Unseeded American Amanda Sobhy steams in at Grand Central to beat world No.7 Low Wee Wern
By HOWARD HARDING – Squash Mad Correspondent
Unseeded US squash star Amanda Sobhy defeated world No.7 Low Wee Wern of Malaysia in five games to provide unexpected home interest in the women’s quarter-finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, the WSA International 100 event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.
“I knew that I had to be mentally prepared to get everything back, because Wee Wern is a great mover and super consistent,” said the 21-year-old Harvard University senior. Sobhy started strong, winning the first game 11-7, but dropped the next two by the identical scores, 5-11, 5-11.
Down 4-7 in the fourth, the Long Island native was undaunted, reeling off seven straight points to win the game. “I have been working on my fitness, and I got a second wind,” Sobhy remarked. “I usually play better when I am behind.”
That come-from-behind courage was called upon in the fifth game as the seventh-seeded Malaysian took a 7-5 lead – but Sobhy once again refocused and ran off six straight points to earn a return trip to the iconic ToC glass court.
“I am so happy to have won in front of the home crowd cheering me on,” said the jubilant US No.1 (pictured above), who played her match in front of a capacity crowd.
In her fifth quarter-final appearance in the event since 2003, Sobhy will face Raneem El Welily, the world No.2 from Egypt who eliminated her countrywoman Omneya Abdel Kawy in four games.
Egyptian interest in the semi-finals is already guaranteed as two compatriots – Nour El Tayeb from Cairo and Nour El Sherbini from Alexandria – face each other in the quarter-finals. Both are university students as well as top 10 squash players.
El Tayeb overcame surprise English qualifier Victoria Lust. The 21-year-old Egyptian – who leapt from the lower reaches of the world top 30 to No8 during last year – controlled the contest from start to finish.
“Last year I couldn’t even get into the qualifying draw and now I am in the quarte-rfinals,” said El Tayeb after the match. “During the past year, I have been working on my movement, position to the ball and fitness. The biggest difference is that a year ago I could beat a top 10 player but then lose to a much lower-ranked player in the next match. Now I am more consistent.”
El Tayeb will need that consistency against El Sherbini, who last year rocketed from 27 to 4 in the rankings. The 18-year-old, who is juggling her first year of college studies with playing professional squash, had to take her exams a week early to be able to play in the ToC.
The academic course-load does not seem to have affected the teenager’s game; she dismissed Hong Kong’s world No.10 Annie Au in just 21 minutes. “The start of the match was very good for me, and gave me confidence, and that was really important,” said El Sherbini.
France’s Camille Serme had her hands full with 20-year-old Kanzy Emad El-Defrawy, the acrobatic 20-year-old Egyptian who gives the term playing with abandon new meaning. Fearlessly diving to the floor to return her opponent’s shots, the Trinity junior – ranked just 66 in the world – delighted the crowd with here energetic, never-say-die, play.
Although El-Defrawy took the first game, world No6 Serme confidently claimed the next two in commanding style. Down 2-7 in the fourth, the 25-year-old Frenchwoman remained calm, patiently chipping away until she took the game 12-10 to win the match.
“Glad, happy and relieved,” was how the Serme described her feelings after the match. “I was a little surprised at how much energy Kanzy had, because she played three tough qualifying matches before today.”
Serme progresses to face second seed Laura Massaro. The Englishwoman, runner-up in 2014, played with authority as she defeated 18-year-old Egyptian qualifier Salma Hany Ibrahim, 11-4, 11-4, 11-3.
“The last time we played, it went to five, so this first round was a potential banana peel,” said the world No.3. “I am glad to get it out of the way.”
Women’s JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, New York, USA
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Annie Au (HKG) 11-3, 11-7, 11-7 (21m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt [Q] Victoria Lust (ENG) 11-5, 11-6, 11-2 (25m)
Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Low Wee Wern (MAS) 11-7, 5-11, 5-11, 11-8, 11-7 (61m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) 11-7, 15-13, 11-7 (39m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt [Q] Kanzy Emad El-Defrawy (EGY) 9-11, 11-3, 11-5, 12-10 (59m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [Q] Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY) 11-4, 11-4, 11-3 (32m)
Remaining 1st round matches:
 Nicol David (MAS) v Rachael Grinham (AUS)
 Alison Waters (ENG) v [Q] Samantha Teran (MEX)
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Picture courtesy of WSA