Day FOUR: Round One, bottom half

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Defending champions through as Sobhy keeps home hopes alive

The second day of round one play at Drexel – featuring primarily one-sided matches on the Glass Court but a series of marathons on the ‘downstairs’ Specter and Kline court – saw both defending champions safely through to the last sixteens, but mixed fortunes for home favourites.

sp_22067In the women’s draw second seed Laura Massaro held off a strong challenge from US-based Egyptian qualifier Kanzy El Defrawy, setting up a meeting with Joshna Chinappa, who fought back from two games down and saved two match balls on the way to beating Heba El Torky.

sp_22109Home favourite Amanda Sobhy recovered from a game down to beat Dipika Pallikal in four games, and she’ll now meet another five-game winner in Australia’s Donna Urquhart.

Today’s other winners were Egypt’s world junior champion Nouran Gohar ,Annie Au, who won here all-Hong Kong match against Joey Chan, and Emily Whitlock, who rounded off a long day bay coming back from two games down to beat Tesni Evans

Men’s defending champion Gregory Gaultier dispatched Daryl Selby in straight games, and he’ll meet one of two surprise winners of the day in Paul Coll, the Kiwi qualifier who beat Australian Ryan Cuskelly in straight games.

sp_22079The other upset came as Ali Farag beat seventh seed Mathieu Castagnet – although he has just overtaken the Frenchman in the world rankings.

Farag was one of three Egyptian winner and he’ll meet one of them in Fares Dessouky, who edged past Leo Au 12/10 in the fifth, while in-form Karim Abdel Gawad maintained his unbeaten record against England’s Tom Richards.

sp_22063Other winners were German’y Simon Rosner and England’s former U.S. Open champion Nick Matthew, who put out wildcard Chris Gordon in straight games.

Selected reports below the results …

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Sobhy surges into second round

sp_22092It wasn’t a good start for the last remaining American hope, poster girl Amanda Sobhy, as she was completely out of sorts and outplayed in the first game against India’s Dipika Pallikal.

Pallikal dominated, hitting winners from anywhere and Sobhy just ouldn’t get going, although she picked up a few points towards the end to before Pallikal took the lead 11/7.

sp_22097And that was that as a real contest, as the roles were reversed and Sobhy dominated the next three games. An 8-0 start in the second, 9-0 in the third, 6-1 in the fourth and the local starlet was through in half an hour.

“She came out firing, she’s a very attacking player and the ball was really flying,” said Sobhy. “I knew I had to try to hang in there and that she would eventually make a mistake, which she did.

“I started to find my length and she made a few mistakes, so I’m glad to get through that one in four.”

Defending Champions through

sp_22125Laura Massaro and Gregory Gaultier – both winners last week in San Francisco – started their U.S. Open title defences in solid style, Massaro seeing off dynamic US based Egyptian qualifier Kanzy El Defrawy in three – having to fight back from a deficit in the second – and Gaultier also in straight games against tough Englishman Daryl Selby.

“I played well last week in San Francisco and I got some good training in before coming here.” said Massaro. “I’m feeling good and I’m happy to get off to a winning start. Kanzy is great fun to watch but horrible to play – the ball always comes back and that can make you edgy, so I’m happy with how I came through.”

sp_22126Gaultier was satisfied with his performance too, the Frenchman looked in good form after an early injury timeout for Selby after an accidental collision.

“Daryl is one of the toughest first round matches you can get but sometimes a tough first round match is good because it can activate you and get you in a good dynamic from the start,” said Gaultier.

“The interruption at the start with the injury break made it a little more difficult because it can mess with the rhythm but thankfully we were able to play the match and I’m pleased to get off to a winning start.”

Matthew ends home (men’s) interest

sp_22059Former U.S. Open champion Nick Matthew ended home interest in the men’s draw as he beat wildcard entry Chris Gordon in three games. The Englishman always had the edge, forcing Gordon onto defensive duties for large parts of each game, finishing it off in just over half an hour.

“Chris and I share the same coach but we’d never played before, so that made it a bit interesting. I love it here, I haven’t won it for a decade but I’ve been in the later stages at Drexel most years so I’ve played on this court a lot.”

Dessouky and Donna win marathons

sp_22075The first two matches downstairs on Drexel’s Kline & Specter Court 1 both went the distance to five games. First on was Fares Dessouky—who went to five against Diego Elias on the same court last year—and Leo Au.

sp_22045Dessouky began on the front foot, winning the first two games 11-5, 11-7. The Hong Kong international turned the game on its head winning the third and fourth 11-8, 11-5, and appeared to be close to pulling off the comeback up 7-4 in the fifth. Dessouky then went on a five-point streak to go up 9-7, before clinching the match 12-10 in seventy-one minutes.

sp_22078Another marathon followed on between Australia’s Donna Urquhart and England’s fifteen seed Victoria Lust. After Urquhart won the first the players traded games until a decisive fifth where Urquhart pulled away to win 11-6 in fifty-six minutes.

donnawins“I was getting edgy so I had to keep telling myself to relax,” said Urquhart.

“I knew I wasn’t playing my best squash so I really had to grind it out. When it comes down to the fifth game you feel like it’s anyone’s game at that point. Everybody is feeling it and everyone can go the distance. You just have to dig in and not give any easy points away.”

Coll qualifies for round two

Kiwi Paul Coll avenged his 2015 U.S Open qualifying loss against world No. 15 Ryan Cuskelly in his first victory in five matches against the Australian.

sp_22119Coll, world No. 34, will make his U.S. Open ASB GlassCourt appearance on Tuesday against Gaultier.

“We’ve played each other a few times and I’d never beaten him,” said Coll. “I’m pleased this time to actually get the win. The body is feeling pretty good. I had a rest day yesterday. I’m looking forward to my next challenge on the glass.”

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Gohar in three

sp_22052World Junior – and Hong Kong Open – champion Nouran Gohar progressed to round two with a three-nil win over French qualifier Coline Aumard. The Egyptian fourth seed was always ahead, but with the match played largely at the back of the court the rallies were tough, and the 11/6. 11/5, 11/5 win took almost 40 minutes to complete.

“I played Camille before and it was very tough,” said Gohar. “So I knew I had to be 100% focused and stick to my game plan. I was trying not to put too many balls into the middle, she’s strong there, so I’m glad I could finish the match in three games.”

Gawad keeps run going

sp_22044Karim Abdel Gawad is in a rich vein of form, having reached his first World Series final in Hong Kong and following that up with his biggest win at Al-Ahram, and started today’s match leading Tom Richards 7-0 in their meetings.

Gawad won in three, but it was never easy – the first went point for point until 8-all when Gawad took the last three points, Richards led most of the second before Gawad again took the final points for 11-9. Trailing 3-4 in the third Gawad won a string of points to go 10-4 up and although Richards won three in a row, the comeback was stopped as Gawad took the match 11-7.

sp_22049“Tom is such a good player, I need several plans against him,” said Gawad. “I talked with my coach Omar Abdel Aziz before the match about the best way to play and it worked but it was never easy.

“I’m really happy with how I’ve been playing and my results over the last few months. I hope I can carry on playing well, but you just have to think about each match and each tournament at at time.”

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Camille cruises into round two

France’s Camille Serme was the first winner of the day, advancing to the second round with a straight-game win over Malaysia’s Delia Arnold.

sp_22039After taking an 8-0 lead in the opening game Serme, semi-finalist here in the last two years, never looked likely to be seriously troubled, and although Arnold improved, she was never able to get ahead as the Frenchwoman closed out the match in 25 minutes.

“I was a bit nervous, as always in the first match,” said Serme, “but I got a good start and I’m very happy to beat Delia in three, she’s a tough opponent. I love this tournament,” she added, “the glass court and the city are amazing, I hope I can continue playing well here.”

Rosner repeats, Joshna comes back …

One week after holding off Qatari Abdulla Al Tamimi in four games and forty-five minutes, world No. 12 Simon Roesner had a nearly identical result in his U.S. Open first round match, defeating Al Tamimi in four games and forty-five minutes.

sp_22118Roesner, who was ranked as high as world No. 6 last year, is hoping to go one better than his U.S. Open quarterfinal appearance this year.

“You want to stick with what works, but I was struggling to find my rhythm today,” he said. “It’s difficult. In your first match you need to find your rhythm, and I had to get my movement back in the third and stay positive.

“I hope I can make it further last year, I made it to the quarters. I have Nick next so that will definitely be tough, but I hope to get further this year and put in everything I can. “

sp_22113Last year Joshna Chinappa upset Annie Au on court 1, but this year entered the same court as the higher seed against Egypt’s Heba El Torky, who started  strongly as she took a two-game lead.

The Indian world No. 13 fought off two match balls in the third game and continued her momentum through the rest of the match to win in five games and fifty-five minutes.

“I heard the scoreline and I almost thought I was done in this tournament,” she reflected. “I just decided to relax a little bit more and play point to point, and that worked until the end.”

Farag gets his revenge

sp_22079On paper the match between Mathieu Castagnet, seeded seventh here, and unseeded, Ali Farag, currently six in the world rankings, three ahead of Castagnet, was the closest match of all.

sp_22127All three games were close, but in all three it was the Egyptian who always seemed to have the slight edge, and the slight lead, closing it out 11/8, 11/7, 11/6 in 40 minutes.

“Mathieu is such a warrior,” said a relieved Farag. “He’s been struggling of late so I’m lucky to get off  in straight games, Last time we played at Windy City I was 2-0 up and he came back and won so I was conscious of that today, I had match ball last time as well and I didn’t want that to happen again so I was focused throughout and I’m very happy to be through.”

Coppinger dodges double bullet

sp_22108Steve Coppinger‘s match against qualifier Alan Clyne was meant to be played yesterday with the other top half matches, but the big South African was having travel troubles – Hurricanes were mentioned – so it was swapped with Max Lee’s time slot.

Having made his way here he made sure he got plenty of court time, surviving the longest match of the day as he edged through, coming from 1-5 down in the decider to take it  13/11 after 80 minutes.

sp_22099“I’m not sure I can explain it myself,” he said. “The last few days have been pretty crazy. I kind of dodged a hurricane, and now I’ve dodged the Clyney bullet as well!

“I had my coaches in my corner telling me to relax and enjoy it. I actually accepted that it might not be my day today and that helped me relax and play squash to the best of my ability. I think that helped.”

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