US SQUASH

Blatchford Records First Career Tournament of Champions Main Draw Victory; Mueller Shocks Gawad

Olivia Blatchford

Team USA’s Olivia Blatchford recorded her first career victory in the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions main draw Saturday night in Grand Central Terminal.

The world No. 13 from Wilton, Connecticut, dispatched Hong Kong’s Liu Tsz-Ling 11-5, 11-5, 11-9 in twenty-four minutes.

“Being out here is incredible, I’ve been watching this tournament in the crowd since I was in diapers, so to have a win on this court is massive for me,” said Blatchford, who is one of four American women in the main draw of a PSA World Tour event for the first time in history.

“Playing for my country is one of the biggest honors and privileges that I have ever had in my life. I know how good the US is, I’m proud that the ladies are leading the way and I feel very blessed to be a part of it.”

Blatchford will face world No. 8 Sarah-Jane Perry in the second round Monday, January 22.

Two-time U.S. junior champion and fifteen-year-old Marina Stefanoni made her glass court PSA debut as the women’s wild card against Egypt’s world No. 5 Nouran Gohar Saturday evening.

The Darien, Connecticut, native acquitted herself well against the 2016 ToC semifinalists in a 11-5, 11-8, 11-5 defeat.

“This is a great opportunity,” Stefanoni said. “I’ve watched this tournament and I’ve always wanted to play in it, but I never thought it would be this soon. This was amazing. I watched Nouran at the world juniors two years ago, her style is so fast and strong. I was happy to see her in the draw because she’s one of the players closest to my age. Hopefully I can be like her.”

Nicolas Mueller

On the men’s side, Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller pulled off a shock second round upset against defending champion Kaim Abdel Gawad. Mueller, world No. 27, nearly squandered a two-game lead, pulling the match out in the fifth 11-6, 11-6, 11-13, 3-11, 11-9 after seventy-one minutes.

“I’m really over the moon,” said Mueller afterwards. “That’s one of best matches that I have played in a long time and it is one of the biggest wins of my career. To knock out the defending champion here in New York, inside Grand Central, is pretty special.”

2012 ToC champion Nick Matthew managed his nineteenth consecutive victory against English rival James Willstrop in an entertaining four games. The thirty-seven-year-old will no face top seed Gregory Gaultier as he continues his final campaign in Grand Central.

“I was relieved to get over the line there and progress in this great tournament,” said Matthew. “I read before the match that this was the 60th time [including 36 PSA World Tour meetings] that James and I have played and that’s an absolutely incredible statistic. No matter whether it’s the first time or 60th time, James is an incredible player and hopefully there will be one or two more chapters left yet.”

For tickets visit www.tocsquash.com. Watch all glass court matches live on SquashTV.

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