Qualifying finals day at six clubs across Philadelphia, and sixteen players earned a place in the main draws which start on Saturday at Drexel University.
All the US men’s contenders bowed out in yesterday’s first round, and all four US women fell at the final hurdle today, Olivia Blatchford coming the closest as she took world junior champion Habiba Mohamed to five games.TODAY’S RESULTS
Canada’s Samantha Cornett, for the second consecutive week, recovered from the brink of elimination by overcoming a sizable deficit only to win her match in five games. This time around her victim was Deon Saffery of Wales who had Cornett on the ropes with a string of crosscourt volley nicks. But Cornett never panics and appears to play her best when facing elimination.
“Without even knowing, I think I like going in from behind,” said Cornett. “I think there’s some kind of trigger at nine or ten that just says, ‘Stick…In’ and don’t give up.”
South African Le Roux Escapes in Five
Shaun Le Roux (left) continued his controlling play at the center of the court tonight and secured the first two games over Mexican Alfredo Avila. But there was a false sense of security as Avila’s refusal to capitulate and his blinding speed helped him run away with the middle two games, 11-3, 11-5. Late in the fourth, Avila caught Le Roux just above his eye with a racquet; no blood, but there was a short break. After that, Le Roux regrouped, went back to basics and simply let Avila run—but only to pick balls up and run out of gas. Le Roux secured his spot in the main draw with an 11-4 fifth game.
Scotland’s Greg Lobban Upsets Grayson
Sometimes the prohibitive favorite falls, and tonight was one of those nights. New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson, the No. 5 seed in the qualifying draw, was expected to roll over Greg Lobban, seeded No. 16. Lobban had other ideas, as worked his way around and through Grayson to secure his spot in the main draw with a convincing 3-0 win.
Egyptian WSA Double at Drexel
There was double Egyptian success in the women’s qualifying finals at Drexel as Salma Hany Ibrahim and Habiba Mohamed both made the U.S. Open main draws on their first attempt.
Hany, fresh from a series of good results in China and New York, took on Dutch champion Milou Van Der Heijden, and once the Egyptian had recovered from a 3-6 deficit in the first she never trailed again as she won 11-8, 11-7, 11-5 in just under half an hour.
“Milou made me work hard to win every rally, it wasn’t an easy three-nil,” said Salma.
“I’ve been playing well and really enjoying it over the past few weeks after a good Summer’s training, and each win makes me more hungry for the next.
“I’m so excited to be in the main draw in my first U.S. Open,” she concluded.
Mohamed, the world junior champion, took over an hour to see off the challenge of USA’s Olivia Blatchford in a match that was, for the most past, a real scrap.
With the Egyptian making numerous unforced errors, Blatchford took a quick 6-1 lead in the first and held on to take the it 12-10 after saving a game ball. Mohamed stormed back in the second, converting a 9-1 lead into an 11-6 win to level.
The third and fourth were intense, neither able to establish any sort of control or significant lead as the rallies became tougher and tougher. Mohamed took the lead 11-9 in the third with the last five rallies all ending on errors from one or the other; Blatchford levelled as she spurned a great chance at 10-9, saved two match balls at 10-11 and 11-12, and roared “C’MON” as she powered away a crosscourt for 14-12.
The decider was less dramatic. Blatchford was getting more and more rattled with her opponent and the referee, and from 4-all Mohamed pulled clear, finishing it off 11-7 with a delicate counter-drop.
“Olivia is a great player, but I didn’t do my job,” said Habiba. “I made a lot of unforced errors, and I wasn’t hitting the ball tight enough. I’m very happy to qualify for a great tournament like this, but I’ll have to play better next time.”
Contrasting wins from Au and Reda
Both men’s matches were close affairs, but it took top seed Leo Au over twice as long to win his match against Shahier Razik than it did Ali Anwar Reda to see off Muhd Asyraf Azan.
There was no indication of the marathon to come in the early stages as Au took a quick 8-3 lead in the opening game, which he won 11-6, and Razik sped to 9-3 in the second. The Hong Kong youngster fought back, saving two game balls before Razik finally took it 12-10, but from 5-all in the third it was Au who scored some quick points to regain the lead 11-5.
The referee was playing a part too, punishing Au with strokes time after time after playing short balls to the front left and not clearing. This didn’t help Au’s mood much, but he still managed to earn a match ball at 10-9 in the fourth, though he had to settle for a fifth as Razik took it 13-11.
Razik started the decider better, leading 3-1, but Au fought back to lead 5-3 and then 10-6. Razik was far from finished, however, getting the better of more long rallies and moving to 10-9 on yet another stroke against Au. Razik thought he’d won the next point too but the referee ruled that his low retrieval had clipped the tin, and after 105 minutes Au was through.
“I knew it would be tough, he plays such smart squash,” said the winner. “I have to stay in the rallies and cut out the errors. It’s the only way I can win. I was giving away so many strokes though, I didn’t think I was doing much wrong, but I’ll have to see if I need to change anything.”
Reda’s task was the complete opposite, as he tried to maintain his focus against an opponent who enjoyed playing to the crowd, to the referee, went for winners seemingly out of the blue, but through it all played some excellent squash and pushed the Egyptian very close indeed.
Big early leads were enough to finish the first three games as Reda took a 2-1 lead, and a fifth looked on the cards as Azan led 9-4 and 10-8 in the fourth. In the end, the Egyptian’s steadiness got the better of the Malaysian’s flashiness, and after saving four game balls Reda finally claimed the last spot in the main draw 14-12.
“My squash was better today, but it’s so hard to concentrate against him,” said Reda, “there’s no game plan and you just have to see how it goes and react. I’m glad to be through though, and I hope I get a day off as I’m working coaching tomorrow!”
Waters Douses Cardwell’s Birthday Candles
Sarah Cardwell woke up this morning thinking she would be spending her twenty-third birthday shopping. Instead, the Australian world No. 55 received a call up into today’s Women’s U.S. Open qualifying due to the withdrawal of Amanda Sobhy this morning.
Cardwell’s match against South African world No. 36 Siyoli Waters began just as well as her day at Merion Cricket Club, as the Melbourne-native sped to an 11-7 first-game victory.
Waters responded, however, and in the end spoiled Cardwell’s party winning the next three games and the forty-one-minute encounter 7-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-6.
“This scoring system can be difficult when you get ahead,” Waters said afterwards. “I think Sarah did very well in the beginning, much better than me, and I was playing catch up. I did what I needed to do better, which was just keep things simple.”
The thirty-one-year-old from Cape Town marked her first U.S. Open main draw appearance with the victory.
“The tough thing about qualifying is that you’re going to have to play one of the top girls in the top sixteen! So I know Nicol David is waiting for a qualifier, and so is number two Laura Massaro. That’s a tough one for us qualifiers to get through because there’s no time to rest; you just got to go in there. But then again, we have nothing to lose compared to those above us. It’s really just about giving it all and not being scared really.”
Such mentality will serve Waters well as she drew Massaro in the first round Sunday.
After eliminating local hero Todd Harrity Thursday, Frenchman Lucas Serme returned to Merion Cricket Club with Mexican world No. 40 Cesar Salazar opposing him, whose first qualifying match lasted nearly forty minutes shorter than Serme’s Thursday.
The difference in fatigue seemed clear after three games with Salazar confidently winning the second and third games 11-3, 11-4, creating a 2-1 advantage. Serme summoned the strength to win the fourth 11-8 to set up a decider. Up 8-6 in the fifth, Serme crumpled, clutching his right quad, but a brief towel break to wipe down the court allowed Serme enough time to stretch out the cramp. A tense few final points and a couple of unforced errors from Salazar clinched the match for Serme, who immediately went to the adjacent court and collapsed.
The Merion crowd, who rooted for Harrity against Serme just twenty-four hours earlier, warmly applauded the world No. 57 as he gathered himself in front of the gallery.
“I really don’t know what happened in there,” Serme said to the amusement of the crowd. “I think he got tired maybe, made a few more mistakes. I was just trying to keep the ball tight like my coach said. Try to keep it simple and just push and I think it paid off.”
When asked if he would prefer to play Saturday or Sunday, a visibly exhausted Serme responded: “Obviously I’d like Sunday!”
Serme’s wish won’t be granted with a Saturday 3:30pm match against Egyptian Mazen Hesham looming.
Qualifiers Make A Short Evening at Philadelphia Country Club
Irish world No. 37 Aisling Blake recorded the first victory of the evening against American world No. 70 Cece Cortes 11-8, 11-4, 11-6.
After upsetting world No. 57 Rex Hedrick Thursday night, Columbia University No. 1 Ramit Tandon wasn’t as fortunate Friday as Egyptian world No. 36 Mohamed Abouelghar defeated the Indian international 12-10, 11-3, 11-3.
