October 16th — Quarters Day Two

WillstropQtrThe quarterfinals concluded in Philadelphia with four matches in the bottom halves of the men’s and women’s draws—offering equal prize money for the first time ever in a World Series event—in Drexel University’s John A. Daskalakis Athletic Center in Philadelphia.

The women’s quarters saw a major upset as Malaysia’s Low Wee Wern, seeded six, beat world number three and last year’s runner-up Raneem El Weleily in a thrilling five-setter, while second seed and 2011 champion Laura Massaro came from a game down to beat Kasey Brown in a mirror image of their the 2011 final.

The men’s matches produced two English winners as second and third seeds James Willstrop and Nick Matthew both looked to be cruising to victory but were made to fight hard for 3-1 wins against Simon Rosner and Peter Barker.

Delaware Investments U.S. Open 2013, Quarterfinals (bottom half)

Women’s Quarterfinals:

[6] Low Wee Wern (MAS) bt [3] Raneem El Weleily (EGY)  7-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-9, 11-8 (66m)
[2] Laura Massaro (ENG) bt Kasey Brown (AUS)  10-12, 11-4, 11-8, 11-5 (55m)

Men’s Quarterfinals:

[2] James Willstrop (ENG) bt Simon Rosner (GER)   11-5, 11-2, 8-11, 11-9 (59m)
[3] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [6] Peter Barker (ENG)  11-5, 11-2, 8-11, 12-14, 11-6 (76m)

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Wee Wern Wins at Last

SH654Low Wee Wern couldn’t have picked a better time to tecord her first win against Raneem El Weleily, the world number three and finalist here last year, as the Malaysian came through a five-game thriller to clinch a place in the semifinals.

SH647It wasn’t a hit-or-miss winner-or-tin affair like El Weleily’s all-Egyptian match in he previous round, this was all about building rallies, probing for a weakness and taking opportunities when they came. Both players covered the court well, varied the play, and there was rarely more than a couple of points between them in the first four games.

El Weleily pulled away from 7-all to take the lead 11-7, Low edged ahead from 4-all in the second and stayed ahead to level 11-8, and from 7-all in the third it was the Egyptian who again finished the better.

SH650El Weleily looked on course for the semis as she led 7-4 in the fourth, but Low hung in, won some lengthy exchanges and got the verdict in a video review to level at 8-all. From 9-all two strokes levelled the match.

Up to this point El Weleily’s error count had been low, but she hit the tin five times at the start of the decider as Low took a 6-1 advantage. Cutting out the errors, the Egyptian worked her way back, and edged ahead at 8-7. It was in her own hands as Low, as well as she was playing, was effectively relying on El Weleily to make errors.

SH651And the errors returned, one to make it 8-all, a let that Low successfully appealed into a stroke for 9-8, then two more errors and Low was into the semis.

“I feel like going back on for another game, the rallies were so hard it doesn’t feel like it’s all over!” Said a delighted winner.

“It’s definitely one of my best wins, but there was no pressure on me going into the match, so I just had to stick in and that seemed to work in my favor today.”

Laura repeats at Drexel

SH658Just as she did the 2011 final here, Laura Massaro came from a game down to beat Kasey Brown, but this time the prize was a place in the semifinal.

Brown started strongly, hitting powerfully, moving well and hunting down balls all over the court. The Australian led 5-2 and 7-3, but Massaro started to find her game and almost made it back—she levelled at 8-all, even had a game ball but she lost out on a video review and Brown seized the chance, taking the lead 12-10.

SH657Massaro came out strongly from the outset of the second, kept her opponent on the move, and essentially controlled the next three games.

SH661From 6-2 she took the second 11-4, then from 7-3 in the third it was enough. Brown threatened to close up in both, but a determined Massaro wasn’t going to let that happen as she closed out the match 11-8, 11-5.

“We hadn’t played for a couple of years, so I had to get used to how Kasey plays, and she’s playing well at the moment. She’s very strong down the middle so I had to adjust my game to counter that and I’m happy with how I played the last three games.”

James Magic for Three

SH669James Willstrop played awesome squash for three games tonight, and Simon Rosner simply couldn’t get near him. It wasn’t that the big German was playing badly, far from it, but Willstrop was outmaneuvering, outhitting, and outdropping him with a superb display.

Willstrop went up 6-1 then 8-2 in the first, taking it 11-5. From 4-2 in the second he eased away again, taking seven points in a row for 11-2. The trend continued up to 6-2 in the third, and it looked for all the world
as if the match was over.

SH672But Rosner, frustrated at not being able to make an impression, simply refused to go quietly. He fought back to 6-all, forcing some errors from Willstrop’s racquet at last, and punching away some winners of his own, again at last. The crowd loved it, and when Rosner took the third 11-8, they roared.

Willstrop quieted them again with more controlled squash to go 6-2 up. Rosner dug in, again, and got back to 6-9, then to 9-all and the crowd were loving the prospect of a decider. It wasn’t to be though. Willstrop squeezed a tin out of his opponent, then got in front in the final rally, smacking away a low crosscourt that Rosner somehow got back, then smacking away another that he couldn’t for 11-9 and a place in the semis.

SH667Three games of virtually perfect squash from Willstrop then, it just happened to come in four parts.

