The first round of the Delaware Investments U.S. Open concluded on day four at Drexel University with a lone American reaching the last sixteen on a day that saw a few narrow escapes but only one major upset.
Amanda Sobhy was the only one of seven U.S. Players—four on the day—to progress while New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson was the sole qualifier to survive.
 Jenny Duncalf (ENG) bt Kristen Lange (USA) 11-5, 11-6, 11-4 (22m)
 Raneem El Weleily (EGY) bt Samantha Teran (MEX) 11-7, 11-4, 11-5 (25m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [Q] Abdullah Al Mezayen (KUW) 11-0, 12-10, 14-12 (52m)
 Peter Barker (ENG) bt [Q] Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 11-9, 11-5, 4-11, 11-5 (54m)
Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt Nicolette Fernandes (GUY) 10-12, 11-4, 11-1, 11-8 (47m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt Victoria Lust (ENG) 11-7, 11-3, 11-4 (26m)
Simon Rosner (GER) v Julian Illingworth (USA) 11-6, 11-8, 11-4 (42m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt Chris Simpson (ENG) 11-7, 11-2, 11-7 (42m)
Drexel Kline & Specter Squash Center
[Q] Campbell Grayson (NZL) bt Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 13-11, 11-7, 13-11 (52m)
Joe Lee (ENG) bt Henrik Mustonen (FIN) 11-0, 11-5, 11-4 (36m)
 Low Wee Wern (MAS) bt [Q] Sarah Cardwell (AUS) 11-4, 11-4, 11-4 (30m)
Kasey Brown (AUS) bt [Q] Lisa Aitken (ENG) 11-8, 11-6, 11-6 (42m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt [Q] Matthew Karwalski (AUS) 6-11, 5-11, 11-6, 11-4, 11-3 (51m)
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt [Q] Eddie Charlton (ENG) 8-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-8 (57m)
Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt [Q] Kanzy El Dafrawy (EGY) 5-11, 11-6, 11-3, 7-11, 11-6 (61m)
Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt [Q] Sabrina Sobhy (USA) 11-7, 11-3, 11-2 (17m)
Grayson opened proceedings on the Drexel University Kline & Specter Squash Center courts with a straight-games upset over Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller while James Willstrop and Nick Matthew, seeded two and three, were joined by Peter Barker and Joe Lee as England provided half the men’s winners on the day.
Egyptians Tarek Momen and Karim Abdel Gawad both recovered from deficits to claim their last sixteen places while Germany’s Simon Rosner ended home interest in the men’s draw with a straight-games win over Julian Illingworth.
Sobhy recovered from a game down to dominate the rest of her match against Guyana’s Nicolette Fernandes, but her sister Sabrina and wildcard Kristen Lange couldn’t add to the U.S. success as they both lost out to much higher-ranked opponents Nour El Tayeb and Jenny Duncalf.
Tayeb was joined by fellow Egyptians Raneem El Weleily, the third seed, and Omneya Abdel Kawy, who won a thrilling all-Egyptian five-setter against Kanzy El Defrawy.
Malaysian sixth seed Low Wee Wern, and 2011 finalists Kasey Brown from Australia and England’s second seed Laura Massaro, completed the women’s last sixteen—all three winning in straight games.
Duncalf Despatches Lange
“You try playing on that court,” said Kristen Lange after the American wildcard entry had lost in straight games to seventh seed Jenny Duncalf. It’s always difficult for players who aren’t used to performing on a big stage on a glass court, and today was no different.
After dropping the first three points Duncalf, who was world number two for almost two years, settled into her game and reeled off the first 11-5. With Lange making errors she would normally never make, and even serving out twice, Duncalf went up 7-1 in the second before a late rally from Lange reduced the deficit, Duncalf winning it 11-6.
“You always plan to try to get off in three, but it doesn’t always happen,” she said. “I got off to a good start in the second but Kristen came back at me well. It’s good to get a first outing on the glass court, and even nicer to get a rest day now, we don’t often get those.”
