Day THREE: Top seed survives as seven Egyptians progress


Qualifying complete, the main draws of the second PSA World Series event of the season got under way today at Drexel with the top halves of the men’s and women’s draws.

sp_21979In the men’s draw there was a narrow escape for top seed Mohamed Elshorbagy who saved match balls before beating Cesar Salazar in the fifth, while James Willstop continued his impressive U.S. Open form as he beat third seed Omar Mosaad in straight games.

salmaTwo qualifiers made it through to the last sixteen, Malaysia’s Nafiizwan Adnan pulling off a tremendous straight-game win over Miguel Rodriguez, and Diego Elias repeating last week’s win in San Francisco over Greg Marche.

In the only upset in the women’s draw qualifier Salma Hany Ibrahim became one of seven Egyptians to win today as she beat Jenny Duncalf in five, while there were comfortable wins for top seed Nour El Sherbini and three-time champion Nicol David and no joy for wildcard Sabrina Sobhy, who lost out to Alison Waters.

Selected reports are below the results …



Willstrop keeps U.S. run going

sp_21993Having reached the semifinal or better in each of his last five U.S. Open appearances, James Willstrop needed a good performance to keep that run going against last year’s finalist and world number three Omar Mosaad.

He produced more than that, matching the Egyptian all the way and coming out the victor at the end of three close games that took just short of an hour to complete.

sp_21995“You can’t have a plan for these things,” said Willstrop, “but 3-0 against Omar, I couldn’t have wanted it to go much better than that. The strength of all the top guys is so good nowadays you just have to take each match as it comes.

“I’ve been playing well and had some good performances in San Francisco which set me up for this tournament, but Omar is such a tough opponent, I’m just glad I could hold on at the end of each of those games.”

Adnan axes Rodriguez

sp_21979Malaysian qualifier Nafiizwan Adnan turned in a great performance to oust seventh seed Miguel Rodriguez in straight games. The first two games went point for point, but Adnan just had the edge at the end of both, taking the second on a ‘no let’ to the Colombian.

sp_21973Adnan was on top in the third, leading 6-3, and although Rodriguez inched his way back, earned two match balls at 10-8. Rodriguez saved the first, then had a stroke overturned to a let as the drama continued. Several rallies ended in lets before Rodriguez received a ‘no let’ and the referee declared the match over.

sp_21980Adnan wasn’t convinced and asked for a let to be played, to the appreciation of the crowd and his opponent. The reprieve was short-lived though, as on the next rally Rodriguez dived in vain into the back corner and Adnan had his upset.

“It feels great to win that one.” said a delighted victor, “especially after being two-nil down and so close to losing my first qualifying match.

“I’ve been trying for years to get past the first round of World Series events. I just told myself to relax today and it worked, this is a really big win for me. Now I’ll try to take that one step further. …”


Shorbagy somehow survives

For once, the headline truly tells the story as top seed and world No. 1 Mohamed Elshorbagy avoided first round elimination at the hands of unseeded Mexican Cesar Salazar by the skin of his teeth, saving two match balls in the process.

sp_21957Salazar played out of his skin, while Elshorbagy struggled to find the game that has kept him at the top of the rankings for two years. The Mexican powered into the lead, had chances in the second before Elshorbagy edged level by taking the last two points, then surged ahead again in the third before Elshorbagy once again drew level, still unable to find his true form.

sp_21963Salazar led 6-1 and 7-3 in the decider but Elshorbagy fought back, leveled at 9-all then had to save match balls at 9-10 and 10-11, with Salazar convinced he’d won the second before the video referee confirmed Elshorbagy’s “yes let” decision.

Finally, Elshorbagy found a way to win and collapsed onto the floor as Salazar exited, reminiscent of his first British Open triumph.

sp_21965“He played such great squash,” said a relieved winner, “I had to find something to stop him but I just couldn’t.

“Between games Shabana was telling me I was world No. 1 and I had to find a way to win. I just hate losing, every point, so I had to fight and fight.

“I’ve been trying to train hard ready for a tough season, but my body just isn’t letting me at the moment, I’m not sure what’s wrong. But I still think I have a chance of winning this tournament, so I’ll keep on fighting.” 


Qualifiers Salma and Diego progress

Twenty-year-old Egyptian Salma Hany Ibrahim pulled off the only women’s upset of the day, taking down world No. 17 Jenny Duncalf in five games. The victory advances the world No. 25 from Alexandria to her first U.S. Open second round where she will face another English opponent in Alison Waters.

sp_22016“It feels amazing,” said Salma. ” Before coming here my aim was just to qualify and just get off court in one piece. I’m so happy I managed to win this game. Jenny is such an amazing player and experienced. It was really tough.

“Thanks to all of my friends who came to support me, my coaches and the maestro of course. I’m just glad to be in the second round of the U.S. Open for the first time. ”

Just two weeks after upsetting Gregoire Marche in the NetSuite Open first round, 2014 and 2015 world junior champion Diego Elias repeated his upset over the Frenchman.

sp_22004Unlike his result in San Francisco, Elias started on the back foot as Marche took the first 11-7. The nineteen-year-old recovered quickly winning the second 11-3, and carried his momentum throughout the rest of the match to win in four games and sixty minutes.

“This is a different tournament.” said Elias. ” After you lose against someone you enter the next match against them with a different mindset. He wanted to beat me more today so I knew it would be harder than last time. I just had to play my best squash and enjoy it.

Egyptians Tayeb and Abouelghar through

sp_219872015 U.S. Open finalist Nour El Tayeb started her 2016 campaign with a three-game victory over English qualifier Fiona Moverly. The eleven seed endured tough second and third games that saw her fall behind late in each game, before turning each game around to win in twenty-eight minutes.

“I’ve been progressing well the past few months,” she said. “My shoulder is getting better every month. I’m hoping I can go just as far as last year. I have my sights set on the title this year, not just the final. But I need to take things match by match. I’m just hoping to play well.”

sp_21986Egyptian world No. 20 Mohamed Abouelghar reached his first U.S. Open round of sixteen after a three-game, forty-one-minute victory against New Zealander Campbell Grayson.

“I played Campbell before and it was a battle,” said the victor. “He’s a very tough player and solid all around. I had to mix things up a bit throughout each game. Happy to get away in three. I haven’t been playing well since the start of the season so it’s my lucky place here. Happy to be in the second round. “

Simpson sees off Fathi

After playing in the last qualifying match at Merion last night, Karim Ali Fathi was the first on Drexel’s Kline & Specter court one.

sp_21968The Egyptian found himself two games down to England’s Chris Simpson, and trailed 10-7 in the third, when he dug in and fought off three match balls.

Simpson edged back ahead twice, and twice Fathi fought back to win the third 14-12. Up again in the fourth, Simpson squandered four more match balls before finally closing on his ninth match ball at 13-11 after seventy minutes on court.

“I still felt like I was in control of the game, but I got a bit annoyed with myself getting quite nervous with those match balls, and again in the fourth, so not too happy about that,” said Simpson. ” But Karim’s a great player so I’m still pleased to get the win.”


Waters stops Sobhy

In the first match on the Glass Court England’s Alison Waters eased past Sabrina Sobhy, appearing as the wildcard entry for the third year in a row, in straight games.

sp_21954The young American found a few winners in the first game, but once Waters, the eighth seed, advanced to a 10-6 lead, taking the game 11-8 and racing to a 9-1 lead in the second. Sobhy pulled a few points back before Warters doubled her advantage 11-5, and from 2-3 in the third took the match with eight unanswered points.

“I’d never played Sabrina before,” said Waters, “she was chopping it in well early on and I had to work to find the corners. Happy to be through the first round and looking forward to the rest of the tournament, it’s great to be back in Philadelphia.”

Joelle and Max avoid last year’s pitfalls

After suffering five-game losses on the same court last year, both Max Lee and Joelle King advanced to the U.S. Open second round with confident three-game victories. Lee defeated Finn Henrik Mustonen in just twenty minutes, while King held off Egyptian teenager Nadine Shahin in thirty-three minutes.

sp_22005“You come here with a relaxed state of mind and you think past the first round is a bonus,” said King. “I feel like I’ve stared to play well the past few weeks. I’m just trying to get more game time against the top girls and pushing myself and see how I do against them.

sp_22006“I spent a good year out of the game because of injury. Coming back, trying to recover and get back to a good level and do well against these young up and coming players. I think Egypt has a lot of depth, but it’s also good to see a few different countries with young talent. It’s exciting and great for the global audience.” 

Max, who played a day early after agreeing to swap time slots with Steve Coppinger, was pleased with the win, which gives him two days off!

“Not thinking too much was my game plan. Just go play, running around as effectively as I could and repeating. “