‘She’s one of my closest friends on tour and has been a real mentor since I turned pro’
By ALAN THATCHER and SEAN REUTHE
USA No.3 Olivia Fiechter claimed a stunning victory against the country’s No.1 player Amanda Sobhy in front of passionate home support at the Arlen Specter US Squash Center to reach the quarter finals of the U.S. Open presented by Truist.
The motto for the Specter Center is “You Belong” and Fiechter’s impressive victory convinced the packed crowd that she belongs at the top table of world squash after reaching the last eight of a prestigious PSA World Tour Platinum event for the first time in her career.
Fans scrambled to claim the best view around one of two all-glass show courts at this magnificent new cathedral of squash in Philadelphia.
This created a real bearpit atmosphere around the Glass Court East as fans flocked in to watch the two Americans do battle. Sobhy, playing at a career-high No.3 ranking and boasting a 3-0 head-to-head win record over Fiechter on the PSA World Tour, was the heavy favourite coming into the clash, especially after her recent success in the Oracle NetSuite Open in San Francisco.
Fiechter had only previously pushed Sobhy to four games once on the pro tour, but earned a 2-1 lead with momentum leading into the fourth. After Sobhy forced a decisive fifth game, Fiechter squandered a 6-1 lead as Sobhy came back to level the score at 9-all. Fiechter then pulled away to convert on her first match ball and win the match 11-1, 8-11, 11-3, 8-11, 11-9. She will take on Belgium’s Nele Gilis for a place in the semi-finals.
“I’m trying to process it one second at a time,” Fiechter said. “Amanda and I play at least once a week, every week, especially since she moved to Philly. I knew I was getting closer in practice matches, and I’ve been feeling really good on court this week. I was feeling optimistic and thought that if I played my best squash I had a shot, but I wasn’t foreseeing it would be that close.
“She’s one of my closest friends on tour, she’s been a mentor to me since I’ve gone pro, she’s been like a big sister to me and has given me so much advice. She’s at a career-high ranking of World No.3 right now and she’s been playing well. To get a win over a top 10 player is another level you have to go to, so I’m over the moon.”
France’s Melissa Alves will be another Platinum quarter final debutant after he she got the better of England’s Georgina Kennedy with an 11-8, 11-2, 11-6 victory in 27 minutes.
Kennedy has enjoyed a phenomenal run of success this year but this time she was off the pace and struggled to find her length and rhythm against a more disciplined opponent.
Alves looked assured and in control throughout the encounter.
The first game was relatively even, with Alves eventually edging the battle 11-8. From here, though, the 27-year-old looked imperious. Kennedy had no answer at times for Alves’ accuracy and power and the Frenchwoman took the second and third games 11-2 and 11-6 to set up a quarter-final match against World No.1 Nour ElSherbini.
Alves said: “It was a great opportunity to play Gina here on this court because we played college squash together so it was great. It felt like Penn v Harvard again. It was just a great opportunity and I was excited to play today and getting my first quarter final in a Platinum event.”
Alves, the World No.27, will now take on world No.1 Nour El Sherbini in the last eight, with El Sherbini beating fellow Egyptian Nadine Shahin.
Alves added: “She’s the best player in the world and there’s no pressure for me against her. These are the best facilities to play a quarter-final against the best player in the world. I’m just thrilled and excited for tomorrow.
“I’m excited for a big fight again. I’m ready to play on the big stage now and am just excited. If I start strong and keep the rally and the momentum, anything can happen. Why not tomorrow?”
Reigning champion Nouran Gohar continued her title defence with a win against England’s Alison Waters. Gohar will take on No.5 seed Sarah-Jane Perry next after she beat Welsh player Emily Whitlock in her second five-game battle of the event. New Zealand’s Joelle King and Egypt’s Hania El Hammamy were the other women’s winners in round three.
James Willstrop pulls more magic out of the bag to reach U.S. Open quarter-finals: Men’s report and results here
2021 U.S. Open presented by Truist, Arlen Specter US Squash National Center, Philadelphia, USA.
Women’s Third Round:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Nadine Shahin (EGY) 3-0: 11-2, 11-6, 11-7 (21m)
Melissa Alves (FRA) bt Georgina Kennedy (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-2, 11-6 (27m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt Joshna Chinappa (IND) 3-0: 11-3, 11-4, 11-6 (27m)
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt Nada Abbas (EGY) 3-1: 9-11, 11-7, 12-10, 11-4 (53m)
Olivia Fiechter (USA) bt  Amanda Sobhy (USA) 3-2: 11-1, 8-11, 11-3, 8-11, 11-9 (43m)
Nele Gilis (BEL) bt Hollie Naughton (CAN) 3-1: 11-7, 17-19, 12-10, 11-3 (56m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt Emily Whitlock (WAL) 3-2: 11-4, 1-11, 11-3, 9-11, 11-4 (45m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt Alison Waters (ENG) 3-0: 11-4, 11-8, 11-5 (33m)
Women’s Quarter Finals:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v Melissa Alves (FRA)
 Joelle King (NZL) v  Hania El Hammamy (EGY)
Olivia Fiechter (USA) v Nele Gilis (BEL)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA