It’s like they’ve never been away: El Sherbini and Perry secure successful returns from injury
By Kristi Maroc – Squash Mad New York Correspondent
Egyptian teenager Nour El Sherbini and world number 17 Sarah-Jane Perry marked their returns from injury with hard-fought victories in the first qualifying round of the Tournament of Champions at the Princeton Club.
El Sherbini (pictured above), who has been absent from the WSA Tour since the British Open, recaptured some of the form which took her to world number four in 2012 as she recovered from an opening game loss against Engand’s Sarah Kippax to prevail 11-13, 11-6, 11-8, 11-6.
World number 17 Perry also endured a first game tie-break but unlike her Egyptian counterpart, she edged the opening game before racing away to defeat Olivia Blatchford in straight games.
Top qualifying seed Dipika Pallikal was untroubled in a 3-0 win over 19-year-old Emily Whitlock.
In the match of the day, former world number one Rachael Grinham scraped past Joey Chan after prevailing in a nail-biting fifth game tiebreak.
Meanwhile, there were resounding victories for Annie Au, Omneya Abdel Kawy and Amanda Sobhy, while Sobhy’s younger sister Sabrina bowed out with a four game defeat to Denmark’s Line Hansen.
First Qualifying Round – Princeton Club:
Indian number one and top seed Dipika Pallikal hit the court all guns firing as she brushed away England’s Emily Whitlock in three games 11-6, 11-8, 11-6.
Pallikal has her sights set on reliving another Tournament of Chamoions final, after she narrowly missed out on the title against defending champion Natalie Grinham in 2012.
Next on court was Australia’s Donna Urquhart against Annie Au (pictured right) of Hong Kong.
Despite Urquhart’s greatest efforts in the third which saw a the game stretch to 10-all, she was unable to tip the game in her favour, with Au the successor 11-7, 11-3, 12-10.
Au defeated world number two Laura Massaro at the Hong Kong Open last month and will need to overcome Pallikal for a place in the main draw.
A brief lapse of lighting mid-match didn’t dim the spirits of 18 year old Nour El Sherbini as she recorded her first victory on the WSA Tour since May.
Despite being sidelined due to a series of niggling injuries since the middle of last year, El Sherbini managed to maintain strength and take down England’s Sarah Kippax in an hour long four game encounter 11-13, 11-8, 11-6, 11-5.
There was no room for niceties in the all-American battle between Amanda Sobhy and Cecelia Cortes, with Sobhy convincingly beating her compatriot 11-3, 11-4, 11-4 in 19 minutes to setup a meeting with El Sherbini in the next round.
Sobhy’s little sister and tournament youngster 17 year old Sabrina Sobhy didn’t have quite the same momentum as her sister, missing out on a win against Denmark’s Line Hansen in four solid matches, 11-5, 11-8, 6-11, 12-10.
A close match ensued on court between Australia’s Rachael Grinham and Hong Kong’s Joey Chan, which saw the battle stretch into a long game in the fifth.
Thirty-six-year-old Rachael Grinham (pictured left) managed to show her endurance, taking out the win 11-6, 4-11,11-13,11-9,13-11.
Despite suffering a fractured vertebrae in September, Sarah-Jane Perry overcame any discomfort to knock another US hopeful, Olivia Blatchford, out of the qualifying draw in three games, 12-10, 11-3, 11-8.
Meanwhile, another brief 19 minute match between Egyptian Omneya Abdel Kawy and Argentinian Fernanda Rocha saw Abdel Kawy sail through to defeat the Argentinian 11-0, 11-3, 11-4.
Kawy will now meet Grinham for a place in the main draw, while Sobhy takes on her sister’s conqueror Hansen.
Qualifying Finals Draw:
Dipika Pallikal (IND) v Annie Au (HKG)
Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v Amanda Sobhy (USA)
Rachael Grinham (AUS) v Line Hansen (DEN)
Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) v Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
First Qualifying Round Results:
Dipika Pallikal (IND) 3-0 Emily Whitlock (ENG) 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 (31m)
Annie Au (HKG) 3-0 Donna Urquhart (AUS) 11-7, 11-3, 12-10 (27m)
Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-1 Sarah Kippax (ENG) 11-13, 11-8, 11-6, 11-5 (60m)
Amanda Sobhy (USA) 3-0 Cecelia Cortes (USA) 11-3, 11-4, 11-4 (19m)
Line Hansen (DEN) 3-1 Sabrina Sobhy (USA) 11-5, 11-8, 6-11, 12-10 (47m)
Rachael Grinham (AUS) 3-2 Joey Chan (HKG) 11-6, 4-11, 11-13, 11-9, 13-11 (53m)
Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-0 Olivia Blatchford (USA) 12-10, 11-3, 11-8 (33m)
Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) 3-0 Fernanda Rocha (ARG) 11-0, 11-3, 11-4 (19m)
Pictures by Steve Cubbins (SquashSite)