Day Two of the Delaware Investments U.S. Open in Philadelphia, and it was qualifying finals with eight main draw places up for grabs in each of the men's and women's competitions. Action again took place at four Philadelphia clubs, each hosting two women's and then two men's matches.
There were upsets aplenty in the women's matches, and two home successes. At Germantown Cricket Club, Olivia Blatchford took out Milou van der Heijden in straight games, while over at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia it was Sabrina Sobhy who delighted the home fans with a quickfire win over Australian Melody Francis.
The longest match of the round was at Merion Cricket Club where young Egyptian Nouran Gohar beat Lucie Fialova in four games and 64 minutes, while at Drexel University it was birthday girl Sarah Cardwell who came through an up and down five-setter against Maria Toorpakai Wazir.
Other winners were Wales' Tesni Evans who beat American wildcard Elizabeth Eyre; Egypt's Kanzy El Dafrawy who won an upset four-setter against Olga Ertlova; Kylie Lindsay against pre-qualifier Georgina Stoker; and top seed Lisa Aitken who dismissed Brazil's Thaisa Serafini in straight games.
There were fewer upsets in the men's qualifying finals, and no joy for the home fans as Eddie Charlton beat Merion Cricket Club's own Todd Harrity in four games to dash hopes of further U.S. involvement in the main draw.
Charlton was the only Englishman to make it through, as Matthew Karwalski beat Jaymie Haycocks and Shahier Razik eased past Charles Sharpes.
Muhd Asyraf Azan and Mohamed Abouelghar progressed against the seedings, while top seeds Abdullah Al Muzayen and Campbell Grayson both claimed their main draw places as expected.
The final qualifying spot was taken by Steve Finitsis, who beat fellow Aussie Rex Hedrick in a see-saw 78-minute affair at Drexel.
Women's Qualifying Finals:
Lisa Aitken (ENG) bt Thaisa Serafini (BRA) 11-3, 11-9, 11-2 (33m)
Olivia Blatchford (USA) bt Milou van der Heijden (NED) 11-4, 11-7, 11-9 (27m)
Kanzy El Dafrawy (EGY) bt Olga Ertlova (CZE) 10-12, 13-11, 16-14, 11-9 (59m)
Sabrina Sobhy (USA) bt Melody Francis (AUS) 11-8, 13-11, 11-1 (22m)
Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt Lucie Fialova (CZE) 11-6, 6-11, 11-4, 13-11 (64 m)
Tesni Evans (WAL) bt Elizabeth Eyre (USA) 11-5, 11-4, 8-11, 11-4 (42m)
Sarah Cardwell (AUS) bt Maria Toorpakai Wazir (PAK) 11-2, 11-8, 2-11, 3-11, 11-8 (46m)
Kylie Lindsay (NZL) bt Georgina Stoker (ENG) 11-5, 6-11, 11-9, 12-10 (40m)
Men's Qualifying Finals:
Abdullah Al Mezayen (KUW) bt Ramit Tandon (IND) 11-8, 11-8, 6-11, 11-8 (43m)
Eddie Charlton (ENG) bt Todd Harrity (USA) 5-11, 11-9, 11-9, 12-10 (71m)
Matthew Karwalski (AUS) bt Jaymie Haycocks (ENG) 12-10, 11-9, 9-11, 11-4 (60m)
Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS) bt Yasir Butt (PAK) 13-11, 11-5, 5-11, 11-4 (38m)
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) bt Shaun Le Roux (RSA) 11-8, 7-11, 11-4, 11-4 (40m)
Shahier Razik (CAN) bt Charles Sharpes (ENG) 11-8, 11-4, 11-1 (31m)
Steve Finitsis (AUS) bt Rex Hedrick (AUS) 7-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-4, 11-5 (78m)
Campbell Grayson (NZL) bt Alfredo Avila (MEX) 11-8, 11-6, 11-3 (40m)
Day Two at Drexel
Lindsay took the first comfortably enough 11-5, but Stoker was far from outclassed and fought back well to take the second 11-6, catching Lindsay out at the front. There wasn't much in it in the final two games either, but Lindsay managed to regain the lead with two clean winners from 9-all in the third, then fought back from 2-6 and 8-10 down in the fourth to take the match 12-10.
"I wasn't getting the ball as tight as I wanted, so it was getting a bit messy at times, and I was very edgy the whole match," admitted Kylie. "But I've had a bad run recently and I really wanted to win this one. I got a bad call at the end of the fourth and that fired me up to take the next four points and the match.
"It's good to get through to play one of the top girls in my first U.S. Open—it's the biggest tournament I've ever made the main draw of."
Georgina was happy enough with her performance: "I don't really play anything competitive anymore," she admitted. "I only entered the pre-qualifying because it was local, so to get through was a bonus. I've been in the U.S. for five years now, in Berwyn for the last 12 months and I'm really enjoying it. I'll be back to watch some of the main draw, work permitting!"
Drexel's second women's match saw Toronto-resident and Jonathon Power coached Maria Toorpakai Wazir take on Australian Birthday Girl Sarah Cardwell, daughter of former world champion Vicky and currently training under Liz Irving in Amsterdam.
The Aussie took the first 11-2, but that scoreline belied the toughness of the rallies. "It was Maria's mistakes in that game that made the difference," said Sarah afterwards.
Cardwell doubled her lead 11-8, but Wazir was coming more into the match now, and took the third and fourth in rapid fashion, 11-2, 11-3, firing in winners to finish off short rallies. She carried that momentum into the decider but, with the match now becoming much more physical, Cardwell managed to get back to the longer rallies and length game that had served her well in the early stages.
Cardwell levelled at 7-all, and after a series of collisions, lets, strokes, and appeals to the referees by both players, she finally took it 11-9 on a stroke to collect a nice birthday present in the shape of a place in the main draw.
"I didn't mean to change the way I was playing," she said, "but I began thinking about how nice it would be to win 3-0 when I was the lower-ranked player. I started to go short trying to finish it, but that was playing to her strengths and she was picking them off, chopping in winners all over the place.
"So, I got back to hitting it long ten times before going short just in time and managed to get it back. People had told me it might get a bit physical. I guess as we got more tired it was more difficult to keep running around her like I had been doing."
The first men's match was a repeat of a meeting in Mexico just three weeks ago, but this time Campbell Grayson, the qualifying second seed, reversed his 3-0 defeat at the hands of young Mexican Alfredo Avila. The first game was tough, but Grayson always had the edge and, after taking the lead 11-8, took the next two games with increasing authority 11-6, 11-3 to advance to the main draw.
"I really had to work hard for that, the first game was really tough," said Grayson. "I had a game plan after losing to him in Mexico, and I think I was more ready for what he was going to do this time."
The final match of the day—typically the longest, too—saw Steve Finitsis prevail in an all-Aussie battle against Rex Hedrick. Friends off court, they traded blows for four games which were shared, but it was the big-hitting Finitsis who took the initiative in the decider and closed it out after 78 minutes.
"It was very fast and very tough for most of the match," said Finitsis, "but the ball went a bit dead towards the end so you couldn't just go on hitting it hard, and I got lucky to hit some winners in the fifth."
"We're good friends, so it's tough to play each other—not sure if he'll be in my corner tomorrow though," added Finitsis, to which Hedrick replied, "don't worry mate, I'll be there!"