The first day of 2018 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions match play in Grand Central Terminal saw world No. 1 Gregory Gaultier dispatch American Todd Harrity, while Team USA’s Sabrina Sobhy and Haley Mendez both recorded first-round qualifying victories at local clubs in New York City.
Harrity, world No. 50, acquitted himself well against the top seed in what was his sixth consecutive appearance as the tournament’s male wild card. After an entertaining first game, the Frenchman maintained his advantage to record a first-round victory 11-7, 11-6, 11-8 in thirty-eight minutes.
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“I played pretty well both times,” said Harrity on his two matches against Gaultier in the past two months. “I’ve been improving and getting closer to the level of these guys at the top of the game. It’s a fast pace and everything, but I’m getting used to it more so it’s not as daunting anymore and I can start to hang in and use my skills at this pace.”
Gaultier admitted the Princeton graduate improved on his performance from their recent match up at the PSA World Championship last month in Manchester.
“I thought Todd was playing much better than the last time we played in Manchester,” Gaultier said. “We played at a faster pace so I had to adapt and push myself. He was really accurate and got some good shots in the front corners so I really had to move my legs pretty quick to get those shots back. It was nice to have this kind of match, increasing my game for the next round and building my confidence.”
Earlier in the day on the glass court, world No. 6 Nick Matthew opened his final Tournament of Champions with an assured three-game victory over Gregoire Marche. Matthew will face long-time English rival James Willstrop in the second round, after Willstrop closed out the evening with his own three-game victory over Cameron Pilley.
“You try and take it like any other match but there’s something extra special about playing at this station, never mind with it being the last time,” Matthew said. “The first match of any tournament is the trickiest, especially here because no matter how many times you play the noise and the ambience takes some getting used to. I’ve started this tournament a little slowly [in the past], even when I’ve won it I’ve dropped games, so I was really determined to start well and he’s a tricky first round opponent. I was really delighted with how I played.”
While the men’s first half of the men’s first round played out on the glass court, the first round of women’s qualifying got underway at local New York City clubs.
Harvard junior and 2014 U.S. champion Sabrina Sobhy recorded on of the biggest PSA upsets of her career against Frances world No. 30 Coline Aumard. The younger Sobhy sister defeated Aumard 10-12, 11-7, 12-10, 11-7 in forty-one minutes to advance to Friday’s qualifying finals, where she will face Egypt’s world junior champion Rowan Elaraby.
Harvard graduate and world No. 50 Haley Mendez made it two American women in the qualifying finals courtesy of an upset against Holland’s Milou Van Der Heijden, whom she defeated 8-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-6 in forty-one minutes. Mendez will face former world No. 1 Rachel Grinham for a spot in the main draw.