Marathon Matches Abound at Germantown
Mexico’s Samantha Teran, world No. 38, and Latasha Khan, world No. 40 and Seattle-native, battled through the first match of women’s qualifying finals in the Delaware Investments U.S. Open tonight, at Germantown Cricket Club. The first game proved to be the longest of the four with Teran eventually taking it 17-15, but not without Khan’s every effort to close out the first set. Khan found support in the crowd—fellow Women’s Squash Association (WSA) players, Laura Massaro, world No.2, and Rachael Grinham, world No. 15, cheered for Khan from the stands. Though Khan tried to “keep it simple,” Teran found her strength on the court—used to training at high altitude in Mexico—and closed out the match 17-15, 11-6, 6-11, 11-5 in sixty-minutes.
In the evening’s closing match, featuring a brutal twenty-nine minute first game, the tone was set for the marathon match between England’s Eddie Charlton (left), world No. 51, and New Zealander Martin Knight, world No. 47. The match lasted five games, and the third time proved to be the charm for Charlton—having lost twice previously to Knight. Charlton grabbed the first two games 11-7 and 13-11, respectively, but Knight took full advantage of Charlton’s many unforced errors in the third and fourth games, taking both 11-3. Charlton triumphed in the end, finishing the fifth and final game 11-8. All-smiles after the match, Charlton commented: “In the fifth I managed to stick with him, hit a few good winners. Really, really happy to win that. Really pleased.” When asked what he hoped would happen tomorrow, Charlton joked, “Pray for a rest day.” The final game score was 11-7, 13-11, 3-11, 3-11, 11-8 in one-hundred-nine-minutes.
Berwyn Squash & Fitness Done in Three
The Women’s Squash Association (WSA) players and fellow countrywomen, Victoria Lust (right), world No. 34, and Georgina Stoker, of England, were the first to take the courts. The two had never played before, but Lust did not waste anytime dispatching with her fellow Briton in three games 11-9, 11-8, 11-9, in a tight thirty minutes.
The last match of evening, featuring Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly, world No. 43, and Ireland’s Arthur Gaskin, world No. 91, lasted just twenty-six minutes longer than the WSA final. Cuskelly and Gaskin had also never played before, but Cuskelly kept it simple and nabbed the win in three games 11-2, 11-5, 11-9.
Drexel University Racquet Club of Philadelphia Germantown Cricket Club Merion Cricket Club Philadelphia Country Club Berwyn Squash & Fitness
Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY) d Milou Van Der Heijden (NED) 11-8, 11-7, 11-5 (29m)
Habiba Mohamed (EGY) d Olivia Blatchford (USA) 10-12, 11-6, 11-9, 12-14, 11-7 (65m)
 Leo Au (HKG) d Shahier Razik (CAN) 11-6, 10-12, 11-5, 11-13, 11-9 (105m)
 Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) d  Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS) 11-5, 8-11, 11-2, 14-12 (51m)
Samantha Cornett (CAN) d Deon Saffery (WAL) 5-11, 11-7, 12-10, 8-11, 11-9
Yathreb Adel (EGY) d Maria Elena Ubina (USA) 11-6, 11-1, 11-2 (12m)
 Shaun Le Roux (RSA) d  Alfredo Avila (MEX) 11-8, 11-6, 3-11, 5-11, 11-4 (74m)
 Greg Lobban (SCO) d  Campbell Grayson (NZL) 11-5, 11-8, 11-6 (53m)
Samantha Teran (MEX) d Latasha Khan (USA) 17-15, 11-6, 6-11, 11-5 (60m)
 Eddie Charlton (ENG) d  Martin Knight (NZL) 11-7, 13-11, 3-11, 3-11, 11-8 (109m)
Siyoli Waters (RSA) d Sarah Cardwell (AUS) 7-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-6 (41m)
 Lucas Serme (FRA) d  Cesar Salazar (MEX) 11-7, 3-11, 4-11, 11-8, 11-8 (76m)
Aisling Blake (Irl) d Cecilia Cortes (USA) 11-8, 11-4, 11-6 (34m)
 Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) d Ramit Tandon (IND) 12-10, 11-3, 11-3 (34min)
Victoria Lust (ENG) d Georgina Stoker (ENG) 11-9, 11-8, 11-9 (30m)
 Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) d Arthur Gaskin (IRL) 11-2, 11-5, 11-9 (56m
Racquet Club of Philadelphia
Germantown Cricket Club
Merion Cricket Club
Philadelphia Country Club
Berwyn Squash & Fitness