Yathreb Adel ejects top seed in Macau
By ALEX WAN – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
In the opening day of the main draw of the Macau Squash Open, top seed and world number two Raneem El Welily suffered a shock defeat in the hands of giant killing compatriot Yathreb Adel. Comeback kid Yathreb Adel, who’s playing in her first event since January 2016, prevailed in a see saw match that saw both players taking turn to dominate different parts of the match.
In the first, Raneem had come back from 0-3 down to win 11-4, winning 7 points in a row to close the game. The second saw Yathreb winning the game 11-7, but from just two run of points. The third was completely Raneem’s game as she showed her flair and not making a single mistake. She won 11 points straight from 0-1 down.
In the next two games, the scores were close and both players were never more than three or four points apart. Yathreb’s patience and resilience eventually paying off as she scores the biggest upset of the day.
The 21 year old world number 229 was clearly elated with her win, “I can’t believe it! Since I was injured, it’s been tough and I’m just very, very happy to be back playing squash. Raneem is one of my role models and it’s never easy playing her of course. I came here with no expectations and no pressure at all. Winning this match surely will give me a lot of confidence and a huge push for myself to go for it in the next round.”
Defending champion Joelle King of New Zealand started her defence well with a straight games win Egyptian Nadine Shahin. The Kiwi was given a tough start by the hard hitting Egyptian and was 7-10 down in the first. A run of five straight points saved the game for the Kiwi who now led.
In the second and third, the games were both tight, but it was Joelle who would nudge slightly ahead and kept the lead till the end.
“I played pretty alright. I don’t get to play these younger Egyptians often and they’re all very good. I’m glad to have come off 3-0. Nadine puts in some good shots and puts the pressure on you. I was 3 game balls down and I’m glad to have won that one. The first game is always important.”
“I am only the fourth seed here so even though I’m the defending champion, I’m the underdog here. It’s an all new tournament anyway and I love coming here. It’s close to New Zealand!” Joelle added when asked how she felt coming back as the defending champion.
In the all-Aussie showdown, Donna Urquhart took four very friendly games to take out former world number one Rachael Grinham. The pair, who make a very formidable doubles pairing, played in a way all referees dream of. There were no need for difficult calls, no fishing of lets and whatsoever.
Donna explained later, “Rachael’s my team mate and doubles partner. It’s a shame we had to play each other so early in the competition. It’s difficult to be competitive and have that fighting spirit when you play someone that close sometimes, and today I struggled with it. We’ve played many of times and it took me a long time to get over the respect I have for her. I love her game and I have lots of respect for her.”
Things were not as friendly in the following match as Mariam Metwally took to court against Mayar Hany. The pair of 20-year old hard hitters fought tooth and nail in a match that went to the wire. It wasn’t the most pleasant one to watch as every other rally seem to end up with someone asking for a let, with more than half of those being denied.
The pair split the first two games, with each one finishing strongly towards the end to wrap up with a series of points. Mariam took the third with a strong finish in the end once again and was 10-7 up in the fourth. She blew all of them off and a tin brought the score level to 10-all. Another tin gave Mayar game ball which she converted the first time asking. In the decider, Mariam once again finished strongly, stringing together six straight points from 5-all to earn a place in the last eight tomorrow.
Tesni Evans of Wales also booked her quarters berth after winning a 3-1 battle against former world number two Jenny Duncalf. After falling to a two game deficit, with the second being a tie-breaker, Jenny came back strongly to take the third 11-8. She even played well to stay in the fourth, but at 8-8., Tesni manages to win three points in a row to seal the match 11-8.
Seventh seed Joey Chan won the all-Hong Kong battle, beating qualifier Vanessa Chu in four games to progress, while compatriot Annie Au had an easy afternoon against local wild card Liu Kwai Chi, who was dissatisfied with her performance today, citing “I had prepared myself to play with Annie, but when she started to play at a slower pace and put in all her lobs, that threw me off a little. I feel I could do better, but I’m just not very happy with myself today.”
In the battle of the world junior champions, Nouran Gohar, the world number five came out tops after a four game battle against pint-sized Rowan Elaraby. But it was nothing easy at all as her younger compatriot played with no evident fear and matched her hard-hitting opponent rally for rally.
While the pace of Nouran’s shots were a handful to handle, Rowan’s flair on court and deft touches would inflict the harm to Nouran. Four close games and a number of tough refereeing decisions later, Nouran was through in 52 minutes for a last eight berth against Welsh Tesni Evans.
“Rowan has just won the World Juniors and she’s beaming with confidence now. The girl has no fear right now. She’s also had a few PSA events so she knows what to expect. It’s good that I had such a tough match to start off with. Even though Raneem is out, it doesn’t change anything for me. It just shows how much depth we have in the women’s game these days. I just have to be aggressive from the start and stay hungry,” said Nouran Gohar, the second seed of the tournament.
In the men’s, top seed Simon Rosner was in devastating form as he took out English qualifier Joshua Masters in straight games. The lanky German was always in front and never allowed Joshua to lead, eventually wrapping the match in 34 minutes.
The German world number 11 said, “I am happy with the way I played today. I did well and concentrated all the way. I’m happy to get through in three. It’s my first trip to Macau, and also first time top seed in a $50k.”
