Australian David Palmer, the tenth seed, overcame a slow start to beat India’s Saurav Ghosal in four games in today’s (Tuesday) first round of the $142,500 Viridian Australian Open, the fourth PSA Super Series squash event of the year, in Canberra.
Ghosal, the unseeded world No26 celebrating his 24th birthday, came out of the blocks firing to open a 9-2 lead in the first game and although Palmer recovered he couldn’t save the first game, the Indian number one taking it 12-10.
But Palmer, the 34-year-old world No10 leading home hopes in the biggest squash tournament in the country for almost 20 years, soon hit his stride as he came back to win the next three games and the match 10-12, 11-6, 11-5, 11-9.
The win takes former world number one Palmer into a second round clash with arch-rival James Willstrop of England.
“I felt okay physically throughout the match but I struggled to get any rhythm,” Palmer said. “A slow start wasn’t ideal and he got away and got on a bit of a roll and he was tough to pull back.
“Eventually my game started to take a little bit of effect on him midway through the second, but it still wasn’t easy.
“I thought at stages he was tired and would drop off a bit but he kept pushing and surprised me a little bit.”
World number six Willstrop had earlier defeated Australian qualifier Matthew Karwalski 11-9, 11-6, 11-3 and said he was looking forward to playing Palmer once again.
“Any round of 16 match will be tough, but David and I have had some great matches in big tournaments over the years,” said the 26-year-old Yorkshireman.
The third seed from Cairo took a two-game lead, then withstood a comeback from Cuskelly before winning 11-8, 11-7, 12-14, 11-8.
“It was a good game – he’s a young player coming up and he gave me a run for my money for sure,” a relieved Shabana said.
Cuskelly said he was getting closer to the top 10 players and a breakthrough win was not far away.
“He’s just so experienced – one of the first two games I thought I could have got,” Cuskelly said.
“In the first I just made a couple of errors. If I had got that game it could have been a little bit different but I thought I played pretty good.
“It’s just so hard because he hits the ball so accurately and makes you do a lot of work.”
The New York-based 23-year-old said he fought as hard as he could to win the third game but then suffered some cramps in the fourth and couldn’t match Shabana.
“But overall I’m pretty happy.”
Ong took the opening two games against a sluggish Walker, who then found his touch and struck back to level the match.
The decider was a see-sawing battle in which first one player, then the other had the advantage.
Walker had match ball at 10-9 but Ong saved before taking the game 13-11 to wrap up the win after 94 minutes.
“It was his first match of the season, whereas I had the Malaysian Open two weeks ago so I think he had a very bad start,” the Malaysian said. “I played very well but it was a slow start for him.
“As soon as he got going he put me under a lot of pressure in the third and fourth and in the fifth at the end, I was very lucky he made two mistakes at 11-all.
“There was nothing in it, I just think today was my day.”
1st round (top half of draw):
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Joey Barrington (ENG) 11-4, 11-4, 11-2 (41m)
 Wael El Hindi (EGY) bt Simon Rosner (GER) 11-5, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7 (53m)
 Peter Barker (ENG) bt [Q] Kashif Shuja (NZL) 11-4, 11-5, 11-3 (27m)
 Adrian Grant (ENG) bt [Q] Max Lee (HKG) 13-11, 11-5, 11-2 (39m)
 Amr Shabana (EGY) bt Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 11-8, 11-7, 12-14, 11-8 (60m)
Ong Beng Hee (MAS) bt  Alister Walker (ENG) 11-7, 14-12, 6-11, 6-11, 13-11 (94m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt [Q] Matthew Karwalski (AUS) 11-9, 11-6, 11-3 (21m)
 David Palmer (AUS) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 10-12, 11-6, 11-5, 11-9 (59m)
Remaining 1st round draw:
 Daryl Selby (ENG) v Tom Richards (ENG)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [Q] Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS)
 Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) v [Q] Zac Alexander (AUS)
 Karim Darwish (EGY) v [Q] Campbell Grayson (NZL)
 Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) v [Q] Julian Illingworth (USA)
 Thierry Lincou (FRA) v Stewart Boswell (AUS)
 Cameron Pilley (AUS) v [Q] Scott Arnold (AUS)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY)