The first PSA World Series event of the 2015/16 season kicked off today with Men’s and Women’s qualifying matches at five clubs around Philadelphia. There was only one USA winner – Olivia Blatchford – but a very popular home winner at Drexel as Coach John White won a five-game thriller.
 Yathreb Adel (EGY) d [L] Reeham Sedky (USA) 11-8, 13-11, 11-5 (44m)
 Coline Aumard (FRA) d [L] Kayley Leonard (USA) 11-8, 11-4, 11-5 (36m)
Thaisa Serafini (BRA) d  Catalina Pelaez (COL) 11-9, 8-11, 11-7, 4-11, 13-11 (43m)
 Donna Urquhart (AUS) d [L] Kelsey Engman (USA) 11-4, 11-5, 11-6 (24m) Zahed Mohamed (EGY) d Eddie Charlton (ENG) 12-10, 11-9, 3-11, 11-5 (57m)
Campbell Grayson (NZL) d  Alfredo Avila (MEX) 13-11, 9-11, 11-5, 8-11, 11-5 (80m)
[L] John White (SCO) d  Adrian Grant (ENG) 9-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-6, 11-9 (79m)
Ali Farag (EGY) d [L] Parth Sharma (IND) 11-6, 12-10, 11-5 (28m)
Merion Cricket Club, 12-8pm:
 Mariam Metwally (EGY) d [L] Reyna Pecheco (USA) 11-2, 11-3, 11-4 (14m)
 Kanzy Emad El Defrawy (EGY) d Hollie Naughton (CAN) 11-5, 11-5, 8-11, 11-1 (31m)
 Maria Toorpakai Wazir (PAK) d Sine Wall (GER) 11-7, 12-10, 11-6 (17m)
 Olivia Blatchford (USA) d Marie Stephan (FRA) 12-10, 11-1, 11-6 (24m) Alan Clyne (SCO) d [L] Michael Fiteni (MLT) 11-7, 11-5, 11-4 (30m)
 Lucas Serme (FRA) d [L] Sean Hughes (USA) 11-4, 11-8, 11-4 (30m)
 Raphael Kandra (GER) d Todd Harrity (USA) 5-11, 12-10, 11-4, 12-10 (47m)
 Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) d [L] Derek Hsue (USA) 11-1, 11-7, 11-3 (23m)
Racquet Club of Philadelphia, 12-8pm:
 Vanessa Raj (MAS) d Melina Turk (CAN) 11-3, 11-3, 11-2 (18m)
 Joey Chan (HKG) d [L] Nabilla Arrifin (MAS) 11-5, 11-9, 11-4 (22m)
 Joelle King (NZL) d Nikki Todd (CAN) 11-5, 11-4, 11-7 (26m)
 Line Hansen (DEN) d [L] Maria Elena Ubina (USA) 11-8, 9-11, 6-11, 11-4, 11-7 (38m) Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) d [L] Faraz Khan (USA) 11-3, 11-5, 11-3 (34m)
 Paul Coll (NZL) d Jens Schoor (GER) 11-6, 11-4, 11-3 (33m)
 Shaun Le Roux (RSA) d [L] Chris Hanson (USA) 11-7, 13-11, 11-3 (42m)
 Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) d Mohamed Reda (EGY) 11-9, 11-5, 10-12, 11-7 (82m)
Germantown Cricket Club, 5-8pm:
 Deon Saffery (WAL) d Nele Gilis (BEL) 12-10, 11-5, 10-12, 7-11, 11-7 (58m)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) d Latasha Khan (USA) 12-10, 11-4, 11-7 (29m)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) d Ben Coleman (ENG) 11-7, 11-6, 11-9 (61m)
 Diego Elias (PER) d Martin Knight (NZL) 5-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-13, 15-13 (86m)
Philadelphia Cricket Club, 5-8pm:
 Amanda Landers-Murphy (NZL) d [L] Georgina Stoker (ENG) 11-4, 5-11, 11-4, 11-4 (35m)
 Samantha Teran (MEX) d [L] Olivia Fiechter (USA) 6-11, 13-11, 11-7, 11-5 (55m) Greg Lobban (SCO) d [L] Gilly Lane (USA) 11-9, 11-4, 13-11 (45m)
 Leo Au (HKG) d Henrik Mustonen (FIN) 11-8, 11-0, 11-5 (30m)
Drexel: White delights the Drexel faithful
The first qualifying match at Drexel pitched one of many young Egyptians in the draw, Yathreb Adel, against one of the USA’s brightest prospects, Reeham Sedky, who played so well in the World Juniors this summer.
Sedky’s hard-hitting style took Adel somewhat by surprise, and although she maintained a lead in the first, taking it 11-8, it was never comfortable. Sedky took an early lead in the second, opened out to 10-7 but Adel, aided by a couple of strokes from her opponent who struggled to clear, recovered to take the game 13-11. The Egyptian was in control in the third though, closing out the match 11-5 in 44 minutes.
