By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Egyptian teenager Sana Ibrahim celebrated her call-up to the main draw of the women’s CIB PSA Black Ball Open by beating Australia’s Donna Lobban in the first round.
This Platinum tournament, held at the Black Ball Sporting Club in Cairo, is the first PSA World Tour event to take place in 2021 following the ongoing effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and Ibrahim was one of six Egyptian players to prevail on the opening day of action.
Ibrahim claimed the biggest win of her career after she upset the seedings in dramatic fashion.
The 18-year-old from Cairo is ranked at 67 in the world, 45 places below Lobban, and was promoted into the draw the day before her match following the withdrawal of Menna Hamed.
Ibrahim fought back from 2-1 down to earn an 5-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-5, 11-9 victory in 49 minutes, which will see her take on World No.14 Rowan Elaraby in the last 32.
“I’m so happy,” said Ibrahim. “I didn’t think I’d get to play Black Ball because I was the first reserve. It’s a big chance and I had to take it.
“I said to myself that I’m not losing anything if I lose, so play and be happy when you play. My family and my friends are here, I’m so happy because my mum, my dad, my brother and coaches are here and I hope the Egyptians come and support me.”
Elsewhere, Scotland’s World No.40 Lisa Aitken mounted a superb comeback to get the better of England’s Lucy Turmel.
Aitken looked down and out after falling to a 2-0 deficit but started hitting the back corners with regularity from the third game onwards as she turned the tables over the World No.36. She will go up against World No.5 Hania El Hammamy next, who won this tournament in March 2020 before going on to reach the final of the most recent CIB Black Ball Open in December of last year.
“It was a really scrappy affair between myself and Lucy,” said Aitken. “It certainly wasn’t our best squash. I was a little bit disappointed, I have been playing and training really well but nothing replicates that tournament environment and match pressure on the day. The nerves definitely got the better of me there and I’m just a bit out of practice in that situation.”
World No.20 Sabrina Sobhy was also in action on day one as she went up against 15-year-old Malak Fathy in the final match of the day.
Sobhy, 24, broke inside the top 20 in January of this year and will look to replicate the kind of form that saw her test the likes of World No.3 Camille Serme towards the end of 2020. However, she has a tough second round clash against World No.1 Nour El Sherbini up next where she will aim to avenge her defeat to the Egyptian in December’s Black Ball Open.
“I played Sherbini not too long ago in the last Black Ball a few months ago and obviously there’s no pressure on me, so that’s always an advantage in my opinion,” Sobhy said.
“I enjoy those matches, you can relax a bit and you’re not so anxious, I’m always looking forward to any opportunity to play a top ranked player and in this case the World No.1. Everything on court she does is inspiring and noteworthy.”
The longest match of the day saw England’s Millie Tomlinson take out Dutch player Tessa ter Sluis, winning 10-12, 12-10, 13-11, 8-11, 11-6 after 62 minutes of action.
“She has a flick that really caught me up, and she is also very agile,” Tomlinson said.
“She moves around very well, and I helped her at the start by making far too many errors. I didn’t play my best today but I’m happy to get through, happy I didn’t fold mentally and that I didn’t give up.”
The second round begins today (March 13) and play begins at 11:00 (GMT+2). The likes of El Sherbini, El Hammamy and defending champion Sarah-Jane Perry will all begin their title charges. All of the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour (excluding Europe and Japan).
Women’s 2021 CIB PSA Black Ball Squash Open, Black Ball Club, Cairo, Egypt.
Sabrina Sobhy (USA) bt [WC] Malak Fathy (EGY) 3-0: 11-2, 11-0, 11-3 (20m)
Emily Whitlock (WAL) bt Cindy Merlo (SUI) 3-1: 11-2, 12-14, 11-3, 11-6 (36m)
Olivia Fiechter (USA) bt Menna Nasser (EGY) 3-0: 11-4, 11-6, 11-6 (21m)
Melissa Alves (FRA) bt Emilia Soini (FIN) 3-1: 11-8, 13-11, 7-11, 11-5 (55m)
Mariam Metwally (EGY) bt Ineta Mackevica (LAT) 3-0: 11-5, 11-6,11-7 (23m)
Danielle Letourneau (CAN) bt Jasmine Hutton (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-5, 11-7 (28m)
Hana Ramadan (EGY) bt Nada Abbas (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-4, 11-5 (27m)
Lisa Aitken (SCO) bt Lucy Turmel (ENG) 3-2: 6-11, 6-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-6 (61m)
Hollie Naughton (CAN) bt Tessa ter Sluis (NED) 3-1: 11-5, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8 (32m)
Mayar Hany (EGY) bt Jana Shiha (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 14-12, 11-5 (27m)
Zeina Mickawy (EGY) bt Nicole Bunyan (CAN) 3-0: 11-7, 11-9, 11-6 (29m)
Millie Tomlinson (ENG) bt Anna Serme (CZE) 3-2: 10-12, 12-10, 13-11, 8-11, 11-6 (62m)
Farida Mohamed (EGY) bt Enora Villard (FRA) 3-0: 11-5, 13-11, 11-8 (27m)
Julianne Courtice (ENG) bt [WC] Nadeen Kotb (EGY) 3-0: 11-3, 11-6, 11-2 (19m)
Sana Ibrahim (EGY) bt Donna Lobban (AUS) 3-2: 5-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-5, 11-9 (49m)
Sivasangari Subramanium (MAS) bt Alexandra Fuller (RSA) 3-1: 11-9, 12-10, 7-11, 11-5 (40m)
Second Round (Top Half today, March 13):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v Sabrina Sobhy (USA)
Tinne Gilis (BEL) v Emily Whitlock (ENG)
Olivia Fiechter (USA) v Melissa Alves (FRA)
Mariam Metwally (EGY) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
 Joelle King (NZL) v Danielle Letourneau (CAN)
Yathreb Adel (EGY) v Nadine Shahin (EGY)
Joshna Chinappa (IND) v Hana Ramadan (EGY)
Lisa Aitken (SCO) v  Hania El Hammamy (EGY)
Second Round (Bottom Half, March 14):
 Camille Serme (FRA) v Mayar Hany (EGY)
Hollie Naughton (CAN) v Zeina Mickawy (EGY)
Millie Tomlinson (ENG) v Farida Mohamed (EGY)
Julianne Courtice (ENG) v  Amanda Sobhy (USA)
 Salma Hany (EGY) v Nele Gilis (BEL)
Sana Ibrahim (EGY) v Rowan Elaraby (EGY)
Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS) v Olivia Clyne (USA)
Alison Waters (ENG) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA