The main draw of the Delaware Investments U.S. Open got under way with the top half of the PSA and WSA draws at Drexel University.
Top seeds and defending champions Nicol David and Gregory Gaultier passed their first tests with some ease, but there were notable upsets for Adrian Waller, Alan Clyne, Leo Au and Nouran Gohar.
Clyne Opens Main Draw With Upset Over Grant
Scotland’s world No. 38, Alan Clyne (right), pulled off the first upset of the opening round in the first match on Drexel’s Kline & Specter courts. The twenty-eight-year-old from Edinburgh made a flying start winning the first game 11-2, which England’s Adrian Grant seemed to concede late in hopes of responding in the second.
Grant, world No. 23, did just that in the second game reaching 11-11, at which time Clyne stepped up and closed out the game 13-11. The Scotsman then recovered from 7-6 down in the third to win five consecutive points to win the match in three games and punch his ticket into the U.S. Open’s second round for just the second time in his career.
“I didn’t really expect it to be three straight games,” said Clyne afterwards. “I knew it would be a tough match, and I knew if I played well I would have a good chance to win, but to get through in three is definitely unexpected. It’ll be good, I’ll have a day off and will try to get on the glass court. It’s very different on there than this court. I managed to get into the last sixteen last year where I lost to Mohamed Elshorbagy, so I’m hoping to better that performance, and get stuck in.”
Welily and Waters safely through
The opening pair of women’s matches on the ASB Glass court saw Raneem El Welily and Alison Waters, seeded three and five, progress in contrasting fashions.
Welily was made to battle for four games against Canadian qualifier Sam Cornett. The first two games were shared, and at 10-6 in the third Cornett looked to be on the verge of a big upset. Welily fought back to take the next six points, and always had a slight edge in the fourth.
“I just tried to stay positive at the end of the third, and it worked!” said a relieved Welily. “Now I need to make sure I carry that positive energy into the next matches.”
Waters found herself 5-0 down in the first to another qualifier, Salma Hany Ibrahim, the young Egyptian who beat Waters last month in China. The Englishwoman found her range in time to save that game, and was always in control from then on.
“After China I knew it would be tough, and I wasn’t taking it lightly,” said Waters. “I like stepping up the court and volleying and that was working well today, so I’m delighted to come off with a three-nil. She’s going to be a real handful over the next few years.”
Contrasting wins in the first pair of men’s matches on the glass court too, as Adrian Waller (left) pulled off the biggest win of his career and Mohamed Elshorbagy started his quest for the title and the world number one spot in solid fashion.
Waller was taking on fifth seeded Spaniard Borja Golan, and there was little to choose between them as they traded the first four games, neither player able to get on top for any sustained spell.
The Englishman made the better start in the decider, leading 7-3 helped by a couple of stroke decisions that Golan reacted to in horror. The Spaniard fought back to level at 8-all, then 9-all after a few lets.
Waller reached match ball and the referees’ last involvement was to convert a let into a stroke after Waller’s appeal for a video replay. An anti-climactic ending, but a fine win for the young Englishman.
“On rankings that’s definitely my biggest ever win,” said Waller. “To beat a top ten player is huge for me. He got on top of me at times; I just had to keep calm, stay in the rallies and try to get the ball to the back.”
Shorbagy, this month elevated to world number two and with a chance of claiming the top spot if he goes all the way here, overpowered Scottish qualifier Greg Lobban in the first game 11-2. Lobban contested the next two much better, but was always playing catchup as Shorbagy finished it off 11-7, 11-7.
“I’m going to do my best to win here, like we all are,” said Shorbagy, “it’s hard not to think about the world number one thing, but you just have to put it out of your mind.
“I’ll have to prepare well for the next match. I’ve lost to Pilley a few times—he knows how to beat me, for sure.”
Title Defense Off to Dominant Start For David
Top seed and defending champion Nicol David, fresh from her trip to visit the Liberty Bell yesterday, took on her friend and training partner Samantha Teran, and although the Mexican made it as tough as she could, David always looked to have something to spare as she went through 11-6, 11-5, 11-4.
“It’s so nice to be back in Philly,” she said. “There’s a great buzz as you come into the city, and it’s a privilege and an honor to be competing in such a great tournament for equal prize money again, thanks so much to US Squash for that.”
