By Steve Coppinger
25 January 2013
It was a pretty incredible week last week playing in the Tournament of Champions staged under the impressive chandeliers in Grand Central Terminal in New York. The sense of occasion is immense walking onto that glass court in such a public arena. It was only my second year at the Tournament after losing out in the 1st round in 2012 to Nicolas Mueller from Switzerland.
My first challenge was the solid left handed Englishman Peter Barker, seeded 5th for the tournament and ranked 7 in the world. He had beaten me convincingly in all 4 of our previous encounters with the closest being a 3-1 defeat in Rotterdam just over a year ago. The first game was crucial and was a grueling half hour of contentious squash, I managed to save a game ball and then convert one of my own to take the lead. I settled into the second better and extended my lead to 2-0 but he came out strong and forced some scrapped squash out of me to take the third game and reduce his deficit. I was determined to start the fourth well, but couldn’t have imagined getting to 9-0 before he registered his first point. I was still carrying all the momentum and went on to win the game 11-1 and claim my biggest scalp to date.
That win opened up a great opportunity, as to reach a quarter final in a World Series event I would now have to beat Adrian Grant, another left handed Englishman ranked 17 in the world. A tall order for sure but I knew I had a chance. He is renowned for his marathon 5 setters and is no stranger to coming back from 2-0 down to win matches, indeed he had done exactly that in his first round against Australian Cameron Pilley. With that in mind I was wary of him coming out strong when I also went 2-0 up. Despite my caution he got off to a great start in both the 3rd & 4th and while I finished both games strongly he was back to 2-2. Again determined to start the final game stronger rather than have to fight back, I came out firing. It worked beyond all hopes as I found myself streaking ahead and winning the game 11-1.
Now I was in my first major Quarter Final and playing top seed James Willstrop. The first game was tremendously exciting as I forced a tie break and felt like I was really pushing him and holding my own in the rallies. Unfortunately a few wrong choices at the very end of the match cost me the game and from then on he took firm control, not giving away anything.
So a fantastic week of squash on one of the grandest stages in the sport came to an end for me. Certainly a dream start to the year with my new racquet sponsor MANTIS. Far from being able to sit back and dwell on it, my next tournament starts in Detroit on Saturday where I will take on the Egyptian famed for his ingenuity and racquet ability Hisham Ashour. I have to now keep up the momentum I have built over the last week and look forward to another good tournament to help me up the World Rankings.