Friday October 11th—Drexel Day !

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David Eases Through as Gordon Tests Gaultier on Opening Day at Drexel

The Main draws of the 2013 Delaware Investments U.S. Open kicked off today at Drexel—which was a good enough reason to call it “Drexel Day,” but it was also a day where all the students at Drexel University not only got free entry to see some of the world’s top players in action, they got free Pizza too!

Play took place on the all-glass showcourt, and ‘downstairs’ on the Kline & Specter Squash Center too, where the qualifying action was played out over the last two nights. That’s sixteen matches today in the top half of the draw, then it’s the same again tomorrow to complete the first round of the historic WSA and PSA World Series events, which are, for the first time ever, offering equal prize money to the world’s top men and women.

The day started with a comfortable enough win for women’s champion Nicol David against qualifier Kylie Lindsay and ended—on the glass court at least—with U.S. Champion Chris Gordon setting men’s top seed Gregory Gaultier a very stiff challenge for two games.

There were no upsets to report, although Wales’ Tesni Evans put in a great effort to take eighth seed Madeline Perry to five games, Ryan Cuskelly extended fourth seed Karim Darwish for 72 minutes, and Omar Abdel Aziz came very close to fifth seed Mohamed El Shorbagy in the only all-Egyptian match of the day.

Gordon wasn’t the only home player to fall—Latasha Khan and Olivia Blatchford met their matches in Sarah Kippax and Donna Urquhart, but the hosts have three more players in the mix tomorrow.

David’s Defense Safely Under Way

SH309World number one Nicol David got her U.S. Open title defense off to a solid start with a straight-games win over Kiwi qualifier Kylie Lindsay in the opening match of the first round on the glass court at Drexel University.

SH310After dropping the first two points, David eased away to take the opening game 11-5, added the second 11-3, and although Lindsay managed to keep pace with her illustrious opponent up to 6-all in the third, David pulled away again to take the match 11-7 in 24 minutes.

“It’s great to be back,” said the winner, “knowing that I had a good run here last year and also last week in New York [winning the Carol Weymuller title].

“The U.S. Open has set the benchmark for world series squash events in offering equal prize money and treating the women’s event as equal in very way, everyone just wants to thank them for the effort they’re putting into this.”

Adrian Over Marwan Again

Waller v Marwan 3After reaching the semifinal of the Montreal Open last week, Adrian Waller has continued his good form in the first round of the U.S. Open defeating Egyptian Marwan Elshorbagy. The Englishman has now defeated the former world junior champion ranked nine places above him twice in the last two months with a 3-1 win in the Netsuite Open, and now a commanding 3-0 win . 

“I beat him a couple weeks ago in San Francisco so I came in with a bit of confidence. I wanted to roll with it really, and keep doing what I was doing the last couple of weeks and it paid off,” Waller said.

Waller faces world No. 2 and tournament one seed Gregory Gaultier in the round of 16. 

“A big challenge again for me.  Another great player in Greg so it’s always going to be tough playing him. Just have to look forward to playing him on the glass court.”

Waters Leaves it Late

SH314England’s world number four Alison Waters went through to the second round with a straight-game win over WSA President Aisling Blake, but it wasn’t all plain sailing for the reigning British national champion. Blake more than held her own for the early part of each game, but Waters managed to pull clear from 5-all in each of the first two games, then took eight in a row in the third to finish the match 11-7, 11-6, 11-3 in 31 minutes.

“Aisling was playing well and finding her length from the start,” admitted Waters, “and it took me a while to find my range. It’s always a bit of an unknown quantity in your opening match, but I’m glad to get through in three and looking forward to the rest of the tournament now.”

Serme Builds On Weymuller Performance

Serme v COrnett 2 small 2Two rising stars were on display at Drexel’s Kline & Specter center in the form of 24-year-old French champion Camille Serme and 22-year-old Canadian champion Samantha Cornett.  Serme was brimming with confidence coming off the tournament of her life a week earlier, the Carol Weymuller Open in which she defeated world No. 4 Alison Waters, world No. 7 Jenny Duncalf, and world No. 2 Laura Massaro on her way to the final. 

Serme continued her recent momentum, commanding the match against the world No. 32 11-4, 11-6, 11-7 to set up a repeat of her final in Brooklyn against world No. 1 Nicol David on the Delaware Investments Glass Court. 

“Sam has a fighting spirit and will never give up so I had to maintain focus until the last point,” said Serme after the match. 

Golan Through as Delierre Limps Out

SH318After taking a comfortable one game lead against Canadian number one Shawn Delierre 11-3, newly-crowned Open de Montreal champion Borja Golan found the second game much harder work. Delierre, who struggled to find his rhythm in that first game, led 6-2, 9-5 and 10-8 when he stretched for a ball and crumpled in a heap.

After taking a three-minute injury timeout the Canadian decided he couldn’t continue and offered his hand to Golan. “It’s not the way anyone wants to win,” said the Spaniard, “he played well at the start of the second game and it’s a real shame he couldn’t finish the match.”

After some treatment Delierre was seen walking gingerly away, “it’s good news that I can walk,” he said, “nothing too serious.”

Line Launches Turn Around Against Whitlock

Hansen v Whitlock smallLine Hansen reached a career-high world ranking of 18 in October, and showed no signs of slowing down in Philadelphia.  The 30-year-old Dane captured her 13th Women’s Squash Association title at the end of September at the Equinox Orange County Open, and her first main draw match in the U.S. Open was a repeat of that final against 19-year-old English international Emily Whitlock. 

Unlike in Orange County, Hansen found herself trailing losing the first game 8-11, but turned the tables on the world No. 26 to win the next three games 11-9, 11-8, 11-3.

