Day ONE : Weymuller returns after two year break
Linda Elriani reports, photos by Jean Ervasti
The 2022 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 13 countries being represented in our tournament with players from literally all over the globe from as far as Hong Kong, Australia, Malaysia and Europe.
We are particularly excited this year due to the forced two year break from this wonderful event!
We have many new players competing this year with players ranked as high as #8 in the world through to #1155. 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.
The first matches started at 5.30pm and on the east court was wildcard Akanksha Salunkhe world #99 from India and her opponent Tong Tsz-Wing, who is currently world #53 from Hong Kong.
They have both played a couple of months ago and Tsz-Wing won in an incredibly close five setter. Tonight’s match was equally exciting and was definitely the match of the night as it was so closely contested as one of the two matches that went down to the wire.
Akanksha started the match really well and got a good lead in the first, but then made a few errors giving Tsz-Wing an entry way back into the game. Akanksha also had to stop for a bleeding knee, but she came through to the win the first 12-10 with an incredible dying boast.
Akanksha took the second game 11/4 playing wonderfully precise and consistent squash.
In the third game it was like Tsz-Wing turned on a switch and she hit winner after winner and didn’t give Akanksha anything to play with and won 11/6.
Akanksha could have closed out the match as she has a good lead at 5-1 and 6-3 but Tsz-Wing got stuck in and saved a match ball at 10-9 and ended up winning the fourth 13-11.
The fifth was a great game but Akanksha was definitely in control. Tsz-Wing made more errors in the fifth than any other game, it looked like it was mostly from the pressure from Akanksha’s great play, but it could also have been from some nerves. Akanksha won the final game 11-7 to go through to her first second round in a bronze level PSA event.
Akanksha’s next opponent is #1 seed and world #8 Rowan Elaraby tomorrow at 5.30pm.
When I asked a beaming Akanksha how she felt after her match she said: “I’m still running on adrenalin! It’s so awesome to win. It’s my first win in a 50K and beaten someone so highly ranked. I felt really excited to play. I played her recently and I lost 12/10 in the fifth so it felt really good to get my revenge! I definitely have no pressure tomorrow. I’m looking forward to getting on court with Rowan who’s so good and learning from her.”
The second 5.30pm match on the west court was between world #44 Latvian Ineta Mackevica and French player and Trinity graduate, Julia Le Coq, who is ranked #155 in the world.
In the first game Julia was in control moving Ineta in short and taking an early lead, Julia won 11-8. Julia was error prone at the start of the second game giving Ineta a 4-0 lead, but after there were some great consistent play from both players and Ineta won 11-5.
Ineta kept the pressure on in the third and fourth games, controlling the T and taking the ball early and went through to win 11/4. 11/5 to win 3-1. Ineta’s next opponent tomorrow is #7 seed Sabrina Sobhy from the USA, who is the sister of Amanda Sobhy world #4 at 5.30pm.
After her match Ineta said: “I started out feeling stressed as I was favorite and did not know my opponent. I ended up finding my rhythm and relaxed and found my advantages. I have not thought about my match tomorrow but I look forward to it.”
The 6.15pm match on the east court was Karina Tyma from Poland and Netherland’s Tessa ter Sluis, who is the world #62.
Both players in this match went for a lot of attacking shots in the front and the rallies were kept short and sweet. The match was exciting and there were some wonderful displays of very quick accurate hands even under severe pressure. There were no attempts to lengthen the rallies and every time a glimpse of an opening appeared, one or the other player would go for a winner!
The match was even at 1-1 and it was the third game that sealed the deal and Katrina let out a celebratory scream as she squeezed the third 12-10. Karina went on to take the fourth 11/7 and won the match 3-1.
Tomorrow she will play world #30 Donna Lobban from Australia at 6.15pm.
Karina said after her match when I asked how she felt: “This is a big win for me. The 2nd biggest actually. I felt pretty smooth out there. Tessa is quite difficult to play as she doesn’t give you any rhythm. I felt pretty string and I felt mentally up for it and I think that is what pushed me over the line. I’m excited to play Donna tomorrow. It’s going to be a bit different as she is a leftie. I’m really excited about getting the experience and playing these higher ranked players.”
The second 6.15pm match on the west court was between young Egyptian Fayrouz Aboelkheir who is already world #68 at only 16 years old and Lee Ka Yi who is ranked #54 in the world and is based in Hong Kong.
Ka Yi played a very steady and consistent match, but it was the young Egyptian that came through to win 3-1 using an array of creative winners and great lengths to force her opponent deep.
Tomorrow will be an all Egyptian affair with Fayrouz playing world #15 Nadine Shahin also from Egypt, at 6.15pm.
Fayrouz said after her win: “I feel great and very happy with my performance. I kept my focus well after the third game and I was very happy that the last game was quick! I have played Nadine before and I lost 3-1 so it will be a very tough match.”
In the first 7.00pm match we had England’s Lily Taylor who is world #64 playing against Canadian Nicole Bunyan who is currently ranked 52 in the world. Lily unfortunately caught a stomach bug and has been unwell for the last 2 days leaving her very weak for her match.
Taking nothing away from Nicole’s win, but this match was not the competitive match that we all expected. It is always a shame when a player gets injured or ill during a tournament and this was Lily’s first trip to NYC. We hope that Lily recovers soon and can maybe at least see a little of NY before she leaves.
Nicole will play fellow Canadian Hollie Naughton tomorrow at 7.00pm.
When I spoke to Nicole after her match she said: “I was trying to length the rallies. I could tell that Lily wasn’t quite right from the beginning. I was trying to get into it and get some good rallies going but Lily was hanging back and I ended up almost feeding her shots to T off from! I am happy to get through, a bit unexpected as Lily is a solid player but she was clearly under the weather today. I play Hollie tomorrow and I lost to her in the semi in Canada last week, so I am excited to have another crack at her!!”
The second 7.00pm match on the west court was between Egyptian Sana Ibrahim who is world #50, and the US junior superstar, Marina Stefanoni, who is world #68.
Marina went 2-0 up in this match and was definitely the more consistent and focused player, finding her targets in the back. It was in the third that Marina started to make some errors and Sana was the player that was more consistent and steady and she won 11-4.
In the fourth it was still Sana that controlled the game and after Marina accidently hit Sana on the thigh, Sana was even mmore aggressive in her play and took the fourth 11-7. Marina got her game back in the fifth but it was a battle until the end and Marina squeezed the win at 11-8 in the fifth.
Marina plays Sivasangari Subramaniam world #22 from Malaysia tomorrow at 7pm.
When I asked Marina how she felt, she said: “I feel great. I’ve never played this tournament before so it’s really nice to play and win the 1st round. I thought I played well. Sana takes advantage of all opportunities so I had to be very tidy and I fought hard. I’ve had a couple of 5 gamers recently so it’s nice to know that I can push to the end. I am excited to play Siva tomorrow. I played her in college Nationals in the semis and lost in 3 but towards the end it was close, so I am excited for a rematch.”
One of the 7.45pm matches didn’t get played as unfortunately Ho Tze Lok has an injured foot and had to default her match so Lucy Beecroft is through to play Farida Mohamed in the second round. We are sorry that Tze is inured and we hope that she recovers fully and quickly. Lucy will play Egyptian Farida Mohamed at 7.45pm tomorrow.
This meant the last match of the night was between Hana Moataz, who is Egyptian and currently studying at Harvard, and Nadia Pfister who is world #65 from Switzerland.
Hana started the match on fire and completely in control, dominating the T and keeping Nadia under the thumb. All credit to Nadia, at 2-0 she came out in the third forcing herself forward on the court which enabled her to volley and take time away from Hana. Hana also looked as though she had taken her foot off the gas after winning the first 2 games relatively comfortably. Nadia played an array of wonderful shots and took the third 11/4 in a pretty decisive manner. The fourth was a great game that stayed even all the way through until Hana grasped last few points just when it really mattered to win 3-1.
Hana plays USA Olivia Clyne and #2 seed tomorrow at 7.45pm. Olivia grew up at the Heights Casino until she was 14 years old when her family moved to CT, so it is always great to have her playing in the Weymuller.
Hana said afterwards: “I am really happy. I haven’t played a professional tournament in a while. I have only played college squash recently so I’m excited to be back playing on tour, I am senior now at college. Nadia is a really good player, I haven’t played her before and I’m really happy I got through. I’m really excited to play Olivia. I have played her for about 5 or 6 years, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
It was a truly fantastic evening of squash to start off the 2022 Weymuller. Congratulations to all the winners and we look forward to the second tomorrow where the top 8 seeds start to play.
The second round matches run from 5.30pm in the evening. Good luck to all the players for their upcoming matches.