Anjema ousts Palmer, Rachael ends Raneem’s run …
It was the last sixteen round of both the men’s and women’s championships today at the Daskalakis Athletic Center at Drexel University in Philadelphia, with eight matches in a row – upstairs on the glass court for the men, and downstairs on the traditional court for the women.
There was a strong England v Egypt flavour to the men’s draw with fully half of the matches featuring one player from each nation, and honours were shared as Mohamed El Shorbagy, Nick Matthew, Peter Barker and Amr Shabana all progressed, as the seedings predicted they would. James Willstrop made it three Englishmen in the last eight as he beat compatriot Daryl Selby, and an English semi-finalist is assured with Willstrop set to meet Barker in the quarters while Matthew faces El Shorbagy.
In the bottom half of the draw Shabana will meet Dutchman LJ Anjema, who was delighted to upset the seedings in recording his first PSA victory over veteran Australian David Palmer, the eighth seed.
The remaining quarter-final will be between France’s sixth seed Thierry Lincou, who narrowly escaped being taken to four ames by speedy Colombian Miguel Angel Rodrigues, and unseeded Malaysian Azlan Iskandar, who consolidated his win over injured second seed Karim Darwish yesterday with a straight-games win over Swiss qualifier Nicolas Mueller.
There was just one upset in the women’s draw as Hong Kong’s Annie Au eased past a struggling Omneya Abdel Kawy, the seventh seed from Egypt, but none of the remaining seven seeds had it all their own way.
In the opening match of the day France’s eighth-seeded Camille Serme had to battle back from two games down to US veteran Latasha Khan, while third seeded Australian Rachael Grinham also came from two games down and saved match balls in the process of beating in-form Egyptian Raneem El Weleily 14/12 in the fifth.
In the quarter-finals Au faces second seed Jenny Duncalf, who ended home interest with a straight-game defeat of Amanda Sobhy, while Grinham also meets English opposition in the form of Laura Massaro, who beat qualifier Delia Arnold after dropping the first game.
In the top half of the draw, Serme will play Ireland’s third seeded Madeline Perry, and top seed Nicol David meets Australia’s Kasey Brown for the fifth time in little over a year.
Men’s Round Two :
 Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy) bt Tom Richards (Eng) 11/2, 11/6, 8/11, 11/4 (53m)
 Nick Matthew (Eng) bt Omar Mosaad (Egy) 11/8, 11/3, 11/5 (49m)
 Peter Barker (Eng) bt Hisham Ashour (Egy) 11/9, 11/6, 11/4 (40m)
 James Willstrop (Eng) bt Daryl Selby (Eng) 11/7, 11/5, 11/6 (48m)
Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned) bt  David Palmer (Aus) 7/11, 11/5, 11/3, 11/9 (76m)
 Amr Shabana (Egy) bt Adrian Grant (Eng) 6/11, 11/6, 11/5, 11/7 (51m)
 Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Col) 7/11, 11/6, 11/4, 13/11 (69m)
Azlan Iskandar (Mas) bt [Q] Nicolas Mueller (Sui) 11/6, 11/7, 11/3 (42m)
Women’s Round One:
 Nicol David (Mas) bt Joelle King (Nzl) 11/13, 11/8, 11/6, 11/5 (55m)
 Kasey Brown (Aus) bt [Q] Dipika Pallikal (Ind) 11/8, 11/8, 11/6 (44m)
 Camille Serme (Fra) bt Latasha Khan (Usa) 10/12, 3/11, 11/9, 11/7, 118 (67m)
 Madeline Perry (Irl) bt [Q] Donna Urquhart (Aus) 11/6, 13/11, 8/11, 11/5 (52m)
 Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt Raneem El Weleily (Egy) 8/11, 5/11, 11/9, 11/9, 14/12 (58m)
 Laura Massaro (Eng) bt [Q] Delia Arnold (Mas) 11/13, 11/4, 11/6, 11/4 (46m)
Annie Au (Hkg) bt  Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) 11/1, 11/1, 11/3 (17m)
 Jenny Duncalf (Eng) bt [Q] Amanda Sobhy (Usa) 12/10, 11/6, 11/5 (27m)
Shorbagy regains his focus
After a very good opening from Mohamed El Shorbagy, Tom Richards started to get into this first of three consecutive Egypt v England matches to open the men’s second round at the Dalsalkis Athletic Centre in Drexel University, Philadelphia.
