By JANE BALL (Squash Mad Reporter)
Tournament wild card Menna Hamed claimed the biggest upset on the opening day of the inaugural CIB Zed Squash Open as she defeated an out-of-sorts Alexandra Fuller in straight games at Cairo’s Zed Park.
Hamed, the World No.71, is appearing at her first PSA World Tour event of 2022 but showed no signs of rustiness as she put in a dominant performance over Fuller, who was celebrating her 29th birthday.
Fuller did hold a 5-1 lead in the third game of this PSA World Tour Bronze event but was unable to capitalise as Hamed came back to complete an 11-3, 11-3, 11-7 victory to spoil Fuller’s birthday celebrations.
“She is a very good player, so I had to start well from the beginning,” said Hamed.
“I had to focus on every point. I’ve played her twice but it was five years ago, so we are definitely both different players physically, mentally and technically.
“I also have to mention that it’s the first time my father has come to watch me, so I’m very happy. It’s my first time playing on a glass court outside, so thank you to [Tournament Promoter] Omar Abdel Aziz for giving me the wildcard.
Hamed will take on No.8 seed Hana Ramadan in the last 16, where she will be joined by Japan’s Satomi Watanabe, who also claimed an upset win by beating World No.38 Yathreb Adel in straight games.
The pair had never met on the PSA World Tour, but Adel came in to this contest sitting 18 places above Watanabe in the PSA World Rankings. Watanabe took a tough first game 11-9 before then winning the second game comfortably.
It looked like a comeback might be on at the start of the third game, as Adel won the first five points, but Watanabe regrouped and she will face Egypt’s Nour El Tayeb, the former World No.3, in round two.
“I was just really excited to be back on court again after last season,” said Watanabe, who won six titles on the PSA Challenger Tour during 2021-22.
“It made me feel like I can actually have the ability to compete against higher ranked players. Before that, I was stuck in Japan and I didn’t know where I was, but now I am on the right track, so I just have to keep going. I was actually planning to get to the top 30 or top 20, that’s what I am aiming for for the end of the season.”
Over on the ‘traditional’ plaster courts on the other side of the complex, there were wins for Hana Moataz and Julianne Courtice, who came back from 2-0 down to beat Zeina Mickawy and Kenzy Ayman, respectively.
In the men’s event, Colombia’s Ronald Palomino marked his PSA World Tour debut with a fine victory over the higher-ranked Spaniard Bernat Jaume.
The 23-year-old from Cali has had plenty of success on the PSA Challenger Tour, winning a pair of titles in South America last season, but this was his first taste of life on the World Tour.
However, Palomino thrived on the step up in intensity and was in fine form, causing all sorts of problems for Jaume, who was unable to deal with the Colombian’s speed and touch.
“I’m so happy with my performance, it is my biggest tournament and I’m so happy to take the first win, I feel great,” said Palomino afterwards.
“It’s so different [to the Challenger Tour] everyone here is so professional and the players are so good, you can take a bus from the hotel to here and from the airport, it’s incredible, I like it so much. I just want to play and have fun.”
Palomino will go up against No.3 seed Raphael Kandra in the second round, while there were also wins for Aly Abou Eleinen and Juan Camilo Vargas, who were the men’s winners at the glass court.
Eleinen dispatched 17-year-old wildcard Yassin Shohdy in straight games, while Vargas also required three games to defeat Christopher Gordon of the United States in the final match of the day.
“This was my very first outdoor glass court experience,” Eleinen said. “It was new to me. This is the biggest PSA event that I’ve gotten into on my own ranking. Even though I’m playing a young player, it’s a new experience to me. It was amazing and I want to keep going.”
Hungary’s Balazs Farkas also claimed his maiden PSA World Tour win, beating Egypt’s Mazen Gamal.
The CIB Zed Squash Open continues today (August 25) as top seeds Salma Hany and Youssef Soliman get their tournaments under way. Play begins at 12 noon local time (GMT+2), with live streaming available via the PSA SQUASHTV YouTube channel, while action from the glass court begins at 18:45 (GMT+2) and will be shown live on SQUASHTV.
2022 CIB Zed Squash Open, Zed Park, Cairo, Egypt.
Men’s First Round:
Juan Camilo Vargas (COL) bt Christopher Gordon (USA) 3-0: 11-4, 11-2, 11-4 (29m)
Balazs Farkas (HUN) bt Mazen Gamal (EGY) 3-1: 11-8, 11-7, 8-11, 11-5 (49m)
Henry Leung (HKG) bt Syed Azlan Amjad (QAT) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-9 (27m)
Leandro Romiglio (ARG) bt Tsz Kwan Lau (HKG) 3-1: 5-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-7 (47m)
Ronald Palomino (COL) bt Bernat Jaume (ESP) 3-0: 11-3, 11-7, 11-5 (30m)
Zahed Salem (EGY) bt [WC] Sohail El Shenawy (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-6, 11-5 (24m)
Aly Abou Eleinen (EGY) bt [WC] Yassin Shohdy (EGY) 3-0: 11-1, 11-4, 11-6 (24m)
Rui Soares (POR) bt Joe Lee (ENG) 3-1: 11-6, 11-7, 4-11, 11-5 (42m)
Men’s Second Round (August 25):
 Victor Crouin (FRA) v Juan Camilo Vargas (COL)
Balazs Farkas (HUN) v  Karim El Hammamy (EGY)
 Yahya Elnawasany (EGY) v Henry Leung (HKG)
Leandro Romiglio (ARG) v  Omar Mosaad (EGY)
 Raphael Kandra (GER) v Ronald Palomino (COL)
Zahed Salem (EGY) v  Mohamed ElSherbini (EGY)
 Moustafa El Sirty (EGY) v Aly Abou Eleinen (EGY)
Rui Soares (POR) v  Youssef Soliman (EGY)
Women’s First Round:
Jana Shiha (EGY) bt [WC] Salma El Alfy (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-3, 11-2 (13m)
Julianne Courtice (ENG) bt Kenzy Ayman (EGY) 3-2: 8-11, 11-13, 11-7, 11-9, 11-9 (51m)
Sana Ibrahim (EGY) bt Lucy Beecroft (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-7, 11-7 (33m)
Mariam Metwally (EGY) bt Nour Aboulmakarim (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-6 (21m)
Hana Moataz (EGY) bt Zeina Mickawy (EGY) 3-2: 8-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-3, 11-6 (55m)
[WC] Menna Hamed (EGY) bt Alexandra Fuller (RSA) 3-0: 11-3, 11-3, 11-7 (28m)
Marina Stefanoni (USA) bt Cindy Merlo (SUI) 3-0: 11-3, 11-6, 11-6 (19m)
Satomi Watanabe (JPN) bt Yathreb Adel (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-4, 11-8 (28m)
Women’s Second Round (August 25):
 Salma Hany (EGY) v Jana Shiha (EGY)
Julianne Courtice (ENG) v  Nadine Shahin (EGY)
 Melissa Alves (EGY) v Sana Ibrahim (EGY)
Mariam Metwally (EGY) v  Farida Mohamed (EGY)
 Nele Gilis (BEL) v Hana Moataz (EGY)
[WC] Menna Hamed (EGY) v  Hana Ramadan (EGY)
 Emily Whitlock (WAL) v Marina Stefanoni (USA)
Satomi Watanabe (JPN) v  Nour El Tayeb (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour