The hottest place in Virginia, USA, on Sunday was the glass squash court in the Westwood Club in Richmond during the qualifying finals for the Davenport North American Open, the second PSA World Series event of the year.

As a heavy snowstorm enveloped the region, temperatures rose on court on court in a succession of brutally-contested marathon matches as players battled for places in the first round of the $115,000 event in its fourth year in Richmond.

Australian Matthew Karwalski and Englishman Olivier Pett caused the biggest upsets by dismissing the two top-ranked players in the draw.

Karwalski overcame New Zealand's Martin Knight, ranked 18 places higher, 12-10, 11-7, 11-4 in the only straight games win of the day. The world No58 from New South Wales earned a first round berth against Ramy Ashour, the Egyptian superstar who is making a return to action in Richmond after a recent hamstring injury.

However, Ashour's arrival was delayed as his flight from New York was cancelled during the blizzards that wreaked havoc along America's east coast.

Karwalski thanked Australian squash legend David Palmer for his support after his win over Knight.

The Wagga Wagga-born 26-year-old has spent a lot of time training with former world champion Palmer in Orlando, Florida. He was on the phone to his mentor straight after his victory and said: "I am very grateful to David for his advice, support and guidance. He has given me tremendous help to prepare for this tournament, working on fitness, tactics and mental preparation.

"In the past I may have lost concentration when something has gone against me and lost a string of points in quick succession, but David has helped me to become mentally stronger.

"This is my first appearance in a major World Series event since the Australian Open and I decided to play this rather than a smaller tournament in Brisbane. If I am serious about squash then this is where I have to be."

Pett became the lone English winner after upsetting Egypt's world No41 Omar Abdel Aziz 11-6, 12-10, 7-11, 7-11, 11-9 in the last match of an extended day's action.

Their game was scheduled to start at 5pm but was delayed by four hours because of the duration of so many earlier matches. With such a late finish, the 23-year-old world No66 from Sussex's scheduled 12 noon start against former world No1 Gregory Gaultier was quickly switched to 4pm by organisers to allow the young Englishman time to recover.

The longest match of the day, between Canadian Shawn Delierre and Frenchman Gregoire Marche, lasted 101 minutes and contained 52 refereeing decisions as both players became entangled in the middle of the court.

Delierre finally squeezed home 11-8 in the fifth game and was rewarded with a tie against big-hitter Cameron Pilley, the Australian who holds the world record for striking a squash ball at 175mph.

Zac Alexander became the second Australian to survive the qualifying competition after fighting back from 2/1 down to beat England's Chris Simpson 7-11, 11-6, 7-11, 11-8, 11-6. His prize is a first round tie against Scottish No1 Alan Clyne.

In the second longest match of the day, Mathieu Castagnet of France beat Mexican Cesar Salazar in a tempestuous battle lasting 98 minutes.

RESULTS: PSA World Series Davenport North American Open, Richmond, Virginia, USA

Qualifying finals:
Matthew Karwalski (AUS) bt Martin Knight (NZL) 12-10, 11-7, 11-4 (36m)
Shawn Delierre (CAN) bt Gregoire Marche (FRA) 11-5, 9-11, 11-4, 5-11, 11-8 (101m)
Siddharth Suchde (IND) bt Kamran Khan (MAS) 7-11, 11-4, 11-2, 11-2 (54m)
Zac Alexander (AUS) bt Chris Simpson (ENG) 7-11, 11-6, 7-11, 11-8, 11-6 (59m)
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-11, 10-12, 11-7, 11-6, 11-6 (65m)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Cesar Salazar (MEX) 11-9, 10-12, 7-11, 14-12, 11-8 (98m)
Campbell Grayson (NZL) bt Jan Koukal (CZE) 10-12, 11-3, 11-9, 11-3 (55m)
Olivier Pett (ENG) bt Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY) 11-6, 12-10, 7-11, 7-11, 11-9 (64m)

Updated 1st round draw:
[1] James Willstrop (ENG) v Nicolas Mueller (SUI)
Thierry Lincou (FRA) v Patrick Chifunda (ZAM)
Hisham Mohamed Ashour (EGY) v Adrian Grant (ENG)
[6] Amr Shabana (EGY) v [Q] Siddharth Suchde (IND)
[8] Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) v [Q] Campbell Grayson (NZL)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) v [Q] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
Saurav Ghosal (IND) v Shahier Razik (CAN)
[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [Q] Olivier Pett (ENG)
[4] Ramy Ashour (EGY) v [Q] Matthew Karwalski (AUS)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v [Q] Shawn Delierre (CAN)
Alan Clyne (SCO) v [Q] Zac Alexander (AUS)
[5] Karim Darwish (EGY) v [Q] Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
[7] Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) v Alister Walker (BOT)
Simon Rosner (GER) v Chris Ryder (ENG)
Olli Tuominen (FIN) v Julian Illingworth (USA)
[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) v Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)

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