TODAY in Philly: men’s qualifying

Alexander makes the most of late entry as Americans bow out

The 2011 Delaware Investments US Open Squash Championships kicked off in Philadelphia with four matches at each of four Philly clubs, including Drexel University's Daskalakis Athletic Center where all the main draw matches (and all the women's matches) will be held on the all-glass court that is in the finishing stages of being erected.

It wasn't a good day for the hosts as all six US competitors fell at the first hurdle, but in the final match of the day young Australian Zac Alexander made the most of a late callup to the competition.


First on the traditional court at Drexel were Australian Ryan Cuskelly and young Finn Henrik Mustonen. After a tough opening game which Cuskelly led throughout and took 11/8, he closed out the match with increasing authority, taking the next two games 11/6, 11/3.

"I'm pretty happy with how I played my first match for two months," said New York based Cuskelly, who was being coached by former world champion Rodney Martin. "He's very fit and gutsy and gets a lot back, so I was rying to control things with good length to force the openings, and in the end he started making a few errors.

"After the Australian Open I came back to enjoy the New York Summer and a couple of good months training with Rod. We've been working on a few things and it's nice to see them coming together, hopefully it will continue to pay off in this tournament."

India's Siddarth Suchde enjoyed a similar style of win, recovering from 6/0 down in taking the first game against 'local' entrant Jaymie Macaulay 12/10 and the next two more comfortably as the Scottish International, now based in nearby Fairmount, tired.

"It wasn't the greatest of starts," admitted Suchde, who studied at Edinburgh University with Macaulay. "I was probably too relaxed and a bit complacent, but he surprised me and played really well at the start, getting everything right.

"Tomorrow will be a really tough match, I have to make sure I'm ready right from the start!"

Then came the main event of the evening as John White, the former world number one who is head coach at Drexel, took on qualifying top seed Saurav Ghosal.

The audience had swelled as many of White's admirers and students strained to watch, and he made a good enough start, catching the young Indian out with the power of his shots and his ability to kill the ball - especially in the front right corner of the court - and taking an 8/6 lead in the opening game. Cries of "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" followed winning points from White, the Australian who represented Scortland before moving to coach in the US four years ago.

As the match wore on Ghosal, whose speed around court drew admiring gasps from the audience, became more and able to counter White's shotmaking, and after taking the first game 11/8 courtesy of a series of White errors, took the next two - both entertaining - 11/6, 11/4 to move into tomorrow's finals.

"He's a speedy boy," said White of his opoponent. "He gets everything back and it's hard to find a way past when you haven't played in that standard of match for a while. I enjoyed it though, it was a good match and fun for the crowd, hopefully they'll all be back for the rest of the tournament over the next few days."

"I played John once before, when he was still on tour," said Ghosal, "so I knew what I was going to get. He hits the ball so hard, especially on the forehand, and you have no idea where it's going. I tried to keep it on the backhand but he found winners from elsewhere, so I just had to try to get the ball straight and as tight as I could.

"I'm pleased to get off 3/0, he's the draw nobody wanted but I was really looking forward to playing him, he's such a fair player and a crowd pleaser - I always tell the kids in India if you want someone to look up to and emulate John White is the one to look at."

The final match at Drexel saw Switzerland's Nicolas Mueller beat Kamran Khan, the Malaysian who is the son of Pakistan's squash legend Jansher Khan, 11/6, 11/6, 11/8.

Meanwhile the matches at Merion Cricket Club all featured home players, but the USA's Graham Bassett and Julian Illingworth, fell at the first hurdle,with  USA number one Julian Illingworth losing in straight-games to Canadian Shawn Delierre, winner of last week's Nash Cup in Ontario.

At Germantown Cricket Club there were wins for Joey Barrington, Simon Rosner, Tarek Momen and Robbie Temple.

Back in Downtown Philadelphia at the long-established (1898) Racquet Club of Philadelphia, World Junior Champion Marwan El Shorbagy produced a signigicant upset as he beat Czech #1 Jan Koukal, ranked some 17 places above the 18-year-old Egyptian.

The final match of the day saw 22-year-old Zac Alexander, a late callup to qualifying competition yesterday, also produce an upset in beating South Africa's Steve Coppinger in four  hotly-contested games.

"I only heard on Tuesday morning that I was in the draw," explained Alexander, "after the Salazar twins were apparently involved in a car accident. It's not the best way to make the draw, I hope they're ok, but I'm very happy with the win. Steve's a big guy, and with it being so hot and bouncy on that court it was tough to get the ball away from him."

Alexander plays El Shorbagy for a place in the main draw. "I've never seen Marwan play," concluded Alexander, "but it's about time I played someone younger than myself!"

Day One Photo Gallery

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Drexel University

16.30   Ryan Cuskelly (Aus) bt Henrik Mustonen (Fin)              11/8, 11/6, 11/2 (44m)
17.30   Siddarth Suchde (Ind) bt  Jamie Macaulay (Sco)          12/10, 11/6, 11/4 (42m)
18.30   Saurav Ghosal (Ind) bt  John White (Sco)                             11/8, 11/6, 11/4 ( 36m)
19.30   Nicolas Mueller (Sui) bt Kamran Khan (Mas)                       11/6, 11/6, 11/8 (37m)

Merion Cricket Club

17.30  Chris Ryder (Eng) bt  Graham Bassett (Usa)                   11/4, 11/3, 11/6 (28m)
18.30  Shawn Delierre (Can) bt Julian Illingworth (Usa)      11/4, 11/5, 11/6 (31m)
19.30   Julien Balbo (Fra) bt Todd Harrity (Usa)                   11/8, 16/14, 11/7 (46m)
20.30 Martin Knight (Nzl) bt Dylan Murray (Usa)          11/3, 11/6, 11/5 (28m)

Germantown Cricket Club

17.30   Joey Barrington (Eng) bt Iago Cornes (Esp)          11/8, 11/7, 11/8 (33m)
18.30   Simon Rosner (Ger) bt Matthew Karwalski (Aus)     11/6, 11/6, 12/10 (39m)
19.30   Tarek Momen (Egy) bt  Adrian Waller (Eng)        11/7, 12/10, 8/11, 11/9 (60m)
20.30   Robbie Temple (Eng) bt Joe Russell (Eng)            9/11, 11/7, 11/5, 11/4 (45m)

Racquet Club of Philadelphia

17.30   Alan Clyne (Sco) bt Chris Hansom (Usa)            11/3, 11/1, 11/3 (32m)
18.30 Marwan El Shorbagy (Egy) bt Jan Koukal Cze)   11/7, 6/11, 11/6, 11/9 (57m)
19.30   Ong Beng Hee (Mas) bt Gilly Lane (Usa)          11/4, 11/9, 11/3 (38m)
20.30   Zac Alexander (Aus) bt Steve Coppinger (Rsa)  7/11, 11/9, 11/5, 11/9 (56m)

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