Eighteen-year-old Harvard sophomore Marina Stefanoni marked her first competitive appearance at the Arlen Specter US Squash Center with a milestone upset over Canada’s world No. 19 Danielle Letourneau in the first round of the U.S. Open Squash Championships presented by Truist Friday, October 1, in Philadelphia.
Stefanoni, one of the two women’s wild cards along with her younger sister, Lucie, stopped the in-form Cornell graduate in her tracks with an 11-6, 11-2, 11-6 scoreline in twenty-one minutes. The breakthrough result is Stefanoni’s first top twenty upset, and first win at the U.S. Open and Platinum level.
“I love playing on glass courts, so to have my match on the glass court today was something special, I’m hoping I can play on more glass courts in the future,” Stefanoni said. “The Specter Center is beautiful and the courts play really nicely. I’m really glad the U.S. Open is here this year!”
Stefanoni will now take on Egypt’s world No. 27 Nada Abbas Saturday at 12:45pm ET. Lucie Stefanoni returned to the same Specter Center court where she won the JCT U19 title in July in one of the first matches of the day, bowing out to Cornell senior Sivasangari Subramanium in three games.
Olivia Fiechter, who returned to a career high world No. 20 ranking Friday, joined her four U.S. teammates in the second round with her second career U.S. Open win in front of a partial home crowd. The Princeton graduate dispatched Egypt’s Menna Hamed 11-6, 11-7, 11-8 and will face world No. 24 Donna Lobban Saturday at 9:15pm.
“Menna is a really strong competitor, she’s had some tight matches with a lot of the girls in the top 20 and 30, so I don’t really think her ranking is reflective of the squash she is playing,” Fiechter said. “I had to come out really strong and my goal was to get used to this court. I’ve had a couple of sessions in the past two weeks, but it’s different when you’re competing on the court for the first time. I was trying to find my length, use variation and trying to make the first few rallies of every game really hard for her with a really high pace.”
Fiechter was the only one of the four top twenty-five-ranked U.S. women in first round action with Amanda Sobhy, Olivia Blatchford Clyne and Sabrina Sobhy joining the fold Saturday.
“The Specter Center incredible, I think the biggest thing is having the girls and the guys here on Team USA,” Fiechter said. “We’ve been spread across the country for so long and especially on the women’s side we have so many top players. To be able to set that bar and to play practice matches is incredible. Now Ong Beng Hee is here, we’ve just got a strength and conditioning coach, it’s all really coming together and it’s every professional athlete’s dream to have a facility like this.”
The depth of U.S. current and former college squash was on display on Friday with nine first round winners. In addition to Stefanoni, Subramanium and Fiechter, Vikram Malhotra (Trinity), Georgina Kennedy (Harvard), Melissa Alves (Penn), Farida Mohamed (Columbia), Ramit Tandon (Columbia), and Victor Crouin–who defeated former Harvard teammate Timmy Brownell–all advanced to the second round.
Saturday is set to host both second round play from 12pm noon and the Specter Center Grand Opening Ceremony at 5pm ET. Tickets are available from $15 and include access to all of the day’s matches and the Grand Opening Ceremony. Visit usopensquash.com/tickets for more information.