Round One of the 2020 Carol Weymuller Open in New York saw Australia’s Donna Lobban and Egypt’s Farida Mohamed beat 9/16 seeds Nele Gilis and Alexandra Fuller to reach the second round.
Linda Elriani reports, photos by Jean Ervasti
The 2020 Carol Weymuller Squash Tournament is now underway with the first 8 matches of the 24 draw format. The matches started at 5.30pm on our Heights Casino squash courts. We have an amazing 11 countries being represented in our tournament with players from literally all over the globe from as far as New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and South Africa.
We have 2 players in this year’s draw that have been previous Weymuller Champions with Alison Waters winning it in 2014 and Nour El Tayeb here to defend her title from last year. Alison is the player in the draw that competed in the Weymuller the most times and we have been lucky enough to have her here in Brooklyn gracing our courts for a whopping 11 years!!!!
We are streaming the whole event live so it’s exciting for everyone to be able to see matches even if they are in different countries, or can’t make to the matches.
Donna had knee surgery and has only recently come back to competitive squash. Her previous ranking was well inside the top 20 in the world , so it was going to be interesting to see who could came through victorious with them both having had a similar ranking at one stage before Donna’s injury.
Donna is left-handed and she used her strong forehand to put pressure on Nele’s backhand winning several points deep and short on the backhand side. Nele tried to vary and pace and get control of the T, but Donna was taking the ball too early and pinning Nele in the back. There were some great rallies with wonderful shows of athleticism from both players, but overall Donna accuracy and relentless pressure was just too much for Nele. Donna came through 3-0 11/6, 11/7, 11/5….
Her next opponent is Alison Waters tomorrow at 5.30pm.
When I asked a beaming Donna how she felt after her match she said: “I’m really pleased with that. I’m probably my own harshest critic but I am pleased with that. I was a little bit loose in the 3rd but for the first 2 games I did a good enough job of keeping it tight and that gave me my opportunities. I think I found a good balance of attacking and positivity but not headlessly.
“I haven’t played Alison in a PSA tournament for a long time but we played in PSL league in England a few times and always have a good game. It’ll be nice to play someone I haven’t played for a while.”
In the first game with Emilia was hitting too many tins and Melissa used her length and kills from the front to capitalize. In the second game Melissa started using more drops and shots keeping Emilia off balance. Third game started with Emilia getting a string of points by sending Melissa the wrong way and varying the pace. At 1/4 down Melissa got her game back and started pushing Emilia deeper in the court and came through to win 3-0 11.6, 11/6, 11/7.
Melissa’s next opponent tomorrow is #1 seed Nouran Gohar at 1.30pm after the luncheon.
Melissa said after her match when I asked how she felt: “Good! I won! I have played her a couple of times and she has an interesting game. It’s different as she like to lob and slow down the pace. I tried to do the opposite and hit the ball as hard as I could. I played at a pace that would suit me more than her and taking it in short as soon as I could.
“I am very excited to play Gohar as she is one of the top 10 players that I haven’t played yet. You live for this moment and train so you can play one of the best!”
The first game was closely contested, but in the second Vicky played a precise and accurate game, really containing her young opponent, but as the match went on there were a number refereeing decisions that made for a more difficult game.
In the third game Menna was 10-7 up and it looked like she was going to win the game but Vicky had a different plan and suddenly came out stronger and squeezed the third 12-10 to take the match 3-0 11/9, 11/5, 12/10.
Tomorrow she will play Salma Hany at 6.15pm.
A smiling and happy Vicky said to me when I asked how she felt: “Relieved! It’s not been the best season. I played 2 matches and then got injured. I am now back and this is the 1st win since I’m back. It was a little messy but I managed to win in 3 so I am happy.
“I am excited to be back playing and playing with no pressure against Salma. The 3 times I’ve played Salma it has gone to five games and 2 of them 12/10 in the fifth so it should be a great match.”
Both players played an attacking and fast game. Overall it was Zeina that played the most winners and the least errors, though Menna really tried to impose her game over Zeina and move her around the court and in the second game she managed to do this taking it 11/9.
In the third and fourth games Zeina used her great backhand hold to wrong foot her opponent on several occasions and she hit her shots to the open spots on the court precisely. Zeina went through to win 3-1, 11/9, 9/11, 11/6, 11/7.
Zeina plays ToC Champion, Camille Serme, tomorrow at 7.00pm.
Zeina said after her win: “I’m feeling relieved after winning. I haven’t played her before. We started the match and it was very tight at the beginning. She is a very experienced player and she’s been playing for so long and she has really good hands.
“I tried to keep going in the match and pick up every ball I can. I’m happy to be though and I am looking forward to play Camille. I played her in Manchester and I lost in 3, but I’m really excited to do much better tomorrow.”
In the first 7.00pm match we had Malaysia’s Rachel Arnold who is world #43 playing against Egyptians Yathreb Adel who is currently ranked 16 in the world. This was definitely the most exciting match of the evening with both players playing such attacking squash that there the rallies were incredibly short for a match of their caliber. Every game but one went down to the wire and with both player choosing to play such severe and aggressive squash it made it very nerve racking to watch!
Each player was determined to shut down the other players chance to shoot first and there were many courageous winners played by both players. In the fifth it was Rachel that got match ball first at 10-9, but it was not over yet. A tin from Rachel and a stroke gave Yathreb a second chance to grasp the match and she sealed it with a magnificent forehand volley boast! Both players walked off the court looking perplexed but it was Yahreb that pulled through to win 3-2 in an incredibly exciting 55 minute match 11/13, 13/11, 10/12, 11/4, 12/10.
When I spoke to Yathreb after her match she said: “I feel so relieved!!! It was one of those days when I went on court and she was player better and sharper. Anything she was doing was a winning shot so it was hard to find a rhythm. I started a bit flat as well.
“I was just trying to fire myself up throughout the whole match and play more deep shots and try to avoid the volleys. Then it opened up for me and some loose shots to take it in. I think Joelle and I have only played once a couple of years ago, so I look forward to playing her and going out to my best, and hopefully it will be a good match.”
Mariam played aggressive and attacking squash and controlled the first and third games with her range of shots, but in the second Marie pushed Mariam to 11/9 managing to get Mariam off the T and play her game. Mariam came through to win in 3, 11/4, 11/9, 11/6.
Mariam will Joshana Chinappa from India on Friday at 6.15pm.
When I asked Mariam how she felt, she said: “Actually I am feeling good. 1st half of the season my head wasn’t ready. I had some ups and downs and I had some health issues too, so after the world champs it was a wake-up call. So I had a month working on myself mentally very hard and changing my game and getting my confidence back. I think it worked very well, I was working with a sports psychologist on some stuff.
“As you see Marie played very well. She has good hands, but I was trying to stick to my game plan as much as I can and I did that. On Friday I’m excited to play Joshana as we have played 3 times and I have won 2 times, so I’m looking forward to it and just enjoy my game.”
There was a very enthusiastic crowd at 7.45pm on the championship court when home grown Haley Mendez, world # 45, played Malaysia’s Low Wee Wern, ranked world #24. Haley has grown up playing and learning squash at the Heights Casino and so she seems very comfortable on her ‘home’ courts and certainly got some incredible and much deserved support. Haley did herself proud and managed to push Wee Wern very hard and make her feel the pressure of playing someone with a home advantage.
Haley played great squash and stayed steady with Wee Wern throughout ¾ of each game and it was only a point here or there that separated the players. Haley made a few errors at some vital times in the match which really made the difference and gave Wee Wern the conclusive points to take the match 11/9, 13/11, 11/7.
Wee Wern plays Amanda Sobhy on Friday at 7.00pm.
Wee Wern said afterwards: “It’s good to be back (having been out injured with 3 knee injuries for 3 years!). To be honest the game has changed since I came back with the tin being 17 inches. Also with the referee rule change I’m a bit at a loss and confused as you never know what call you’re getting! It was good to have a clean match and I’m just trying to enjoy my squash again.
“To be honest, I probably didn’t appreciate top level squash when I was 5 in the world and now it’s a long road back but it’s my goal. I’ve not played Amanda in a while and she’s been injured too we are both hungry to get back on court.”
Alex started the match playing controlled squash but as the match went on Farida injected more pace and forced some errors from Alex. From 2-1 down Alex kept strong and fought off a match ball in the fourth, but Farida dominated the fifth with her hard hitting game taking the match 9/11, 11/8, 11/8, 10/12, 11/4.
Farida plays defending Carol Weymuller champion Nour El Tayeb on Friday at 7.45pm.
It was a truly fantastic evening of squash to start off the 2020 Weymuller. Congratulations to all the winners and we look forward to the second tomorrow where the top 8 seeds start to play.
We have our Weymuller@Lunch luncheon at noon followed by the first second round match at 1.30pm between #1 seed, world #3 and US Open Champion Nouran Gohar from Egypt and her opponent Melissa Alves from France.
The rest of the second round matches run from 5.30pm in the evening. We are looking forward to hearing Alison Waters speak at our luncheon tomorrow so our members can hear about her inspiring and successful squash career.
Good luck to all the players for their upcoming matches.