‘I had to keep the ball away from his volley’
By ELLIE MAWSON in Chicago
England’s three-time World Champion Nick Matthew suffered a shock defeat in the second round of the 2018 Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family and EquiTrust Life Insurance Company, crashing out at the hands of Australian World No.20 Cameron Pilley.
The 35-year-old Pilley put together one of his best ever performances against Matthew to secure his first win over the 37-year-old Englishman since the 2015 Hong Kong Open as he took a 11-8, 10-12, 11-8, 11-7 victory in 67 minutes under the chandeliers of the University Club of Chicago’s beautiful Cathedral Hall.
The Australian, renowned as one of the hardest hitters in the game, played at a high pace to win the first game before a resilient Matthew battled back in the second. However, from then on Pilley played with confidence to close out the win and reach the quarter-finals in Chicago for the first time in his career.
“We have played so many times in our career and I think that’s only my fourth ever win over him,” said Pilley following his win.
“Given what Nick’s achieved over his whole career – he is one of the best ever players – and even though he is coming to the end of his career, I’m quite happy to notch up a win here in Chicago.
“Because I haven’t had a lot of success against him you know that your game plan might be wrong. He has nullified that so many times before that you second guess how you want to play.
“I was aware of his volley around the middle of the court today and I didn’t want to give him as many opportunities at shoulder-height volleys as I have done in the past, and I think I did that pretty well. You know if he doesn’t dominate that area of the court then you’re in with a shot.
“In a way it’s a privilege to beat him in his last season because he’s so up for every tournament because he knows every city he visits will be the last time he competes there.”
The Australian will now face Egypt’s World No.3 Ali Farag in the quarter-finals after he downed Pilley’s countryman, Ryan Cuskelly, in straight-games.
“I had the right game plan today and had to work on winning the battle in the back corners and I think I managed to do that,” said Farag.
“It never got easier. But the more I dragged him backwards, the more the front court opened up. I was happy with how I played and with how I kept my discipline.”
On a bad day for England’s men, James Willstrop went out to No.4 seed Marwan ElShorbagy and Daryl Selby lost to Germany’s Simon Rösner.
It was the third consecutive tournament meeting for the latter two players, with Rösner claiming both of the previous – at the Tournament of Champions and Swedish Open – after not having beaten Selby in the eight encounters prior to that.
The ToC winner prevailed 3-1 in 55 minutes of entertaining, high-paced squash and said: “I feel comfortable with my shots and going to the back and front corners. I’m really pleased with my squash for the last couple of weeks and hopefully I can continue with that kind of form going into the next round, it certainly isn’t getting easier.
“Unlucky for Daryl because I think he had some issues towards the end there but it’s always difficult to play someone when you’re not sure if they’re 100% but I just tried to stay focused throughout.”
Willstrop played with his famous accuracy to take the first game against ElShorbagy before his opponent fought back and pushed Willstrop deep into the back of the court. The World No.16 struggled to find an answer as ElShorbagy closed out a highly impressive 9-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 victory.
ElShorbagy was clearly aware of Willstrop’s renowned tight lines on the backhand wall and revealed: “My coach and I sat down and made a plan.
“He gave me a lot of confidence with my own backhand and said ‘you have a good backhand drive so just play it’ and I think that worked today.
“Overall, I thought I played really well against him. He is a really good player and he always inspired me when I was younger. I always watched the way he played and maybe that’s why my backhand was good today because I was learning from him.
“He’s one of the best players to ever play the sport and just to be on court with him means a lot to me.”
Meanwhile in the women’s event, Farag’s wife, Nour El Tayeb, produced a tenacious comeback against World No.12 Tesni Evans to save four match balls before claiming a huge 3-2 victory.
The Egyptian was facing defeat in the fourth game as Evans played with accuracy and flair to punish the World No.3. In a clash between the newly-crowned Egyptian and British national champions, Evans held four match balls before El Tayeb turned it around to take the pivotal fourth game by a 14-12 margin and go on to win the match.
“My coach and Ali [Farag] have always told me that I have to dig in no matter the score,” said El Tayeb.
“Tesni played unbelievably well and was reading me all over the court. I was struggling. Every time I played a shot, she was there. I just had to dig in and I’m very lucky to be through to the next round.
“The fifth game was very hard mentally but I’m sure it was harder for her because she had the match balls. I think I tried to relax a bit in the fifth, so I could play my squash and I think I did that.”
El Tayeb now sets up a mouthwatering quarter-final clash with compatriot and top seed Nour El Sherbini after she eased past American home hope Olivia Blatchford by an 11-4, 11-6, 11-5 margin while Englands Sarah-Jane Perry and Camille Serme of France completed the winners on day three of action.
Perry won 3-0 against Hong Kong’s Annie Au, who started well and raced into a 5-2 lead before Perry made a steady comeback and rattled off seven successive points to take the lead and eventually take the first game by an 11-8 scoreline.
Perry continued to take control at the front of the court and managed to take the second by the same scoreline and closed out the match 11-6 in the third.
Perry said: “She is just so deadly in the middle and at the front of the court.
“I played some nice stuff and so did Annie, so I was just pleased to get off in three because my consistency has not been where I have wanted it to be so far this season.”
PSA $500,000 Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family & EquiTrust Life Insurance Company 2018, University Club of Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Results: Men’s Second Round:
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt Daryl Selby (ENG) 3-1: 11-7, 9-11, 11-5, 11-3 (55m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-1: 9-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 (50m)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt  Nick Matthew (ENG) 3-1: 11-8, 10-12, 11-8, 11-7 (67m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 11-5 (41m)
Draw: Men’s Round Two (To be played February 25)
Ramy Ashour (EGY) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Diego Elias (PER)
[Q] Max Lee (HKG) v Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
Women’s Round Two:
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Annie Au (HKG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-8, 11-6 (36m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt Mariam Metwally (EGY) 3-0: 11-2, 11-7, 11-8 (29m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Tesni Evans (WAL) 3-2: 11-7, 7-11, 6-11, 14-12, 11-4 (65m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Olivia Blatchford (USA) 3-0: 11-4, 11-6, 11-5 (27m)
Draw: Women’s Round Two (To be played February 25)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v  Joelle King (NZL)
Hania El Hammamy (EGY) v  Alison Waters (ENG)
 Emily Whitlock (ENG) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA