Australian Zac Alexander stormed into the main draw of the CSR Viridian Australian Open in Canberra today after an impressive win over New Zealander Chris Lloyd in the qualifying finals of the third PSA World Series squash event of the year.
The 22-year-old Queenslander completed his second straight games win in a row with an 11-5, 11-4, 11-6 win over Auckland-based Lloyd.
It is the second year in a row that Alexander has qualified for the Open: In 2010 he bowed out after giving classy EgyptianMohamed El Shorbagy an almighty fright.
This year he plays another Egyptian, world number three Karim Darwish, in what is sure to be a test of Alexander’s progression over the past 12 months.
“To qualify is always good – but to get through both matches three-love is obviously really good,” he said. “It’s important to be as fresh as you can be for the first round.”
Alexander, who won the Queensland Open in late July, said he was feeling better prepared than this time last year.
“I feel like I’ve done a good six weeks of work, I’m feeling pretty fit and obviously I took some confidence away from two weeks ago at the Queensland Open, so I’m feeling as good as I can be,” he said.
He is joined in the main draw by fellow Aussie Matthew Karwalski, a 25-year-old from New South Wales who beat fellow countryman Wade Johnstone 11-6, 11-7, 11-4.
Karwalski will play fellow qualifier Max Lee from Hong Kong in the first round after Lee beat former Australian Open finalistKashif Shuja, from New Zealand, 8-11, 8-11, 16-14, 11-5, 11-4.
Malaysia’s Ivan Yuen caused the biggest shock when he upset higher-ranked New Zealander Campbell Grayson in four tight games.
Yuen, the only player outside the world top 100 to qualify, always had his nose in front against an increasingly agitated Grayson, winning 12-10, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8 to reach the Australian Open main draw on his first attempt.
“It’s a very good win for me,” said Yuen, ranked 121 in the world to Grayson’s 59. “It means very good rankings points for me, which I need.
“This is my first time playing the Australian Open, so I am happy I’ve made the main draw,” added the 20-year-old, who will now play second-seed Egyptian Ramy Ashour.
“I am playing well this tournament. The last few tournaments I wasn’t playing well but yesterday and today I was much better.”
Yuen’s win made it two Malaysian qualifying wins, following Muhd Asyraf Azan‘s tough 11-7, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7 win over Austria’s Aqeel Rehman.
Top qualifying seed Alan Clyne had to survive a first game onslaught from rapidly-improving Australian Rex Hedrickbefore winning 11-13, 11-9, 11-5, 11-5.
Both players are renowned for their fitness and never say die attitude and this was in evidence in an enthralling encounter.
However, the Scotsman was able to lift his game when it counted to see off Hedrick and book his place in the first round.
“I lost to Campbell Grayson last year 3/2 so I was determined to get into the main draw this time,” said the 25-year-old from Edinburgh.
“On paper it looked a bit easier because my ranking’s gone up and I was seeded to get in this time but it was still a really tough match. Rex played really well, he came out really strong and it was high paced – I was glad to get through it.
“He didn’t let anything go, he was picking up everything, and it was really bouncy. Canberra’s supposed to be cold but on court it didn’t feel cold.
“The second I was a fair bit clear but then he came back. The first it was nip and tuck, I thought it was going to be an important one and if I got that one I thought I would be clear.
“After just missing that one the match was going to go either way and I was up against it but I just managed to keep the pace up and got it in the end.”
Dick Lau ended the challenge of Englishman Alex Phillips with a comfortable 11-3, 11-9, 11-4 win. Lau said the win came as a welcome relief after some poor recent form.
“I travelled to Egypt a few weeks ago and played really badly so my confidence wasn’t really high,” said the 25-year-old from Hong Kong. “I think yesterday’s match and today’s match have given me a little more confidence going into the first round tomorrow.
“Max Lee has trained with him and played him in England and he told me he was a quick player and had quick hands, so I made sure I went for longer rallies, make sure he moved front and back.
“I like the weather here, not too hot so I don’t sweat that much, and the court is pretty dead – I like that.”
Martin Knight ensured it was not all doom and gloom for the Kiwis as he beat in form German Raphael Kandra 13-11, 11-8, 11-6.
Alan Clyne (SCO) bt Rex Hedrick (AUS) 11-13, 11-9, 11-5, 11-5
Dick Lau (HKG) bt Alex Phillips (ENG) 11-3, 11-9, 11-4
Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS) bt Aqeel Rehman (AUT) 11-7, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7
Max Lee (HKG) bt Kashif Shuja (NZL) 8-11, 8-11, 16-14, 11-5, 11-4
Ivan Yuen (MAS) bt Campbell Grayson (NZL) 12-10, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8
Zac Alexander (AUS) bt Chris Lloyd (NZL) 11-5, 11-4, 11-6
Matthew Karwalski (AUS) bt Wade Johnstone (AUS) 11-6, 11-7, 11-4
Martin Knight (NZL) bt Raphael Kandra (GER) 13-11, 11-8, 11-6
Updated 1st round draw:
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Stephen Coppinger (RSA)
Ong Beng Hee (MAS) v [Q] Martin Knight (NZL)
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v Julian Illingworth (USA)
 Thierry Lincou (FRA) v Laurens Jan Anjema (NED)
 Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) v David Palmer (AUS)
Tom Richards (ENG) v Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
[Q] Max Lee (HKG) v [Q] Matthew Karwalski (AUS)
 Karim Darwish (EGY) v [Q] Zac Alexander (AUS)
 James Willstrop (ENG) v Chris Ryder (ENG)
[Q] Alan Clyne (SCO) v [Q] Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS)
Adrian Grant (ENG) v Simon Rosner (GER)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Cameron Pilley (AUS)
 Peter Barker (ENG) v Aaron Frankcomb (AUS)
Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) v [Q] Dick Lau (HKG)
Stewart Boswell (AUS) v Saurav Ghosal (IND)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v [Q] Ivan Yuen (MAS)