May 8, 2008
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Julian Illingworth, the 2005-2006 Yale squash captain, recently achieved the highest-ever world ranking by an American male softball squash player. With his performance in the April 21-27 Kuwait Open, Illingworth moved up two spots in the Professional Squash Association rankings to No. 37, eclipsing his own record of No. 38 established in January of this year.
Illingworth had to win two qualifying matches in Kuwait in order to advance to the main draw of 32 players. In Round One, he beat Mohd AA Reda of Egypt, 3-2 (9-11, 15-13, 11-5, 4-11, 11-9) and in Round Two, he easily defeated India's Ritwik Bhattacharya, 3-0 (11-7, 11-4, 11-9).
Despite a 3-0 (11-7, 11-8, 11-3) loss to the No. 12-ranked Peter Barker of England in the first round, Illingworth was pleased with his performance.
"I did as well as I was hoping to do," he said. "Making the main draw was an accomplishment - anything beyond that would have been outstanding."
A pro for just over two years now, he faced his stiffest competition in March of this year, squaring off against then-world No. 2 Ramy Ashour in the 2008 Davenport Championships. Despite falling in three games, Illingworth managed to take the second and third games to tiebreakers, and was excited with his performance against the world's then-second-ranked player.
"That was really exciting, one of the most fun matches I've ever played in squash," he said. "The pace was so high, and it was just such an intense atmosphere. That was probably the best match I've ever played - I had game balls in the second and third games. That was against the best of the best, you know?"
Illingworth, who is based in New York, also served as an assistant coach for the 2007-2008 Yale men's squash team. He came up to New Haven one or two times a month, depending on the team's schedule, and practiced with them.
"It's important for them to be exposed to someone at a higher level than someone they'd normally see," he said.
Illingworth's meteoric rise up the professional squash rankings has caused some to draw comparisons between him and Mark Talbott, the World No. 1 hardball squash player for 13 years. Illingworth actually hit with Talbott, the current Stanford women's coach, when he was still the Yale women's coach during Illingworth's freshman and sophomore years.
"He was still a good player," Illingworth said. "He'd come out of his office with no warm-up whatsoever, after I had been out there for 20 minutes, and we'd still play good matches."
Illingworth said that he hopes to crack the top 25 by the end of next season. He plays next in the Osso/Bone and Joint Open in Oklahoma starting May 22nd as the No. 1 seed. He'll be looking to win for the first time since he defended his S.L. Green U.S. National title at the Brady Squash Center in March 2006 in his first tournament as a pro.
Report filed by David Sherfinski '08, Yale Sports Publcity