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.
Fourth meeting. First at a high-stakes Platinum. Steinmann nearly came back
Today’s nail-biting, deciding-game clash was the fourth meeting between these two talents; their second on the PSA World Tour. Iker Pajares Bernabeu won their two previous matches at the European Team Championships. Dimitri Steinmann won their first Tour-level meeting in Switzerland, upsetting the Spaniard in 4-games to the reach the Semifinals of the 2017 Sekisui Open.
Iker Pajares Bernabeu -27- (ESP) | Round-1 Emcee Introduction
This 25-year-old, 2-time Spanish Nationals Champion owns 9 PSA titles and has been ranked as high as World #26. Last month, he opened the new season with a victory over Borja Golan to capture the title at the Real Federación Española de Squash Dos Mil Veintiuno. Then, in front of the pyramids at Giza, reached the Final 16 of a Platinum event for the third time. Now a 14-time Finalist on Tour – he put together one of his most impressive runs at the 2019 the Wimbledon Club Open – where he defeated top talents Omar Mosaad, Daryl Selby, then James Willstrop – to reach the championship match of a PSA Bronze event for the first time. Back in Doha, competing in his second Qatar Q-Terminals Classic – from Spain, please welcome Iker Pajares Bernabeu.
- R1 — W — Dimitri Steinmann -48- (SUI) | Score: 11-4, 11-9, 10-12, 10-12, 11-7 (86m)
- Bernabeu is no stanger to success on this glass court in Doha. In 2017, he won the Qatar Circuit No.5 PSA 15K-level event, defeating Abdula Al Tamimi to capture the title
- Today marks the Spaniard’s 22nd career match in Qatar
- Bizarre: At the 2019 World Championship in Doha, Iker was defaulted from his Round-1 match with Wild Card Syed Azlan Amjad, after accidentally hitting Amjad in the nuts with a practice forehand
- Equally Bizarre and unfortunate: Two months ago at the British Open, Bernabeu reached the Round of 16 at a Platinum event for the second time. However, he was forced to withdraw due to Public Health England contact trancing. On his flight from Spain the the U.K., Iker sat close to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, so health officials required isolation in England and the PSA withdrew him from the tournament. He would have played Youssef Soliman for a spot in his first Platinum Quarterfinal. Instead, Soliman advanced with a walkover, then fell to Mohamed Elshorbagy
Dimitri Steinmann -48- (SUI) | Round-1 Emcee Introduction
At just 24-years-old, he already owns 8 PSA titles, is a 14-time Tour-level Finalist, and returns to Doha with a career-high ranking of World #48. And his momentum is real, with a host of career-firsts over the past six months. In May, he won his first Platinum-level match, defeating Boja Golan to reach Round-2 in El Gouna. Then in Chicago, he earned his first career World Championship match victory, upsetting Todd Harrity on the American’s home soil. Competing in his second Qatar Q-Terminals Squash Classic, from Switzerland – please welcome Dimitri Steinmann.
- R1 — L — Iker Pajares Bernabeu -27- (ESP) | Score: 4-11, 9-11, 12-10, 12-10, 7-11 (86m)
- Perspective: Steinmann has not won a match since defeating Todd Harrity at the PSA World Championship in Chicago. That said, he has only played Platinum events including the British Open, Egyptian Open and US Open
- In December of 2020, a month after last year’s Qatar Classic, Steinmann captured his 8th career PSA title at the Sihltal Classic. And it was a monumental victory. By defeating Nicolas Müller in the Final, Dimitri became the first fellow Swiss Player to defeat the Swiss Rocket in 13-years
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.”