Team USA’s Olivia Blatchford Clyne, Sabrina Sobhy and Todd Harrity are through to the second round of the U.S. Open Squash Championships presented by Truist, while wild cards Timmy Brownell and Lucie Stefanoni narrowly fell short in five game epics in front of a packed Specter Center gallery Saturday, October 8, in Philadelphia.
One of the first matches of the day featured one of two first round all-American match ups between Wayne, PA native Todd Harrity and wild card Spencer Lovejoy. While the two players know each other well from training together at the Specter Center, it marked their first match on the professional tour. Lovejoy pushed Harrity in the first two games but it was the world No. 39 who pulled through 12-10, 11-8, 11-5.
“I’m just really happy to get through, it was a tough match with Spencer,” Harrity said. “He’s young and up and coming and we’re both Americans training together at the Specter Center. We know each other’s games well. I thought I was a little nervous at times, but I stuck with it on the big points, I didn’t run from the situation and I’m really happy to win today. I was trying to keep the pace slow, Spencer is fast and athletic, and he’s really good at being quick and using the pace. I had to slow him down when I needed two, otherwise I just tried to trust my instincts and went for the shot when it was there.”
Harrity will face the ‘Colombian Cannonball’ Miguel Angel Rodriguez in the second round Sunday at 12pm ET.
“It’s going to be a really tough match, but I’m looking forward to it because the pressure is on him,” Harrity said. “I’ve never beaten him before, but tomorrow is a new day. I have no chance of winning unless I play my very best, so I need to prepare well and get ready for a big effort tomorrow.”
The other all-American battle was between world No. 20 Sabrina Sobhy and world No. 51 Haley Mendez. Sobhy commanded the match 11-1, 11-6, 11-3 to record just her second career U.S. Open main draw win.
“I felt pretty good with my performance,” Sobhy said. “The atmosphere being at home took a lot of the pressure off and I tried to focus on relaxing on court because I felt a bit tense at the previous tournaments. I tried to stay calm and control my emotions and the ball around the court more. I think the pressure from myself [caused her to feel tense] and I’ve had to get rid of that a little bit to enjoy the game and the whole process more.”
Sobhy will face Canadian world No. 17 Hollie Naughton on court 7 Sunday at 4:30pm.
“We haven’t played each other in years and I’m looking forward to playing someone new,” Sobhy said. “She’s been doing really well recently and she’s been rising the ranks and taking on the top players. She’s had some really strong games, I’m looking forward to testing myself and I’m ready for the challenge.”
World No. 22 Olivia Blatchford Clyne joined her compatriots in the second round by holding off Hong Kong’s Ka Yi Lee in four games 15-13, 11-5, 6-11, 11-5. Blatchford Clyne will face world No. 17 Farida Mohamed, who just reached the Oracle NetSuite Open final last week in San Francisco, Sunday on court 15 at 7:15pm.
While the results weren’t what the home crowd hoped for, wild cards Brownell and Lucie Stefanoni put on a show against their higher-ranked opponents.
The younger Stefanoni sister, Lucie appeared calm and collected as she fired her way to a 2-0 lead against Egypt’s world No. 23 Nadine Shahin. After a quick rebound in the third, Shahin ground out a five-game comeback despite stiff resistance from the American in the fourth and fifth games 11-4, 12-10, 11-7.
Brownell and Spain’s world No. 26 Iker Pajares Bernabeau were on court for more than ninety minutes, and traded games until a decisive fifth at which point the Spaniard came back from 8-2 down and saved two match balls to claim the match 13-11.
“I’m over the moon with this win,” said Pajares, who will face three-time champion Mohamed ElShorbagy Sunday. “After being 8-2 down in the fifth, I saw myself going home. I kept fighting to 8-8 and then it was 10-8 and I came back again to take the match. It was a fair and clean match, he’s a good player and I enjoyed every minute on court. I’ve been injured for three or four months and having these matches again is something I was missing very much. I totally forgot about [the crowd], I was focusing on myself and trying to take each point. It was very tough, but I also had good friends supporting me here and I was looking at them after every point.”
After first round byes, the tournament top seeds enter the fold on Sunday including Team USA’s world No. 4 Amanda Sobhy and world No. 9 Olivia Fiechter.
Fiechter, who made a breakthrough run to the 2021 U.S. Open semifinals, will feature in a marquee match up Sunday night against world No. 2 Hania El Hammamy at 7:15pm on the west glass court.
Follow @USOpenSquash on Twitter and Instagram for updates throughout the tournament. SquashTV subscribers can enjoy all of the glass court action, and free live streams of courts 7 and 15 will be available this weekend.