“It’s the first time I played her and she was smacking the ball so hard,” said Adel. “It was really bouncy and difficult to control, and she moves fast so was picking lots of my shots up too. I’m glad to get through. I did well here last year so I hope I can do so again.”
Next up was another young American, Kayley Leonard, against Coline Aumard. The Frenchwoman was always ahead, and although Leonard made the middle of the first game pretty tough, Aumard passed that particular test and kept tight control of the next two games as she went through 11-8, 11-4, 11-5 in 36m (including a little musical interlude in the third as the Center’s piped music rose in volume).
“It’s good to get the first match over,” said Aumard. “I’ll get ready now for a tough match against Yathreb tomorrow.”
Aumard’s first port of call afer her win was to a member of the audience watching her first game of squash. It turned out that Coline’s grandfather’s son has a daughter who lives in Philly who Coline had never seen.
“I knew her but we’d never met,” she explained, “and this is my first time in Philadelphia so I texted her to se if she could come, and she did! It means a lot to me to have someone from my family watching, normally they’re all working—doesn’t happen often!”
The first men’s match saw a second Egyptian winner as Zahed Mohamed won a fast-paced match against Eddie Charlton with two brutal first games taking 20 and 18 minutes each.
Mohamed saved a game ball in the first to take the lead 12-10, almost let a 7-3 lead slip before taking the second 11-9, and looked fatigued in the third as Charlton, sensing his opponent’s struggle, pipped a game back 11-5 with Mohamed tinning the last few points. After a good start in the fourth it was all Mohamed as he closed it out 11-5 in just under an hour.
“It’s the first time I’ve played Eddie,” admitted Zahed, “but I know how dangerous an opponent he is, and it was as tough as I expected. I’m happy with how I played and to win 3-1, now I hope to play well against someone else I’ll be plying for the first time!”
The second men’s match was another gruelling affair as New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson pulled off the first upset, beating Alfredo Avila, the Mexican who won the Colombian Open in such style, in five tough games.
In truth, though, it could have been three-nil—Grayson recovered from 5-9 to take the first 13-11, and from 4-7 to 9-all in the second before two errors allowed Avila to level. They shared the next two games but Grayson was dominant in the decider, finishing it off in 80 minutes.
“I’ve played him a few times recently,” said Grayson. “He’s beaten me at altitude, but I tend to win down here—it’s always tough. I was happy with most of my game, but I let it slip a couple of times at the crucial points—after the third I thought to myself this could be over, but I was very happy with how I handled the fifth.”
After a short break it was back to the women’s action, and while the growing crowd were mostly waiting for the appearance of Drexel’s own coaches, they first witnessed a tremendous all-South American tle between Thaisa Serafini (Brazil) and Catalina Pelaez (Colombia).
Neither spared an ounce of efort as they at times hammered the ball as hard into the corners, went for delicate dropshots taking advantage of the 17” tin, above all they ran, and ran, and then ran some more.
There was no effort spared, and after they traded the first four games it was somehow fitting that it should go to 10-all in the fifth. Pelaez, who was clearly hampered by a knee problem she’s had since the Colombian Open, finally dived to the floor for the umpteenth time, this time in vain as the Brazilian took a memorable victory 13-11.
“I knew she was having some trouble with her knee, so I was trying to move her around as much as I could, ” said the winner. “But as you can see, she’s pretty good, and that was really tough!”
Then it was the turn the Drexel Ladies’ coach Kelsey Engman. had a tough task against Australia’s Donna Urquhart, a former world top ten player who had David Palmer in her corner, but she certainly had the backing of the home crowd (watch the video!).
It wasn’t a good start as Urquhart went 6-0 up, but four points for Engman eased the nerves and got the crowd going.
Then it was time for the main event of the day at Drexel, Coach John White, the former world No. 1 who has been head coach here for five years, against Adrian Grant, the former world top ten from England.
It was as close, as tense, as noisy and as entertaining as you’d expect. They shared the first four games but it was White, who admitted that he thought he “only had 45 minutes in the tank”, pulled clear in the fifth to claim a Drexel win in 79 minutes.
There was plenty of drama, including dives by White, stoppages aplenty—during the first game the ref declared “we’ve had ten lets already in eight points,” to which White replied “how many are we allowed?”—a conduct warning and stroke against Grant for ‘abuse of the officials,’ and a reversed ‘no let’ to Grant at match ball down, and plenty of celebrations when White finally did win it with a trademark killshot.
Compere Bill Buckingham started the post-match interview with “we’ve done this many times John, but not usually in these circumstances!”
“It feels great to win one here,” added White to the packed audience of his fans and pupils. “You want to do your best for them, to show them that you actually can win, and it’s good to show that what you’re teaching them might actually work!”
Compere Buckingham had earlier mentioned to White that Farag was only 12 when White was world number one. Farag was thrilled to win. “There’s always nerves in the first match and especially since it’s my first time here, so I was happy to win that in three.
“I’ve been watching John White play for all my life it seems, so it’s great to get a chance to play him tomorrow!”
Reports from Racquet Club of Philadelphia
Vanessa Raj of Malaysia showed great composure throughout her 3-0 win over Canada’s Melina Turk, establishing herself early with good length and attacking the front court, taking full advantage of the seventeen inch tin.
In the second match of the day, the strokes of Hong Kong’s Joey Chan were much better suited to the RCOP courts where she could glue the ball to the side walls and utilize her deadly working boast to frustrate Nabilla Arrifin of Malaysia.
Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly played an up-tempo game with American Faraz Khan doing all of the retrieving to move into the second round of qualifying.
The evening session kicked-off with a referee’s dream, featuring New Zealand’s Joelle King and Canadian Nikki Todd. With just one referee decision during the entire match, King showed how hungry she is to return to form after a lengthy recovery from injury. By quickly dispatching Todd, King showed she’s poised for a return to the world’s top five.
South Africa’s Shaun Le Roux ended American Chris Hanson’s hopes of qualifying in straight games by dominating the center of the court and playing the ball short. Despite the result, Hanson kept things close throughout the first two games to show why he’s been climbing the rankings, currently world No. 81.
Reports from Merion Cricket Club
The four afternoon qualifying matches at Merion Cricket Club saw the dismissal of three local spots in three games against seeded players, and one four-gamer between Egypt’s Kanzy El Defrawy and Canada’s Hollie Naughton.
Egyptian world junior team champion Mariam Metwally made quick work of Access Youth Academy alum Reyna Pecheco in a three-game, fourteen-minute opening match. Metwally will face fellow Egyptian El Defrawy in Friday’s qualifying final, who held off Naughton 11-5, 11-5, 8-11, 11-1 in thirty-one minutes.
Two Philadelphia-area locals followed on court in the ensuing men’s matches. Pre-qualifier and Fairmount coach Michael Fiteni faced the daunting challenge of top-seeded qualifier Alan Clyne. The Scotsman put on a clinical display 11-7, 11-5, 11-4.
A swarm of Haverford students then filled the gallery after their classes to support classmate and U.S. junior champion Sean Hughes against France’s world No. 40 Lucas Serme. Despite the vocal support and a giant print out of Hughes, Serme won the match 11-4, 11-8, 11-4, and will face Clyne in Friday’s qualifying finals.
“It was kind of what I expected, I watched some of his match online beforehand,” Hughes said of his first U.S. Open match. “He had a very high pace, and I would say he was really high up the tee and made it more physical than any junior player.
“It was awesome playing in front of everyone, it’s always great having the guys out to support. I knew they were going to make a blow-up sign of someone, and it turned out to be me!”
The evening women’s matches saw seeded Maria Toorpakai Wazir and Olivia Blatchford advance in three games to set up a Friday final against one another. Wazir edged past Germany’s Sine Wall 11-7, 12-10, 11-6 in seventeen minutes, while Blatchford took out University of Pennsylvania sophomore and French international Marie Stephan 12-10, 11-1, 11-6 in twenty-four minutes.
Merion’s home hero Todd Harrity lost a four-game battle against Germany’s world No. 41 Raphael Kandra in front of a partial, vocal crowd. It’s quite possible the Merion crowd will be supporting the German against Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema Friday night after taking out the home favorite.
“It was really difficult, I was coaching Sine earlier and I kept overhearing people say ‘yea, come on over at 7 Todd’s playing’ and it was against me!” Kandra said afterwards. “It was hard to focus mentally, but I really wanted to win. It’s really tough coming to the USA from Germany for one match in the first round of qualifying. I did my best not to think of the crowd, it was quite tough even when I had good shots and good nicks, I didn’t hear any claps.
“It was a quite difficult first game he was jumping on to all of the volleys, I was trying to keep it close to the walls, but he just kept jumping in there and volleying everything. The end of the second was so hard and really important that I won that game. In the end, I managed to get through and saw he was getting tired in the third so I kept trying to jump in front of him and keep the pressure on.”
Reports from Germantown Cricket Club
Deon Saffery of Wales found herself facing a two-game deficit in the opening match of qualifying at Germantown but recovered to defeat Belgium’s Nele Gilis and advance to the qualifying finals tomorrow.
Line Hansen was tested by the quick handed Maria Elena Ubina, a member of Princeton’s squash team. Ubina’s fearless attacking put her in a winning position only for Hansen to tuck in and extend the rallies. As Ubina tired her winners became errors and let Hansen back in and will play Joelle King tomorrow.
Frenchman Gregoire Marche put on a display of speed and high-paced play in his three-game battle with England’s Ben Coleman. The match may have been three games, but it took just over an hour for Marche to advance.
Germantown’s matches concluded with an eighty-six-minute marathon between New Zealand’s Martin Knight and world junior champion Diego Elias. After losing the first game 5-11, Elias created a 2-1 lead, but the veteran Knight forced a fifth winning the fourth in overtime 13-11. Both players mustered any remaining strength for a fifth game that went into overtime, which Elias clinched 15-13.