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Stiff competition in the Final Round of Qualifying
No question, Saturday’s final round of Qualifying at the Qatar Classic was far more competitive than Friday’s sweep of local talent. Yesterday, all eight Qatari prospects fell in less than 30-minutes; none able to secure even a single game off the PSA World Tour’s top talent. Today, two matches went the distance, including Tsz Fung Yip’s 77-minute victory over England’s Charles Sharpes, and Raphael Kandra’s upset of the #4 qualifying seed Nicolas Mueller of Switzerland. Here are the eight qualifiers who made it through to the Main Draw…
Alan Clyne (SCO)
At 31-years-old, this 6-time Scottish Nationals Champion comes into this year’s Qatar Classic with a career-high ranking of #25 in the world. He’s won 8 PSA Tour titles and has appeared in 17 career finals. The top qualifying seed, he has advanced to the Main Draw without dropping a single game. Some would argue that Alan should have been given Ramy Ashour’s spot in the draw, after the Egyptian-legend pulled out of the Qatar Classic with injury; however Ramy’s spot went to the World #32 Matheiu Castagnet, a former top-10 player recently back from injury. As “luck” would have it, Mathieu drew Clyne at the conclusion of qualifying…so the two will settle the score on Day-2 of Round-1 play at 2:00p. Hey, at least Alan gets a day of rest to prepare…
Tsz Fung Yip (HKG)
Productive start to the 2017-18 season for Yip. In September, he made quarterfinal runs at both the HKFC International in Hong Kong and the Macau Open. Last season, he won his 4th career PSA Tour title, earned a career-best 3rd-round finish at the World Championships in Cairo, and reached a career-high ranking of World #27. For the second straight year, he’s qualified for the Qatar Classic Main Draw. Thankfully, after a 77-minute deciding-game clash with Charles Sharpes, tomorrow is an off-day for the Hong Kong native. He’ll need the rest. Monday’s opponent is Simon Rösner – the German Tree Chopper – in the final 1st-Round match of the tournament at 8:30p.
Karim Ali Fathi (EGY)
Karim needed 55-minutes and 4-games to drop New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson on Saturday. The 24-year-old Egyptian carries momentum into his first Main Draw appearance at the Qatar Classic. In June, he capped the 2016-17 season by winning his 10th career PSA Tour title at the Costa Rica Open, and comes into Doha with a career-high ranking of #33 in the world. A 17-time Finalist on tour, he’s looking for a career-best run at a PSA World Series event. Unfortunately for Karim, at the conclusion of qualifying, he drew US Open Champion and one of the hottest players on tour, Ali Farag. The two take the glass court for their Round-1 match tomorrow at 3:00p.
Adrian Waller (ENG)
Waller’s had a promising start to the new season, as well. Earlier this month, he captured his 6th career PSA Tour title at the Amsterdam Open, after a quarterfinal run in Charlottesville. Now 27-years-old, he’s a 12-time finalist on tour and a 2-time Semifinalist at the British National Championship. Solid accolades for a Brit competing in the Nick Matthew era. On Monday, he’ll face Cameron “Pistol” Pilley in Round-1. It’s a rematch of Adrian’s loss last week in the final round of qualifying at the St. George’s Hill Classic. Monday’s match will be their 5th career meeting. Waller’s only victory came 4-years back in Round-1 of the Hong Kong Open.
Raphael Kandra (GER)
Hats off to the German. Raphael Kandra won Saturday’s “match of the day,” prevailing in 5-games over the #4 qualifying seed, Nicolas Mueller. After winning the first game in extended play 13-11, Kandra knew it would be a shoot-out. The two traded the next three games before Raphael won it 11-7 in the decider. At 26-years-old, Kandra is into the Main Draw of the Qatar Classic for the first time. Tomorrow, he celebrates his 27th birthday. On Monday, he’ll face one of the greatest to ever play the game, Nick Matthew. Alles Gute zum Geburtstag! Raphael owns 13 career PSA Tour titles in 20 finals. Nick Matthew? 35 titles. 75 finals. Kandra last faced the 3-time World Champion on this very court, 3-years-ago, where he fell in four in the 1st-Round of the PSA World Championship.
