I had the opportunity to go watch the men's first round of the J.P Morgan Tournament of Champions 2016 this past week. What an amazing event. I was there with the Canadian National Brand Manager for Salming and had the opportunity to watch a photo shoot they did for their upcoming seasons catalog. We also had tickets to all 3 sessions on the Thursday to watch the squash. As a squash player and lover of our sport what a great way to spend a few days in New York!
I have to confess that I have never even been to New York so just visiting the city was exciting. We stayed right downtown across the street from Grand Central Station so were able to walk to everything. Having a squash tournament in a subway station is not the first place I would think to have one but it works amazingly well. Many of us have watched the tournament on SQUASHTV and you can get a sense of the atmosphere at the event but it is even more incredible in person. We were there for the opening round and even the early time slots are well attended and they are during business hours. There was a real buzz for the matches and the atmosphere was terrific. The multitude of people that just wander by on their day to day business and stop to watch the action on court really adds to the energy of the event.
Now on to the squash. Having met some of the Salming ambassadors I was really hoping to see them do well. The players that I had met that were playing that day were Max Lee and Stephen Coppinger. Max Lee has drawn to play a qualifier, Farhan Zaman. It proved to be a highly competitive and entertaining match. Farhan won a very close first game winning it 11-9. Max came back strong though and won the next 3 games to take the match 3-1. Stephen Coppinger had a really tough first round match and it was one of the matches I was really excited to see. Stephen played Mathieu Castagnet of France. It was a really competitive match as well. Unfortunately Castagnet took the match 3-1 but each game was very competitive and the squash was great to watch.
The two matches I was really excited about seeing before even getting to New York was the Mohamed Elshorbagy vs Adrian Waller match and the Miguel A. Rodriguez vs Borja Golan match. I had expected the Elshorbagy match to be a pretty straight forward affair with him winning it in three. Waller made the second game close leading it at many points but Elshorbagy pulled away in the end. In the first and third games Mohamed was very dominant. I was looking forward to this match to see just how aggressive and powerful Mohamed Elshorbagy was on court in person and certainly did not disappoint. He really does play a different brand of squash even when compared to the other top players. The pace of play and the power with he plays is astounding.
The Rodriguez vs Golan match did not prove to be as competitive or as exciting as I had hoped. Miguel was unfortunately suffering with an ankle injury which was limiting his effectiveness. Interestingly he played much the same way he always does and was all over the court but it looked like if he really had to plant hard to change directions he was tentative to do so. Borja played a smart match and played well to win but it would have been nice to see them play when they were both healthy.
Like I said earlier in this post if you ever get a chance to go see the Tournament of Champions do not pass it up. It is very well organized, you get to watch the best in the world play and the atmosphere at the tournament is incredible and that is in large part due to the venue. I would also like to thank Salming for having me. Having been at the photo shoot for their upcoming catalog and marketing campaign I can definitely say they have some really exciting new squash gear coming for next season!