“It’s just nerves,” admitted Lange. “It’s so hard to perform at your best out there when you’re not used to it, it’s a different mindset, but at least I did better than last year!”
Grayson Stuns Mueller!
In the first major upset of the 2013 Delaware Investments U.S. Open Championships, New Zealand’s qualifier, Campbell Grayson, shocked world No. 25, Nicolas Mueller of Switzerland in the opening round, 13-11, 11-7, 13-11 in 55 minutes.
In four previous encounters, the world No. 41 Grayson had never beaten Mueller, though he had taken him to five games as recently as last March, when he let a 2-1 lead slip away in the first round of the Kuwait PSA Cup.
Today, however, Grayson survived a near-collapse in the third and final game when he trailed 10-6 and seemingly opening the door for Mueller to stretch the match to a possible five games. But just when Mueller had secured the upper hand, he went for a bit too much at the front, twice finding the tin and, still up 10-9, attempted a crosscourt backhand drop that just missed the nick—and Grayson jumped on it to drive the ball to an unreachable length.
Despite Mueller again finding a game ball at 11-10, Grayson refused to surrender, racing away with his ticket into the second round by forcing Mueller to scramble too much and ultimately find him self congratulating the exuberant Grayson.
“I just kept telling myself that I was only a couple points away, to keep fighting, and I’m really happy with how I played at the end, “said the heavily breathing Kiwi. “I’m looking forward to my next match now.”
Raneem Runs Teran down
She never gives anything less than 100%, never stops running and never stops fighting, does Mexico’s Samantha Teran. It’s a great recipe, but today she was up against the world number three, last year’s runner-up, Raneem El Weleily, who moves just as well but has a greater array of shots in her arsenal than anyone.
So Teran made it competitive, as she always does, but the Mexican was always playing catchup, more often than not doing the chasing while El Weleily was calling the plays and was always in the lead.
It finished 11-7, 11-4, 11-5 in 25 minutes, a good performance from Teran and a good workout for El Weleily, who will expect to advance a few more rounds yet.
“It wasn’t an easy first round to get,” said Raneem. “It’s very hot on there and she doesn’t stop running. It would mean everything to me to win this event. It’s one of the very biggest and I’ve got my family here supporting me this week so hopefully I can keep on winning for them.”
No Love for Mustonen
England’s Joe Lee, after seeing the demise of Nicolas Mueller at the Kline & Specter Squash Center, refused to give room for Finland’s Henrik Mustonen to breathe—quickly shutting him out in straight games.
“When I was up 9-love, I just tried to not give him anything,” explained Lee. “That would create doubts. Now I’ll come back to watch Pete Barker and Abouelghar this afternoon because I will be playing the winner next.”
Mezayen Makes it Tough for Matthew
You don’t get many 11-0 scorelines at this level, but the first game between third seed and 2011 finalist Nick Matthew and Kuwaiti qualifier Abdullah Al Mezayen gave us one of them. Matthew was sharp for sure, dominating the ‘T’ and punching away his volleys, but as the Englishman said after the match, “He’s a much better player than he showed in the first game.”
He is, too, and after going 3-0 down in the second, the left-hander showed the crowd his talent, matching the two-time world champion point for point for the next two games, often looking a little languid but bursting into action when needed and playing some delicate flicks and drops that delighted the crowd.
Matthew had to save two game balls to take the second 12-10, then saw two match balls disappear as the third went to extra points too. On his fifth match ball Matthew closed in on his opponent hanging around too close to his own dropshot and, despite a belated appeal from Abdullah, the stroke stood and a relieved Matthew was through.
“In some ways that first game was the worst thing that could happen,” said Matthew. “He played really well after that, and it was very tough, but I’d rather have it that way than win all the games 11-0.”
Low Wee Wern Dominates Cardwell
The women’s number six seed, advanced to the second round of the U.S. Open for the first time in her career with a decisive win over qualifier Sarah Cardwell of Australia. In 2012, Low was dismissed in the first round by the second-seeded Raneem El Weleily, but since then she has been holding steady in the world’s top seven rankings.