Aussie Battle Won by Cameron Pilley
Australians Cameron Pilley (left) and Ryan Cuskelly battled it out for over an hour in the first two games alone in their round of 32 match. A physical encounter saw both combatants call numerous lets as they maneuvered around their large frames, including some argumentative responses to the officials. Pilley edged out 11-9 advantages in each of the first two games, setting up a brief third game in which Pilley pulled five straight points from 6-4 up to win the match against his compatriot.
“It was pretty physical, but that’s going to happen sometimes,” commented Pilley. “We grew up in the same town in Australia together. We know each other really well—we know our games really well so we had an idea of where we were going to hit it and sometimes you can get a bit of contact, which happens. The refs weren’t too bad tonight…”
Pilley now faces world No. 2 Mohamed Elshorbagy in the round of sixteen. Pilley won their last matchup in a five-game round of sixteen affair during the 2013 British Open.
“Well I beat him last time so I’ll try to do the same as last time!” said Pilley. “He’s playing really well at the moment. He’s number two in the world, which is unbelievable he’s only twenty-three years old. It’s going to be interesting, I’m actually really looking forward to it. I’ve been hitting the ball well so I can’t wait.”
Elder Stateswoman Tames the Youngster
Grinham’s experience shone through early in the match against Mohamed, who played an arduous five-game qualifier the night before, with the Australian winning seven straight points from 4-3 to win the first game.
Mohamed upped her game in the second going blow for blow until 10-9, but Grinham closed out the game 11-9. Momentum seemed to shift in the third with Mohamed recording nine straight points and the third game 11-3 forcing a fourth. At 7-all in the fourth, Grinham powered through four consecutive points to secure a spot in the last sixteen.
“I just realized reading about her today that she’s the youngest player in the tournament at fifteen and then I’m the oldest at thirty-seven. So I’m like one and a half times her age or something like that! Obviously, it feels good to win against her. It doesn’t normally sound good to win against a fifteen-year-old, but she’s the world junior champ and has taken some really big scalps—so it’s a really good win.
“If she’s on top of the ball and has any time at all she just cranks it and is dangerous when she’s on the ball. Even when she’s stretching she’s really good so I just tried not to give her much hang time on the ball and just hang in there, which worked for me.”
Low Wee Wern Takes Down Chan in Four
Sixth-seeded Low Wee Wern’s (left) U.S. Open campaign is on track with an opening win against Hong Kong’s Joey Chan. The Malaysian world No. 5 advances despite appearing to lose momentum by losing the third game against Chan. The twenty-four-year-old was aided by Chan appearing to pick up a knock in the fourth game.
“I think Joey played really well today,” said Wern. “I was in and out. Mentally, after I lost the third, I was thinking, ‘I really need to hold her back and get into the fourth game because you can’t give Joey anything with her hands.’ So mentally I think it was really hard to get back in the match again after being 2-0 up.
“I love the U.S. Open. It’s a great tournament, and it’s my fourth time here. I’ve played a few tournaments leading up to this so I’m looking forward to one more go before I take a quick break.”
Qualifier Leo Au’s outstanding run in his first U.S. Open continues with an impressive win against French world No. 29 Gregiore Marche. Au showed no signs of fatigue after his 105-minute qualifying final Friday night, frustrating the Frenchman in three games and thirty-nine minutes.
“I guess the legs are a little bit tired, but I think today I played alright. I saved my energy well and it paid off,” said Au.
The final women’s winner on the opening day’s play on the glass court was Nicolette Fernandes from Guyana, who turned in a typically determined performance to get past Aisling Blake in straight games.
On top in the first and third games, Fernandes had to recover from a mid-game deficit in the second, and did so with some fierce hitting and a couple of trademark dives for good measure, winning 11-5, 12-10, 11-5.
“This is the farthest I’ve been in the U.S. Open,” said a delighted winner. “It’s such a huge event and there is a real vibe to the whole thing, it makes you want to do well here.
“The season’s only just begun but there have been lots of tournaments already. I had to miss the Caribbean Games, which my Federation didn’t like, but to get through in an event like this makes it worth it.”
Rösner holds off Castagnet comeback, Gaultier cruises
Two very contrasting men’s matches finished proceedings on the glass court —although to be fair, when Simon Rösner led 8-0 in the first and then was two games and 5-3 up, it looked as though the German was on course for a quick finish.