Leo Au (HKG)
Leo is on fire. The 27-year-old started the new season by winning his 9th PSA Tour title at the HKFC International in Hong Kong; then last week, captured career title number-10 at the Malaysian Open. Now the World #28, if this keeps up, he’ll best his career-high ranking of World #25 by the end of the week. You have to like his chances, too. Leo drew World #16 Ryan Cuskelly in the 1st-Round. They haven’t played in nearly six-years; both of their previous matches went the distance. Leo won their most recent clash in Round-1 of the 2012 Malaysian Open. While Ryan has won only one tour-level match this season – a 1st-Round, 4-game vistory over Cesar Salazar in San Francisco – Leo’s won two titles, and has on-court rhythm in Doha after playing through qualifying.
Chris Simpson (ENG)
Chris Simpson is finally back on tour after a hip injury derailed his 2016-17 season. This is just his second PSA Tour event since his return. The comeback has featured a Semifinal run at the Amsterdam Open, qualifying for the US Open in Philadelphia, and now – qualifying for the Main Draw of the Qatar Classic, thanks to wins over Rashid Al Harib of Qatar and countryman Declan James. He has yet to lose a game in Doha. His draw is most likely the toughest ask, however. At the conclusion of qualifying, he learned he’ll face 2-time Qatar Classic Champion Mohamed ElShorbagy in the 1st-Round – tomorrow evening at 5:30. There’s no better test of one’s match-readiness than to take on a player at the pinnacle of the sport. ElShorbagy has reached the Final in every event he’s played this season, only falling to Ali Farag in the championship match at the US Open.
Saurav Ghosal (IND)
Saurav is playing some of the best squash of his career. At 31-years-old, the highest-ranked Indian player of all time has had a stellar three months. He won a record 12th Indian Nationals title, reached his 13th career PSA Tour Final at the Macau Open, and backed it up last week with a Semifinal run at the St. George’s Hill Classic…as a qualifier. Sincerely, the former World #15 is a contender this week in Doha, advancing through qualifying without dropping a single game. He drew a familiar, dangerous opponent in Round-1: Daryl Selby of England. While Daryl has won 8 of their 9 tour-level matches, Selby’s road has been bumpy to the start of the new season – mostly thanks to tough draws. He fell early at the China Open to Ramy Ashour, then to Mohamed ElShorbagy in San Francisco. Nick Matthew took him out at the US Open, before Diego Elias beat him in three last week at the St. George’s Hill Classic. It’s hard to find rhythm on the glass court when the best in the sport consistently cramp your draw.
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Qualifying. Day 2. Results and Main Draw Schedule
-  Alan Clyne (SCO) def Eain Yow Ng (MAS) 11-4 11-2 13-1 (31-min)
30-Oct | Main Draw Round 1 | 2:00p — [Q] Alan Clyne vs Matthieu Castagnet (FRA)
-  Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) def Charles Sharpes (ENG) 11-5 8-11 11-9 8-11 11-8 (77-min)
30-Oct | Main Draw Round 1 | 8:30p — [Q] Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) vs Simon Rosner (GER)
-  Karim Ali Fathi (EGY) def  Campbell Grayson (NZL) 11-7 6-11 11-9 11-5 (55-min)
29-Oct | Main Draw Round 1 | 3:00p — [Q]Karim Ali Fathi (EGY) vs  Ali Farag (EGY)
-  Adrian Waller (ENG) def  Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 11-2 7-11 12-10 11-9 (47-min)
30-Oct | Main Draw Round 1 | 12:00p — [Q] Adrian Waller (ENG) vs Cameron Pilley (AUS)
-  Raphael Kandra (GER) def  Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 13-11 7-11 11-7 7-11 11-7 (61-min)
30-Oct | Main Draw Round 1 | 3:00p — [Q] Raphael Kandra (GER) vs  Nick Matthew
-  Leo Au (HKG) def Richie Fallows (ENG) 9-11 11-4 11-7 11-1 (51-min)
29-Oct | Main Draw Round 1 | 1:00p — [Q] Leo Au (HKG) vs Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
-  Chris Simpson (ENG) def  Declan James (ENG) 13-11 11-9 11-6 (57-min)
29-Oct | Main Draw Round 1 | 5:30p — [Q] Chris Simpson (ENG) vs  Mohamed ElShorbagy
-  Saurav Ghosal (IND) def Ammar Altamimi (KUW) 11-6 11-3 11-6 (29-min)