The final four qualifying matches of the Kiva Club Open were played Wednesday (Sept. 16) in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In the first match, Sam Gould upset Heraclio Salaiz Estrada in three games, 11-8, 11-7, 11-3.
The 26-year-old Gould is ranked No. 310 in the world. He controlled the match with accurate rails, especially on the backhand side. He dominated the third game, winning the last four points and running off a string of five in a row before that.
Gould lives in Cambridge, MA, and was the No. 6 seed in the qualifying draw.
Salaiz Estrada, 29, is based in Phoenix, AZ, but plays for Mexico (he was born in Chihuahua, Mexico). He is currently ranked 257 in the world, and was the No. 1 seed in the qualifying draw.
In the second match, Ahmad Alzabidi, a big left-hander who lives in Washington, DC, and plays for Jordan, took apart Drewe Williams, the Kiva Club pro and hometown favorite, in three straight games, 11-1, 11-6, 11-6. Alzabidi is 6-feet, 2-inches tall and weighs 203 pounds, but he danced around the court like a bantam-weight boxer.
Alzabidi mixed brutal fast-paced drives with delicate drops to control play, making the 37-year-old Williams work to stay in every point.
Alzabidi, 26, is currently ranked 304 in the world. His highest ranking was 149 in December 2011. He was the No. 3 seed in the qualifying draw.
In the third match, Dylan Cunningham, a lanky 21-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio, ran 53-year-old Tom Abrams all over the court, winning in three easy games, 11-5, 11-3, 11-3.
Cunningham, who is ranked 326 in the world and was the No. 4 seed in the qualifying draw, dominated the T, using his 6-foot, 4-inch frame to cut off shots and pressure Abrams.
As he left the court after the first game, Abrams, who is a Santa Fe realtor, said, "I'm breathing, sort of." (Such are the effects of Santa Fe's thin air -- the city is 7,000 feet above sea level -- especially when you are a 53-year-old playing a 21-year-old.)
The afternoon's final game was the most competitive and intense.
Juan Gomez Dominguez, a 19-year-old from Vera Cruz, Mexico, defeated 28-year-old Italo Bonatti from Guatemala City, Guatemala, 11-6, 11-5, 11-7. Both players worked the referee, complaining about lets, and Gomez Dominguez complained that Bonatti was slowing down play between serves.
Gomez Dominguez is the current world No. 361 and was the No. 5 seed in the qualifying draw. Bonatti is ranked 267 and was the No. 2 seed in the qualifying draw.
The tournament continues Thursday with the opening round of the main draw. The final will be played Sunday.
The Kiva Club Open is a first-time tournament, and has $5,000 in prize money. The tournament is being played at a private squash club in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The club has about 120 members. Santa Fe’s elevation is 7,000 feet, so players are using a high-altitude ball.
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