Team USA’s Marina Stefanoni, Timmy Brownell and Shahjahan Khan upset higher-ranked opposition to advance to the second round of the U.S. Open Squash Championships presented by Truist Saturday, October 7, at the Arlen Specter US Squash Center in Philadelphia.
The opening day staged thirty-two first round matches on four courts–two side courts and both glass courts–at the Specter Center. Seven of the day’s matches proved to upset the seedings, three of which came by the hand of Americans. The U.S. results were backed by the support of the home crowd composed JCT players, Community Day attendees and partners, school teams, SEA programs, squash enthusiasts and first-time fans alike.
Twenty-year-old world No. 56 Marina Stefanoni recorded her second career U.S. Open first round win with a commanding 3-0 victory over Egypt’s world No. 35 Mariam Metwally during the afternoon session.
“I wasn’t expecting anything, I don’t get to play many of the Platinum events, so I’ve been excited to play this,” Stefanoni said. “I absolutely love that court as well. She put up a good fight towards the end, it was an unfortunate end on a no let call, but I’m very happy to win in three and save the body a bit.”
The Harvard senior’s reward is a second round encounter against the 2017 U.S. Open champion and four seed Nour El Tayeb Sunday at 6pm ET.
“It’s our U.S. national center and I’ve had some good wins here. The court plays nicely and I always feel good on there,” Stefanoni said. “I don’t get that very often [fans waiting for autographs after the match]. The little kids are cute and I hope that they are inspired to play more and keep enjoying it. It’s nice that I can help out and make them smile.”
Sunday will feature two all-American match ups–one being a marquee women’s match between world No. 5 Amanda Sobhy and world No. 13 Olivia Blatchford Clyne–and the other being the first all-American men’s second round match up in tournament history between Brownell and Khan.
Brownell and Khan’s results came simultaneously during the evening sessions on both glass courts.
After falling short against a top thirty player last year, Brownell went one better and came back from 2-0 down to defeat Switzerland’s world No. 28 Dimitri Steinmann in five games on the Lenfest Court. The match ended in unfortunate circumstances as the Swiss international was handed a conduct point and game in the fifth due to poor conduct and intentional physical contact.
“It seemed like he was getting a bit frustrated at the end there,” said Brownell afterwards. “We’ve all been there but he took it a step too far. You can’t put another player’s career at risk, he could easily have taken me out for the season. I’m happy that neither of us are hurt, I wish him the best and hopefully he can get his emotions in check. I gassed him out and I thought I was going to take the match anyway. I’m really proud with the work my team and I have done, he’s one of the strongest players on tour and I think I was fitter than he was, so I was really proud of myself.
“It feels amazing to win here at home. I came up short last year against Iker Pajares so I was getting deja vu. It’s really nice to come through and play a teammate who won a marathon match. Congratulations to Shahjahan and whoever goes through to round three deserves it.”
Meanwhile on the Roberts Court, world No. 45 Khan recorded his first career U.S. Open win against Egypt’s world No. 40 Karim El Hammamy in four games.
“It was really nerve-racking,” Khan said afterwards. “I’ve played Karim [El Hammamy] so many times on the PSA World Tour and the last time was four games and this one was tougher because we’ve played each so many times, but I came out on top of it and I played the important points really well, which was really key for me. My game plan was to keep him there and keep him in the rally and hopefully force some mistakes. I think the game plan worked well for me. It’s my first round two match of the US Open, I’m looking forward to it. I’m going to enjoy the moment tomorrow give it my best shot.”
U.S. Champion Andrew Douglas and finalist Spencer Lovejoy both pushed their respective opponents, Cesar Salazar and Aly Abour Eleinen, but fell short in four and five close games.
Sunday will see the top seeds join the field with thirty-two matches set to take place across four courts from 12pm noon.