The Egyptian took the first game comfortably, 11/2, the second less so but still with something to spare, 11/6. Richards was getting frustrated with himself and the bounce of the ball, and got a conduct warning for dropping his racket at the end of the second, while Shorbagy was getting frustrated with some of the refereeing decisions.
Not really sure why – he asked for a video review on an obvious decision, which was upheld, and the review system had to be explained to him, which seemed strange.
The Englishman took advantage to pull a game back, clearing away from 7-all in the third, but Shorbagy reasserted in the fourth to take it with something to spare and reach the quarter-finals.
Hisham cut short
Peter Barker was already ahead in the second of the England v Egypt clashes, taking an early lead in his first game against Hisham Ashour and fending off the Egyptian’s attempted comeback to take it 11/9.
It was shaping to be a good contest, was this repeat of their World Team final encounter in Paderborn, but mid-way through the second Ashour lunged for the ball and something clearly ‘went’, the pain on his face and his restricted movement for the rest of the match told the story.
Barker went on to win 11/6, 11/4 and paid credit to his opponent in carrying on where many would have stopped.
Matthew and Willstrop make it an English afternoon
Not that it will be any consolation for the reverse in the World Team final a few weeks ago, but Nick Matthew made it 2-1 to England in the final match of a trio of English versus Egyptian players to open proceedings on the glass court.
Omar Mosaad fully tested the world number one in the opening game, holding a few points’ lead before Matthew finally closed it out with some typically solid play in the final few points to take it 11/8.
That game lasted for just about half of the 49 minute duration, which serves to say that the Englishman, while not completely dominant, was definitely in control of proceedings as he finished the match off 11/3, 11/5.
“The first game was long and drawn out, he came with a strategy and stuck to it well,” said Matthew. It wasn’t physically demanding as such, more a mental battle with lots of slow raiiles. I was a bit sluggish at the start and left too many things hanging out on his forehand.
James Willstrop made it three out of four Englishman through to the quarters in the top half of the draw as he beat compatriot Daryl Selby in straight games.
The third seed pulled clear from the middle of the 20-minute first game, took a 6/0 lead on the way to doubling his advantage in the 12-minute second, and took five points in a row in the third with Selby losing interest in the last couple of points to finish it off in 48 minutes.
LJ gets his win
Laurens Jan Anjema had beaten David Palmer in a playoff match in the World Teams in Paderborn a few weeks ago, but the veteran Aussie had always had the edge over the Dutchman in PSA encounters. And if the first game was anything to go by, it looked as though that run would continue as Palmer controlled proceedings to take it 11/7 with a fun of six points after being 5/7 down.
He took a 5/2 lead in the second too, but then the momentum swung and it was Anjema on top and in control as he took the second 11/6, finished off a 7/0 start in the third 11/3, and at 7/2 in the fourth it looked all over.
But Palmer dug in, as he does, and slowly but surely brought it back to 7-all. There were a few decisions required of the referees and Palmer in particular wished he hadn’t used up his video review early in the game. It was an edgy finish, but after losing his first match ball chance, at 10/9 LJ chanced his arm, hit the nick, and raised both arms in the air …
“I just tried to play my own game and not panic after losing the first. I was pleased to have recovered so well, but it was nerve-wracking at the end, getting those last five points.
“He was one of my idols when I was growing up, so to beat him for the first time in PSA is pretty special. It was a mental victory tonight, I decided to take a risk at the end and thankfully it came off. I hope I can be a bit steadier for the whole match next round …”
Shabana shows his class
The fourth Egypt-England clash of the day was a repeat of Amr Shabana and Adrian Grant‘s encounter at the quarter-final stage of the British Grand Prix a week ago. The Egyptian won that one in three close games, Grant threatening to take each one, but this he did more than threaten as he took the lead 11/6.
