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Sarah-Jane Perry sinks Amanda Sobhy after stunning battle at Heights Casino

Alan Thatcherhttps://squashmad.com
Founder of World Squash Day, Squash Mad and the new Squash 200 Partnership, building clubs of the future. Founder of the Kent Open and co-promoter of the St. James's Place Canary Wharf Classic. Author and Public Speaker.

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Runners hit the wall: Tesni Evans (right) and Salma Hany get too close for comfort in Brooklyn. Picture by KELLEY HOLMGREN

It’s Egypt v England in both Weymuller semi-finals
By LINDA ELRIANI at Heights Casino

England’s number two seed Sarah-Jane Perry dug deep to fight back from two games down to overcome America’s Amanda Sobhy in the quarter-finals of the Carol Weymuller Open at Heights Casino in Brooklyn, USA.

There were four great matches and another home crowd favourite, Olivia Blatchford Clyne, also fell to an English opponent, Alison Waters, who triumphed 3-1.

Young Egyptian Salma Hany produced a massive recovery from two games to halt a run of excellent form by Welshwoman Tesni Evans, winning the longest match of the night in 65 minutes.

Top seed Nour El Tayeb did not have it all her own way against India’s Joshna Chinappa, dropping the
second game before regaining control to power through the third and fourth.

We have two Egypt-England clashes in the semi-finals, with El Tayeb facing No.3 seed Waters and No.7 seed Hany meeting Perry.

Quarter-finals day is always my favourite at tournaments because we are always guaranteed four extremely high quality matches all in one afternoon. The level of the squash this week has been truly amazing, and spectators are all left amazed and inspired in equal measure after each match.

Today’s quarter-finals had USA, Egypt, England, Wales and India being represented. These are all great squash nations, especially now Egypt enjoying an astonishing level of supremacy in both the women’s and men’s games, and we are very lucky to have all these wonderful players travel from around the globe to play in our event.

First up on the championship court was #1 seed from Egypt Nour El Tayeb and her opponent, world # 14 from India, Joshna Chinappa. 

They both have very different styles with Joshna playing attacking, fast paced squash and Nour varying the pace and mixing up the angles more. In the first game Nour managed to control the pace of the first game well. She looked more relaxed than her first match with Hania. Joshna seemed a little flat footed at times, but with Nour’s great delay on the ball and change of direction, this would have a lot to do this that. Nour took the first game 11-4.

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The second game was a flip-flop of the first! If you give Joshna a short length she’ll put it away every time. All the time Nour kept Joshna in the corners she would eliminate this part of Joshna’s game. Nour didn’t manage to do this and from 3-3 Joshna suddenly upped the pace and got Nour deeper in the court and Nour made some forced and unforced errors. She also started to be a little distracted on things outside the court, like in her match with Hania. Joshna stormed through to take the second 11-4.

Yet again the controlling phases changed direction, but this time it stayed in Nour’s favour for the rest of the match. Nour found her length and was using some lovely hold on the ball and started to look very confident and sure of herself.

Joshna tried to apply her previous pace and assertiveness, but Nour had found her rhythm and there was nothing Joshna could do to stop her. Nour won the third game 11-3 and it was only at 9-1 in the fourth game that suddenly Nour looked a tired after one particularly long rally, but she still went through to win the fourth 11-2 and take the match 3-1 (11-4, 4-11, 11-3, 11-2).

After Nour’s match when I asked how she felt and she said,”I think my match against Hania gave me a lot of confidence. I played against Joshna a lot in the days before the tournament in practice so I think she started to get hold of how I play. I don’t enjoy it when people read me and she did sometimes and she goes for her great shots. I think I was trying to be prepared for all her shots. I’m excited for the semis’.

Second match on court was the between 2014 Weymuller champion, Alison Waters, from England and world # 16 Olivia Blatchford from USA, whose name graces our board on the wall for the Baird E Haney award that she won back when she was a junior at the Casino.

They have played each other five times so far on tour and Alison has won every time, but last time they played back in February this year in Cleveland Olivia pushed Alison to a great five game match, so we’ll see what tonight brings.

