Great escape for Raneem
By ELLIE MAWSON
New Zealand’s World No.10 Paul Coll pulled off one of the biggest wins of his career as he knocked World Champion and tournament top seed Karim Abdel Gawad out of the 2017 U.S. Open Presented by Macquarie Investment Management in the first round.
It was tipped as the pick of the first round as two players inside the top 10 on the Men’s Tour met and it didn’t disappoint.
Coll got his U.S. Open campaign off to a dream start under the lights at Drexel University as he took Gawad on at the front of the court and appeared to suppress the Egyptian’s game plan early on.
Coll, who has forged a reputation as one of the fittest and strongest athletes on the PSA World Tour, played to his strengths to extend the rallies early on and force Gawad into an attritional battle that goes against the Egyptian’s typically flair-based game. And it was a tactic that paid dividends as he came through a close first game 11-8 before doubling his advantage courtesy of a comfortable 11-3 second game.
The 26-year-old Gawad turned the tide in the third game, finding his range with greater accuracy and nullifying Coll courtesy of a series of sweetly struck winners. But the comeback was short-lived as Coll again assumed the ascendency in the fourth to grind out the win and seal a huge upset victory.
Gawad – who recently finished runner-up at the NetSuite Open – looked to have found a way back into the match in the third as he came through 11-6 and there looked like there could have been a comeback on the cards for the World No.2.
However, a big call from the referee in the fourth game at 9-8 saw the game go in favour of Coll as a conduct stroke was awarded against Gawad, leaving Coll with a golden opportunity to take the match, which he did at the first time of asking.
“I’m really happy,” said Coll following the match. “I’ve been working really hard during the off-season and I’m cashing in and it’s going really well.
“The tournament’s not over and I’ve still got a few more matches so I just need to stay grounded and move on.
“He’s a really talented player, especially on the backhand so I had to make sure I was sticking my balls down there otherwise I was worked all over the show. In the third I missed my targets so I was pleased I managed to pull it back in the fourth.”
Coll will now go up against another Egyptian, former World No.3 Omar Mosaad, in the second round while Peruvian former World Junior champion Diego Elias, currently at a career high World No.15, sealed his place in the second round following an impressive 3-0 win over Hong Kong’s Max Lee.
“You’re always a bit nervous in the first round so I just tried to relax,” said Elias. “I was moving well and feeling really good on court. I’m feeling fresh right now, I’ve been training hard and I’ve been playing well.”
In the Women’s draw former World No.1 Raneem El Welily used a get out of jail card to keep her tournament hopes alive after a Jekyll-and-Hyde performance against Canadian qualifier Hollie Naughton.
El Welily could do nothing to stop the 22-year-old in the early going as Naughton, playing inspired squash, stormed through the first two games 12-10, 11-9. El Welily then hit her own purple patch, restoring parity on the scoreboard to take the match into a fifth game, where Naughton squandered a golden opportunity late on to gift the match to the Egyptian.
“She gave me a gift at the end and thankfully I’m still alive in this event,” said El Welily. “At 2-0 down I just relaxed. I was basically out of the event. I have to learn a lot from today’s match.”
The win means El Welily remains on course to meet defending champion Camille Serme in the semi-finals after the Frenchwoman put in a clinical display to defeat wildcard Haley Mendez.
“I’m very happy to be back,” said the 28-year-old following her win. “I love playing here. It’s an amazing venue and an amazing crowd so I’m just trying to enjoy my squash.
“I didn’t know much about her so I was nervous as I didn’t know what to expect, but I wanted to play my game and tried to find my targets on the court, so I’m happy.”
2017 US Open, Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA.
Mens First Round (Bottom Half):
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt [Q] Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-0: 11-6, 14-12, 11-6 (39m)
[Q] Mazen Hesham (EGY) bt Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 3-1: 11-8, 5-11, 11-6, 11-8 (55m)
Alan Clyne (SCO) bt [Q] Karim Ali Fathi (EGY) 3-1: 11-8, 11-5, 9-11, 11-4 (60m)
 Fares Dessouky (EGY) bt [WC] Christopher Gordon (USA) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-6 (40m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [Q] Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT) 3-0: 11-5, 12-10, 11-3 (31m)
Diego Elias (PER) bt Max Lee (HKG) 3-0: 11-8, 13-11, 11-7 (51m)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt [Q] Chris Simpson (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-6, 11-5 (44m)
Paul Coll (NZL) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-1: 11-8, 11-3, 6-11, 11-8 (74m)
Draw – Second Round
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY)
Simon Rösner (GER) v Cesar Salazar (MEX)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v [Q] Mazen Hesham (EGY)
Alan Clyne (SCO) v  Fares Dessouky (EGY)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v Diego Elias (PER)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) v Paul Coll (NZL)
Women’s First Round (Bottom Half):
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt [WC] Haley Mendez (USA) 3-0: 11-2, 11-7, 11-8 (25m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt [Q] Milou van der Heijden (NED) 3-0: 11-3, 13-11, 11-8 (34m)
 Olivia Blatchford (USA) bt [Q] Madeline Perry (IRL) 3-0: 11-7, 11-8, 11-6 (32m)
 Alison Waters (ENG) bt [Q] Samantha Cornett (CAN) 3-0: 11-7, 11-8, 12-10 (38m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt [Q] Amanda Landers-Murphy (NZL) 3-1: 11-2, 13-11, 4-11, 11-7 (33m)
 Joshna Chinappa (IND) bt Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) 3-1: 7-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-9 (45m)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) bt Heba El Torky (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-4, 17-15 (40m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt [Q] Hollie Naughton (CAN) 3-2: 10-12, 9-11, 11-6, 11-1, 11-9 (53m)
Draw – Second Round
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Victoria Lust (ENG)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY)
 Nicol David (MAS) v  Annie Au (HKG)
 Emily Whitlock (ENG) v  Laura Massaro (ENG)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Joelle King (NZL)
 Olivia Blatchford (USA) v  Alison Waters (ENG)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v  Joshna Chinappa (IND)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA