Two games down, Sobhy roars back to dethrone reigning champion
By SEAN REUTHE in Philadelphia
United States No.2 Amanda Sobhy completed an astonishing comeback from two games down to eliminate defending FS Investments U.S. Open champion Nour El Tayeb in round three of the PSA World Tour Platinum tournament held at Philadelphia’s Drexel University.
Sobhy, a former World No.6, had spent 10 months on the sidelines due to an achilles injury before making her comeback at January’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, and she showed signs that she is approaching the level she was at before that injury with a stunning display after a slow start.
World No.3 El Tayeb’s historic win alongside husband Ali Farag at last year’s U.S. Open saw them become the first married couple in sporting history to lift the same major title on the same day, and she looked full of confidence as she hit an array of winners to take a two-game lead.
However Sobhy, cheered on by the American crowd, responded brilliantly and forced El Tayeb onto the back foot as she hit perfect lines into the back corners, while she was just as clinical at the front of the court to complete a 9-11, 8-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-6 triumph which will see her take on France’s Camille Serme for a place in the semi-finals.
Buoyed by a vocal home crowd, Sobhy dug in during the third game. She regained her composure and provided fewer opportunities for El Tayeb to attack on her way to an 8-3 lead. El Tayeb came firing back however, rattling off six straight points to go within two points of clinching the match up 9-8.
Sobhy then used precision of her own to slot two winners and then slammed the door shut with an emphatic volley nick to clinch the game 12-10.
From the start of the fourth game onwards, Sobhy used her momentum to her advantage, hitting winners and forcing errors from El Tayeb to win 11-6, Sobhy then maintained a lead in the fifth until she earned four match balls and capitalised on her first opportunity.
“It’s a special win for me,” said New York-born Sobhy. “I was thinking about this match since the summer. I know how good she is and she won it last year, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.
“I narrowly lost to her in five at the British [Open] and I knew that I’m right there with the top three still, but I just need to break through and I’m so pleased with how I fought back today, and having my whole support team here is huge for me and a big confidence booster.
“It’s amazing to be back here. I missed it last year, I was down here but it was a really rough time for me with my progress just being stalled and I was really hopeless at that time. Coming back here, it’s the biggest and most prestigious tournament in the US and I did my rehab in Philly, so it is a second home for me.”
Serme avenged her defeat to Annie Au at the Oracle NetSuite Open two weeks ago with a 3-0 win over the World No.11 this time around, while World No.1 Nour El Sherbini continued her strong start to the tournament with a victory over World No.9 Alison Waters by the same scoreline.
“I had to work hard,” said 22-year-old El Sherbini. “Alison has been playing really well since last season. Last time we played I beat her 3-2 and it wasn’t an easy match. I knew today was going to be tough and it wasn’t an easy 3-0.”
El Sherbini will clash with compatriot Yathreb Adel in the next round after the World No.30 followed up a second round upset over World No.7 Nouran Gohar with another surprise win over World No.15 Salma Hany in five games.
In the men’s tournament, World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy took a step closer to the final after he defeated Indian No.1 Saurav Ghosal in an entertaining 51-minute battle.
ElShorbagy, who fell to Farag in last year’s final, dropped just five points in the opening game but was tested by a resurgent Ghosal in the next two games and required a tie-break victory in the second, before he edged the third to complete the win by an 11-5, 16-14, 11-9 scoreline.
“With Saurav it’s always a tough match,” said ElShorbagy. “Our matches are always very tight and very difficult. He always knows how to move me around the court, so I knew from the first point that I had to be sharp and on my toes and I’m really happy with how I won that crucial second game. In the third game he made a comeback and I’m just glad that I closed it out in the end.”
The in-form Mohamed Abouelghar stands between ElShorbagy and a place in an eighth successive PSA Tour semi-final after a sublime performance from the World No.9 saw him down fellow Egyptian Karim Abdel Gawad in straight games.
Abouelghar has started the season brilliantly, winning his biggest PSA Tour title last month at the J.P. Morgan China Open, and he dismantled 2016 World Champion Gawad, claiming an 11-8, 11-9, 12-10 margin to earn his place in the last eight.
“I had a disappointing second-half last season,” said Abouelghar. “I knew a change had to be made and luckily it has worked out sooner than expected. I would say that was my finest performance today and I had to be at my best to beat someone like Karim.”
Elsewhere, World No.4 Tarek Momen and World No.8 Paul Coll claimed wins against England’s Declan James and Egypt’s Omar Mosaad, respectively, and they will go head-to-head in the quarter-finals.
Third round action continues tomorrow at 12:00 local time (GMT-4) on Tuesday October 9 and all matches will be broadcast live on SQUASHTV (Rest of World), Eurosport Player (Europe only) and DAZN (Japan).
2018 FS Investments U.S. Open Squash Championships, Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA.
Men’s Third Round (Top Half):
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 3-0: 11-5, 16-14, 11-9 (51m)
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-9, 12-10 (43m)
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt Omar Mosaad (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-4, 11-1 (34m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Declan James (ENG) 3-1: 5-11, 11-6, 11-4, 11-6 (40m)
Bottom Half (To Be Played October 9):
 Simon Rösner (GER) v George Parker (ENG)
Cesar Salazar (MEX) v  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Zahed Salem (EGY)
Joel Makin (WAL) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
Men’s Quarter-Finals (Top Half) To Be Played October 10:
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY)
 Paul Coll (NZL) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
Women’s Third Round (Top Half):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 11-8 (31m)
Yathreb Adel (EGY) bt  Salma Hany (EGY) 3-2: 12-10, 3-11, 5-11, 12-10, 11-9 (58m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Annie Au (HKG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 (29m)
Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 3-2: 9-11, 8-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-6 (51m)
Bottom Half (To Be Played October 9):
 Joelle King (NZL) v  Tesni Evans (WAL)
 Joshna Chinappa (IND) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v  Nicol David (MAS)
 Olivia Blatchford (USA) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
Women’s Quarter-Finals (Top Half) To Be Played October 10:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v Yathreb Adel (EGY)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v Amanda Sobhy (USA)
Report by SEAN REUTHE (PSA PR and Media Manager). Edited by ALAN THATCHER
Pictures courtesy of PSA