Friday, April 19, 2024

Three Americans and one Canadian stay on track to reach last eight at Grand Central Terminal

Fiechter and Clyne make childhood dreams come true at ToC
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor

America’s world No.10 Olivia Fiechter fought back from match ball down in the fourth game to claim a dramatic victory in the fifth against Malaysia’s Sivasangari Subramaniam to reach the quarter finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York.

It was an emotional triumph for Fiechter, who had first watched the ToC as an eight-year-old visiting Grand Central Terminal, venue of this PSA World Tour Gold level tournament.

Fiechter won 11-9, 8-11, 6-11, 12-10, 11-5 to make it three Americans and one Canadian alongside four Egyptians in today’s quarter-finals.

Olivia Blatchford Clyne was another who grew up inspired by watching the professionals at Grand Central.

I remember interviewing this tiny, bright and precocious youngster at courtside while I was commentating on the tournament back in 2003!

Now 29, Brooklyn-born Clyne enjoyed her 10th appearance at the event by beating France’s Melissa Alves and cheekily commented: “It’s crazy, they awarded James Willstrop with a trophy for 18 appearances but I think if you count attendances I think I’m on about 27, so I think I’ve got him beat.

“It’s no joke when you say I grew up here. I literally grew up in those stands. I was inspired by all the squash I saw, I wanted to be one of the players and that dream has come true now, I am one. It’s surreal and special.”

Clyne and Fiechter join No.2 seed Amanda Sobhy and Canada’s Hollie Naughton in the last eight.

Olivia Fiechter makes a childhood dream come true as she reaches the last eight of the ToC

Fiechter had to draw on her fighting spirit as well as her shot-making accuracy, particularly with an impressive Subramaniam managing to engineer a match ball opportunity in the fourth game after coming back from a game down.

The Malaysian will perhaps consider herself unfortunate to receive a no let decision when match ball up, which was immediately followed by an error and then a well-constructed rally from Fiechter to draw level at two games apiece.

And it was the American who dominated the fifth game to reach the last eight, following a similar escape at the Cincinnati Gaynor Cup in February.

Fiechter said: “The last time we played I think she had a few match balls in the fourth as well, so when you’ve done it before it definitely adds to that self belief in those hard and challenging moments.

“She’s such an incredible player. She was pounding the ball so severely and for a while I was just trying to weather the storm. I have so much respect for her, she’s playing at Cornell while playing on the tour and I couldn’t have done that when I was at Princeton.

“Now she’s at her highest ranking of 20, so I’m at a loss that I was able to find a way to win, especially in front of this crowd.

“She had an incredible junior career, so she’s always been a player to watch. Now we’ve played twice and I’m sure we’re going to play many more times once she graduates.”

Victory at the Vanderbilt Hall was a lifelong dream for Fiechter, who added: “It’s definitely a strange feeling (being seeded) because the last two times I played this event I barely got into the draw. The fact I’m playing my first match on day four is a little strange.

“When I was eight years old I came up to the ToC and it was the first professional tournament I went to with my first coach Bill Lane, and I sat up in these stands all day long.

“There’s something magical about this court and it’s been a lifelong dream to play on here. To do it in front of my family, friends and loved ones is extremely special.”

Fiechter will now face Egypt’s Rowan Elaraby in the last eight. She will be joined in the quarter finals by another American, in Olivia Clyne, after the World No.22 defeated Frenchwoman Melissa Alves in four games in her first match of the competition, plus Canada’s Hollie Naughton, who beat England’s Lucy Turmel.

America’s No.2 seed Amanda Sobhy had already reached the last eight with her victory the previous day.

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In the men’s draw, top seed and world No. 2 Ali Farag opened up his campaign with a blistering 3-0 win over 2010 ToC champion James Willstrop, who was recognised on court Monday night for his record-setting 18th ToC appearance.

“We don’t want him to retire any time soon, he’s such an asset to our sport,” Farag said. “I have a lot of respect for James and that’s why I played so well today. Usually, in the first round you start a little bit off, but you can’t afford to do that against someone of James’s caliber.

“When he was being introduced when we were warming up, I was thinking that I was watching James here either live or on a screen in Egypt and I dreamed of being on this court one day, let alone with him.

“This is the second time we’ve shared this court, and as James mentioned, it’s the most spectacular court that you can play a sport on, not only squash.”

Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez faced a tricky task against France’s Auguste Dussourd, who had made the last 16 after defeating a higher-ranked compatriot in Baptiste Masotti, but came through in an exciting four-game contest.

Rodriguez settled quickly and delighted the crowd with his unique style of play to win the opening two games.

Dussourd pulled a game back but suffered a knee injury after some contact with the Colombian at the start of the fourth game. Following the delay, Rodriguez found his game once again, and went on to win in four to advance to the last eight.

“This is my 15th time at the TOC, I’m very glad and happy,” said Rodriguez.

“I was so pumped for the match, I had to wait three days. I’m feeling great – this year has been amazing for me, very busy and I have accomplished many goals in this period so I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be here and win again.

“I think I stayed on his pace in the third, in the first and second games I was playing my plan A and I was picking up the pace and controlling and in the third one I was playing too much on the backhand side and with the same rhythm so he got some confidence so I had to pick up the pace and play faster in the fourth.”

Rodriguez will now face top seed Ali Farag, who defeated England’s James Willstrop in a battle of former World No.1s.

Frenchman Gregoire Marche and Egypt’s Youssef Ibrahim were the other two men to make it through to the quarter finals on day four in New York City.

J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central Terminal, New York, USA.

Men’s Second Round: 
[1] Ali Farag (EGY) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 11-2, 11-4, 11-6 (26m)
[5] Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt Auguste Dussourd (FRA) 3-1: 11-5, 11-7, 8-11, 11-6 (66m)
[4] Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-1: 11-8, 11-9, 12-14, 11-3 (58m)
[8] Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) bt Dimitri Steinmann (SUI) 3-0: 11-2, 11-5, 12-10 (37m)

Men’s Quarter Finals (Thursday, May 5):
[1] Ali Farag (EGY) v [5] Miguel Rodriguez (COL)
Victor Crouin (FRA) v [3] Mazen Hesham (EGY)
[2] Diego Elias (PER) v [4] Gregoire Marche (FRA)
[7] Saurav Ghosal (IND) v [8] Youssef Ibrahim (EGY)

Women’s Second Round:
[1] Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt Danielle Letourneau (CAN) 3-0: 11-4, 11-4, 11-6 (26m)
[8] Hollie Naughton (CAN) bt Lucy Turmel (ENG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-6, 11-6 (31m)
[5] Olivia Fiechter (USA) bt Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS) 3-2: 11-9, 8-11, 6-11, 12-10, 11-5 (54m)
[6] Olivia Clyne (USA) bt Melissa Alves (FRA) 3-1: 12-10, 11-6, 7-11, 11-6 (41m)

Women’s Quarter Finals (Thursday, May 5):
[1] Nouran Gohar (EGY) v [8] Hollie Naughton (CAN)
[5] Olivia Fiechter (USA) v [4] Rowan Elaraby (EGY)
[3] Salma Hany (EGY) v [6] Olivia Clyne (USA)
Nada Abbas (EGY) v [2] Amanda Sobhy (USA)

Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour and US Squash


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