Cuskelly Makes Darwish Work for it

Normally super-efficient at winning his early rounds in double quick time, fourth seed Karim Darwish really had his work cut out to see off Aussie Ryan Cuskelly in four tough games that took 72 minutes to complete.SH323

There weren’t too many signs of the struggle ahead as Darwish, the former world number one, took the first relatively quickly 11-5, but thereafter the match was even all the way. Darwish managed to double his lead from 8-all in the second, taking it 11-9, but it was Cuskelly who got the better of the end of the third, taking four points in a row to pull one back 11-8. Darwish was always a point or two ahead in the fourth, taking it 11-7, but this was far from an easy opener.

“It’s always tough playing someone like Ryan,” said Darwish, “I had to be on my toes the whole match. Those few points at the end of the second were crucial, then I relaxed a bit in the third but managed to get it back for the fourth.”

Sarah Staves Off Khan comeback

SH326It’s been unusual recently for the early rounds of a joint event to give equal billing to the ladies, so Sarah Kippax, Latasha Khan and the Drexel crowd all enjoyed seeing this match on the glass court. The Englishwoman got the better of the opening stages, taking a 9-3 lead which she converted 11-7, then held a lead throughout the second, taking it 11-8.

SH328At 8-4 in the third it looked as though the seven-time U.S. champion was going out fairly meekly, but she found her best form to take six points in a row to earn two game balls. Kippax responded though, putting in some short winners to take the final four points as she clinched the match 12-10 in 33m.

“It’s fantastic to get a match under your belt on the glass court so early in the tournament,” said Kippax. “You can’t give Latasha an inch, she’s so experienced, and she was starting to get into her stride at the end. I was a bit lucky, but pleased to finish it in three.”

Clyne Completes Comeback

Clyne v Finitsis smallScotsman Alan Clyne found himself two games down against qualifier Steven Finitsis on Drexel’s home court in his first appearance of the tournament.  Finitsis, who marked his first U.S. Open main draw appearance with a five-game qualifying final win over fellow Australian Rex Hedrick Thursday, caught the world No. 32 off guard claiming the opening games 11-8, 11-6.

Collecting himself between games, Clyne promptly responded in the third 11-5.  Finitsis’ resolve was tested, and ultimately broken as Clyne completed the comeback 11-8, 11-8 in a 88 minute marathon.

King Closes it Out

SH332Joelle King, who was so close to beating Nicol David in last year’s semifinal—the Kiwi was 6-0 up in the fifth—played out another see-saw match against young Egyptian Nouran Gohar. At 7-1 in the first, King loooked to be cruising, but Gohar fought back to level at 8-all, and in the end King was relieved to take the lead 11-9.

SH331That lead was doubled as she took the second 11-6, but Gohar kept pace with her hard-hitting opponent all the way in the third, squandering two game balls before reducing the deficit 12-10. The Egyptian carried that momentum into the fourth, taking a 4-0 lead, but King powered her way through the rest of the game to take it 11-6.

“I’d never even seen her play before,” admitted King, “but you know that any Egyptian is going to be a dangerous opponent. I’m just glad to get off with a win. It wasn’t looking good at 0-4 in the fourth, but I managed to get my head together and came through.”

Shorbagy Squeezes Through

SH333In the only all-Egyptian match of the day—a rarity these days—Mohamed El Shorbagy edged past Omar Abdel Aziz in just under an hour, although when the fifth seed took the first 11-2 there was no sign of the tussle to follow.

SH340Aziz leapt out to a 5-2 lead in the second, held a game ball at 10-9 but couldn’t take it as Shorbagy edged it 12-10. With the rallies remaining fast-paced, the third and fourth games were even until 8-all. In the third, Aziz pulled one back 11-8, but in the fourth Shorbagy again saved a game ball to take the match 12-10, much to his own relief and his opponent’s disappointment.

“He played so much better after the first game,” said the winner. “I think I played the same through the whole match, but he came back so well and I was fortunate to get through.”

Gaultier Tested by Gordon

SH337It would have been expecting a lot of Chris Gordon to repeat his heroics of last year when he pulled off a mighty upset in the first round, given that this time he was up against the top seed and world No. 2.

Yes, Gordon has become the U.S. No. 1 and national champion in the intervening year, but still, few would have expected him to give France’s Gregory Gaultier such a tough time, for two games at least.

SH335There was nothing between them throughout the first game, 5-all, 9-7 to Gordon, then Gaultier was off the court thinking he’d taken it 11-9 on a no let to Gordon, but the video overule brought him back on. Gordon levelled but Gaultier took the next two to lead 12-10.

Again in the second, nothing to choose between them. Gordon led 8-7, then 10-8 but couldn’t convert, and another chance went at 11-10. Gaultier squeezed home again 15-13, but dominated a rapid third game in which Gordon could muster only a single point.

SH338“I was really pleased with how I played,” said Gordon, “There was no pressure on me so I could just enjoy it. The third was disappointing, the ball was spongy. I knew it was spongy, and I had to get a better length, but he just got on top of me so fast.”

Gaultier, winner of the Abierto Mexicano and runner-up in the Netsuite Open in recent weeks, was happy to win: “I’ve been away for a month now, three tournaments in a row is tough—you just need to keep the motivation to play at the right level.

SH339“Chris has improved a lot. He’s proved he’s number one in America and we’re good friends. I spent a lot of time with him in New York, maybe I gave him too much advice, he nearly got me in the first two games!”

“I won this tournament a few years ago. Winning the U.S. Open means a lot to all of us and it’s getting bigger and better every year. I’ll give all I’ve got to try to win it again, but there are no easy matches nowadays—you have to treat every round as a final.”