago and he gave me a lesson. I managed to sneak the win, I was nervous coming onto this court, I was hoping to play better, it was a bit tight.

“He has the passion, you can see how he is firing himself up and doesn’t give up. He uses all of his experience. James [Willstrop], Daryl [Selby] and him, you feel like ‘wow’ about playing on the same court with them.

“I was edgy but sometimes it’s just about finding a way through the matches. I’m playing maybe the most consistent player right now in the next round in Paul [Coll]. He wants to get closer to the World No.1 but I won’t make it easy for him, I want to prove to myself that I can beat these top guys.”

Ghosal eases past Lobban

India’s Saurav Ghosal advanced in the penultimate match of the day as he defeated Scotland’s Greg Lobban 11-6, 11-5 in 26 minutes.

It was Ghosal’s first time playing back in England since the Canary Wharf Classic in 2020 before the pandemic brought a halt to the tour and the World No.15 put in a clinical performance to ensure he reached the second round.

Ghosal found his length and accuracy quickly to hit the ground running and take the match away from the grasps of Lobban and set up a second round tie with Wales’ Joel Makin.

“I’m happy to be back in England, this is my first trip – I couldn’t play the British Open and Manchester because of the restrictions and quarantine, I’m just glad that I’m here,” said Ghosal.

“It was difficult to stay fit during lockdown because you never knew when the tournaments were going to come back. I’m glad that we’ve gotten through it a little bit, a lot of people all over the world have suffered and it’s something that is very sad and words aren’t going to do much for them but hopefully they can find the strength and as a human race we can learn something from this.

“The quality that James is producing is unreal. His racket skill, even when he’s 80, will be up there with the very best and by the looks of it he is still moving more than alright. He’s a playing legend right now, he’s the last of that generation. The quality that they have produced and taken this game to is unbelievable and everyone is lucky to watch someone of James’ quality still producing.

“It’s been a bit of a hard run over the last few months, I’ve had a few rough draws and I got sick in America. It’s been hard both physically and mentally, but it’s good to be back in London and England. It’s a brilliant tournament and I’m happy to play here and hopefully produce some quality squash. Greg is a top player and hard to break down and I’m glad I could win 2-0 and put together some good points during that match.”

Parker ends Selby’s CW run

George Parker secured his place in the second round after defeating compatriot Daryl Selby 2-0 on Selby’s final appearance at the iconic tournament.

Former World No.9 Selby, who was featuring for the last time at East Wintergarden, put up a good fight but was unable to get past a resilient Parker who dug in to take the win 11-9, 11-9 in 25 minutes.

Parker will face Qatar Classic champion Diego Elias for a place in the quarter finals.

“I thought I played ok, bit of a slow start to get used to the lights and stuff,” said Parker.

“Daryl is such a tricky player, every shot is slightly different so I was really struggling with my short game. I managed to get stuck in a bit when it got tough and got away with it.

“Every time I left it a bit short, it was so awkward, it just felt slow but it’s his quality. It was really slow getting back to fitness and I struggled during lockdown. Not having a thing to train for, I really struggled with and as soon as I found out we had a date for a tournament, that gave me a kick. Hopefully in the next year I’ll be pushing on in the rankings.

“I grew up watching Daryl, Nick [Matthew] and Jimbo [Willstrop] – they inspired me to start playing so to be able to compete with these guys like I have is a great experience. Daryl is such a humble and nice guy and I wish him the best after squash.”

Selby said:

“It was one of those annoying matches to be honest because I always felt like I was in there. I knew George would be a little bit edgy and I was trying to use my experience to switch it up and make him feel uncomfortable. I left too many balls in the middle and it wasn’t the best quality match that we have played, I was probably a bit edgy knowing it was my last Canary Wharf opportunity. I was desperate to win to try and play one more match. Fair play to George and hopefully he can kick on from here.”

James comeback denies Kandra

England’s Declan James came from one game down against Germany’s Raphael Kandra to book his place in the last 16.

James suffered from a sluggish start as Kandra, who has been in strong form recently after reaching the quarter finals of the Qatar Classic, looked the more comfortable on court to take a one game lead.

The Englishman came back fighting though, holding off a comeback from Kandra before saving match ball to draw level in the second. That momentum stayed with James, much to the delight of the packed out crowd inside East Wintergarden, as he powered to the finish line to advance 7-11, 12-10, 11-3 in 40 minutes.

Next up for James will be Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez.

“It was so dead on there, Raphi is such a talented player with great hands,” said James afterwards.

“He just completely caught me dead at the start of the match. It took me longer than it should have to get used to how dead it was and towards the end of the first game I just told myself to get further up the court and start volleying, you’ve not come here to go out like that in front of this amazing crowd. I dug deep and that’s what I’m most proud about.

“I’ve just been desperate to play matches. I feel like in the last two years I’ve had like 10-15 matches and these guys that are in the top 10 and 15 have been playing a lot more than me because I haven’t been winning, it’s not been good enough. Coming here this week, I’ve been training hard, it’s not good enough to just come up and win a first or second round, I need to be pushing to the next level.

“I prefer the best of five because there’s more physicality and I can work things out. Get some work into my opponents, if I’m going to go further than I have to come out of the blocks sharper. I’ve been working with Nick [Matthew] for two years now and he’s shown a lot of belief in me and it’s time to start repaying that.”

Pajares ousts former champion Castagnet

Spain’s Iker Pajares displayed a confident performance as he claimed an 11-6, 11-7 victory over 2016 champion Mathieu Castagnet to reach the last 16.

The World No.27 executed his game plan to perfection to comfortably move through to the second round at the PSA World Tour Gold event where he will face World No.1 Ali Farag.

“I’m over the moon with this victory,” said Pajares afterwards.

“Mathieu used to be one of my favourite players and when he won the tournament here, he won that final without making any mistakes. I learned a lot from this match and it feels amazing to finally beat him.

“I’ve been a bit unlucky with the draws and I’ve been meeting all the top players in early rounds. Tomorrow I’m playing Ali Farag, but it’s best-of-three and I take a lot of confidence from today.

“I don’t know what they do in Egypt – they are so good and so strong, to learn from them and the small details of why they are better. Tomorrow, best-of-three, I feel very ready and I’ve been working hard, so who knows.”

Masotti ends Wildcard Charlie’s hopes

France’s Baptiste Masotti defeated wildcard Charlie Lee 11-8, 11-8 to reach the second round on his first appearance at the Classic.

Lee caught the Frenchman by surprise in the early stages as he took a 7-2 lead in the first, but the experience of the World No.20 soon kicked in as he went through the gears to take the win in straight-games.

Masotti will face former World Champion Tarek Momen in round two.

“Charlie is one of the nicest guys on Tour, he always has a smile on his face and is always fair,” said Masotti following his win.

“His family are doing so many things for squash and it was a pleasure to play him, even if I didn’t know what to expect. At the start my arm wasn’t moving well.

“One of my best friends, Mathieu Castagnet, won it here and he always tells me good stories about playing here and the atmosphere. In my head it was a goal to play here and I really enjoyed my match and I want to win as many matches as I can this week.

“I lost 3-2 with Asal at the U.S. Open, I was 2-1 up and I lost, even if I was playing well. It’s a bad performance if I lose and I hope to play my best performances here this week.

“Tarek is one of the best in the world. I’ve played him a few times in training, but I won’t reveal my strategy. I will do my best tomorrow and try to give everyone a good one.”

Waller is the first winner

England’s Adrian Waller secured his place in the second round as the PSA World Tour Gold event made its return to the calenda,r with a 2-1 victory over Malaysia’s Eain Yow Ng.

The 31-year-old came out the blocks firing on the glass court inside East Wintergarden as he made the most of a slow start from Eain Yow to take the crucial first game in the best-of-three format.

Ng fought back well in the second to draw level as he picked off Waller’s attacks and it looked as though he was going to complete the comeback in the third after he found himself 9-6 up, but Waller hung in well and turned the tide to secure the 11-6, 4-11, 11-9 victory in front of his home crowd.

The Englishman will face recent U.S. Open winner Mostafa Asal for a place in the quarter finals.

“It doesn’t take a genius to see that I started well,” said Waller afterwards.

“I imposed my game quite early in the match, but credit to him, he’s not going to lay down and he came back with a brilliant game plan and got back in front, took the ball to the front with some confidence, which is hard to do in best-of-three because you’ve always got that thing in the back of your mind that if one or two go down then that’s it for the game, whereas best-of-five you might allow yourself if you’re ahead on the scoreboard. In the beginning of the third, I started a lot better and I managed again to push forward and find a few more shots short.

“I just needed to move play along a bit, it was quite passive. In a best-of-three you have less margin for error. It’s a lot shorter and I think mentally it’s different, you will see everyone approach it more cautiously. As soon as you feel comfortable then you have to go through the gears because that first game is important and allows you to free up. You will see a lot of tight first games but after that it should kick off.

“All I can put across is my best squash. Mostafa has had a great year, winning the U.S. Open – which is a huge first title – he’s playing really well but as long as I bring my best squash onto court then that’s the best I can do.”