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.
Second meeting in 2-weeks. This time, Rooney needed five games
Just 8 days ago, these two talents faced each other for the first time in the Quarterfinals of the Cleveland Skating Club Open. Patrick Rooney earned a 3-game, 27-minute victory to reach the Semifinals. Today was a different story.
After missing an entire year during Hong Kong’s lockdown, Yip is finally starting to shake the rust off at PSA World Tour events. Although he fell in Round-1 at both the World Championship and the US Open, he picked up a pair of wins in Cleveland, and took Rooney the distance today in Doha.
Patrick Rooney -42- (ENG) | Round-1 Emcee Introduction
One of the bold, new, next-generation faces of English squash – this 24-year-old is absolutely crushing it in 2021. Back in March, as global events finally started coming back online; he won his first Tour-level match in 16 months at the Black Ball Open. Ever since, the career-firsts have been piling up. In just 7-months, he’s reached his first two Platinum Rounds of 16; won his first-ever match at the PSA World Championship; upset James Willstrop at the Manchester Open; and leapt 12 spots in the rankings to a career-high of World #40. Just last week, he made a run to the Semifinals of the top-tier PSA Challenger Cleveland Skating Club Open; and is back in Doha for his second Qatar Q-Terminals Classic. From England, please welcome Patrick Rooney.
- R1 — W — Tsz Fung Yip -53- (HKG) | Score: 11-3, 9-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-9 (46m)
- Patrick Rooney laid the foundation for his recent success at the beginning of the 2019-20 season. Back then, he started the season with a 9-match win-streak – capturing back-to-back PSA Challenger titles at the Madeira International Open and Tring Open. After an early exit in Niort, he then reached his 3rd Final of the season at the London Open. By reaching three Finals in three months, Rooney leapt from World #81 to World #62
- Patrick then went winless on the PSA World Tour for 16 months. Of course six of those months were lost to the global shutdown of the sport due the COVID-19 pandemic. When the sport returned, between September and November of 2020, he lost his first three Tour level matches – at the Manchester Open, Egyptian Open and Qatar Classic. However, he picked-up wins over the winter during non-Tour events back home
- Finally, in March of 2021, he defeated Raphael Kandra to reach Round-2 of the PSA Platinum Black Ball Open; just his second career Platinum match victory. He then made his Platinum Round of 16 debut in El Gouna; earned his first-ever match victory at the PSA World Championship; climbed to a career-high ranking of World #40; and upset mentor James Willstrop in Manchester’s opening round
- Sadly, at the following week’s British Open, Willstrop tested positive for COVID-19. Both Patrick Rooney and Declan James were forced to withdraw from the event due to close contact with the former World #1
- Presumably recovering from COVID, Rooney missed the first month of the 2021-22 season; but made his return at the US Open – where he made his second consecutive Platinum run to the Round of 16
- After falling to Tarek Momen in Philadelphia, Rooney hopped a flight to Cleveland for the Skating Club Open – where he reached the Semifinals of a PSA Challenger Tour 30 for the first time
Tsz Fung Yip -53- (HKG) | Round-1 Emcee Introduction
This 28-year-old is finally back-on-tour, competing at the highest level, after the global pandemic forced him off the road for over a year. This past Summer, as squash finally returned to Asia, he triumphantly launched his comeback, winning a remarkable 12 consecutive matches, capturing back to back titles in Hong Kong, and earning his second Hong Kong Nationals title. In all, he now owns 7 PSA titles, is a 15-time Finalist on Tour and has been ranked as high as World #21. A Quarterfinalist last week at the Cleveland Skating Club Open; competing in his 4th Qatar Q-Terminals Classic – From Hong Kong, please welcome Tsz Fung Yip.
- R1 — L — Patrick Rooney -42- (ENG) | Score: 3-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-5, 9-11 (46m)
- While Yip reestablished his rhythm and fared well during his comeback at home in Hong Kong, the Major draws have been brutal. At the World Championship in Chicago, he drew Mohamed ElShorbagy in Round-1, and fell in 25-minutes
- Yip skipped the British and Egyptian Opens, instead opening the new season in Philadelphia at the US Open, where he faced legend James Willstrop in the 1st-Round, falling in just over 30-minutes
- After being locked-down for over a year in Hong Kong – the English expression for drawing Elshorbagy and Willstop in his first two Tour events back: “Like being tossed from the frying pan into the fryer”
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.”