On to the Main Draws
Qualifying complete, it was on to the main draws of the first PSA World Series event of the season—the top half of both the men’s and women’s competitions at Drexel University.
World number ones Mohamed Elshorbagy and Raneem El Welily made solid enough starts to their campaigns while qualifiers Greg Lobban and Donna Urquhart produced the only upsets of the day.
 Jenny Duncalf (ENG) d [Q] Yathreb Adel (EGY) 12-10, 10-12, 11-7, 11-8 (44m)
 Emma Beddoes (ENG) b [Q] Samantha Teran (MEX) 8-11, 11-4, 12-10, 11-5 (47m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) d [Q] Tesni Evans (WAL) 11-5, 10-12, 11-8, 5-11, 11-3 (66m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) d Salma Hany (EGY) 11-7, 11-6, 11-6 (24m)
[Q] Donna Urquhart (AUS) d  Rachael Grinham (AUS) 11-9, 11-5, 11-6 (30m)
 Delia Arnold (MAS) d Nicolette Fernandes (GUY) 11-3, 11-3, 11-6 (29m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) d [Q] Olivia Blatchford (USA) 8-11, 11-3, 11-5, 11-6 (40m) Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) d Cesar Salazar (MEX) 11-9, 11-9, 11-8 (50m)
[Q] Greg Lobban (SCO) d Max Lee (HKG) 11-8, 7-11, 11-6, 2-11, 11-7 (65m)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) d [Q] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 11-4, 11-9, 11-5 (46m)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) d [Q] Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) 11-9, 11-3, 11-7 (34m)
 Simon Rösner (GER) d [Q] Ali Farag (EGY) 7-11, 12-10, 13-11, 11-4 (69m)
Alister Walker (BOT) d [Q] Alan Clyne (SCO) 11-8, 12-10, 4-11, 5-11, 11-7 (73m)
Tom Richards (ENG) d Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 14-16, 11-7, 11-6, 11-9 (61m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) d Saurav Ghosal (IND) 11-5, 11-6, 12-10 (56m)
First up on the glass court was an all-Egyptian matchup between Nour El Sherbini and Salma Hany Ibrahim. Sherbini was in charge for the the most part, establishing early leads in each game with Salma finding the tin on too many occasions for her own good.
“I was a little nervous at the start,” admitted Sherbini. “After I do well in a tournament [she won the Carol Weymuller in New York last week], I usually lose in the first round! So it’s good to get a win here, and especially nice that my family could be here to watch me.”
“I’m excited for the tournament. I barely beat Emily last time we played in Alex so I’m happy to be through to the next round,” said Raneem, who lost out to Sherbini in the Carol Weymuller semis.
“So many things can happen in a tournament, but I hope I can stay sharp.”
In the first men’s match on the glass court, France’s Gregory Gaultier, the third-seeded 2013 champion, beat Saurav Ghosal in straight games. The in-form Indian looked as though he would extend the match at 10-6 in the third, but Gaultier reeled off six points to close it out.
“Was 10-6 up but just couldn’t convert,” tweeted Ghosal. “Just shoot me, will you ?!?! Very disappointed.”
Top seed Mohamed Elshorbagy faced off a stern challenge from Mexican Cesar Salazar. The defending champion made a few errors in the first game, which kept Salazar interested, and the Mexican played well to make the second and third games just as competitive—but it was Elshorbagy who took all three to win 11-9, 11-9, 11-8.
“It’s good to be back in Philly. I have great memories last year,” said Elshorbagy. “Cesar played really well, and I was just lucky enough to get the crucial points at the end of the games.”
With the top seeds slated for play on the glass court, Drexel University’s Kline & Specter Court 1 awaited players comparatively close in the world rankings for the first round of main draw play.
Two men’s matches led off the afternoon with Switzerland’s world No. 27 Nicolas Müller and England’s world No. 21 Tom Richards. The match began in explosive fashion with Müller winning a twenty-one minute game, 16-14. The Englishman recuperated to win the match in four games in sixty-one minutes 11-7, 11-7, 11-9. This is the second time Richards has defeated Müller in four games this year.
