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.
Soares makes history. First Portuguese player to win a match at a PSA Platinum
Rui Soares -68- (POR) | Round-1 Emcee Introduction
Portugal’s top talent – Just 3-days-ago, after a last-minute withdrawal, he received word he was needed in Doha; as the World #68, he qualified for the Qatar Q-Terminals Classic. And with that, he is back in Doha for the first time since the 2012 PSA World Junior Championship – in pursuit of his first match victory at a PSA Platinum level event. The truth is – this 28-year-old has absolutely LIT IT UP since returning from the pandemic’s global loockdowns. In just the past four months, he’s reached four Challenger Finals, captured 2 titles, made his main draw Platinum debut at the British Open, and cracked the PSA’s top-70 for the first time. Tremendous. Making his Qatar Q-Terminals Classic debut – From Portugal, please welcome 8-time Portuguese National Champion, Rui Soares.
- R1 — W — Arturo Salazar -51- (MEX) | Score: 7-11, 11-6, 4-11, 11-6, 11-6 (39m)
- A last second addition to the draw, Soares makes history in his Doha debut – becoming the first player from Portugal ever to win a main-draw match at a PSA Platinum-level event
- Rui’s last match, a Quarterfinal loss at the Scottish Open, was his 200th professional match on the PSA World Tour
- He now owns 3 PSA Challenger titles in 8 career Finals
- In just his third event, after returning from the global pandemic’s lockdowns, he defeated Daryl Selby in the championship match of the Off The Wall Open in Ipswich
- A few weeks later, he won the Hit & Run Sport Challenger in Brighton
- When James Willstrop tested positive for COVID before the start of the British Open, eliminating Patrick Rooney and Declan James due to close contact; Rui got the call, raced to Hull, and made his main-draw debut at a PSA Platinum (fell to the Swiss Rocket)
- Soares then reached the Final at the Wimbledon Club Open, cracked the PSA’s top-70, and started the new season with a Finalist run at home in Madeira
- That’s 2-titles in 4-Finals, in just 5-months. Someone’s happy to be back on court, making the most of his return
Arturo Salazar -51- (MEX) | Round-1 Emcee Introduction
At 33-years-old, he owns 11 PSA Challenger titles, is a 17-time Finalist on Tour – and alongside twin brother Cesar, remains one of the most highly decorated squash talents in his country’s history. A 2-time Gold and 3-time Bronze Medalist at the Pan American Games – in 2011, with his doubles triumph in Guadalajara, he helped lead Mexico to its first Pan American Team Gold. Injured for most of last season, he continues his road to recovery here in Doha – in pursuit of his 4th career PSA Platinum main draw victory. Competing in his 2nd Qatar Q-Terminals Classic – From Mexico, please welcome Arturo Salazar.
- R1 — L — Rui Soares -68- (POR) | Score: 11-7, 6-11, 11-4, 6-11, 6-11 (39m)
- Originally, Arturo was scheduled to face World #23 Mohamed Elsherbini in Round-1, who just reached the Final of the Cleveland Skating Club Open. Instead, he faces the World #68
- When Mathieu Castagnet withdrew from the Qatar Q-Terminals Classic on Thursday, Salazar moved into Castagnet’s spot in the draw. His opponent, Portugal’s Rui Soares, replaced Richie Fallows – who also withdrew three days ago
- Salazar reached the 2nd-Round of a Major for the first time at 2020’s Windy City Open…right before the pandemic slammed the brakes on the 2019-20 season. He defeated Campbell Grayson in Round-1, then fell to Iker Pajares Bernabeu in five games
- Following the six month lock-down, like many – Arturo returned in October at the Egyptian Open. Again, he reached the 2nd-Round with a 64-minute win over Shahjahan Khan; but the five-game battle took its toll after so much time away. Injured, he didn’t have much left for his 2nd-Round clash with Nathan Lake: 11-9, 0-11, 0-11, 1-11 (36m). Ouch
- After Egypt – Arturo didn’t play again for 8-months
- Finally, in July, he launched his comeback in Chicago, and reached Round-2 of the PSA World Championship for the first time (his 7th World Championship appearance). After his 62-minute win over Lucas Serme, he fell to Mohamed Abouelghar in just 24-minutes
- The Egyptian Open and World Championship were the only events Arturo played during the 2020-21 season (4 matches total), and his overall ranking suffered the consequences. When the new PSA numbers came out in September, he dropped from World #41 to World #50
- The injury continues to hamstring Salazar’s results. While he reached Round-2 of the Egyptian Open back in September; at the US Open, he retired after game-3 in his Round-1 match with Sebastien Bonmalais
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.”