Round-2 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.
Fifth meeting. Down 2-1, Elias comes back. Declan’s second match of the season
 Diego Elias -08- (PER) | Round-2 Emcee Introduction
One of the sport’s greatest talents ever to emerge from South America, this 24-year-old is a Pan American Games Gold Medalist, a South American Games Gold Medalist; and just two weeks ago at the US Open, defeated World #2 Mohamed Elshorbagy to reach his 3rd PSA Platinum Semifinal. Ranked as high as World #6, since cracking the PSA’s top-10 in 2018 – he has remained one of the top-10 talents in the world for 33 consecutive months. And over the Summer – after missing five months of the season with an injury – he captured his 8th career title at the PSA Silver Manchester Open, defeating Joel Makin in the championship match. Back in Doha, competing in his 5th Qatar Q-Terminals Classic – From Peru, please welcome 2018 Semifinalist – the Peruvian Puma, Diego Elias.
- R2 — W — Declan James -28- (ENG) | Score: 10-12, 11-6, 9-11, 11-0, 11-8 (67m)
- R1 — BYE
- Diego’s first win over Mohamed Elshorbagy happened on this court 3-years-ago. The victory propelled the Peruvian Puma to his first Platinum Semifinal, where he fell to Simon Rösner
- Since then, Diego has reached two more Platinum Semifinals in Philadelphia – at the 2019 and 2021 US Opens
- After missing five months last season, following his loss to Fares Dessouky in Cairo at the PSA Gold Black Ball Open; Diego reached the Quarters at the World Championship in Chicago. Won his 3rd PSA Silver title at the Manchester Open. And finished the season with a Quarterfinal run at the British Open
- He’s dropped from World #6 to World #8, but this month’s deep run at the US Open can only help get him back on the climb
- In September, he skipped the Oracle NetSuite Open with an ongoing back injury. Hopefully it won’t flair this week in Doha
Declan James -28- (ENG) | Round-2 Emcee Introduction
At 28-years-old, he owns 13 PSA titles, is a Commonwealth Games Bronze Medalist, and has been ranked as high as World #15. A Quarterfinalist at the 2017 Hong Kong Open, he’s reached the Round of 16 at PSA Platinum events six times – including a run to Round-3 here in Doha at the 2018 Qatar Q-Terminals Classic. Back on Tour for the first time in nearly two months – yesterday, he returned to rhythm with a 3-game victory over Qatar’s Syed Azlan Amjad; and is looking to back it up with a top-10 upset this afternoon. Excited to have him back in Doha for his 2021-22 season debut – please welcome England’s top talent, Declan James.
- R2 — L —  Diego Elias -08- (PER) | Score: 12-10, 6-11, 11-9, 0-11, 8-11 (67m)
- R1 — W — [WC] Syed Azlan Amjad -70- (QAT) | Score: 11-4, 11-5, 11-7 (35m) | RECAP
- In March of 2020, just before COVID slammed the brakes on all international competition, Declan James was steady – still ranked inside the top-25. For months, his only losses at the big tournaments came against top-10 talents. Paul Coll took him out at the Windy City Open; Declan’s sixth career Round of 16 appearance at a Platinum. Ali Farag ended his run in Round-2 of the Canary Wharf Classic
- However, following the pandemic pause, while others surged with the sport’s return, James found himself exiting early. At the Egyptian Open, he fell to Youssef Ibrahim. Here in Doha, Eain Yow Ng defeated him in Round-2. With additional early losses at the Black Ball Open, El Gouna International and the World Championships – James was determined to right the ship at the British Open in August
- However, when James Willstrop tested positive for COVID in Hull – Declan, Patrick Rooney and Lisa Aitken were all forced to withdraw, because they were deemed “close contacts” with the former World #1
- Declan hasn’t played a professional match since. This year’s Qatar Classic is his first event of the 2021-22 season
- Just before flying to Doha, Declan was a baton-bearer for the Queen’s Baton Relay at Buckingham Palace – as it began its 90,000-mile journey before the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. In 2018, Declan earned Doubles Bronze alongside James Willstrop on Australia’s Gold Coast
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.”