The match started with some fast, long rallies and both players were moving fluidly and seemingly effortlessly. Ali took a lead of 7-4 but Olivia suddenly made a huge push to get in front of Alison and she managed to get her length much deeper and incredibly tight to the walls. With a series of fantastic, wall clinging drives, Olivia through to win the first game 11-8.

In the second Alison looked like she refocused and was determined to get Olivia deeper and take full advantage of any openings that Olivia put up for her. Olivia lost some of her previous tight length and even thought there were still some wonderful rallies Alison dug in and refused to lose the 2nd after the first slipped away. Alison won the second game 11-6.

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Much like the first match of the afternoon, Alison then continued her subtle control of the match. Too many unforced errors started to creep in from Olivia and Alison started to just get better and better and more comfortable out there. Alison won the third 11-5 and the fourth 11-6. Alison earned her spot in the semi finals winning 8-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-6.

Alison said after her match “I was disappointed to lose that 1st game after being 7-4 up. I think that I sat back a bit and got passive and she took the game to me at the end of the 1st. I started to mix it up more and stretch her and she made some errors. Really pleased to be into the semi’s against Nour tomorrow. We played last time in El Gouna and she won so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in tomorrow!!’.

The third match of the evening was between Tesni Evans world #12 from Wales and Salma Hany the world #15 from Egypt. Tesni made the semi-finals of the US Open last week and Salma always brings her A game to this tournament so my feeling was that we have a fantastic match on our hands!

This match was the longest of the night, lasting 65 minutes, and what a thriller it was. The match overall was so closely contested with both players moving each other around the court so well. Both players have an incredible array of winners, with holds and flicks and much more.

Tesni had to make sure her length was deep enough, especially on Salma’s backhand, otherwise Salma would chop it in. If Alison got the ball that bit deeper some mistakes would come. Tesni was the first to get to game ball at 10-7, but Salma was not backing down and she climbed her way back to 10-10. Tesni focus hard and managed to pull away and she finished the game with a perfect drop that faded away into the forehand front corner. Tesni won the first 12-10.

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In the second game Tesni keep her control throughout and with her great and controlled play she managed give herself a lot of time in the front and her incredible hold can hold her opponent in their tracks. This is such a useful tool to have when playing a player like Salma who get so much back. Tesni went through to win the second 11-6.

Tesni took the lead in the third of 5-3 and it was looking like she was probably going to win in 3 games. But never underestimate Salma Hany! Salma played some fantastic winners and she cut out the previous errors and got her length tighter and deeper and before we knew it she’d won the 3rd game 11-8.

Both players came out in the fourth to win it but Tesni couldn’t quite contain Salma. Salma was getting stronger and stronger and getting on a roll and even with 3 no let calls against her she still clinched the fourth game 11-7.

Now it was the fifth game and Salma continued on in the same vein and took a 5-1 lead. Just as we thought that Tesni was down and out, she gave a huge push and plugged her way back, eventually getting even at 7-7. Now it was anyone’s! The quality of the squash was trying amazing and both players were truly giving it their all. They next levelled again at 9-9 and we were all on the edge of our seats with the match standing at 2-2, 9-9. A skilful forehand volley drop from Salma took her to her first match ball.

You could feel the tension as they both decided to play a more patient rally, but it was Salma’s backhand drive that clung so tight to the wall that Tesni couldn’t scrap it off. Salma and Tesni both walked around the court before shaking hands, one in shock and excitement to have won, and the other with disappointment to have lost out by such a close margin, especially after being 2-0 up.

It just shows that a match is never over until that last point is won, and that staying positive and fighting until the end are absolutely vital. Salma won 3-2, with a scoreline of 10-12, 6-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-9 that illustrates how close the match was and how the momentum swung one way and then the other.

A red faced and happy Salma said afterward her match: “I can’t believe it, the first 2 games I thought I was playing well but I was too passive. I didn’t have the belief in me. After the 2nd game I looked at my phone and there was text from my mum saying ‘You can still do it!”. I kept fighting and every time I felt tired or though I couldn’t do it I visualised her saying to this to me and I that extra push!

“I am very lucky to have such great support. Obviously my team mates and my coach from when I was five years old, Ashraf Adel, and my friends who are back home. I kept fighting, knowing they were watching me on the streaming from the other side of the world. I did it for them. I just want to thank Tesni for a great match. I always enjoy playing her. She’s a great player and we always tend to have tough battles together.”

