British duo score huge upsets to send El Weleily and Duncalf packing
By MICHAEL CATLING – Squash Mad Senior Reporter
English qualifier Sarah-Jane Perry and Irish number one Madeline Perry advanced into the quarter-finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions after stunning the seeded duo of Raneem El Weleily and Jenny Duncalf respectively in the opening round at Grand Central Station.
Madeline, who is unrelated to the younger Perry, recovered from a two game deficit to shock world number three El Weleily 8-11, 4-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-9, while Sarah-Jane withstood a spirited fightback from Duncalf to triumph 5-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 4-11 in the first WSA Gold event this year.
Defeat for El Weleily ends her hopes of avenging two successive WSA Tour final defeats, while Duncalf could fall outside the top 10 for the first time since November 2007 when the February world rankings are released.
In contrast, Sarah-Jane was left celebrating her biggest scalp since defeating Low Wee Wern at the British Open last year, while Madeline continued her recent run of form which has coincided with a career high seventh in the latest world rankings.
Yet the 36-year-old from Belfast appeared to be heading for an early exit against the Egyptian number one, as El Weleily (pictured right) stormed through the opening two games.
However, Madeline returned rejuvenated in the third game and led 10-3 before eventually halving the deficit with her third game ball.
A similar pattern unfolded in the fourth game as the 25-year-old from Cairo began to look like a shadow of the player who had ruthlessly dominated the opening exchanges.
Yet with an 8-5 lead in the decider and with the Irish veteran appearing to tire, there was a sense of expectation that El Weleily would manage to escape the Grand Central Station with victory.
Four successive points for Madeline, though, gave little credence to that notion and although El Weleily tied the scores at nine apiece, Madeline unleashed a breathtaking attacking backhand volley nick before clinching victory with an almost replica winner
“I still can’t believe it,” said Madeline (pictured left) in her post-match interview. “I just hope that one of the photographers got the picture of that backhand volley at nine-all.”
“I’m obviously delighted. I was completely outplayed for the first two games and completely turned it around and played some great squash.
“She’s really a better player than me in terms of skills so I realised that I just had to stay positive, enjoy myself and do something different than my usual conservative game.
Fifth seed Camille Serme awaits the 14-time Irish National champion in the quarter-finals, after the French number one advanced at the expense of two-time defending champion Natalie Grinham in four games.
Serme, who had lost in the first round of the $50,000 event in her last two appearances, lost a first-game tie-break and appeared to be struggling to combat Grinham’s cross court lobs.
But the 24-year-old from Creteil has only lost to world number one Nicol David since August and admitted afterwards that she was forced to utilise a ‘more patient’ approach; a strategy that instantly paid dividends as she raced 8-3 clear in the second before equalising the scores at 11-6.
A litany of unforced errors from Grinham – who later confessed to battling nervousness – and excellent court coverage by Serme, handed the world number eight the third game 11-4. The five-time French champion eventually sealed an 11-13, 11-6, 11-4, 11-7 victory in 38 minutes.
In the top half of the draw, qualifier Sarah-Jane Perry continued her comeback from a fractured vertabrae by upsetting teammate Duncalf for the second successive time this month.
Perry, who triumphed in straight games in their recent Premier Squash League match, had to dig deep to triumph over the former world number two as Duncalf fought back from two games down to force a decider.
Perry, 23, barely looked troubled in the opening game and managed to withstand a seesaw battle in the second to prevail 11-9 and extend her advantage.
Duncalf finally kick-started a fight-back in the third and fourth games as she showcased some of the form which once took her to world number two.
Since May, however, the world number nine has failed to progress past the quarter-final round of any Tour event and she duly extended that run as Perry capitalised on a series of tins and loose shots to ease through the decider 11-4.
“It is easier to be relaxed when you are the underdog,” said the world number 17, who is just returning to the WSA Tour after a three month injury hiatus.
“I certainly wasn’t expected to win. As for the confidence factor, I know I am playing well and you have got to think you can win; otherwise, what’s the point of playing?”
Perry (pictured left) meets countrywoman Alison Waters for a place in the last four, after the reigning British National champion overcame a vocal home crowd to brush aside world number 18 Amanda Sobhy in straight games.
Waters, who prevailed 11-3, 11-9, 11-6 in just 25 minutes, admitted she was unfazed by the local support which also featured the Harvard University women’s squash team.
“I quite enjoyed the loud crowds – it is much more fun to play for them,” claimed the 29-year-old afterwards. “Amanda is very strong and can be a dangerous player if you let her have the ball in the middle of the court. So my strategy was to keep her in the back of the court and out of the middle.”
Sobhy, who survived a tough five game encounter against former world number four Nour El Sherbini in the qualifying finals, paid tribute to Waters’ superior game plan.
“Ali was hitting her targets really well,” admitted the 20-year-old left-hander. “I was scrambling most of the time.”
In the day’s other matches, new world number five and New Zealand number one Joelle King needed just 25 minutes to inflict a straight game defeat on newly-elected WSA president Kasey Brown of Australia.
King’s reward is a quarter-final match-up with world number two Laura Massaro of England, who battled past former world number one Rachael Grinham in four games.
The Australian qualifier, who turns 37 on Wednesday, overcame a first game thrashing to level the scores at one apiece.
But parity was brief, if not misleading, as an unflustered Massaro bounced back to claim the next two games and remain on course for a seventh WSA Tour final in 12 months.
World number one Nicol David begins her campaign against Hong Kong Open semi-finalist Annie Au on Tuesday evening, while fellow Malaysian Low Wee Wern faces 41-year-old American Latasha Khan.
Pictures by Steve Line (SquashPics.com) – courtesy of the Tournament of Champions, Steve Cubbins (SquashSite) and Michael Catling