Four-game victories after marathon semi-final battles in the Squash Revolution Toronto Cup in Canada took top seeds Shahier Razik and Ryan Cuskelly into the predicted final of the inaugural PSA World Tour Challenger 15 event in Toronto.
Canadian favourite Razik (pictured), the driving force behind this new PSA Tour event, defeated Malaysia's No3 seed Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan 12-10, 5-11, 11-8, 11-9 in 84 minutes.
"Uncharacteristically, Shahier got off to a great start, jumping to an early 4-1 lead in the opening game," said Andrew Thompson, Head Squash Pro at the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club. "Adnan wouldn't let it go easily though and battled back to take a 7-6 lead. Razik dug in - as he is known to do - keeping the ball tight and wide and was able to take the 23 minute first game in extra points 12-10.
"Adnan seemed to up the tempo in the second with some key holds from the front court that caught Razik flat footed on numerous occasions. He held steady and took it in half the time of the first game, 11-5.
"The third game was critical for both players, they traded points all the way up to seven-all. Adnan seemed to get sucked into Razik's slower pace game and was no longer forcing the tempo higher which would have worked in his favour. A stroke and a deft forehand volley drop put Razik ahead 10-8. A long rally saw both players covering all four quarters and an attempt short by Adnan found the tin, game to Razik 11-8.
"The fourth was even closer, point for point all the way up 6-6. Adnan knew his back was against the wall and surged ahead with three quick points to reach 9-6. It looked like a fifth game was in the cards. Razik dug deep, made some amazing gets, and fought back to take the game 11-9."
The win takes the Razik through to the 38th PSA Tour final of his career - and his 14th on home soil, where he has been successful with nine titles!
Cuskelly reached the final more quickly - but his 11-6, 10-12, 11-7, 11-4 victory over New Zealander Campbell Grayson was only one minute shorter than the other semi.
"Grayson was coming off two tough matches in the opening rounds, while Cuskelly had made the last four playing the minimum six games," said spokesman Mike McCue. "It didn't seem to factor heavily in the opening rallies, but there were hints that Campbell wasn't in optimal condition. Cuskelly hit with more severity and purpose to take a 20+ minute first game.
"Grayson finally hit his stride midway through the second as the ball slowed down slightly, allowing him to attack short more often. He eventually reached game ball at 11-10 and left the Aussie diving in vain at a forehand drive, equalizing the affair after nearly 50 minutes of play.
"In the third Cuskelly was able to maintain the pace of the first two games while Grayson began to show the effects of Monday and Tuesday's exertions. Ryan was still getting on the ball very quickly, holding, then punching the ball deep to put even more miles in Campbell's legs. Errors and loose balls became more frequent, and from seven-all in the third Cuskelly was able to comfortably navigate the final four points, and the entire fourth game.
"It was never easy, but he finished with increasing authority."
Left-hander Cuskelly is celebrating his 12th Tour final - but his first for a year, when he lifted the Jericho Open, in Canada!