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Last up on the championship court, but certainly not least was England’s world #8 Sarah-Jane Perry and USA’s Amanda Sobhy who is currently world #18. It’s Amanda’s father’s birthday today so I’m sure she would love to win for him today. We’ll see if Sarah-Jane can use her tall stature and great pace control to take the T away from Amanda where she can be so dangerous.

After the third match of the evening was so momentous, it seemed that it was unlikely that the next match could have that same amount of excitement and competition, but it very almost did!

In the same vein as the previous match one opponent went 2-0 up and then their opponent dug deep and fought their way back into the match. Amanda was just taking the ball so early and cutting off all balls at every opportunity and Sarah-Jane couldn’t find the control that she was hunting for. Amanda won the first 11-8.

The second was a real tussle and both players were playing some wonderful clean squash, but it was Amanda that got a lead at 6-3 and then 8-5. Sarah-Jane found a better length and edged her way back and soon it was 9-9. A perfect volley boast winner from Sarah-Jane gave her the first game ball, but Amanda was gutsy enough to go for a winner off the return of serve and it paid off! A ‘no let’ in Amanda’s favour and a perfect backhand volley drop gave Amanda the second game 12-10.

It may have been that Amanda started to get a little tired in the 3rd and 4th games but she definitely made many more errors and was far less patient that she had been in the first and second games. It’s hard to, but if you can wrong foot Amanda and make her start to move one way and then go the other, she has a little clink in her amour, probably due to her Achilles injury and still not being fully strong in one leg.

Sarah-Jane managed to start doing more of this and her drives were deeper and tighter, coupled with some awesome short shots. As the match went on Sarah-Jane became more composed and accurate and Amanda’s previously perfect form started to crumble. Sarah-Jane won the 4th 11-5 and went through the fifth in the same manner taking the final game 11-4. Sarah-Jane won 8-11, 10-12, 11-9, 11-5, 11-4.

A tired Sarah-Jane said afterwards: “At first it was going alright and then she started picking me off. I was being quite predictable and she is too good to do that. I gave myself a bit more of license to play and be creative. 1-0 down and 9-5 down isn’t the best way to start a match, but I’ve had some good comebacks in the last year and I’m more confident in my fitness.

“I started to stretch her and she started to make errors. So I dug in and told myself to be solid……and it worked. For the semi final tomorrow, Salma was playing SO well today so bring it on!”

Heights Casino Juniors enjoy the Salming “Play A Pro” session

Here ends yet another amazing evening of squash. We really have been treated to some wonderful matches and the players are such incredible athletes. We can’t wait for the semi finals tomorrow at 2.30pm and 3.15pm to see who will make it through to the Weymuller Open final on Monday night.

After the quarter-finals we had our new [email protected] event, which was a wonderful success with delicious food and great company. It was a very special and fun way to celebrate the Weymuller week. Thanks to all our fantastic members that supported it. 

Before the quarter-finals we enjoyed the Salming “Play a Pro” session for our Casino juniors. A huge thank you goes to Haley Mendez, Milou van der Heijden, Nele Gilis, Amanda Landers-Murphy, Julianne Courtice and Lucy Beecroft for taking the time to play with them. The kids all had such an amazing time and received some cool colorful wristbands. The PSA women are so great at giving back and spreading the joy and love of squash to others.

Women’s $51,250 Women’s Carol Weymuller Open 2018, Heights Casino, Brooklyn, New York, USA.

Quarter-finals:
[1] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt [8] Joshna Chinappa (IND) 11-4, 4-11, 11-3, 11-2 (31m)
[3] Alison Waters (ENG) bt [6] Olivia Blatchford (USA) 8-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-6 (40m)
[7] Salma Hany (EGY) bt [4] Tesni Evans (WAL) 10-12, 6-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-9 (65m)
[2] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt [9/16] Amanda Sobhy (USA) 8-11, 10-12, 11-9, 11-5, 11-4 (51m) 

Semi-finals:
[1] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v [3] Alison Waters (ENG)
[2] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v [7] Salma Hany (EGY)

Report by LINDA ELRIANI. Edited by ALAN THATCHER

Pictures by KELLEY HOLMGREN

 

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