“It’s not easy to put three games of that quality together in a row,” admitted Willstrop, “if you can it would be pretty magical, but I was pleased to be able to do it for the first two games.

“It’s tough, especially when you get blamed all the time,” said Willstrop in reference to the several warnings he’d received from the central referee about clearing his shots better. “We’re both big guys and I certainly don’t think I was entirely to blame. I see it happening in other matches without them being warned, but maybe it is me, maybe I need to find a way to solve it.

“Anyway, I’m happy I managed to find a way to close out the win, and it should be a good all-English match tomorrow, whoever I play.”

Matthew Toughs it Out

SH675Nick Matthew set up an all-English semi-final with Willstrop as he beat compatriot Peter Barker in a match that, like Willstrop’s, started off comfortably for the higher seed but ended up being a real scrap.

Matthew was well in charge in the first two games, controlling the rallies with precise volleys, punching the ball deep into the corners, with Barker seemingly unable to do much about it, and he trailed 11-5, 11-4.

SH681From the start of the third though, Barker was more aggressive, firing in a couple of spectacular volley kills as he opened up a 5-1 lead. Matthew closed, to 3-5 and 6-7, but a determined Barker stayed ahead, for a while at least. Matthew levelled at 8-all, led 9-8 and then 10-9 but lost that first match ball with a scuffed shot off the sidewall.

SH683At 10-all there were three lets, Barker hoped for more on each of them but didn’t appeal. He saved another match ball at 10-11, lost a game ball at 12-11, but finally got the break at 13-12 as Matthew tinned at the end of another fast-paced rally.

Matthew regrouped, took a quick 6-2 lead in the fourth and, although the rallies were unrelentingly tough, he held Barker off to take it 11-6—finishing with two lovely winners, and set up another all-English match in the semifinals.

SH676“I saw how the last match went, with James cruising at 6-2 in the third,” said Matthew, “so I was on my guard against that happening to me, but he played really well at the start of the third and suddenly I was 5-1 down and he was becoming confident.

“It got a bit scrappy and bitty after that, a lot of lets and bumps, but I just had to tough it out, and I’m pleased how I was able to do that.”

Match Previews

El Weleily v Low (5-0)

SH631SH640Finalist here last year, Egypt’s Raneem El Weleily is a double world junior champion. Now 24 years of age and having entered the world’s top ten almost three years ago, she is firmly established in the world’s top three. She has six WSA titles to her name—from fifteen finals—and many more are sure to be added.

Malaysia’s Low Wee Wern was also a top junior, but missed out on her best chance of world junior success due to a birthday that came a week too soon! Nevertheless, the 23-year-old from Penang made rapid strides in the senior ranks, and currently stands at No. 7 having just completed a full year in the top ten. She also has six titles from fifteen WSA final appearances.

In their WSA matches, El Weleily leads 5-0, from three meetings in Malaysia, one in Hong Kong and most recently here in Philadelphia last year.

Massaro v Brown (3-2)

SH629SH630The second women’s match is a repeat of the 2011 final here. England’s Laura Massaro, champion then and seeded two this year, made her debut in the top ten in the middle of 2008 and has been there ever since—and continuously in the top three for over a year. She has truly had a spectacular couple of years, and is the reigning British Open champion, one of twelve WSA titles in her locker, from twenty-four finals.

Kasey Brown, now resident in the U.S., famously beat Nicol David on the way to the 2011 final. After being in the top ten for all of 2011, she has hovered just outside since the end of 2012, but results here will surely see her retun. She boasts eleven WSA titles, from twenty-four finals.

Massaro leads their WSA meetings 3-2, but they haven’t met since the 2011 final.

Willstrop v Rosner (4-0)

SH635SH636Second seed James Willstrop spent eleven months of 2012 as world number one thanks to a spectaculer run of three World Series wins to end 2011. A former world junior champion, Willstrop, now 30, has been in the world’s top ten for 103 of the last 106 months, and permanently in the top five for the last four years. He has won seventeen PSA titles from thirty-six final appearances and famously won the deciding match in this year’s World Teams final in France.

Simon Rosner is Germany’s highest-ever ranked player, and at 25 is on the verge of entering the world’s top ten. A finalist in the recent European Individual Championships, he has six PSA titles from eleven finals, and this is the furthest he has reached in five U.S. Opens.

Willstrop is unbeaten in their four PSA meetings, and has yet to drop a game.

Matthew v Barker (20-2)

SH633SH634Nick Matthew, 33, has won everything—three British Opens, five British Nationals, two World Opens, two Commonwealth Gold, World Games gold, World Teams, and many more among his twenty-six PSA titles from fifty-four finals—including the 2007 U.S. Open. He entered the world’s top ten in May 2004 and has been there for all but three months ever since, spending the whole of 2011 at number one.

Fellow Englishman Peter Barker has, along with Willstrop and Matthew, been a fixture on the England squad for many seasons and has been in the world’s top ten since June 2008. At 30, he has fifteen PSA titles from twenty-three finals.

In their PSA meetings, Matthew leads 20-2, Barker’s successes coming in Hing Kong in 2010 and in their last meeting, this year’s Canary Wharf semifinal.