Round-1 match recap from Squash Emcee Andy Taylor, Voice of the Qatar Classic.
Since 2017, Andy Taylor has been the voice of the Qatar Classic Squash Championship. With his individual style and delivery, Andy writes and narrates each player’s introduction; highlighting career accomplishments, providing context for fans before each match. As tournament emcee, Andy also interviews the winners and hosts the trophy ceremony at the conclusion of the championship.
A voice acting veteran, Andy is best known as the Voice of the US Open in New York. There, he has spent the last 20-years shaping the sound of the tennis season’s final Grand Slam; enhancing the fan experience. Informing. Entertaining. Celebrating sport and its colorful cast of characters.
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First meeting. Lightning-quick victory for The Marksman
James Willstrop -31- (ENG) | Round-1 Emcee Introduction
He…is a living legend who requires no introduction. One of the most gifted shot-makers in the history of the sport, he’s an 8-time PSA Platinum Champion, a Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist, and held the World #1 ranking for 11-months combined. And at 38-years-old, he continues to inspire and excel at the top of the sport – delivering unforgettable, timeless performances like he did earlier this month at the US Open – where he defeated World #5 Marwan Elshorbagy, then World #15 Mohamed Abouelghar – becoming the oldest player in squash history to reach the Quarterfinals of a Major. Competing in his 15th Qatar Q-Terminals Classic – From England, please welcome 2-time Finalist and 2005 Qatar Q-Terminals Classic Champion, “The Marksman” James Willstrop.
- R1 — W — Faraz Khan -62- (USA) | Score: 11-1, 11-4, 11-3 (18m)
- James made his Doha debut as a 45th-ranked 19-year-old at the 2002 Qatar Classic, and fell in the final round of qualifying
- In 2005, he captured the Qatar Classic title, dropping only a single game in five match victories – including a 3-game win over rival Nick Matthew in the 2nd-Round
- Willstrop was ranked inside the top-10 for an astounding 10-years and 8-months combined
- In total, James owns 21 PSA titles and has reached an astounding 47 career Finals
WILLSTROP’S MOST MIND-BLOWING VICTORIES OVER THE PAST THREE YEARS:
- Oct-2021 – Defeated World #5 Marwan Elshorbagy in Round-2 at US Open, en-route to becoming oldest player ever to reach the Quarterfinals of Major
- Nov-2019 – Defeated World #4 Karim Abdel Gawad in the Round of 16 at the PSA World Championship here in Doha
- Apr-2018 – Defeated World #9 Paul Coll to capture Gold at the Commonwealth Games on the Australian Gold Coast
Faraz Khan -62- (USA) | Round-1 Emcee Introduction
Over the past year, this 28-year-old’s rise through the rankings has been extraordinary. Last December, in his first event back on Tour following the pandemic shutdown, he captured the City Center Challenger in Houston – and couldn’t stop winning. Blazing a trail across Texas, he reached the Final in Plano, the Semi’s in San Antonio – then captured back to back Challenger titles in Austin and Atlanta. In just nine short months, he climbed from World #101 to World #61 – giving himself the oppportunity to face the world’s greatest talents on the sport’s biggest stages. Making his Qatar Q-Terminals Classic debut – From the United States, please welcome Faraz Khan.
- R1 — L — James Willstrop -31- (ENG) | Score: 1-11, 4-11, 3-11 (18m)
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QATAR SQUASH: 27 YEARS OF HIGHLIGHTS AND HISTORY
For nearly three decades, the Qatar Squash Federation has hosted the sport’s elite at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex. Originally coined the Qatar International, Pakistan’s Jansher Khan captured the first five Doha titles from 1992 to 1996. Canada’s Jonathan Power then won back-to-back Doha titles over Scotland’s Peter Nichol; earning triumphs at the 1997 Qatar International and the 1998 World Championship.
Enter the Qatar Classic Squash Championship
After a two year absence, professional squash returned to Doha in 2001. Rebranded the Qatar Classic, Peter Nichol – now representing England – again reached back-to-back Doha Finals. This time, he captured the first two Qatar Classic titles over Australia’s David Palmer. England’s Lee Beachill and James Willstrop won the next two Qatar Classic titles, before Egypt began its outright Doha dominance.
In fact, since Ramy Ashour became the first Egyptian Doha champion at the 2006 Qatar Classic; the Arab nation has won 13 of the last 15 Doha titles, including three World Championships. Alexandria’s Mohamed Elshorbagy – the only 3-time Qatar Classic Champion – reached a record six consecutive finals on this court between 2012 and 2017. Most recently, Ali Farag won back-to-back Qatar Classic titles in 2018 and 2020. Unfortunately, the World #1 won’t be back in Doha this year to defend the title.
Professional Squash and COVID-19
Like every international sport, the recent global pandemic has created tremendous challenges for squash events worldwide. Due to COVID’s insidious spread, the 2019-20 season ended abruptly in March; immediately following Mohamed Elshorbagy’s victory at the 2020 Canary Wharf Classic.
Without fans, the sport launched its return six months later in Manchester – another Elshorbagy triumph. However, with global cases hitting a second surge, all events in the United Kingdom, United States and Asia were shuttered. The 2020-2021 season was in peril. At the time, as a U.S. resident, Andy Taylor made the difficult decision to suspend all international travel. Reluctantly, he stepped away from his role as emcee at the 2020 Qatar Classic.
Saviors. The Qatar Squash Federation and CIB’s CEO Hussein Abaza of Egypt
Over the next 10-months, Qatar and Egypt were the only two nations to host PSA Platinum events. Without the U.S. Open. Hong Kong Open. New York’s Tournament of Champions. The Windy City Open. And British Open — The sport needed bold and determined intervention.
Cautiously, the QSF moved forward with the Qatar Classic, providing a COVID safe bubble for players and crew. Meanwhile, Egypt’s Hussein Abaza went above and beyond. Remarkably, CIB’s CEO spearheaded two PSA World Tour Finals, the Egyptian Open, two Black Ball Opens and El Gouna International. From September to June, he funded six expensive, top-tier PSA events for both the men’s and women’s tours. Egypt became the hub of the sport – a safe place to compete while vaccinations took hold; while the world recovered.
Thankfully, since July, much of the globe has slowly opened back up. Chicago hosted the World Championships. Hull welcomed the sport’s elite for the British Open. Last month, it was only fitting that the 2021-22 season began in front of the pyramids at Giza. True to form, Egyptian rivals Ali Farag and Mohamed Elshorbagy headlined the event; delivering an exceptional 5-game Final, where Farag lifted his 9th Platinum trophy.
A Sport Back on Track, thanks to human compassion and ingenuity
After September’s Egyptian Open, the U.S. swing was also a tremendous success. From San Francisco to the US Open’s immaculate new Arlen Specter US Squash Center in Philadelphia; fans responsibly returned, recently tested or fully vaccinated. All starved to once again see the best in the world compete inside the glass.
Now, squash returns to the Arab Gulf for the 17th Qatar Classic Squash Championship.
Thankfully, as global vaccinations continue their ascent, the new squash season is beginning to follow a familiar path. While the past 19-months have been dark, spotlighting the reality of human fragility; it has also been an epoch defined by compassion, resilience and hope. Squash, as a sport and lifestyle, embodies these traits.
When we choose to quiet the noise, steel our determination, and commit to selflessly work together toward collective good; ultimately toward survival — the darkness is no match for our blinding ingenuity.
No, the fight isn’t over. But we’ve hit some astonishing nicks, and continue to edge closer toward “match ball.”