‘We need women to consider turning pro after college’ says Blatchford Clyne
By SEAN REUTHE – Squash Mad Correspondent
US duo Amanda Sobhy and Olivia Blatchford Clyne have made history. Yesterday’s victories mean that the quarter-finals of the Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family will feature two Americans for the first time in the tournament’s 26-year history.
They were cheered to the rooftops in the elegant surroundings of the University Club of Chicago’s Cathedral Hall. The stained-glass windows and sumptuous chandeliers provided a stunning backdrop as Sobhy and Blatchford Clyne emerged triumphant from two thrilling five-game battles.
Boston-based Sobhy, the country’s No.1 player, twice came back from a game behind as she survived a stern test against Hong Kong’s Annie Au, rising to an 7-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-5, 11-7 victory after 51 minutes.
The World No.8 initially struggled as Au’s lob and drop game worked perfectly on a cold court, but a change of ball after the third game worked in the Sobhy’s favour as she ground out the win. Sobhy will take on World No.2 Nouran Gohar for a place in the last four after the Egyptian made short work of Belgium’s Nele Gilis, winning 11-3, 11-3, 11-6 in 24 minutes.
“That was definitely tough. Annie came out firing and I think the ball in the first three games kind of suited her because it was a bit dead and she loves a good lob, drop,” said Harvard-graduate Sobhy.
“I think she is possibly the best in the game at the lob, drop game, so I was getting killed a little bit. Thankfully I asked to change the ball, so that helped. Instead of trying to hit the ball hard I had to use the height a bit, so it was almost like I got sucked into playing Annie’s game.
“I just told myself to fight for every point, to hustle, hustle, hustle and fortunately I did that and came out a winner.”
World No.17 Blatchford Clyne also required five games to overcome Egypt’s Nadine Shahin, winning a captivating contest by an 8-11, 11-6, 11-3, 9-11, 11-9 scoreline to reach the quarter-finals of a PSA World Tour Platinum tournament for the first time in her career.
Shahin came into the fixture on a high after hammering 2018 runner-up Joelle King in straight games in the previous round and tested her opponent throughout. However, an immaculate short game ultimately laid the foundations for Blatchford Clyne’s triumph and the 27-year-old will play World No.1 Raneem El Welily in the next round.
“It’s such a pleasure to be a part of this new group [of US women],” Port Chester-based Blatchford Clyne said afterwards.
“I’m really privileged that I get to train with Natalie Grainger who did so much for US squash when she came and played for us. I definitely see that it’s blossoming and I think our biggest goal has to be encouraging girls to come and do this [professional squash] rather than playing recreational squash after college.”
Three-time Windy City Open champion Raneem El Welily booked her place in the quarter-finals for a sixth successive edition after beating World No.13 Salma Hany. Hany struggled with a knee injury and never really got going physically as El Welily swept to an 11-6, 11-3, 11-6 victory in just 22 minutes.
In the men’s event, Spanish veteran Borja Golan – the oldest player left in the tournament – has reached his first major PSA World Tour quarter-final for three years after the 37-year-old beat Egypt’s Youssef Soliman 8-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-9.
Golan’s last quarter-final appearance at a PSA Platinum event came at the 2017 Windy City Open, He will once again compete on that stage in Chicago as he locks horns with World Champion Tarek Momen, who defeated Golan’s compatriot, Iker Pajares Bernabeu.
“I’m so happy, I don’t think this moment is going to come for me again because I’m finishing my squash career,” said Golan, who won the Windy City Open in 2013.
“I came into this tournament well-prepared with having the Nationals a few weeks ago and I had a few matches in my legs. I play so well in Chicago, probably because it’s a great club, great city and a great crowd. I’m very happy with this win today and with the way I played.”
Meanwhile, World No.2 Ali Farag and World No.7 Diego Elias will go head-to-head in a mouthwatering quarter-final contest after they achieved respective wins over World No.17 Omar Mosaad and World No.11 Joel Makin.
Farag, playing his first tournament since losing the World No.1 ranking to fellow Egyptian Mohamed ElShorbagy, prevailed in a crucial tie-break to take the first game, which gave him the platform to rise to an 13-11, 11-5, 11-6 triumph.
“The first game was crucial, I played Omar last week at the Egyptian Nationals and I never feel comfortable against him,” Farag said.
“He hits very good straight lines, so it is always a struggle to find a good game plan against him. If I was to lose the first, then I had to put some work into his body, but luckily I was able to win the game, saving three game balls, so that was crucial. Then I ran away with the second, but I started to see the finish line way to soon, and Omar will punish you if you do that.”
Elias has been in fine form recently after winning the Motor City Open and reaching the semi-finals of the Canada Cup earlier this month. Against Makin, he displayed the skills that have long seen him heralded as a future contender for the sport’s biggest prizes to complete a 12-10, 11-9, 11-8 victory over his in-form opponent, who had beaten him at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions last month.
Round three action continues tomorrow (March 1), with play beginning at 12:00 (GMT-6). All matches will be shown live on SQUASHTV (rest of world), Eurosport Player (Europe only) and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour.
2020 Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family, Cathedral Hall, University of Chicago, USA.
Men’s Third Round (Top Half):
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt Omar Mosaad (EGY) 3-0: 13-11, 11-5, 11-6 (42m)
 Diego Elias (PER) bt Joel Makin (WAL) 3-0: 12-10, 11-9, 11-8 (48m)
Borja Golan (ESP) bt Youssef Soliman (EGY) 3-1: 8-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-9 (67m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) 3-1: 11-5, 11-4, 9-11, 11-5 (46m)
Men’s Third Round (Bottom Half today, March 1):
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
Adrian Waller (ENG) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
 Paul Coll (NZL) v Declan James (ENG)
Mazen Hesham (EGY) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
Men’s Quarter-Finals (Top Half, tomorrow):
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Diego Elias (PER)
Borja Golan (ESP) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
Women’s Third Round (Top Half):
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Salma Hany (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-3, 11-6 (22m)
 Olivia Blatchford Clyne (USA) bt Nadine Shahin (EGY) 3-2: 8-11, 11-6, 11-3, 9-11, 11-9 (49m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Annie Au (HKG) 3-2: 7-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-5, 11-7 (51m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Nele Gilis (BEL) 3-0: 11-3, 11-3, 11-6 (24m)
Women’s Third Round (Bottom Half today, Sunday March 1):
Rowan Elaraby (EGY) v Lucy Turmel (ENG)
 Yathreb Adel (EGY) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Hania El Hammamy (EGY)
Donna Lobban (AUS) v  Nour El Sherbini (EGY)
Women’s Quarter-Finals (Top Half, tomorrow):
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v  Olivia Blatchford Clyne (USA)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of Steve Line, PSA and Windy City Open