Friday, January 27, 2023

Sam Cornett hits the Heights as Olivia Blatchford wastes three match balls

Quality battles on court follow Weymuller Open celebration lunch in Brooklyn
By LINDA ELRIANI – Squash Mad Reporter at Heights Casino


The celebration luncheon at the Heights Casino

Samantha Cornett overcame Olivia Blatchford in a battle of the border between Canada and the USA, and she was joined in the first round of the main draw of the Carol Weymuller Open by Samantha Teran (Mexico) and Egyptian pair Salma Hany Ibrahim and Nour El Tayeb. 

Tonight was the last evening of the qualifying competition. It’s always an exciting round as it really is all or nothing…main draw or out! Wow! What matches we had today! The contests were so incredibly exciting and a fantastic display of how athletic and amazingly skilled the top women squash players are.

Our stands were packed again with keen and inspired members and our juniors were also busy collecting autographs from the WSA players.

Also today, the Carol Weymuller Open celebrated the 30th anniversary of the WSA with the Inaugural Weymuller AT-Lunch. The Governors Room at the Heights Casino was packed with members and Corcoran sponsors and everyone enjoyed a delicious lunch. It was a great chance to thank Corcoran for their amazing support of the Carol Weymuller for over 12 years now.

I conducted an interview with World #2 and current world champion Laura Massaro from England. The group was treated to some great answers by Laura and the crowd of patrons was given the opportunity to ask some of their own questions as well.

This was followed by the first of the qualifying finals matches played at 1.30pm between Tesni Evans and world # 27 from Wales and world # 39 Samantha Teran from Mexico. Samantha squeezed a 2-0 lead over Tesni but had to fight for every point she won. Tesni took a brief injury time out in the second after tumbling over in the front forehand corner and managed to push back in the second to take a 9-7 lead, but Samantha kept steady and came through 11/9.

Tesni started the 3rd in fine style and started stepping up and using the whole court to move Samantha around before finishing the rallies with skillful short shots. Samantha kept pushing and managed to chip off some volleys drops but Tesni stayed ahead. It took 5 let balls for Tesni to eventually win the 3rd game 11/9!

The fourth game was back and forth with even points throughout the whole game. There were lots of hard, long rallies and many lets and body contact while the players were vying for the control of the T. At 9-9 Samantha was awarded a stroke to take her to match ball on the first try. The match was about 1 hour and 20 minutes for a 3-1 match, so it really indicates how long the rallies were!

HCsamtesSamantha said after the match “It was hard, a very hard match. Tesni is not a player that plays one game, she mixes it, the pace, the shots, so you never know what she is going to do. I tried to win in three as I know if it kept going it would be harder for me, so I pushed in the third, even though I was 9-3 down. Then at 9-9 and I couldn’t quite get to 11!

“Then, in the fourth, I thought I would push again and then it was point for point all the way through. It’s like this sometimes in squash! I’m just happy to be playing here again, especially after my injury. When I played here two years ago I didn’t know if I would be back and I’m so pleased I am! I enjoy being here.”

Samantha Teran plays Raneem El Welily on Friday at 5.30pm.

The first evening match on court at 5.30pm was a wonderfully tense and colorful match which brought the crowd on the edge of their seats. It was between World # 30 Victoria Lust from England and young talented Salma Hany Ibrahim from Egypt who is world #40. Vicky looked very comfortable, smooth and concentrated in the first game and managed to keep the ball so tight and away from Salma so that she couldn’t use her deadly short game to hurt Vicky. Vicky took the first 11/5.

The next two games were a real battle for court space and control of the T. Both players moved so well around the court, retrieving so many great balls with some splits from Salma and dives from Vicky! Salma clinched the next 2 games 11/9 and 12/10, even though Vicky had had her chances with an 8-5 lead in the 3rd.

In the fourth game Salma took a 7-4 lead with great deep lengths, followed up by perfect drops and it looked like she was ready to take the match in 4. Vicky had a final push and did some amazing gets to Salma’s incredible short shorts and she forced herself back to take the fourth 11/9 in nailbiting style. The final point of the fourth was won by Vicky retrieving an almost impossible drop shot in the front backhand and then playing a perfect cross court drop off of it!

Vicky did a fist pump as she walked off the court and we were left wondering what the fifth game would bring to us.

The fifth, while also an amazing game, was a little more one sided with Salma’s short game working wonderfully and Vicky starting to make more unforced and forced errors, taking Salma through to the main draw, winning the fifth 11/6.

A red-faced and happy Salma very kindly spent her first 10 minutes off the court signing autographs. After she was done she said: “I hope I won’t play tomorrow and I have a day off! What a long match, long rallies and very tough opponent! I’m so glad I won the third after being 8-5 down. The only game I had a lead was the fourth and I lost it! I’m so glad to come back and win the fifth.

“The atmosphere was incredible and the audience was amazing. So happy to be here at the Weymuller and happy to be in the main draw. The kids did a huge cheer and had big smiles when I came out of the court. It was great! Thanks so much to my team mates…Omneya, Nour and Raneem for their support. I don’t know what I would have done without them!!”

Salma Hany Ibrahim plays Jenny Duncalf tomorrow at 5.45pm.

HCsamolThe next match was between World # 39 Sam Cornett from Canada and budding young American Olivia Blatchford who is currently world # 61.This match started off wonderfully for Sam and she took the first 11/4 pretty quickly playing steady, tight squash.

Olivia obviously had a re-think after the first and came out with a new energy and started taking the ball earlier and keeping it in the four corners so well and really pulling Samantha off the T where she had happily been in the first.

Olivia was playing the perfect combination of patient and attacking to take her to a 10/6 lead. Olivia seemed then to start rushing the points and making unforced errors with several forehand drops in the tin, which she hadn’t been doing before.

Sam kept plugging away and clawed her way back to 10-10. Olivia had one more chance to win the game at 11-10 but with an overly ambitious forehand volley drop into the tin she gave the emphasis back to Sam and she took it with both hands to take the second 13-11.

When a player is 2-0 down it’s very hard to go back onto the court and still believe you can win but Olivia certainly did! Olivia was moving beautifully and taking the ball so early and not giving Sam the chance to control the rallies. Olivia got the same 10/6 lead that she had had in the second and we were all left wondering if she would miss her chances like before, but Sam only won 1 more point before Olivia took the third 11/7.

HCsamoliviaThe fourth game was perfect for Olivia. She was error free and tactically astute and Sam started to make some unforced errors and look a little tired, especially when twisting and turning. Olivia kept the momentum going and went through to take the fourth game 11/3.

Now it was the fifth and it certainly looked like Olivia had the tactics worked out to win the match if she could keep the focus that she had in the fourth. The fifth started off very evenly with both players digging depth on their resources.

Then with a combination of some tins from Sam and a great hold and cross court winners by Olivia, she got herself to 10-7 match ball. This would be the first time that Olivia would have qualified for the Carol Weymuller Open, played at the club where she started to play squash many years ago.

The support from the local crowd was amazing too. It was almost as if Olivia suddenly couldn’t think about anything else but the chance she had to win and she lost her previous focus and game plan.

Sam seemed to recognize this and really stepped up the court as if she decided that if Olivia was going to walk away triumphant, that she was going to have to really win that last point, as Sam wasn’t going to give it to her. Sam’s focus was the best it had been all the match, right when she needed it most and she went straight through from 8-10 to win the match 12-10 in the fifth!

It was an amazing match and almost heartbreaking to see either of them loose after such an amazing effort and wonderful squash.

Olivia was obviously incredibly disappointed to have had three match balls and not been able to capitalize on them, but from my point of view it was the best I’d ever seen her play and her improvements since last year are immense. She was fit, fast, accurate and as always, a good sport. I think we will see much more great squash coming from Olivia in the very near future…watch this space!

A very happy and relieved looking Sam said after the match: “I hope that I play in 2 days time! I’m really happy with how I started the match and really impressed with how I finished it. I went into the fifth game with high energy after a couple of sloppy games and quality shots from Liv and it paid off”.

Sam Cornett plays Omneya Abel Kawy tomorrow at 5.00pm.

Our last match of the evening, but certainly not least was world # 8 Nour El Tayeb and American and world # 38 Latasha Khan.

Latasha played a creative and tactically astute game, especially in the first where Nour only scraped through 12/10. Latasha has such great skills and her years of experience show when she plays, but she couldn’t stop an on-form Nour from controlling the middle and moving her around the court so well. Nour won the second and third games 11/5 and 11/7 respectively and goes through to play Madeline Perry tomorrow at 5.00pm.

Nour said after her match “I’m very happy to have made the main draw and to be back here in Brooklyn with my second family (the Mendez’s). I look forward to tomorrow’s match”.

Congratulations to all the players that qualified. All the matches were such great quality squash and everyone thoroughly enjoyed them. The first round matches start tomorrow night at 5.00pm and we are all very much looking forward to watching some more of the amazing squash.

Carol Weymuller Open, Heights Casino, Brooklyn, New York. Qualifying Finals:

Samantha Teran beat Tesni Evans 11/7, 11/9, 9/11, 11/9.
Salma Hany Ibrahim beat Victoria Lust 5/11, 11/9, 12/10, 9/11, 11/6.
Samantha Cornett beat Olivia Blatchford 11/4, 13/11, 7/11, 3/11, 12/10.
Nour El Tayeb beat Latasha Khan 12/10, 11/5, 11/7.

Tomorrow’s line up for the Weymuller split 1st round of the Main Draw is as follows:
5.00pm Omneya Abdel Kawy V Samantha Cornett
5.45pm Madeline Perry V Nour El Tayeb
(6.30pm Meet and Greet with the players)
7.15pm Jenny Duncalf V Salma Hany Ibrahim
8.00pm Laura Massaro V Sarah Kippax

Pictures by LINDA ELRIANI (Heights Casino)


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