Low conceded four points in each game, but it was her ability to withstand long points that paid dividends, eventually catching Cardwell out of position. She’ll be looking to continue that trend in her next match where she will face the American Amanda Sobhy.
Brown Buries Aitken
It’s been two years since Australia’s Kasey Brown has found success at the U.S. Open, having reached the final in 2011 but being knocked out in the second round last year by Raneem El Weleily. And a week ago, Brown was dismissed from the Carol Weymuller Open in the first round by Dipika Pallikal in a grueling five games.
After today, however, the Aussie will be looking to right her ship by taking on England’s seventh-seeded Jenny Duncalf after having dispatched Dutch qualifier, Lisa Aitken, in the opening round. But it wasn’t without a brief struggle in the first game.
Brown and Aitken exchanged points up to 4-all in the first, when Brown found the key to success—punishing Aitken with crosscourt backhands to the back right corner that refused to be playable. Aitken found herself repeatedly fighting to dig the ball out and, unfortunately for her, repeatedly found that impossible to do.
“Yah, these courts seem to grab the ball in the back corners and it just doesn’t come out, so that was a key,” said Brown afterwards. “We’ve never played before on the tour, but her game has been improving a lot over the last year.”
Barker Beats Abouelghar for Now …
Abouelghar didn’t start either of the first two games well, going 6-1 down in the first and 7-0 in the second—not helped by some careless errors—but he recovered to make both games tough for the left-handed Englishman, who took them 11-9, 11-5. A better start in third saw Abouelghar pull one back 11-4 as Barker let the game go towards the end.
“You could see from my reaction how tough that was,” he said. “He’s ranked what, 66, but he’ll be top ten soon, hopefully after I’ve finished!”
“We hadn’t played before, but you could see towards the end of the second he was starting to read me and pick me off, and he played really well in the third. I had to change my game a bit and dig in to take that fourth.”
Momen-tum Carries the Egyptian
Egypt’s Tarek Momen added a bit of drama to the day’s proceedings by struggling to overcome qualifier Matthew Karwalski of Australia in five games. Karwalski, nicknamed “Killer,” came out firing on all cylinders in the first two games, putting extremely high pace and accurate shotmaking to full effect to jump out to a two-game lead. And Momen helped him a bit by making several unforced errors.
After that, it was all Momen as his excellent touch carried him through the last three games. Mixing good use of length and width, the world No. 11 from Cairo began eating up the aggression of Karwalski with unretrievable drop shots.
Momen now awaits the winner of the first round match between American hopeful, Julian Illingworth, and Germany’s Simon Rosner. If Momen advances on Monday night, he will equal his best performance in the U.S. Open having reached the second round in 2012.
Sobhy’s Super Streak
After losing out on a fiercely competitive first game against Guyana’s determined Nicolette Fernandes, U.S. Number one Amanda Sobhy proceeded to totally dominate the remainder of the match as she advanced to the last sixteen to the delight of the Drexel crowd.
There was nothing to choose between them in that opening game, level all the way to 9-all, but it was Fernandes who was working the harder of the two, who took it 12-10 with a few fistpumps along the way.
Fernandes fought back to 5-8, and from 5-10 down she saved three match balls before finally succumbing as she tinned a dropshot to her own anguish and Sobhy’s delight.
“It’s been a good summer, I’ve been able to train more than study and hopefully I can get my ranking back up to the top twenty. I’ll be back later on to support Sabrina in her match and hopefully we can keep this Sobhy Super Streak going!”
Gawad Advances for First Time
After reaching the main draw for the first time in 2012 as a qualifier, Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad successfully gained entry into his first-ever U.S. Open second round by knocking off the hard-charging Eddie Charlton of England. Despite dropping the opening game, 8-11, Gawad recovered to withstand relentless court coverage and excellent use of the height of the court by Charlton.
But Gawad simply had too much firepower as he responded to Charlton’s lobs with attacking overhead attempts and crosscourt nicks—several of which found the mark. In the end, Charlton simply ran out of offense and Gawad capitalized on a tough stroke decision to cap the match in four games, 8-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-8 (57m).
Gawad now plays England’s second-seeded James Willstrop.
Egyptian Nationals Moves to U.S. Open?
A physical affair? Yes. Contentious? Without question. But in the end, a respectful handshake and a hug put any seeming animosity to rest as Egyptian Omneya Abdel Kawy capped her first foray into the U.S. Open since 2005 with a close and hotly contested opening round win over countrywoman Kanzy El Defrawy in five grueling games.
The gamesmanship began early as the first eight points resulted in discussions between players and referee, with the referee ultimately requesting that the banter cease. For sixty-one minutes, the bumping, fist pumping and screaming carried on as Defrawy put on her dazzling trademark display of diving gets as Abdel Kawy worked the corners to take control of the game.
But it wasn’t until the last half of the last game that Defray finally ran out of answers—after one point when she dove to the back once the front twice, the second of which left her sitting on the floor with Abdel Kawy hovering over her waiting for a stroke decision. Yes, that stroke came—along with the rest of the match.
Next up will be another Egyptian in the form of Raneem El Weleily on Monday evening.
“It’s like I’m playing the Egyptian Nationals and not the U.S. Open,” quipped Abdel Kawy. “But the last time she beat me, so I’ll be looking for revenge again…Defrawy beat me three-love last time we played.”
Massaro Masters Lust
The 2011 U.S. Open champion and number two seed Laura Massaro came through her all-English matchup with Victoria Lust comfortably enough, with Lust was always playing catchup as Massaro won 11-7, 11-3, 11-4.
“I was happy enough with how I played,” said Massaro, “it’s always nice to get the first one out of the way.
“I had a long Summer break after winning in KL and Hull, but that gave me time to enjoy those victories.”
Rosner ends home hopes
Another match where the seeded player took control from the outset, and although Julian Illingworth mounted a comeback from 2-7 down to 7-all in the second, Germany’s Simon Rosner pulled away again and went on to take the match 11-6, 11-8, 11-4 to set up a last sixteen meeting with Tarek Momen.
“I’m really happy with how I played,” said Rosner, “Julian’s always a difficult opponent and especially in front of his home crowd. He was coming back at me in the second, I had to dig deep to win that one.
“I’m a 9/16 seed here, and I’m hoping to do better than that, which means I’d have to beat Tarek Momen in two days’ time.”
Willstrop Blitzes Back
Second seed James Willstrop recovered from a Chris Simpson ‘blitz’ at the start of the all-English last men’s match of the round, recovering from 0-5 to take the opener 11-7. Willstrop continued to dominate in the second, taking that one 11-2, and although Simpson recovered to make the third point-for-point up to 7-all, Willstrop pulled away to take the match 11-7, despite Simpson’s frantic court sprints on the final rally.
“He’s the man in form and he showed that by blitzing me at the start of the match,” said Willstrop. “I was pleased to be able to come back from that, and I started to find my length and range on the court. Every one is different and it takes a little time.
“We live about half a mile from each other so I’ve seen his improvement—he can trouble anyone at the moment.”
“Sobhy Streak” Down to One
Despite high hopes for Sabrina Sobhy, younger sister of Amanda who exacted revenge over Guyana’s Nicolette Fernandes (after the American lost to her at the Carol Weymuller Open a week ago), the U.S. Junior No. 1 was smothered by Egyptian former world junior champion, Nour El Tayeb in a punishing seventeen-minute match.
Sobhy simply never got it going. While she did win seven points in the opener, the last two saw her take just five points total. To Tayeb’s credit, the partisan crowd urging Sobhy to the upset failed to rattler her.
“I know Sabrina very well from the juniors,” said Tayeb. “I never played her but I’ve heard about her a lot. As you can see I was very focused today, because I know how dangerous Sabrina can be.”
Today’s winners get a well-deserved day off on Sunday as the second round begins with the top half of the draw, eight matches on the glass court starting at noon.