Rodrigues races through, Darwish limps out, and Sobhy does it again ...
After the top half of the draw saw all the expected players progress, today it was turn of the players in the bottom half.
England's Adrian Grant got the ball rolling, beating Shawn Delierre in straight games after initial problems dealing with the Canadian's unorthodox style. David Palmer was taken close in all three games against compatriot Ryan Cuskelly, but the veteran's experience told. Dutchman LJ Anjema also won in straight games, against another qualifier in Chris Ryder, and Amr Shabana, the 2009 US Open champion, beat fellow EgyptianWael El Hindi, the reigning champion, in an up and down four game affair.
The evening session started off with a marvelous display of running,retrieving and athleticism by Colombia's Miguel Angel Rodrigues and he effectively ran the ideas out young Egyptian Ali Anwar Reda, coming from 2/1 down to win in 83 minutes.
Thierry Lincou ended home interest in the men's event with a solid win over wildcard Chris Gordon, but the evening ended with two retirements.
First, second seed Karim Darwish, carrying an ankle injury, pulled out during the fourth game of his match with Malaysia's Azlan Iskandar, and young Swiss Nicolas Mueller went through to the last sixteen without stepping on court as Jon Kemp was forced to pull out with a back injury.
In the women's qualifying finals, Australia's Donna Urquhart won her all-left-handed battle with Joey Chan, while Delia Arnold and Dipika Pallikal both squandered match ball opportunities to win in straight games before beating Victoria Lust and Low Wee Wern, both in four games.
Once again it was left to new Harvard student Amanda Sobhy to keep US interest alive, and she didn't disappoint, with a tough five-game victory over New Zealand's Jaclyn Hawkes which set up a meeting with world number two Jenny Duncalf in tomorrow's first round.
Men's First Round, bottom half:
Adrian Grant (Eng) bt [Q] Shawn Delierre (Can) 12/10, 11/5, 11/4 (37m)
 David Palmer (Aus) bt [Q] Ryan Cuskelly (Aus) 11/8, 11/9, 11/9 (51m)
Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned) bt [Q] Chris Ryder (Eng) 11/6, 11/7, 11/5 (42m)
 Amr Shabana (Egy) bt Wael El Hindi (Egy) 11/7, 11/4, 9/11, 11/5 (58m)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Col) bt Ali Anwar Reda (Egy) 11/9, 11/13, 3/11, 11/5, 11/5 (82m)
 Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt Chris Gordon (Usa) 11/9, 11/5, 11/6 (32m)
Azlan Iskandar (Mas) bt  Karim Darwish (Egy) 11/4, 5/11, 11/7, 7/2 rtd (38m)
[Q] Nicolas Mueller (Sui) bt Jonathan Kemp (Eng) w/o back injury
Women's Qualifying Finals:
Donna Urquhart (Aus) bt Joey Chan (Hkg) 11/5, 11/8, 9/11, 11/6 (37m)
Delia Arnold (Mas) bt Victoria Lust (Eng) 11/6, 11/9, 10/12, 11/9 (60m)
Dipika Pallikal (Ind) bt Low Wee Wern (Mas) 11/9, 13/11, 15/17, 11/8 (73m)
Amanda Sobhy (Usa) bt Jaclyn Hawkes (Nzl) 8/11, 11/7, 7/11, 11/9, 11/8 (53m)
Main Draw: Urquhart v Perry, Arnold v Massaro, Pallikal v Brown, Sobhy v Duncalf
Grant works it out
“He’s very unorthodox and hard to read, it took me a game and a half to work him out,” admitted Adrian Grant after the Englishman had beaten Canadian qualifier Shawn Delierre in the opening match of Day Four of the U.S. Open at Drexel University.
Delierre, coming off the back of marathon matches on his way to winning the Nash Cup last week as well as two qualifying matches here, almost took the first game, but couldn’t convert two gameball opportunities at 10/8.
Amidst a series of lets, Grant took the next four points, then won the next two game comfortably, with Delierre accepting the inevitable from early in the third.
“Once I found my feet I managed to present my game to him and I felt more and more confident,” added Grant.
Ryan runs into immovable object
David Palmer isn’t an opponent that anyone wants to see against their name in the first round, and for Ryan Cuskelly, a fellow Aussie of Palmer’s, it was doubly difficult, coming on the back of two tough qualifying matches while Palmer, the eighth seed, was fresh.
But young Ryan put up a good show – better than that, he matched his illustrious opponent for much of the three games. Palmer took a 6/2 lead in the first but Cuskelly fought back to 7/6 before Palmer closed it out with some typical power hitting. The second was nip and tuck, but from 9-all it was Palmer who again found the edge, again powering the winning ball deep.
Only at the start of the third did Cuskelly bow to the pressure as Palmer opened up to 9/3. Once again though Ryan dug in, got as close as 9/8 and was disappointed to see a probable winning drop at 9/10 just, just clip the tin.
“I knew he’d keep fighting,” said Palmer after the match. “I was a couple of points behind in the second but managed to his some winners at the end, which was crucial, and I probably relaxed a little after getting a good lead in the third, but I though I played pretty well to get to that point.
“ If he keeps on playing with an attitude like that it will go well for him in the future.
“I can’t afford long matches, at 35 I need to win 3/0 when I can, so it was good in the end and I’m looking forward to coming back tomorrow.”
LJ closes out Chris
The Dutch champion was never headed, but Chris Ryder battled well, from 6/2 and 10/3 down in the first, and from 7/3 in the second, he strived to make it tough without seriously threatening in either game.
A 4/1 deficit in the fourth didn’t deter him either as he made his way back to 4/3 and 7/5, but Anjema took the final four points, finishing off rallies he stayed in control of to move into the last sixteen.
“Chris is very clever tactically,” said Anjema, “so I had to try to get the upper hand early and try to put him under pressure physically.
"It was a bit too chaotic for my liking at times, but I’m happy with how I played and pleased to get off with a three-nil win.”
Shabana wins all-Egyptian Champions’ clash
The early exchanges were won pretty conclusively by Shabana, who too a good lead in each of the first two games, El Hindi pulling a few points back in each but never really threatened in games that had mixtures of short rallies and occasional bursts of speed and typical Egyptian brilliance.
To be honest I then wend downstairs to see the women’s matches, and it was something of a surprise to see that El Hindi had pulled a game back. Certainly in the fourth Shabana assumed early control and went on the win the game comfortably enough, the match lasting just short of the hour.
“It’s always difficult playing someone you know so well,” said Shabana. “Wael hasn’t played a lot of squash in the last six months, and is just coming back, but he still made it pretty difficult for me at times.”
Rodrigues “the Cat” strikes
MC Bryan Ramona thought he’s seen some great squash, some fantastic athletes, and some incredible speed around court last night in his first experience of world class squash. “You ain’t seen speed until you’ve seen Rodrigues,” I informed him, adopting some of the local vernacular.
And he hadn’t either. Displaying some extraordinary running, retrieving, leaping, diving and unorthodox shotmaking, Miguel Angel Rodrigues got the better of Ali Anwar Reda in a magical five game match, 11/9, 11/13, 3/11, 11/5, 11/5.
It looked as though the young Egyptian had weathered the storm as he edged the second to level the match and eased through the third.
But there was no stopping Miguel tonight – I particularly loved his 360-degree spins, and the dropshot he plays while running backwards, having dashed to the front after his opponent’s high boast before engaging reverse gear.
In the end poor old Ali was bamboozled, couldn’t find anywhere to put the ball that Rodrigues couldn’t get to, and finished up putting ball after ball into the tin in the final game.
Americans like their nicknames. “We’ll have to call you ‘the Cat’ after that display,” said an impressed Ramona. He might be right, too.
A tame ending …
After all that excitement, the evening petered out somewhat, as Thierry Lincou made fairly short work of US wildcard Chris Gordon, throwing in a few exhibition shots – not all of which worked - towards the end of his 11/9, 11/5, 11/6 win; second seed Karim Darwish, carrying an ankle injury into his match with Azlan Iskandar, retired when 2/1 and 7/2 down; and qualifier Nicolas Mueller received a walkover after Jonathan Kemp was forced to pull out with a back injury.
Donna wins left handed tussle
“She was hitting a lot of winners, I suppose, and getting a lot of quick points whereas I was having to work for my points!
“She’s a bit of a shot player,” added the Aussie, “but we had a good few long rallies too, I was trying to nullify some of her attacking.
“Overall I think I played well, I’ve been trying to reproduce the form I’m showing in training in match conditions so it’s good when it comes together on the day.
“All the girls in the main draw are tough, I’m just happy to have qualified …”
Match balls saved in vain
The next two women’s matches featured Malaysians, and both were involved in nail-biting encounters.
Delia Arnold faced yesterday’s giant-killer Victoria Lust, and had matchballs for at three-nil win, but had to settle for a fourth-game victory after Lust came from 7/10 down to take the third. Arnold won 11/6, 11/9, 10/12, 11/9 in exactly an hour.
Low Wee Wern faced the opposite problem as she saved match balls in her third game against Dipika Pallikal, taking that one 17/15, but like Lust, she couldn’t hold on to fourth game leads – Arnold was 6/9 down, Pallikal 2/5 – as a relieved Indian closed it out 11/9, 13/11, 15/17, 11/8 in a whopping 73 minutes.
“In the third all I was thinking about was that I’d been match ball up against Wee Wern twice before and lost,” said Dipika. “Once I lost that game I just wanted to try to keep the ball in play in the fourth. I think I played well to come back in that game and take it.
“I’m getting a real taste of the senior game now, and really enjoying it. Working with Sarah Fitz in Melbourne has brought my game on a lot, she’s helped me change my game and I’m much more confident about taking on the top players.
“It feels great to be in the main draw of one of the world’s leading events. I don’t mind who I draw, as long as I play well … and win of course!”
Sobhy scores another first-time win
To the delight of the home crowd, the final spot in the main draw was taken by USA number one Amanda Sobhy, who won a see-saw match with Jaclyn Hawkes, eventually prevailing 8/11, 11/7, 7/11, 11/9, 11/8 in 53 minutes.
“Another good win over someone I’ve never beaten before,” said a delighted Sobhy, “college life is obviously working out!”
Sobhy meets second seed Jenny Duncalf tomorrow.
“I played Jenny last year in the Australian Open,” added Sobhy. “I didn’t do very well, actually she destroyed me, so hopefully I’ll do better this time!”
Play begins at noon on Sunday, with eight men's second round and eight women's first round matches.