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.
First meeting. Tom Richards’ first victory since knee surgery in May
Tom Richards -41- (ENG) | Round-1 Emcee Introduction
Competing in just his 5th event since surgically enhancing his knee last May, this 35-year-old is back in Doha hungry for his first match victory in 7-months. And he’s made tremendous progress since his return in Manchester. Last week in Cleveland, he went 72 minutes with Nathan Lake; coming up just short, falling in an extended fifth and deciding game. Now a 17-year Tour veteran, he’s been ranked as high as World #12 and owns 6 PSA titles in all – including the 2012 Montreal Open title, where he defeated former World #1 Thierry Lincou in the championship match. 3-years-ago, he reached the Final-16 of a Major for the first time right here Doha. This afternoon, he takes the court for his 10th Qatar Q-Terminals Classic. From England, please welcome Tom Richards.
- R1 — W — Shahjahan Khan -40- (USA) | Score: 14-12, 11-5, 11-5 (41m)
- Tom’s first Platinum Round of 16 run happened here in Doha 3-years-ago; he took out Mohamed Reda and Ryan Cuskelly, before falling to Simon Rösner. He’s earned two more Final-16 Platinum runs since that Doha breakthrough: 2018 Hong Kong and 2020 Tournament of Champions
- When the pandemic shutdown hit in March of 2020, Richard was positioned just inside the PSA’s top-30; however, he’s spent most of the season struggling to string together successive victories. Even during Premier League play, he was losing tough, deciding-game battles
- The one bright spot shone at the Tournament of Champions, where Tom reached the Round of 16 at a Platinum event for the third time – defeating Karim El Hammamy and Leo Au, before falling to Paul Coll
- With squash on hold from April to September, Tom’s ranking fell back to the mid-30’s for the first time in 2-years
- Since play finally resumed in September of 2020, Tom has gone 3-11, with Round-1 victories at the Egyptian Open (Auguste Dussourd), Qatar Classic (Nathan Lake) and Black Ball Open (Edmon Lopez)
- Complicating things – Tom had knee surgery following the event in Cairo, and was out from April through August. Since his return, he’s lost Round-1 matches in Manchester, the British Open, US Open and Clevelenad Skating Club Open. Today’s win was his first since a Round-1 victory over Edmon Lopez at the Black Ball Open in March.
- But there’s obvious progress. In Manchester and the British Open, he lasted only 30-minutes. At the US Open, he went four games with Vikram Malhotra. And last week in Cleveland at the Skating Club Open, he battled well over an hour with Nathan Lake, losing 8-11, 11-8, 11-6, 9-11, 12-14 (72m)
Shahjahan Khan -40- (USA) | Round-1 Emcee Introduction
Since the worldwide pandemic shutdown – Remarkably, this 26-year-old has surged 23-points in the rankings; thanks to a string of career-firsts that all started right here, last year, when he earned his first match victory at a Major. After Doha, he captured his 5th PSA Challenger title; made his Platinum debuts in Cairo and El Gouna; and won his first-ever match at the PSA World Championship, cracking the PSA’s top-50. But he wasn’t done. Last month in Giza, he launched into the new season by making his first career Platinum run to the Round of 16 – and returns for his second Qatar Q-Terminals Classic with a career-high ranking of World #40. From the United States, please welcome Shahjahan Khan.
- R1 — L — Tom Richards -41- (ENG) | Score: 12-14, 5-11, 5-11 (41m)
- In the 2019-20 season, Shahjahan Khan poured the foundation for his recent rise through the ranks
- In September, he was ranked outside the top-70 – but put together a remarkable run to set things in motion
- First, in October of 2019, he reached the Semifinals of the Chicago Open (Challenger 30)
- In November, he won back-to-back Challenger titles in the US and France, then reached the Semifinals of the London Open
- By the start of 2020, he was ranked inside the top-65, earning a Wild Card invite to the Windy City Open – his first main draw appearance at a PSA Platinum event
- After Windy City, Shahjahan made another Semifinal run at the Manitoba Open Challenger in Winnipeg – and spent the six month pandemic pause ranked just outside the top-60
- When play resumed, thanks to his improved ranking and success during the 2019-20 season, he was a lock for direct entry into the Platinum events (essentially the only PSA tournaments held during the COVID’s second wave)
- And he made the most of it – in his Qatar Classic debut, he earned his first main draw victory at a Major
- In February, he captured his 5th PSA Challenger title at the Lifetime City Open in Houston
- And at the World Championship in July – down 2-0, he came back to defeat Alan Clyne – earning his first career victory at the sport’s most prestigious event
- The career-firsts continued at the start of the new 2021-22 season. Last month in Giza, he reached his first Platinum Round of 16 at the Egyptian Open (Dessouky retired in Round-2 with a neck injury), and jumped to a career-high ranking of World #40
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.”