“I knew it was too good to be true,” admitted Rösner afterwards. It was too, as Mathieu Castagnet fought back, as he does, to take the next two games and force a decider with Rösner getting a little bit rattled.
The Frenchman was all but spent now though, and Rösner quickly established a winning lead before finishing it off 11-5 after 82 minutes.
“Winning 3-0 against Mathieu is almost impossible,” said a relieved winner. “He’s such a fighter. It took a lot of energy to get that lead, and I dropped off a bit but he just kept going. In the fifth I just had to try to revert to what was working in the first two, and I’m just glad to get through in the end.”
The top seed and defending champion had an even better start, taking the first two games 11-1, 11-1 against Mohamed Abouelghar, the young Egyptian struggling to get a foothold in the match and looking dispirited at the end of the second.
He raised his game in the third, making Gaultier work harder, but from 5-all the Frenchman pulled away to complete a comfortable win 11-5.
“All these Egyptians are so talented,” said Gaultier. “He moved me around the court, and I was quite happy with how I played and how I was striking the ball. I prefer early matches like that to get me active for the rest of the tournament.”
Abdel Kawy Advances to Play Countrywoman El Welily
In-form Egyptian Omneya Abdel Kawy continued her recent success against England’s Emily Whitlock, despite dropping a close opening game 14-12. The young Englishwoman didn’t make it easy for Kawy, world No. 14 and recent Carol Weymuller finalist, testing Kawy in each game, although falling short in the end. The twenty-nine-year-old admitted it wasn’t her best performance, however.
“My mind wasn’t here today,” Kawy said. “I was hoping to keep on pushing and winning point by point and got lucky sometimes.”
Kawy now faces fellow countrywoman and three seed Raneem El Welily.
“Unfortunately I’m playing Raneem. We’ll both rest tomorrow, prepare to play the best squash we can and see who will win.”
Seventeen-Year-Old Gohar Stops Veteran Perry
Contrasting Saturday’s earlier result in which veteran Rachael Grinham held off Egyptian World Junior Champion Habiba Mohamed, teen-age Egyptian phenom Nouran Gohar upset veteran Madeline Perry in the final match of the first day of Round of 32 play.
The seventeen-year-old world No. 24 commanded the veteran world No. 14 in three games.
Gohar will test her steel against Alison Waters Monday who won their only encounter in the 2013 China Open.
ASB Glass Court:
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) d [Q] Samantha Cornett (CAN) 11-7, 7-11, 12-10, 11-7 (41m)
 Alison Waters (ENG) d [Q] Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY) 11-9, 11-8, 11-3 (29m)
Adrian Waller (ENG) d  Borja Golan (ESP) 8-11, 12-10, 11-8, 7-11, 11-9 (91m)
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) d [Q] Greg Lobban (SCO) 11-2, 11-7, 11-7 (34m)
Nicolette Fernandes (GUY) d [Q] Aisling Blake (IRL) 11-5, 12-10, 11-5 (34m)
 Nicol David (MAS) d [Q] Samantha Teran (MEX) 11-6, 11-5, 11-4 (32m)
 Simon Rösner (GER) d Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 11-2, 11-8, 6-11, 5-11, 11-5 (82m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) d [Q] Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 11-1, 11-1, 11-5 (30m)
Drexel Kline and Specter Courts:
Alan Clyne (SCO) d Adrian Grant (ENG) 11-2, 13-11, 11-7 (52m)
Rachael Grinham (AUS) d [Q] Habiba Mohamed (EGY) 11-3, 11-9, 3-11, 11-7 (37m)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) d [Q] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 11-9, 11-9, 11-4 (69m)
 Low Wee Wern (MAS) d Joey Chan (HKG) 11-5, 14-12, 7-11, 11-6 (46m)
[Q] Leo Au (HKG) d Gregoire Marche (FRA) 11-7, 11-5, 11-6 (39m)
Mazen Hesham (EGY) d [Q] Lucas Serme (FRA) 6-11, 11-8, 11-5, 7-11, 11-9 (77m)
Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) d Emily Whitlock (ENG) 12-14, 11-6, 11-9, 13-11 (60m)
Nouran Gohar (EGY) d Madeline Perry (IRL) 11-2, 11-6, 11-9 (31m)