IN-FORM squash player Ryan Cuskelly continued his tremendous run at the National Capital Open in the United States when he defeated third-seeded New Zealander Martin Knight to reach the final.
With players having to take the court twice in one day after the tournament was disrupted by Washington DC’s severe snowstorm, Cuskelly outlasted Knight in a tough hour-long battle that was closer than the score suggests.
After stunning top-seeded Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez in the quarter-finals, the 22-year-old showed a level of skill and maturity that belies his world ranking of No 51 to down the classy Knight.
The Kiwi looked sharp early and used his trademark defensive game to frustrate the Australian.
But Cuskelly, of Evans Head, stayed patient and accumulated points when the opportunities presented themselves.
It was his fourth win from four encounters with the tenacious New Zealander but they had not played since 2007 and since then Knight has stormed up the world rankings to No 39, 11 places above Cuskelly.
The quarter-final was possibly the best win of Cuskelly’s career – he downed the world No 26 Rodriguez 12-10 12-10 12-10 in 78 minutes.
He faces another big hurdle in the final when he takes on second-seeded Canadian Shahier Razik, who was too good for Knight’s countryman Campbell Grayson in the other semi-final 11-3 11-13 11-5 11-3.
It is Cuskelly’s second Professional Squash Association final of the year, following his runner-up finish at the Pyramid International in New York in early January.
If he wins, it will be his seventh PSA title and his first since he won the China Open in Shanghai last October, one of four titles he claimed in 2009.
Cuskelly has never previously played the 31st ranked Razik, a winner of 19 PSA titles.
Quarter-finals (prefix denotes seeding):
6-Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) d 1-Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 12-10 12-10 12-10
3-Martin Knight (NZL) d David Phillips (CAN) 11-7 11-3 11-7
4-Campbell Grayson (NZL) d 8-Bernardo Samper (COL) 9-11 5-11 11-7 11-7 11-7
2-Shahier Razik (CAN) d 7-Yasir Butt (PAK) 11-5 11-8 11-13 12-10
6-Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) d 3-Martin Knight (NZL) 11-4 11-7 11-4
2-Shahier Razik (CAN) d 4-Campbell Grayson (NZL) 11-3 11-13 11-5 11-3