Thursday, November 30, 2023

Dipika Pallikal goes close against Raneem El Welily

Dipika Pallikal (left) and Raneem El Welily
Dipika Pallikal (left) and Raneem El Welily

Raneem escapes as Joey Chan plays another cool hand at Heights Casino
By LINDA ELRIANI – Squash Mad Reporter, Tournament Director and MC at Heights Casino


Top seed Raneem El Welily is enjoying all the challenges that come with being world number one. Tonight she had to fend off a huge attack from India’s Dipika Pallikal to reach the quarter-finals of the Carol Weymuller Open at Heights Casino in Brooklyn.

Tonight was the second half of the first round draw. It has been so great having all the main draw matches on the championship court again this year. This means all the matches are streamed live and also the viewing for our spectators here at the Casino is great too! It’s so nice for all the PSA players to know that their family and friends can watch their matches from afar.

unnamedFirst on the Championship court was world # 6 and last year’s Weymuller finalist Omneya Abdel Kawy against PSA president Jenny Duncalf, another experienced player who won the Weymuller back in 2009 and 2010. 

The match started well for Jenny and while both players moved the ball around the court a lot using court courts and angles, Jenny managed to control each of the rallies just that little better than Omneya up until she got to 10-6 game ball at least. Omneya suddenly pounced into gear and Jenny squandered her lead with a few loose shots and errors that had not be there at the beginning. Omneya went through to win the next six points in a row taking the first game 12-10.

Jenny started off well again with a 5-1 lead but once again Omneya won the next 6 points in a row to then take the lead at 7-5. This time Jenny took the bull by the horns and stepped it up and went through to take the second in a very close 11-9.

In the third game Omneya was completely in control. Jenny’s lengths were too short and gave Omneya a free range of the middle which is where she plays her best. Omneya won the third in a convincing 11-3.

Jenny came back in the fourth looking determined and she soon regained her composure and found her length, forced Omneya back on the court and errors started to creep in. Jenny got an impressive 10-4 lead hitting much tighter, deeper lengths but just like déjà vu Omneya got onto a roll again winning five points in a row but at 10-9 Jenny finally decided this was her game and went through to win 11-9.

Omneya quickly got ahead in the fifth. Her short shots were amazing and soon she had a 7-1 lead. Jenny couldn’t regain her previous weight on her lengths to force Omneya back, so Omneya went through to win 11-3.

A happy Omneya said: “I’m feeling good for the first match of the season. Since June I haven’t played any tournaments so in the first game I didn’t see the ball well. I was struggling in the beginning and Jenny was moving well. I just relaxed and started to go for my winners and Jenny made some errors and then started to tense up. It was a crucial game. My head wasn’t tough enough. I played in phases and so did she, I’m glad that I played my game in the fifth. I ‘m happy for my win and I look forward to my match tomorrow.”

Second match on the championship court was between World # 7 Nour El Sherbini from Egypt and Malaysia’s Delia Arnold, who is world # 12. This was their first match on tour.

Nour played very steadily and kept the T and used her height advantage to cut off shots so well and force Delia to move around the court. Delia did a great job retrieving but Nour won the first 11-6.

unnamedIn the second game Delia was really moving well and managed to win one particularly long and exciting rally with a perfect backhand volley drop while running back almost off balance. This was followed up by a perfect forehand boast which took Delia to 7-7. Nour suddenly another gear to take the next four points in a row to win the game 11-7.

In the third, Delia kept trying to win back the T and stop Nour from using her wonderful volley drops and short shots. Delia put in her own fair share of great winners and she eventually got a 9-7 lead. Nour gave a final push to control the middle and with a variety of holds, perfect boast winners and a crosscourt kill, she took the match 11-9.

Nour said: “It was my first match of the season and I was a bit nervous. I was thinking about how my game was good or bad and not thinking about the game plan. Delia has created a lot of upsets recently and it was my first time to play her so I was expecting what was coming. It was a hard match, each game could have gone either way. I’m glad to be through and keen to play Omneya tomorrow.”

Third match of the night was between qualifier Joey Chan who is world # 29 and Australia’s Rachael Grinham, who has had a very long and successful career.

Rachael had a wonderful start to the match and couldn’t miss whenever she took the ball in short. Before we knew it Rachael was 7-1 up! Joey slowed up the pace a little more and finally found her rhythm and started to plug her way back into the first game.

unnamedThe court started to open up for Joey and Rachael started to make errors. Joey took the lead at 10-9 and won the game with an unexpected cross court drop winner from the back of the court.

Joey started the second very well and Rachael was going short way too soon and not managing to push Joey back in the court with her length. Both players were using the lob beautifully and the variation in pace was lovely to see as very often squash is played at a very fast pace. With one too many counter drops from Rachael, Joey was able to attack the deep from the very front of the court, leaving her opponent stranded many times and she took the second 11-5.

In the third, Joey managed to surge forward from 3-5 down to 9-5 up in one hand. Then Rachael’s creative squash started to flow and she cut off the ball and moved Joey around in many unexpected ways. Rachael went on to win the next six points in a row with only one hand out for Joey and took the fourth 12-10.

The fourth went back into Joey’s favor and she very quickly got an 8-2 and 9-5 lead but yet again Rachael’s unorthodox play helped her to claw her way back to 10-10. Joey gave one last push and came through 12-10 to scrape a 3-1 win.

Before tonight, Joey had only beaten Rachael once three years ago so in her interview straight after the match Joey mentioned how happy she was to win and that Rachael is a great competitor and mover and that she has magic hands. Well, Joey’s touch on the court tonight was pretty awesome too and we look forward to seeing if Joey can put her slower, more controlled game over her opponent tomorrow.

The last match on the championship court was between India’s #1 Dipika Pallikal and newly crowned world #1 Raneem El Welily from Egypt. Raneem just recently knocked the legendary Nicol David off her 9 year world # 1 spot, so she is clearly arriving here in Brooklyn on form and in good spirits! Raneem had led 9-0 in the head to head with Dipika.

Raneem started well in the first game and it was helped along by Dipika’s errors and soon she went through to win the first 11-6.

unnamedThe second game was still leaning in Raneem’s favor but some mistakes crept in and Dipika was playing some great attacking volleys and moving well around the court.

The score stayed pretty even until 6-5 to Dipika and then with a couple of awesome drops from Raneem and some errors from Dipika, Raneem when almost straight through to win the second 11-7. Raneem’s movement off the spot is so dynamic, she got onto some great short shots from Dipika and managed to get herself out of trouble and reapply the pressure.

The third game was all Dipika. She came out on fire. She played attacking low deep drives, she was forward on the T and taking in precise volley drops and kills in the front. Raneem didn’t react quickly or well enough to this huge push from Dipika and she went through to win the third 11-5.

The fourth started in the same way with Dipika looking extremely confident and making barely any errors whilst she was on this rampage. Raneem started to look unsure and she couldn’t seem to stop herself from going short as if to see if this next drop shot would be the winner. There were definitely moments of brilliance from Raneem but she was struggling to find her consistency and wasn’t putting the basic tactical work in to change Dipika winners to errors.

At 10-7 Dipika’s watch caught Raneem’s knuckle on her playing hand and caused it to bleed so Raneem has a time out to stop the bleeding. Once Raneem returned to the court there was only one more rally for Dipika to take the fourth 11-7 and take the new world #1 to a fifth game!

In the fifth Raneem started out looking much more confident than she had been in the last two games. Her short game was more accurate again and she was controlling the T. Raneem took a 3-0 lead, but with two perfectly disguised forehand boasts from Dipika and an error from Raneem, it made us realize the fight was not yet over.

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Just as Dipika pulled back in to the game again she seemed to get a little excited and made a couple of unforced errors and this gave the green light for Raneem’s confidence. Her immense experience guided her through the last few points of the fifth game to win it 11-5. It was a really amazing match and effort from Dipika and Raneem must have definitely felt that she dodged a bullet tonight getting out of this one!

When I asked Raneem how she felt after her match she said: “Pressure, lots and lots of pressure! You asked me what it’s like to be world #1 and being so hungry and it being so close in ranking points makes me feel the importance of every point.

“So, two or three rallies are enough for me to start feeling badly, especially with the results yesterday- everyone is beating everyone. I lose my game and my nerve when I play with pressure but I am learning to play with it.” 

2015 Carol Weymuller Open, Heights Casino, Brooklyn, New York, USA.

First round (top half of the draw, Friday October 2, 2015):
Omneya Abdel Kawy beat Jenny Duncalf 12/10, 9/11, 11/3, 9/11, 11/3.
Nour El Sherbini beat Delia Arnold 11/6, 11/7, 11/9.
Joey Chan beat Rachael Grinham 11/9, 11/5, 10/12, 12/10.
Raneem El Welily beat Dipika Pallikal 11/6, 11/7, 5/11, 7/11, 11/5.

Quarter finals:
3.30pm Joshana Chinappa v Salma Hany Ibrahim
4.15pm Sarah-Jane Perry v Joelle King
5.00pm Nour El Sherbini v Omneya Abdel Kawy
5.45pm Raneem El Welily v Joey Chan 

Pictures by JEAN ERVASTI


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