All-American battle in Windy City Open
By NATHAN CLARKE in Chicago
America’s top two female players Amanda Sobhy, World No.6, and Olivia Blatchford, World No.26, will go head to head in the second round of the 2017 Windy City Open presented by Guggenheim Partners and Equitrust Life Insurance after prevailing in their first round encounters inside the University Club of Chicago today (Feb 24).
Blatchford, the 5ft 0in 24-year-old, recorded one of the biggest wins of her career as she downed India’s World No.14 Joshna Chinappa 3-0, marking the first time she has ever reached the second round of a PSA World Series tournament – the highest tier tournament in professional squash.
The tournament wild card twice saved game ball in the first to take it 13-11 in the tie-break and from then on she played without pressure, controlling the court to secure a highly impressive 13-11, 11-4, 11-5 victory.
“That’s a massive win for me – especially as I came into this tournament as the wild card,” said Blatchford.
“It’s a huge confident boost. She’s a top 15 player, so to come in and win in three is a fantastic feeling and to be in the second round, and have another chance to play on the glass court at this stage, can only bode well for me in the future.
“The first game was huge. I think had I lost that one then the match would have been a completely different story. I don’t think I played well in the first game but I managed to stick in there and get through it and that allowed me to go into the second very positive.”
Sobhy, a quarter-finalist here last year, meanwhile took just 20 minutes to defeat Belgian World No.35 Nele Gilis in a comprehensive 11-5, 11-3, 11-1 win that saw her drop just nine points en route to victory.
The 23-year-old stuttered on her last outing at the Tournament of Champions in New York, when a partially torn fascia on the bottom of her right foot contributed to a disappointing second round exit, but she looked to have put at least some of her injury worries to bed as she dominated proceedings against Gilis.
“I’m very happy with the win today,” said Sobhy. “I had, and have, no expectations coming into this tournament, I just wanted to play at least semi pain-free because my foot is doing a lot better.
“So I just told myself to enjoy it and have fun and that’s what I did and I’m happy I took it 3-0 and conserved as much energy as possible.”
“To be playing Olivia in the next round is super exciting,” added Sobhy.
“I was pumped for her when she won today and I think she’s playing well at the minute and could give a lot of players a run for their money – it’s a little annoying that it has to be me who plays her next round.
“We haven’t played for a while and the pressure will be on me because I’m the higher ranked, but it’s just awesome to have two Americans at this stage in a World Series event – hopefully this is a trend that will continue in the future.”
Defending Women’s champion Raneem El Welily and England’s former World No.1 Laura Massaro were other notable winners. El Welily overcame a solid start from Jenny Duncalf to win 3-1, and Massaro achieved the same result against young Egyptian Mariam Metwally. Sarah-Jane Perry beat Australia’s Donna Urquhart and now meets No.2 seed Nouran Gohar.
Encouragingly, there are six British players in the women’s second round, Massaro, Alison Waters, Perry, Victoria Lust, Emily Whitlock and Tesni Evans, from Wales. Lust faces top seed Nour El Sherbini, Whitlock plays Nicol David and Evans meets Camille Serme with all of the underdogs hoping to spring a surprise result.
Willstrop masters Mosaad as Au takes out Momen
Overcoming 25 places on the World Rankings, Au matched Momen throughout the encounter, with his lob and drop style of play frustrating the Egyptian and tempting him into hitting winners from all angles – subsequently making too many errors and allowing Au to take advantage.
“I think I had an easy run in qualification when Raphael (Kandra) withdrew injured and that allowed me to save some energy and focus on this match today – and I just wanted to play my best out there,” said Au.
“In the first game he started very well and was very sharp and focused but I just tried to get back to my game.
“Then when it got close in the last game, I really wanted to win it. I just tried to focus on each point and doing what I had to do to win each one.
“I’m excited to come back for the second round now and give it my best shot.”
Momen’s compatriot Omar Mosaad, the 2016 World Championship runner-up, also crashed out at the first hurdle as he fell victim to a masterclass performance from James Willstrop.
The 33-year-old Englishman rolled back the years as he made light of the two-place difference between them on the World Rankings, living up to his ‘Marksman’ moniker to slot home winner after winner, striking cleanly and precisely, leaving Mosaad powerless to defend.
“I had to be very focused because Omar is a very tough first round draw so I was ready for him,” said Willstrop.
“I felt like everything was coming off out there. Sometimes it works like that. I’m feeling good and striking the ball well so I can’t be anything but happy with that.
“I’m not getting ahead of myself, though. I just try and go day and day, recover and train well. I’ve enjoyed coming here over the years – it’s a very enclosed and intimate venue.”
2017 Windy City Open, Guggenheim Partners and Equitrust Life Insurance, Cathedral Hall, University of Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Men’s First Round (Bottom Half):
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [Q] Joe Lee (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-3 (36m)
Daryl Selby (ENG) bt [Q] Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-2: 11-7, 11-6, 4-11, 2-11, 11-8 (82m)
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) bt Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 3-2: 11-6, 10-12, 5-11, 11-7, 11-8 (61m)
James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Omar Mosaad (EGY) 3-0: 11-5, 11-5, 11-1 (34m)
[Q] Leo Au (HKG) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-2: 5-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-9, 11-7 (80m)
Borja Golan (ESP) bt Max Lee (HKG) 3-1: 11-8, 10-12, 11-9, 11-9 (71m)
Fares Dessouky (EGY) bt [Q] Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-0: 11-6, 11-7, 11-7 (28m)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt [Q] Alan Clyne (SCO) 3-1: 8-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-5 (45m)
Men’s Second Round Draw:
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v Cesar Salazar (MEX)
Stephen Coppinger (RSA) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v Diego Elias (PER)
Simon Rösner (GER) v  Ramy Ashour (EGY)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) v James Willstrop (ENG)
[Q] Leo Au (HKG) v Borja Golan (ESP)
Fares Dessouky (EGY) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
Women’s First Round (Bottom Half):
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 3-1: 11-5, 9-11, 11-7, 11-3 (35m)
 Annie Au (HKG) bt [Q] Mayar Hany (EGY) 3-0: 11-4, 11-8, 11-6 (27m)
[WC] Olivia Blatchford (USA) bt  Joshna Chinappa (IND) 3-0: 13-11, 11-4, 11-5 (31m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt [Q] Nele Gilis (BEL) 3-0: 11-5, 11-3, 11-1 (20m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt Mariam Metwally (EGY) 3-1: 11-9, 8-11, 11-5, 11-7 (40m)
[Q] Samantha Cornett (CAN) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 3-1: 11-13, 11-7, 15-13, 11-9 (48m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt Donna Urquhart (AUS) 3-0: 11-8, 11-9, 11-8 (30m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt [Q] Fiona Moverley (ENG) 3-1: 9-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-7 (38m)
Women’s Second Round Draw:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Victoria Lust (ENG)
 Emily Whitlock (ENG) v  Nicol David (MAS)
 Alison Waters (ENG) v  Joey Chan (HKG)
Tesni Evans (WAL) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v  Annie Au (HKG)
[WC] Olivia Blatchford (USA) v  Amanda Sobhy (USA)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v [Q] Samantha Cornett (CAN)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA