‘Last year I was on the long road back. This time I might put a bit of pressure on myself’
By SEAN REUTHE in New York
United States No.1 Amanda Sobhy got her title challenge under way at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions with a 3-0 victory over Canada’s Danielle Letourneau in round two of the PSA Platinum event taking place at New York’s iconic Grand Central Terminal.
Harvard-graduate Sobhy, 25, reached the final of this tournament back in 2016 and she took a step closer to the title decider courtesy of an 11-6, 11-6, 11-6 victory over the World No.39.
“Of course, how can you not hear this crowd,” Sobhy said after the match. “You guys are awesome, and I love it so much. I don’t really get that many home tournaments, but when I do, I appreciate it. It is nice to get going. There are always a lot of emotions playing a home tournament and now that I am back, I might put a bit of pressure on myself.
“At the end of the day, I am just here to enjoy it because last year, I was on the long road back, so I just kind of told myself to enjoy it and whatever happens, happens, and I am going to give it my best.”
Sobhy will go up against World No.3 Nour El Tayeb next after the Egyptian got the better of Scotland’s Lisa Aitken in straight games. Sobhy leads their head-to-head record with four wins to El Tayeb’s three, and it was the American who won their last match during October’s U.S. Open.
“I was trying to be focused and prepared from the beginning because I know how dangerous Lisa is,” said El Tayeb, the 2018 runner-up.
“All credit to her how she came back with the injuries she has had, but I was very focused from the beginning, and thankfully, I finished it off in three.”
Sobhy’s compatriot, Olivia Blatchford Clyne, also booked her third round spot as she defeated Nele Gilis of Belgium in straight games. The New York-born World No.19 will play defending champion Nour El Sherbini for a place in the last eight after the World No.2 dispatched fellow Egyptian Hania El Hammamy.
Blatchford endured one of the day’s closest matches in the final match of the tournament contested at the Harvard Club during the afternoon.
After splitting the first two games, Blatchford Clyne came back from 9-5 down in the third to win it 12-10. The fourth game remained within a narrow margin throughout until Gilis fought back from match ball down 10-9 to earn her own game ball up 11-10. Blachford Clyne bounced back to win two straight points in the front of the court to clinch the match after sixty-four minutes.
“Nele is a good friend of mine,” Blatchford Clyne said. “I know her game and at the same time, because I know it, I think I’m more nervous playing her than I am someone else who I haven’t played as much. Towards the end of those games I knew I really had to tighten the screws and make sure that I wasn’t hitting as many tins and I think I did that really well.”
Blatchford Clyne, a Wilton, Connecticut-native based in Edinburgh, Scotland, with her husband Alan Clyne, has attended the ToC since she was a child living in the city. The world No. 19 moves on to the Oracle NetSuite SuiteSuccess glass court in Vanderbilt Hall Monday night at 7:30pm where she will take on world No. 2 El Sherbini, who defeated compatriot and British Junior Open champion Hania El Hammamy.
Two-time runner-up Laura Massaro was also in action as she dispatched Egypt’s Yathreb Adel, avenging her defeat to the Egyptian in November’s Hong Kong Open. She will line up against World No.16 Salma Hany in round three, while Wales’ Tesni Evans and England’s Alison Waters will go head-to-head in an all-British battle.
World No.2 Ali Farag, El Tayeb’s husband, booked his place in the last eight of the men’s tournament as he edged a highly-entertaining fixture against England’s Daryl Selby.
The 26-year-old, who like Sobhy studied at Harvard, took the win by a 15-13, 12-10, 13-11 scoreline, but was up against it at times against an impressive Selby, who was unable to capitalise on any of his seven game balls throughout the 57-minute encounter.
“Right now, I could easily be sat down losing 3-0,” Farag admitted afterwards. “All games could have gone either way, and actually they were closer to going his way. He was leading in every game, he had game ball or more than one in every game. I am just very happy that I stayed calm, I never panicked. All credit to Daryl, he never made it easy at any point. I am very relieved to be through.”
New Zealand’s World No.7 Paul Coll awaits Farag in the quarter-finals next after his match with World No.12 Saurav Ghosal was cut short due to a calf injury to the Indian player.
Egyptian duo Tarek Momen and Omar Mosaad also claimed wins on day five, beating France’s Gregoire Marche and Scotland’s Greg Lobban, respectively, to reach the quarter-finals.
Momen said: “I always knew that Greg would show up the way he did today. He has always played really well against me and I expected it to be a very tough match, so at the beginning I was trying to employ a game plan, but it wasn’t working.
“I felt a little bit flat and then I kind of tried to fire myself up a bit. From that point, like halfway through the first game, I was playing really well and I was just trying to force it, to force him to make an extra lunge or two every point.”
The entirety of the women’s third round, featuring all 16 seeds, will be played today (Monday January 21), while the first two men’s quarter-finals will also be contested. The action starts at Grand Central Terminal at 11:00 (GMT-5) and all matches will be shown live on SQUASHTV (rest of world) and Eurosport Player (Europe only).
2019 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Grand Central Terminal, New York, USA.
Men’s Third Round (Bottom Half):
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Gregoire Marche (FRA) 3-1: 9-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-9 (67m)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt Greg Lobban (SCO) 3-0: 12-10, 11-8, 11-7 (43m)
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 3-0: 14-12 ret. (37m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt Daryl Selby (ENG) 3-0: 15-13, 12-10, 13-11 (57m)
Men’s Quarter-Finals (Top Half) To Be Played January 21:
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v Diego Elias (PER)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
Men’s Quarter-Finals (Bottom Half) To Be Played January 22:
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v Omar Mosaad (EGY)
 Paul Coll (NZL) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
Women’s Second Round (Bottom Half):
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt Lisa Aitken (SCO) 3-0: 11-6, 11-0, 11-4 (20m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt Danielle Letourneau (CAN) 3-0: 11-6, 11-6, 11-6 (23m)
 Alison Waters (ENG) bt Emily Whitlock (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-0, 11-4 (20m)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) bt Millie Tomlinson (ENG) 3-0: 11-4, 11-8, 11-6 (38m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt Yathreb Adel (EGY) 3-0: 11-3, 11-6, 12-10 (30m)
 Salma Hany (EGY) bt Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS) 3-0: 11-8, 11-8, 11-6 (30m)
 Olivia Blatchford Clyne (USA) bt Nele Gilis (BEL) 3-1: 11-9, 7-11, 12-10, 13-11 (64m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 3-1: 11-7, 11-4, 6-11, 11-7 (49m)
Women’s Third Round (January 21):
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v  Joshna Chinappa (IND)
 Annie Au (HKG) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Victoria Lust (ENG)
 Nicol David (MAS) v  Joelle King (NZL)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v  Amanda Sobhy (USA)
 Alison Waters (ENG) v  Tesni Evans (WAL)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v  Salma Hany (EGY)
 Olivia Blatchford (USA) v  Nour El Sherbini (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA