After a hectic couple of days we’re down to just four matches at Drexel University with the first session of quarterfinals.
 Nicol David (Mas) v [Q] Alison Waters (Eng)
Opening proceedings are two players who have met many times, but only last week did Alision Waters record her first-ever win against the dominant force in women’s squash Nicol David, a first win in 19 attempts going back to the 2004 World Open!
That marked David’s second successive failure to win a tournament – a first since 2009 – so the world number one will be keen to avenge that defeat, and keen to improve on last year’s performance here when she lost at this stage to Kasey Brown, the eventual runner-up.
Waters, after an extended injury layoff, is back to single figures in the world rankings so that [Q] by her name is a little misleading, she won’t need one of those again for a long time, if ever. Nicol, on the other hand, has had  by her name in every tournament since 2006 and will as ever start the heavy favourite, with a run of 18 wins over Waters to ease the memory of last week’s defeat.
Not having the U.S. Open on her impressive list of titles – this is her fifth appearance – will also no doubt be a further incentive for the Malaysian. Waters has actually done better, her previous two appearances including the runners-up spot in 2009.
Results so far:
David R1 Camille Serme 3-0 (42m)
Waters Q1 Misaki Kobayashi 3-0 (29m), QF Nour El Tayeb 3-2 (54m), R1 Natalie Grinham 3-2 (53m)
 Jenny Duncalf (Eng) v [Q] Joelle King (Nzl)
The second women’s match sees two more players with unfamiliar numbers by their name - Jenny Duncalf’s  (she’s currently ranked #4) is the result of a few disappointing results for the Englishwoman who held the number two spot for two and a half years.
Joelle King’s [Q] is more testament to the quality of the qualifying competition than any reflection on the Kiwi’s standard of play. At number 12 in the world she’s a match for anyone on the day, as seventh seed and world #5 Nour El Sherbini discovered in yesterday’s first round.
For King it’s only her second U.S. Open, having lost to David in last year’s first round, whereas Duncalf is making her sixth appearance and was champion in 2009 in the middle of what was a purple patch for her. The Englishwoman is 4-0 up on the head to head, and what better place for her to get back on the winning trail …
Results so far:
Duncalf R1 Rachael Grinham 3-0 (33m)
King Q1 Sabrina Sobhy 3-0 (23m), QF Kanzy El Dafrawy 3-0 (32m), R1 Nour El Sherbini 3-0 (39m)
 James Willstrop (Eng) v  Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy)
James Willstrop, world number one for all but one month of 2012, is appearing in his sixth U.S. Open and finalist in 2007 is as close as he’s come to winning it. He’s won just one event – February’s North American Open – since that impressive Hong Kong / Kuwait / Delhi treble at the end of 2011 took him to the top, so another win to keep the chasing pack off his back is overdue.
He’s beaten today’s opponent Mohamed El Shorbagy on the last six occasions they’ve met – the Egyptian won their first encounter 15/13 in the fifth back in 2009 – and none of those six have been particularly nailbiting, so the Englishman must start favourite for this one.
Shorbagy, already world number 8 at just 21 years of age, is a fast learner though, and he will want to improve on his quarter-final losses in his previous two U.S. Open appearances.
Results so far:
Willstrop R1 Alister Walker 3-1 (80m), R2 Daryl Selby 3-1 (81m)
Shorbagy R1 Simon Rosner 3-1 (68m), R2 Cameron Pilley 3-2 (92m)
 Gregory Gaultier (Fra) v  Karim Darwish (Egy)
The only non-English or Egyptian left in the draw, new father Gregory Gaultier is displaying a calmness on court that has sometimes eluded him, particularly noticeable in last month’s dramatic British Grand Prix semi-final against Willstrop. He’s playing well too as that 15/13 in the 5th defeat indicates.
Karim Darwish’s form is more of a mystery, he’s had a longer summer rest than most as he too became a first-time father and has also had some injury problems. He’s displayed his usual ruthless efficiency in coming through to this stage though.
Both are former world number ones, Gaultier for a month in 2009, Darwish for the remainder of that year, and it was their Saudi Open final at the end of 2008 that propelled Darwish to that position.
They’ve met 20 times, starting with the British Junior Open Final in 1999 (won by Darwish, as was the World Junior final in 2000), but the Frenchman leads 12-8 and has won each of the last five.
The Frenchman won the 2006 U.S. Open but this is his first time back since 2007. Darwish is appearing for the fourth time and was forced to pull out through injury last year, when he was second seed. Reasons enough for both to want to do well this year.
Results so far:
Gaultier R1 Olli Tuominen 3-0 (25m), R2 Borja Golan 3-0 (54m)
Darwish R1 Max Lee 3-0 (38m), R2 Chris Gordon 3-0 (40m)