“This match involved a lot of pressure for both of us, and presented an opportunity for both of us, so I’m really happy to get through,” Richards said. “I thought we both played well, and we were both fighting until the end.”
Another marathon followed on between Botswana’s Alister Walker and Scottish qualifier Alan Clyne, who endured a four-game qualifying final against Lucas Serme Friday night. Walker went ahead after two games, but Clyne returned the favor to force a decisive fifth game. Walker recovered to win the seventy-two minute match to advance.
The first women’s match on the Kline & Specter Squash Court 1 resulted in a clinical performance from Malaysia’s Delia Arnold, who dismissed Guyana’s Nicolette Fernandes 11-3, 11-3, 11-6 in twenty-nine minutes.
Following on, English Veteran Jenny Duncalf and Egyptian teenager Yathreb Adel contested a close four-game match. The two split the first two games 12-10, then Duncalf’s experience shone through to win the match 12-10, 10-12, 11-7, 11-8 in forty-four minutes. Duncalf now faces world No. 1 Raneem El Welily in the round of 16.
“I didn’t really have a clear strategy apart from keeping the ball away from her,” Duncalf said. “Yathreb is a great player when she has the ball on her racquet, so I had to avoid that.”
“I’m looking forward to playing on the glass court. Raneem is always fun to play, that is unless she’s playing really well and chops you up.”
Scottish qualifier Greg Lobban produced the result of the day on the Kline & Specter courts in a five-game thriller against Hong Kong’s Max Lee, who reached a career-high ranking of world No. 13 this month.
Lobban defeated Hong Kong’s Leo Au just twenty-four hours earlier in three close games, and made it two for two against Hong Kong internationals. A packed gallery witnessed the twenty-three-year-old from Glasgow outplay Lee 11-8, 7-11, 11-6, 2-11, 11-7 in just over an hour.
“I’m pretty exhausted to be honest. Had a tough one against Leo last night, and I knew it was going to be tough against Max,” Lobban said. “He likes to keep the pace really high. It was a different kind of match today. I think the ball played a big part—it was tough to get the ball all the way to the back wall. I think it was a bit dead which affected both of our tactics, but I’m glad I stuck with mine well towards the end.”
“I played Mohamed last year at this event—lost three nil. I’m looking forward to it. It’s good to play these top guys. it’s why I play these big events. So very much looking forward to it.”
A contentious affair between France’s Mathieu Castagnet and Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly followed on, with the Frenchman avenging his recent five-game NetSuite Open loss with a three-game victory.
The women’s matches resumed on the Glass Court with another Egyptian victory, but eighth seed Nour El Tayeb was taken to a decider by a typically determined effort from Welsh qualifier Tesni Evans.
“The moment I saw Amr [Shabana] in the crowd I got so nervous. I wanted to show him that I could win, but I ended up playing badly! He gave me some good advice though, which paid off in the fifth.”
The growing crowd were delighted to see American qualifier Olivia Blatchford take the first game off British Open champion and third seed Camille Serme, but the Frenchwoman recovered to take the next three games with increasing authority.
“I tried to play fast at the start,” explained Serme, “but she must be used to that playing with Alan [Clyne] and played really well. I had to change the pace from the second game and that worked out for me.”
Play on the glass court concluded with two men’s matches, Simon Rösner recovering from a game down to beat qualifier Ali Farag in four, and world champion Ramy Ashour beating Malaysia’s Nafiizwan Adnan in straight games.
Rösner was relieved to get through in four. He was 8-10 down in the second and 6-10 down in the third before taking both and then easing through the fourth.
“He’s definitely not a world 30-something player,” commented Rösner, “he’ll be in the top ten very soon.”
“It’s good to be back after a long time out with injury,” said the Egyptian, “I’m really enjoying it but you have to keep discipline in your head—it’s all in the mindset. It’s having my brother here for support, it’s helping me a lot.”