US Open winner Nour El Tayeb bids for Brooklyn title
By LINDA ELRIANI at Heights Casino, Brooklyn
The qualifying finals at the Carol Weymuller Open always provide exciting matches as it really is all or nothing, the main draw or out! The matches were closely contested and gave spectators a fantastic display of how athletic and amazingly skilled these top women squash players are.
The four winners now face testing times on court. Straight into the fray, Mayar Hany plays top seed Nour El Sherbini, Milou van der Heijden meets No.7 seed Nour El Tayeb, the winner of last week’s US Open, and Mariam Metwally meets No.3 seed Alison Waters. In a split first round, Nele Gilis meets No.4 seed Annie Au of Hong Kong tomorrow.
[email protected] was also held today and the Governors Room at the Heights Casino was packed with members and Corcoran sponsors as everyone enjoyed a delicious lunch.
It was a great chance to thank Corcoran for their superb support of the Carol Weymuller for over 15 years now. I did an interview with Nour El Sherbini and it was so interesting and inspiring to hear her speak about her successful career so far at such a young age. It was a real treat for the group at the luncheon and the crowd of patrons were also given the opportunity to ask some of their own questions at the end.
The luncheon was followed by the first of the qualifying finals matches. So, with a full stand of keen and excited members, the first match began.
The match was between Netherlands’ Milou van der Heijden, who is ranked world #41, against the young 17 year old Egyptian player, Nada Abbas, who is already has a world ranking of #31. It was going to be interesting to see if age and experience could overcome youth and enthusiasm.
Both players went through stages of controlling the match and playing their game, and at 1-1 and 9-9 in the match you felt like this game was going to decide the outcome. Nada just clinched the third 11/9, but Milou had other plans and dug deep in the fourth game and took it 11-7.
In the fifth, Milou started really well with Nada making more errors than any other time in the match. At 7/4 up it looked like Milou was going come through to win the fifth game with relative ease, but then Nada tightened up her length and managed to hog the T and climb back to 8-8. From there it went back and forth until a weak return of serve from Milou and a punishing volley drop winner gave Nada her first and only match ball at 11-10.
Milou stayed calm, re-focused and fought for the T and evened up the game again and with a no let to Nada it gave Milou her one and only match ball too. This time it was fully taken advantage of and Milou came through 13/11 in the fifth to secure her place in the Weymuller main draw.
I asked a beaming Milou how she felt. She replied: “Very Happy!! I felt a little bit similar to yesterday as to whether I could play my game and force that on her. In the end it could have gone either way and I’m extremely happy that I managed to squeeze it out!”
I asked how she felt in the fifth and Milou said: “I felt fine and I obviously could see the finish line, but I kept telling myself to take it one point at a timer and it worked!”
The first of two all-Egyptian matches was between Mayar Hany who is the world #27, and Nadine Shahin the world #30, both 20 years of age. This ended up being the second 3-2 match of the day and it was the longest match of the day by one minute!
This match was full of hard hitting, powerful drives and angles. The rallies were long and frantic and I was left feeling that someone needed to add some variation in pace and shots to the rallies. Mayar managed to keep more control than Nadine in the first two games and Nadine didn’t seem to want to switch up her tactics to get the T. Nadine’s lengths were also not deep enough and Mayar took the first two games 11/7, 11/8.
In the third and fourth games Nadine really dug deep and retrieved as much as she could, even doing the full splits to get to certain shots! This definitely put Mayar under pressure and errors started to creep into her game. Mayar also lost her length a little and consequently lost the T position that she had previously been enjoying. Nadine grabbed the third and fourth games from Mayar and took the match to five!
In the fifth the points stayed pretty even the whole way through and at 8-8 it was difficult to call, but then suddenly there was stroke to Mayer, and a back all nick, and Mayar managed to win on her first match ball with a precise backhand drop. Mayar won in 56 minutes, 11/7, 11/8, 9/11, 9/11, 11/8.
A very happy Mayar said: “I’m so happy to qualify and to win my second match also. We’ve been playing together for a long time since we were juniors, so winning today was a good win. It’s nearly always 3-2 or very close in games when we play! I’m so happy and pleased to be in the main draw and hope for a good draw.”
The next match was between Belgium’s top player Nele Gilis, who is world #26, against Mexico’s Samantha Teran who is world #36. This is the only match in the qualifying finals that didn’t feature an Egyptian player. This just shows again how strong and popular squash is in Egypt. This is Nele’s first appearance at the Carol Weymuller Open, so it was really nice to see some new players travelling to play our event.
Nele couldn’t have had a better start and made absolutely no errors and played tactically perfectly to take the first game 11/1. Sam is a feisty player and has many years of experience to draw from and she started to find her length and vary the pace a little which helped to take Nele off the T where she had spent most of the first game.
The game was incredibly close and it was Sam that got the first game ball at 10-9. Nele stayed in there and got a game ball herself at 12/11, but with some extra pressure and a perfect backhand drop from the back corner Sam clinched the second game 14-12.
Sam got a good start in the third and was 5-3 up, but soon Nele found her rhythm again and used her deadly backhand drop to outplay Sam on several occasions, taking the third game 11/6.
Nele was still looking sharp, fit and lively in the fourth game and Sam was starting to show signs of being tired and slowing down a little. Nele very quickly surged ahead and at 10-3 up she did a fantastic disguised forehand volley that looked like it was going to go cross court but it went straight and left Sam stranded. Nele came through 3-1 in 51 minutes….11/1, 12/14, 11/6, 11/3.
A delighted Nele said after her match “I feel good!! And happy! I followed my plan to be aggressive and to keep her in the 4 corners and I did that in the first game. In the second I slowed down a little and played too many angles and you just can’t do that with Sam. Then I tried to get away from the angles and play more aggressive again and it paid off in the end. I’m liking this tournament more and more everyday and I’m excited to play tomorrow!!”
Our last match of the evening was the second of the all Egyptian matches and it a wonderfully tense and colorful one between Kanzy Emad El Defrawy ranked #35 in the world and Mariam Metwally who has a world ranking of 23.
Mariam started the match out perfectly, placing the ball to the corners and keeping the T and controlling the rallies with her wonderful array of winners. Mariam very quickly took the first 11/3.
The second and third games were more of a fight to win…literally! There were a lot of lets and stopping and starting in the match and the game lost its rhythm. Kanzy has a very attacking and aggressive style and it was hard for Mariam to find her previous focus. The points went back and forth and the collisions on the court were starting to get affect Mariam more than Kanzy and you could see the frustration starting to rise. Kanzy did many amazing dives and retrieved many balls, but Mariam fought her way through the last two games 11/9 and 12/10 to win in a tough 37 min three setter 11/3, 11/9, 12/10.
A red-faced and relieved Mariam said “I was preparing myself for a long match as last time we played it was 3-2 to me. But that was last year so it means that I’m getting better. So I was mentally ready from the beginning. I was trying to enjoy and to give my best. Alison and I haven’t played a full match before so as I said yesterday, tomorrow is a new day and a new plan! I just need to recover well and prepare myself mentally for a great battle tomorrow and we’ll see how it goes!”
Congratulations to all the players who qualified. All the matches were of such great quality and everyone thoroughly enjoyed them. The first round matches of the main draw start today at 5.30pm and we are all looking forward to watching some more amazing squash.
Only one of the qualifiers gets to have a much deserved rest day because three of the four spots were all randomly drawn into the top half of the draw, but at least they are more than used to the courts, so we will see if that gives them an advantage.
PSA W50 Women’s Carol Weymuller Open 2017, Heights Casino, Brooklyn, New York, USA.
Milou van der Heijden (NED) bt Nada Abbas (EGY) 6-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-7, 13-11 (55m)
Nele Gilis (BEL) bt Samantha Teran (MEX) 11-1, 12-14, 11-6, 11-3 (51m)
Mayar Hany (EGY) bt Nadine Shahin (EGY) 11-8, 11-7, 9-11, 9-11, 11-8 (56m)
Mariam Metwally (EGY) bt Kanzy Emad El Defrawy (EGY) 11-3, 11-9, 12-10 (37m)
First round (today):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v [Q] Mayar Hany (EGY)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v [Q] Milou van der Heijden (NED)
 Joshna Chinappa (IND) v Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY)
 Alison Waters (ENG) v [Q] Mariam Metwally (EGY)
 Annie Au (HKG) v [Q] Nele Gilis (BEL)
 Joelle King (NZL) v Millie Tomlinson (ENG)
 Victoria Lust (ENG) v [WC] Emilia Soini (FIN)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND)
The link to the live streaming is: http://ustre.am/1AkwJ
Pictures by JEAN ERVASTI