Olivia and Todd claim US National titles
The 2019 U.S. Women’s Championship and S.L. Green U.S. Men’s Championship culminated with both top seeds prevailing in the finals as Olivia Blatchford Clyne earned her second national title, and Todd Harrity ended Chris Hanson’s two-year reign to win his third national title Saturday night, March 30, at Squash on Fire in Washington, DC.
The women’s final fielded two past champions aiming for their second career titles, 2017 champion Blatchford Clyne and 2014 Champion Sabrina Sobhy.
Sobhy, the third seed, took an early lead the first game, up 6-3, which proved to be the only lead the graduating Harvard senior would hold all match, as Blatchford Clyne rattled off five straight points to go up 8-6 and take the first game 11-8. Blatchford Clyne, the world No. 19, then decisively earned a 2-0 lead with an 11-2 second game.
Sobhy remained within reach in the third, down 5-6, at which point Blatchford pulled away to clinch the title 11-6 after twenty-nine minutes.
“It’s an amazing feeling winning this event,” Blatchford Clyne said. “I came into this championship not knowing what the competition would be like. No matter who I was going to play, I knew it was going to be a battle.”
Blatchford Clyne is now just the fifth woman to win multiple national titles since the National Singles transitioned to softball in 1994. The Wilton, Connecticut-native praised Sobhy, who will join the PSA World Tour full time after graduating this spring.
“It was great to play Sabrina,” Blatchford Clyne said. “I’m really excited that she will be joining the U.S. girls on tour next year. The depth of women’s squash in this country has never been stronger. It’s an honor to be part of this team with so many accomplished young women. I’m vintage at twenty-six years old. If you think about that, we have some serious depth coming up. Egypt, you better watch out!”
The ensuing men’s final saw Harrity, the one seed and 2015 and 2016 champion, take on Hanson, the two seed and two-time defending champion.
Harrity, who was making his first appearance in the final since 2016, came out ahead in the first game 11-7, but Hanson leveled the score in the second, 11-8. Harrity regained control to win a tight third game 11-8, before emphatically clinching the title 11-4 in the fourth after fifty-one minutes.
“Playing my good friend Chris was really tough,” Harrity said. “Chris and I have been playing together since we were twelve. I’m glad I was able to stay relaxed during the match. I didn’t really feel like the favorite. He won the last time we played each other, and we’ve gone back and forth for a long time. I knew it was going to be a great match. I want to congratulate Chris on a great tournament.”
Harrity defeated U.S. veteran and 2013 champion Chris Gordon to reach the final, and marked his first S.L. Green win against Hanson since the 2014 quarterfinals.
“Being the U.S. Men’s Champion means so much to me,” Harrity said. “It’s a great tournament for all of us who compete here. It’s the one we all want to win. There were a lot of nerves coming into this event as we all deal with the pressure of trying to be a national champion. It means so much to me to win this trophy again.”
Blatchford Clyne and Harrity could both represent Team USA during this summer’s quadrennial Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, with the full squad set to be announced later this spring.
Hundreds of spectators filled the Squash on Fire gallery for both finals, including the more than 150 National Singles age division competitors, who will vie for fifteen national titles on Sunday.
“Thanks to everyone who came out to support us,” Blatchford said. “We’re a huge community. The best part about squash is seeing everyone here. This sport means so much to us and is such a big part of our lives. My goal is to win the most nationals ever! So, I hope to be seeing a lot of you guys in the future.”
Sabrina reaches first final in five years as Harrity and Hanson set up men’s Final
Chris McClintick reports, photos by David Keating
2014 U.S. Women’s Champion Sabrina Sobhy avenged her PSA loss against Reeham Sedky two weeks ago to reach the 2019 U.S. Women’s Champion final, while the top two men’s seeds, Todd Harrity and Chris Hanson, will contest the S.L. Green U.S. Men’s
Championship final Saturday, March 30, at Squash on Fire in Washington, DC.
Sobhy and Sedky have a long playing history against each other, harking back to their junior careers. As juniors, they each defeated one another to win a national title. The pair of college graduating seniors faced off three times this season with Penn’s Sedky winning two out of three, including the individual championship semifinals, but Harvard’s Sobhy won their final collegiate match in the women’s team championship in February.
Two weeks ago, Sedky—a two-time National Singles finalist—defeated Sobhy in their first career match up on the PSA World Tour in the final of the Queen City Open in Canada, but Friday night, it was Sobhy who came out on top in their first career match at the U.S. Women’s Championship.
Sobhy dropped the first game 11-5, but decisively came back to win the second 11-6. Sobhy then fought off multiple game balls in the third to come back and earn a 2-1 advantage. Sobhy then pulled off an impressive comeback in the fourth game, surmounting a 6-0 lead and clinch the match 5-11, 11-6, 13-11, 12-10 after fifty-two minutes.
“Reeham and I have played against each other many times since we’ve been around thirteen years old, and it’s always been such a battle between us,” Sobhy said. “It’s good to have competition every time, but the difference today is that I had my family here and a lot of friends. That makes it a whole lot different in terms of motivation for me. And all the training that I’ve done. It’s been a huge factor that’s kept me pushing.”
Sobhy will face the 2017 champion and top seed Olivia Blatchford Clyne after the world No. 19 held off a three-game challenge from sixteen-year-old Marina Stefanoni.
“It’s always been a dream to be back in the final after five years,” Sobhy said. “It will be good to play against Olivia again. We haven’t played against each other in a while. She’s always been a great competitor and is doing fabulous on the pro circuit. It will be fun to play against such a highly-ranked player.”
The men’s semifinals saw the top two seeds and champions over the past four years, Todd Harrity and Chris Hanson, both prevail. Harrity, world No. 44 and the 2015 and 2016 champion, overcame veteran and 2013 champion Chris Gordon in a close three-game encounter, 12-10, 11-6, 11-5, after forty-three minutes.
In a rematch of the past two S.L. Green finals, Hanson came out on top in four games over Penn’s Andrew Douglas for a third consecutive year, 3-11, 11-5, 11-8, 11-9, in sixty-one minutes.
“Andrew is usually the giant killer and he usually does it in the semis,” Hanson said. “He brought everything tonight. He really shocked me in the first game. Everyone was wondering if I had fallen asleep, but he played outrageously well and I knew I’d have to stick to it and do what I do best, which is to grind it out.”
Saturday’s final will be Hanson and Harrity’s first S.L. Green match up since Harrity won their 2014 quarterfinal.
“It would mean everything to my career to win this title – especially against Todd,” Hanson said. “We’ve been going at it since we’ve been around six years old. Tomorrow is a classic example of two great friends battling it out and leaving everything out there.”
Top seeds through to finals
The top sour seeds will contest the US Nationals semifinals after mostly comprehensive quarterfinal wins.
All the men’s quarters finished in straight games, with former champions Todd Harrity and Chris Gordon set to face off in the semis, while Chris Hanson and Andrew Douglas will meet in a replay of the last two finals.
The women’s quarters saw two sets of sisters competing, with the elder pairing of Marina Stefanoni and Reeham Sedky prevailing in their matches. Marina needed all five games to get past Laila Sedky and now faces top seed Olivia Blatchford Clyne, who despatched Lucie Stefanoni. Sedky beat Kelsey Engman in straight games to set up a semifinal against Sabrina Sobhy, the third seed whose elder sister Amanda is playing in Texas.