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.
Sixth meeting. Tom Richards’ first Round of 16 run since before pandemic
Tom Richards -41- (ENG) | Round-2 Emcee Introduction
Competing in just his 5th event since surgically enhancing his knee last May; yesterday, this 35-year-old won his first match victory in 7-months – defeating Shahjahan Khan to reach Round-2 of the Qatar Q-Terminals Classic for the 5th time. 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’s back on court in Doha competing in his 10th Qatar Q-Terminals Classic. From England, please welcome Tom Richards.
- R2 — W — Lucas Serme -39- (FRA) | Score: 12-10, 11-8, 4-11, 11-9 (54m)
- R1 — W — Shahjahan Khan -40- (USA) | Score: 14-12, 11-5, 11-5 (41m) | RECAP
- 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 had spent most of the 2019-20 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 lost Round-1 matches in Manchester, the British Open, US Open and Cleveland Skating Club Open
- Yesterday’s win was his first since a Round-1 victory over Edmon Lopez at the Black Ball Open in March
- Today’s win marked his first back-to-back victory since the 2020 Tournament of Champions nearly 2-years-ago
- Richards is gaining confidence in the knee, and reestablishing rhythm here in Qatar
Lucas Serme -39- (FRA) | Round-2 Emcee Introduction
Ranked as high as World #32, this 2-time French Nationals Champion is now an 18-time Finalist on Tour, and owns 7 PSA Challenger titles in all. At the Majors, he’s been one of the last 16 standing 3-times – including the 2017 World Championship, the 2018 British Open, and last year here in Doha – in his Qatar Q-Terminals Classic debut. Last Winter – at home in France – with marquee events still shuttered throughout most of the world – he reached three consecutive PSA Challenger Finals in Bordeaux, Nancy and Congnac; then took Mohamed Elshorbagy to five games in the Semifinals of a special invitational in Pakistan. Competing in his second Qatar Q-Terminals Classic – From France, please welcome Lucas Serme.
- R2 — L — Tom Richards -41- (ENG) | Score: 10-12, 8-11, 11-4, 9-11 (54m)
- R1 — W — Mazen Gamal -67- (EGY) | Score: 11-4, 11-5, 11-6 (40m) | RECAP
- Last season, following the global shutdown of the sport, Serme fell early in Manchester and at the Egyptian Open
- Here in Doha, he reached the Round of 16 in his Qatar Classic debut, defeating Todd Harrity and Tom Richards, before falling to Joel Makin
- Though he fell early in the remaining Majors – from December to February, Lucas reached three consecutive PSA Challenger Finals at home in France; losing all three Finals to compatriot Victor Crouin
- At a special invitational in Paksitan, Serme defeated local favorite Tayyab Aslam – then battled five games with Mohamed Elshorbagy. In fact, for the second time in his career – Lucas was up 2-0 on the Beast of Alexandria
- In 2019, Serme lost his first 5-game battle to Elshorbagy in a Shanghai thriller during Round-2 of the China Open
- Final score in Shanghai: 11-8, 11-9, 7-11, 4-11, 2-11 (86m). Physical attrition. The Beast’s specialty
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.”