Tournament of Champions sets the tone for 2015
The first tournament of the New Year has been a squash fan’s delight. Spectacular as ever, taking place in the iconic Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, this year’s edition has served up some fierce competition and provided a glimpse of a shift in dominance from the old guard. Having had a core of players dominate the latter stages of major tournaments for the past 5 years with remarkable consistency and undoubtedly immense skill, the ToC this year has highlighted the intent of a number of younger players not content with just knocking on their door.
Shorbagy’s rise to the top was by no means under the radar and he now well deservedly sits on top of the squash world at pole position in the rankings. There have been some big movers on the fringe of the top few which points towards a very exciting 2015. Shorbagy himself had to fight tooth and nail to get past Swiss Nicolas Mueller, Nick Matthew escaped by the skin of his teeth (or narrower) in his 2nd round nail biter with Omar Mosaad. Miguel Rodrigues has stamped his name into the greats of the game with two epic wins over Pete Barker and Gregory Gaultier in his typically flamboyant but all of a sudden severely lethal style. Matthieu Castagnet has been on the charge in the last 6 to 12 months and it took a very sharp Simon Rosner, himself making his mark in the upper echelons, to stop him this week. Tarek Momenis another who is a constant threat to anyone and he’s illuminating the tour with his rapid-fire open style of play.
This year’s tour provides a perfect platform for these names to shift gears from being dangerous outsiders to the players that are genuinely campaigning for the major titles. This is not of course to dismiss the likes of Shabana, Gaultier, Matthew & Willstrop. We all know what they are capable of and have seen time and again the levels that they raise themselves to when the occasion demands. They now have a hungry pack yapping at their heels and will have to bring their best not just to compete with each other but to keep getting chances to do so. And so the gauntlet has been set, let’s see what the year has in store for the fans and players alike.
My challenge is to join the surge of the ‘new wave’, rather than be swept aside by it, and build on some encouraging recent results. My own campaign at the ToC was halted in the 1st round by the strong German Simon Rosner who went on to a quarter-final berth and showing how he has recently joined the world’s top 10. I can draw positives from the encounter and certainly look forward to our next battle but it always makes a world of difference being able to get over that line in the end. There is no shortage of tournaments coming up as I now play the Motor City Open in Detroit, shortly followed by the Swedish Open and the Windy City Open in Chicago so plenty of chances to get a few more scalps along the way.