Thereafter though, Shabana showed why he’s a four-time world champion, generally controlling the play without looking overly troubled or hurried, and try as he might Grant couldn’t knock him out of his stride as the Egyptian took the next three games 11/6, 11/5, 11/7 to move into a quarter-final with Anjema.
“I just played him a few days ago, and he upped his pace right from the start which took me a little by surprise,” said Shabana. “He has good touch too so it’s tricky to hold him off, so it was good to be able to take those three games.
“I’m just trying to stay healthy and listen to my body, I’ll take the rest day tomorrow and hopefully be ready for the rest of the tournament.”
Azlan takes advantage, Lincou keeps Rodrigues at bay
Azlan Iskandar, having had the benefit of taking on an injured second seed yesterday, was in no mood to let the opportunity of progressing deep into the draw slip as he kept young Swiss Nicolas Mueller on a tight rein, winning 11/6, 11/7, 11/3 in 42 minutes.
“Hats off to him, he’s improved a lot in the last year and is beginning to really push the top guys,” Iskandar said of his opponent. “But I went in with a game plan and stuck to it.”
Thierry Lincou also had to keep a watchful eye on his opponent, speedy Colombian Miguel Angel Rodrigues. That’s easier said than done of course, as Miguel chases the ball and plays it from and into positions like no other.
The Frenchman kept a lid on those antics pretty well after losing the first game 7/11, taking the lead with games of 11/6 and 11/4 and restricting the Colombian’s opportunities to put his foot down by pinning him to the back corners.
Rodrigues managed to eke out an advantage in the fourth though, and a couple of French errors helped him to extend it to 10/6. Lincou has far too much experience to panic in these situations though, and in a series of long, patient rallies – you could sense the Colombian just waiting for an opportunity to launch himself at something, anything, but the opportunities never came – he saved five game balls then took the match on his own first opportunity, putting in a clinging dropshot that Rodrigues’ racket could only brush into the floor.
“He’s a very unusual opponent,” said a relieved Frenchman, “so fast and such an exciting style of play. You think you’ve hit a winner and it comes back, you have to start all over again, and you have to be alert all the time, on every shot. I really had to use my experience to counter him.”
Serme Scrapes past Khan
Hosts USA very nearly had a big upset to celebrate in the first women’s match, when veteran and many-time US champion Latasha Khan held a two-game lead over the seventh seeded Camille Serme. The Frenchwoman was making a lot of uncharacteristic unforced errors, yes, but Khan was playing well, you really couldn’t tell who was ‘supposed’ to win.
Having taken a close first game 12/10 on her third game ball, Khan breezed through the second 11/3 and in a point-for-point third game got as close as 8-all before Serme managed to calm her nerves taking it 11/9.
Camille seemed to have past the crisis as she built a lead in the fourth, but those careless errors were still there, but she held on to take it 11/7 and force the decider.
At 7/3 it looked all over for Latasha, but she fought back well, taking it to 8-all before a very relieved Camille took the final three points.
“Terrible,” was Camille’s instant verdict. “She played really well, played the right game and outplayed me tactically for the first two games. I was so nervous, and made so many easy mistakes, I had to fight myself before I could even think about fighting my opponent.
“It happens sometimes, I’m just glad I managed to win in the end and I hope I can play better in the next round …”
Nicol finds her stride
“It’s not as if I made a slow start,” said women’s top seed Nicol David after completing a 3/1 win over New Zealand’s Joelle King, “but she came out at 100 miles an hour in the first and it took me a little while to adjust.”
King took that first 13/11, having come from 3/6 down to earn game balls at 10/9 and 11/10, but she never led in the next two games as the Malaysian who has dominated the women’s game for half a decade took them 11/8, 11/6 to take the lead.
King led 4/2 in the fourth, but David, well into her comfort zone by now, reeled off eight points in a row before winning the match on her second match ball.
Kasey dashes Dipika’s hopes
After a long nailbititer in yesterday’s qualifying finals it would have been asking a lot of Dipika Pallikal to do much more than make it hard for sixth seed Kasey Brown, but the Indian youngster certainly did that, making the Aussie work hard for her straight-game, 11/8, 11/8, 11/6 win.
Pallikal led in the first, 5/3 then 8/5, but after Brown had picked off six in a row to take the lead she was generally, not that it was ever easy with Pallikal always likely to find an unlikely winner form somewhere.
“Yesterday’s match maybe took a little out of her, but sShe can hit some amazing winners,” admitted Brown. “You have to try to match her and take it in short first if you can, which I think I was doing fairly well today.
“I think there’s something wrong with the WISPA computer, I’ve been drawn to play Nicol in the quarters five times recently! Still, I’ll be trying to put into practice a few things I’ve been working on with my coach, and see if I can put a stop to that run of defeats …”
Perry avoids Donna repeat
The Northern Irish woman took the first comfortably enough 11/6, came from 10/8 down to win the second on extra points 13/11, but then lost five points in a row from 8/6 up in the third as Urquhart threatened to make the sort of comeback she did against Perry in the Cayman Islands.
Perry avoided the potential crisis though, quickly going 6/2 up in the third before finishing it off 11/5 to set up a quarter-final with Camille Serme.
“I thought I had it at 8/6 in the third,” she admitted, “but she took a few quick points and suddenly we were into another game. It was always in the back of my mind that I lost to her from two-nil up in Cayman, so I made sure I came out fast at the start of the third and felt pretty comfortable after I got a lead.”
Rachael ends Raneem’s run
Raneem El Weleily had beaten four top ten players in a row in winning the Carol Weymuller title in Brooklyn a week ago, so world number three Rachael Grinham was well within the sights of the rising young Egyptian’s radar, especially when Raneem took the first two games 11/8, 11/5.
“I knew she had fantastic shots,” admitted Grinham after the match, “so I started off trying to keep it tight and play a bit safer than I normally would.
“But that wasn’t working, so I though I’d just have to go for it.”
Go for it she did, and what resulted was a feast of attacking squash from both players that the crowd on the traditional courts, two floors below the glass court which they were both trying to book their next match on, watched with thorough enjoyment and at times disbelief.
There was never anything approaching a decent lead for either of them throughout the five games, as the Australian took the next two 11/9, 11/9, and the fifth went point for point up to 9-all.
Raneem got a matchball 10/9, then another at 11/10, and a third at 12/11 as both players scampered around the court at breakneck speed. Rachael’s opportunity came at 13/12 and she took it with a delicate wrongfooting crosscourt dropshot to finally put an end to Raneem’s run – for now, at least.
“I can’t believe that was just a first round match,” said a relieved but delighted Rachael at the end.
“I’ll be as sore as hell tomorrow, but I enjoyed that, probably more so because it’s the first close match I’ve won in a long time. I’ll be glad of that rest day tomorrow …”
Duncalf ends USA interest, Au takes out last Egyptian
It was far from the ‘destruction’ that Amanda Sobhy reckoned Jenny Duncalf had inflicted on her in their only other meeting, last year in Australia, but once the English second seed had recovered from a 5/9 deficit in the first to take it 12/10, she was resolutely in control of the match, taking the next two 11/6, 11/5 to finish the match in under half an hour.
The same was true for Duncalf’s quarter-final opponent Annie Au, who beat seventh seed Omneya Addel Kawy with plenty in reserve, 11/1, 11.1, 11/3 in just 17 minutes. I didn’t see any of it but, by all accounts, the Egyptian was carrying an injury and the Hong Kong youngster took full advantage.
“She wasn’t right,” admitted Annie, “but I’ve seen her come back to win matches from two-nil down so I knew I had to just keep on pressing and not give her the chance to come back into it.”
Laura rounds it off
“I was disappointed to lose the first after being 10/7 up,” admitted Massaro, “but it was a tough game all through, we had some long rallies in all the games. It felt like I played pretty well for most of the match, I did what I needed to do .
“I’ll have a go on the big court now, so it’s good to have a rest day to get some practice on there, it’s always very different conditions on the glass court.”