Omar Mosaad, the 2013 champion, was fully tested by Indian qualifier Harinder Pal Sandhu. After taking an easy first game for the loss of just a single point, Omar was surprised by a rejuvenated Harinder who took the second game. The next two games went one way each, but the decider was a tame affair with the “Hammer of Thor” exerting his powerful shots to romp home 11-2.
Fellow Egyptian Omar Abdel Meguid also made it into the last eight with a straightforward 3-0 win against England’s Chris Simpson.
Things were not as straightforward for last year’s semi-finalist Saurav Ghosal who battled back from two games down to win a thriller in badly umpired game. Not taking away anything from Saurav’s opponent Mazen Gamal who played well to his advantage, but there were far too many calls that even a novice referee would’ve gotten right. Twice in the second game, Saurav requested for a change of referee, but was denied. It didn’t help that the decisions were in the hands of a single referee system which was being used for this event.
However, the Indian’s experience eventually kicked in and slowly, but surely, he did what was necessary to chalk up a great comeback win. Ever the professional he is, he should be given credit for the way he handled the situation so well.
“Personally, I didn’t play as well as I should, especially in the beginning. It was difficult mentally to focus given the circumstances like you saw out there. I am glad I managed to turn things around and carve my way out of that deep spot. Credit to Mazen, he took advantage of the situation and played well throughout,” Saurav said.
Ivan Yuen blew away a 10-4 lead in the first game in his straight game loss to Hong Kong’s Yip Tsz Fung. With less than 10 places separating the pair in the rankings, this had the promise of a close one. Ivan had started very well, playing patiently and waiting for his opportunities to attack, which more often than not were lethal. However, after taking a huge lead to 10-4, he seemed to have lost his concentration a little as it went to 10-10 through several easy errors in quick succession, with the last one being a tin. Ivan managed to save 2 game balls before bowing out 12-14.
The loss of that game was costly as the effects of that is evident into the following game, where Yip raced to a 7-0 lead. Ivan manages to get back to 3-9 and 5-10, but the damage at the start of the game was too much to catch up. In the third, Yip breezed through once again; 6-1 then 8-3, but Ivan came back to 7-9 and 9-10. A cheeky attempt on the backhand ended up in a complete miss of the ball and the match to the Hong Kong number 2.
It wasn’t a good day in the office for the Malaysian camp as their number one Nafiizwan Adnan crashed out to a very determined Raphael Kandra. Like Ivan, Nafiizwan was in control for most of the first game but a lapse of concentration saw him lose it. He manages to take the next two games to lead, but it was evident towards the later part of the third, he was struggling physically.
Raphael saw his opponent struggling and capitalised on it, quickly taking the fourth. In the decider, the Malaysian number one hung in there for as long as he could, but Raphael was not going to let this win slip off his grasp.
“I’m very happy to get through. It’s my first time making the quarters of a $50k. I’ve played Wan three times and I lost all of them. I noticed he was surprisingly tiring out in the third, so I extended the rallies. It’s also never easy staying focused when something like this happens, so I am glad to make it there,” Kendra said later.
Macau’s local wild card Van Keng Hei was overwhelmed by second seed Mohamed Aboulghar expectedly, but the young local player did give a good account of himself especially in the first game. While the score would not have suggest so, there were some rallies he managed to stay in to trouble the skilful Egyptian.
Van Keng Hei said after, “It’s my first time playing someone that highly ranked and it was obvious we are very different in terms of skills. I felt I stayed in pretty well in the first game but after that, I just couldn’t maintain the kind of pace he was playing in.”
In the last match of the evening, Max Lee won another all-Hong Kong battle against Leo Au. As expected, it was a close affair given how well the pair knew each other’s game.
Simon Rosner (GER) bt Joshua Masters (ENG) 11-5, 11-6, 11-8 (34m)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt Harinder Pal Sandhu (IND) 11-1, 8-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-2 (65m)
Yip Tsz Fung (HKG) bt Ivan Yuen (MAS) 14-12, 11-5, 11-9 (48m)
Saurav Ghosal (IND) by Mazen Gamal (EGY) 5-11, 8-11, 11-2, 11-3, 11-6 (85m)
Max Lee (HKG) bt Leo Au (HKG) 5-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-4 (61m)
Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) bt Chris Simpson (ENG) 11-6, 11-5, 11-4 (33m)
Raphael Kendra (GER) bt Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) 11-9, 7-11, 9-11, 11-4, 11-8 (68m)
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) bt Van Keng Hei (MAC) 11-3, 11-5, 11-1 (17m)
Yathreb Adel (EGY) bt Raneem El Welily (EGY) 4-11, 11-7, 1-11, 11-7, 11-8 (37m)
Joey Chan (HKG) bt Vanessa Chu (HKG) 11-8, 10-12, 11-7, 11-9 (45m)
Donna Urquhart (AUS) bt Rachael Grinham (AUS) 7-11, 11-6, 11-6, 13-11 (47m)
Joelle King (NZL) bt Nadine Shahin (EGY) 12-10, 11-8, 11-9 (36m)
Annie Au (HKG) bt Liu Kwai Chi (MAC) 11-3, 11-3, 11-3 (18m)
Mariam Metwally (EGY) bt Mayar Hany (EGY) 11-5, 6-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-5 (49m)
Tesni Evans (WAL) bt Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 11-4, 12-10, 8-11, 11-8 (45m)
Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt Rowan Elaraby (EGY) 11-5, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9 (52m)
Pictures by Macau Squash Association