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American Trio Fall Short on Tournament of Champions ‘Thundering Thursday’

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January 10, 2020
by Chris McClintick

[Above: Cesar Salazar celebrates coming back from 2-1 down against Chris Hanson]

The first day of J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions play saw sixteen men’s first round matches play out on the glass court in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall—including a sold out evening session featuring three Americans—the Harvard Club of New York and New York Athletic Club Thursday, January 9, in New York City.

The opening day of the tournament also celebrated the inaugural ‘Thundering Thursday’, where squash fans could watch world class squash for tickets as low as $10. The resulting sold out evening session fielded three top Americans supported by a vocal crowd, despite narrowly falling short in all three matches.

Greenwich, Connecticut-based Chris Hanson, led off the session against Mexico’s Cesar Salazar, world No. 23, and earned a 2-1 lead to the delight of the home crowd. The thirty-two-year-old from San Luis Potosi dug in to turn the match around and silence the home 10-12, 11-7, 4-11, 11-8, 11-5 after sixty minutes.

“It’s always hard when you play against a local player,” Salazar said. “Chris has improved a lot in the last few months and years. I tried to start very focused on my game and my strategy. I know a lot of the crowd was with him, but I tried to be very focused, but he won the first game and that was important for the confidence, but after that I tried to come back and I started to play better with my movement and shots.”

Todd Harrity, the reigning U.S. champion and world No. 59 followed on against Hong Kong’s world No. 22 Leo Au in a rematch of their PSA World Championship match up in November, which Au won in three games. The American mounted a stronger challenge against Au in New York, trading games until a decisive fifth which Au edged 11-5, 7-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-8 after sixty-four minutes.

“Todd is obviously a top player,” said Au after his 200th PSA World Tour victory. “He always hangs in there and never gives up. He gave me a lot of pressure and I’m glad that I could get through it in the end.”

The other American in action was Queens-based world No. 91 Christopher Gordon, who acquitted himself well against Australian world No. 24 Ryan Cuskelly. The Greenwich, Connecticut-based Aussie prevailed in three games after forty-minutes. Cuskelly will now face world No. 2 Mohamed ElShorbagy in Grand Central for the first time since upsetting the Egyptian in 2018.

There were also wins for Egyptian teenager Mostafa Asal, Mathieu Castagnet, Campbell Grayson and Youssef Soliman at Grand Central, while at the Harvard Club of New York, French World No.42 Baptiste Masotti upset England’s Adrian Waller, the World No.19, winning 11-13, 11-7, 11-8, 11-4 to set up a second round fixture with Soliman.

The New York Athletic Club also hosted a selection of first round fixtures, with Spain’s Iker Pajares Bernabeu beating Malaysia’s Ivan Yuen 3-1 in 69 minutes.

Round two of the men’s tournament begins tomorrow. Former World No.1 Gregory Gaultier will make his highly-anticipated return to PSA action after fifteen months out due to a knee injury, while the women’s event gets under way, with five U.S. players in action.