Fearless teenager fights back from 2-0 down to beat legend
By ELLIE MAWSON in Chicago
Egyptian teenager Hania El Hammamy produced the biggest win of her career to knock eight-time World Champion Nicol David out of the 2018 Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family & EquiTrust Life Insurance Company in a huge first round upset.
Former World No.1 David looked to be on course for a routine win when she took a 2-0 lead. However, a brilliant response from 17-year-old El Hammamy saw her battle back to secure a second-round berth for the first time at the tournament – which this year offers a record high prize fund of $250,00 in both the men’s and women’s draws.
The teenager played without fear as she stared down the barrel of defeat, fighting back to level the scores before going on to win a tense and nervy fifth game to claim the biggest win of her career 8-11, 8-11, 11-4, 11-3, 11-9 after 54 minutes.
“It was such a good match against a legend like Nicol,” said El Hammamy. “I can’t believe it, I was 2-0 down and I tried to stay positive and not let myself get down. I just wanted to focus and play as well as I could.
“I was telling myself that I’m playing against a legend, I’m 2-0 down and I haven’t played my best, so I thought ‘let’s go and keep your mind positive’.
“It’s my first win over somebody in the top ten and it’s not just anyone in the top ten, it’s Nicol and it’s an amazing feeling.”
Elsewhere in the women’s draw, Laura Massaro bounced back from her shock semi-final exit in the British National Championships to beat Donna Urquhart in straight games.
Massaro was keen to refocus and said: “After losses, you always talk about the player that you are and what you have won but you just want to keep going forwards. The Tour is so competitive that you can’t really look back and you have to keep looking forward and I guess that is what I have learnt over the last few months.
“It was tough. Donna played really well and it’s always hard to play a left hander, especially when you haven’t played each other in a few years. I feel like it was just a bit of a mental pick-up on my plan.
“Her forehand is ridiculously strong so I just got punished so many times when I put it there.”
World Champion Raneem El Welily began her title defence strongly as she dispatched Belgian qualifier Tinne Gilis in straight-games. The Egyptian World No.2 will now take on England’s Emily Whitlock in the next round after she defeated France’s Coline Aumard.
“The first match of any event is always hard mentally and emotionally,” said El Welily.
“It takes time to adjust to it and she’s been playing very well. You can see from her recent results and how she was on court today that she’s hungry – but I just tried to come here and be positive and enjoy every moment of being on court.”
Amanda Sobhy flew the flag for the USA much to the delight of the home crowd as she saw off England’s Victoria Lust in straight games.
Sobhy recently made her return to playing after an achilles injury – which saw her sidelined for 10 months – and the current World No.30 was in strong form to win 11-7, 11-7, 11-7.
“I feel really good,” said Sobhy. “Considering five weeks ago I was playing ToC and that was my first tournament back. Each week I feel like I’m getting better and stronger at tournaments.
“Coming into this I knew I would be facing Lusty and she is a really good player. She took Laura to five at ToC and she’s playing good squash but I wanted this to be a good test to see where I’m at after a month of coming back and a tough first round is a good thing to see where I’m at.”
In the men’s draw Hong Kong qualifier Max Lee pulled off a huge upset as he dumped World No.9 Mohamed Abouelghar out in the first round courtesy of a comprehensive straight-games triumph that saw him produce some of his best squash of recent years.
The Hong Kong number one has struggled with repeating cramp issues during the past year, falling from World No.12 to No.30, but looked to have put his issues behind him as he moved with ease to dominate the court against Abouleghar and prevail in what was a high-quality exhibition of shot-making.
“Today I think I played very well and I’m very, very happy to win,” said Lee. “He’s a very good player and is still young – I just tried my best in every point. I had a few lucky bounces at times and the conditions maybe suited me better and he made a lot of errors which helped me.
“I’ve been suffering a lot with cramp over the past couple of seasons so it’s good to be winning matches again. I played a few events before coming here and I feel like I have some momentum behind me now and that my game is coming back, so it’s good.”
In another upset, Colombian Miguel Rodriguez overcame New Zealander Paul Coll 3-1 in a physical battle lasting 70 minutes. And former world champion Karim Abdel Gawad was taken to five by Spain’s Borja Golan before winning the fifth 11-1.
Meanwhile, tournament top seed and 2016 Windy City Open winner Mohamed ElShorbagy ousted England’s Declan James in straight games to secure his place in the next round of the Windy City Open where he will face France’s Mathieu Castagnet.
“I feel good,” said ElShorbagy after the match. “I came here and wanted to play well and I’m really looking forward to seeing how I can do this year. I have made it to two finals before and I really enjoy playing here and I hope I can go all the way here this year.”
PSA $500,000 Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family & EquiTrust Life Insurance Company 2018, University Club of Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Men’s First Round:
Diego Elias (PER) bt Cesar Salazar (MEX) 3-1: 14-12, 11-9, 6-11, 12-10 (63m)
Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt [Q] Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 (35m)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt Paul Coll (NZL) 3-1: 11-7, 4-11, 11-6, 11-6 (70m)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt [Q] Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT) 3-2: 13-15, 5-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-9 (69m)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 3-2: 11-5, 11-3, 9-11, 10-12, 11-1 (72m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt [Q] Gregoire Marche (FRA) 3-1: 11-7, 11-2, 12-14, 11-7 (51m)
[Q] Max Lee (HKG) bt  Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-5, 11-6 (31m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Declan James (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-7, 11-7 (32m)
Draw: Men’s Round Two (Top half to be played February 24)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
 Simon Rösner (GER) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
James Willstrop (ENG) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
Draw: Men’s Round Two (Bottom half to be played February 25)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Diego Elias (PER)
Ramy Ashour (EGY) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
[Q] Max Lee (HKG) v Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
Mathieu Castagnet v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
Women’s First Round:
 Joelle King (NZL) bt [Q] Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 3-0: 4-11, 8-11, 4-11 (26m)
Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Nicol David (MAS) 3-2: 8-11, 8-11, 11-4, 11-3, 11-9 (54m)
 Alison Waters (ENG) bt Joey Chan (HKG) 3-2: 11-5, 11-7, 8-11, 4-11, 11-4 (49m)
 Emily Whitlock (ENG) bt [Q] Coline Aumard (FRA) 3-0: 11-6, 11-9, 11-8 (35m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt Donna Urquhart (AUS) 3-0: 11-7, 13-11, 11-4 (35m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt Victoria Lust (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-7 (29m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt Salma Hany (EGY) 3-1: 10-12, 11-6, 11-5, 11-9 (47m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt [Q] Tinne Gilis (BEL) 3-0: 11-6, 11-6, 11-6 (24m)
Draw: Women’s Round Two (Top half to be played February 24)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Olivia Blatchford (USA)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) v  Nour El Tayeb (EGY)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v  Annie Au (HKG)
Mariam Metwally (EGY) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
Draw: Women’s Round Two (Bottom half to be played February 25)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v  Joelle King (NZL)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
Hania El Hammamy (EGY) v  Alison Waters (ENG)
 Emily Whitlock (ENG) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA