Quarters : Egyptian finalist assured as Sivasangari and Farida take out seeds
Linda Elriani reports, photos by Jean Ervasti
This afternoon we held the quarter final matches of the 2022 Carol Weymuller Open. The quarter finals are always my favorite night at tournaments because it’s four extremely high quality matches all in one evening. It was a beautiful spring day here in Brooklyn, and the atmosphere at the courts was equally upbeat and positive. The quality of the squash this week has been truly amazing and we have all left amazed and inspired after each match we watch!
Today’s quarter finals had Egypt, USA, Australia, Canada, Malaysia being represented. These are all strong squash nations, especially Egypt, and we are very lucky to have all these wonderful players travel from around the globe to play in our event. There is an Egyptian player in 3 of the 4 quarter final matches today, just showing the squash strength and depth especially in their country.
First up on the championship court was #1 seed and world #8 from Egypt Rowan Elaraby and her opponent, American world #23, Sabrina Sobhy. Rowan and Sabrina have played 3 times before since 2018 with Rowan being 2-1 up in the head to head. Sabrina has such a versatile game that I felt that she will do well to adapt to Rowan’s game, but Rowan has been playing her best squash recently so we will see what happens.
This was the closest contested and most exciting match of the night and during the 4th game there was also a ‘rally of the tournament’ too where the rally was exceptionally long and exciting and Sabrina did a huge dive to retrieve a shot and got back up and eventually won the rally!!! On the next rally Sabrina served and an annoyed Rowan (who probably felt she should have the previous point as she had controlled most of it) put the return of serve straight into the nick!! Boom! So fun to watch!!
Sabrina played a fantastic match and in the first and second games she would stay pretty even with Rowan but then at 9-9 in the first and 7-7 in the second Sabrina would make some mistakes giving Rowan the first 11/9 and second 11/7. Both players had tremendous movement and got back some incredible shots, but it really was down to who made less errors.
In the third game Sabrina literally played perfectly and only made one error! She really took Rowan to the cleaners and won 11/1. We were all left wondering if Sabrina could possibly continue playing this well! Rowan also requested to change the ball (even though it wasn’t broken). Sabrina wanted to keep the same ball, who wouldn’t after winning a game 11-1 with it!!!
The fourth game stayed almost point for point right through to 8-8. We all wanted to see this incredible match go to five, but an error from Sabrina and a perfect backhand drop from Rowan took Rowan through 11/9 to give her a place in a 50K semis for the first time ever!!! Rowan deserved the win, she really did play so well and more importantly managed to handle the big points the best.
After Rowan’s match when I asked how she felt and she said: “I feel amazing. I’m very happy to be through today. I have played Bines before and I know what a great players she is and I wasn’t expecting any less today! I had gave it everything and more to get through in the 4th. Playing a 5th is obviously worse than winning in 4! For tomorrow, I try not to concentrate on who am playing, just me and the ball. They are both players and either one of them is going to be tough. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s match.”
Second match on court was the between world #15 Nadine Shahin from Egypt and her opponent Donna Lobban who is world #30 from Australia. Nadine and Donna have never played before so it was going to be interesting to see who get win their first encounter.
Both players started the match using the whole court so nicely and taking the ball in short when they could, not only to try win the rally but to also move their opponent around and not let them settle or find too much rhythm. It was Donna that got the more consistent length in the first game and it gave her some wonderful openings to take the ball in short. Donna took the first 11/9.
In the second and third games Nadine changed tactics and decided to play a faster pace and play a much more attacking game. Nadine has a different style than many players but her shots are very effective and often really hard to read. Nadine’s most winningest shot this evening was her hard low kill and Donna struggled to keep the rhythm like the first and lost the second 11/3 and third 11/5. In the first game Donna’s short game was wonderful, but it was supported by accurate and precise length and Donna didn’t seems to be able to sustain it.
Nadine stayed in control in the fourth game until 8-5 and then the battle began! Donna dug deep and pressed to regain her control and used her short shots precisely again. As the 4th game came to close it looked to many that Donna managed to close it out at 12-10 and take the match to 5, but there was a big dispute about Nadine’s pick up and in the end the referee played a let because he was unsure. This totally got into Donna head, and instead of sitting outside the court preparing for the fifth game, a couple errors later she has lost the 4th game 13-11 and consequently the match. Donna showed her disgust with a swift racket throw and shaking of her head as she left the court.
Referee decisions are sometimes tough to take, especially if we believe they are wrong, but the worst thing we can do it lose extra points threating about the decision we didn’t like. Easier said than done though! Shame as it was such a lovely match that had been played in such great spirit until it finished in this way.
Nadine will play Rowan in the semi-finals tomorrow at 3.30pm.
A very happy Nadine said after her match: “It’s always nice to play those experienced players you know. I think I managed very well given it was the 1st time we played. She’s so experienced and I am the higher seed so I had all the pressure. I think I managed to get my kills well. It’s my first time to make the semis of a 50K so I have no pressure against a top 10 players.”
The third match of the evening was between Canadian and world #17 Hollie Naughton and Malaysia’s Sivasangari Subramanian who is currently world #22, which is an amazing ranking seeing as she is currently studying at Cornell. Hollie and Sivasangari have played once just before covid hit and Hollie won in 4, so we will see if Sivasangari can get her revenge today.
Siva was literally on fire!! Siva is bouncy, young and fit. She is light on her feet and plays in a wonderfully relaxed way and has the correct percentage of attacking and patience in her game plan.
Siva also has amazing variety in her short shots and put holds and flicks on shots that other players do not often do. Hollie is such a strong player in many ways and yesterday she too was using her hold and deception to outwit her opponent, but this evening Siva didn’t give Hollie anything to play with and she seemed to run out of ideas of how to impact her opponent. Siva went through the match in a quick 23 minutes to win 11/5, 11/4, 11/4.
Siva said afterward her match when I asked her how she felt: “I felt really good on court today. I stuck to my game plan, keeping the balls into the corner and following up in my short game. Hollie is a big fighter so needed to keep to going until the end. I’ve played Olivia once2 years ago and lost in 4 and I’ve never played Farida. Tomorrow there is no pressure on me and I want to play my best and enjoy the game.”
Last up on the championship court, but certainly not least, was home favorite and #2 seed Olivia Clyne against Farida Mohamed world #26 from Egypt. Last night the crowd really got behind Olivia and that was very clear tonight as well.
This match was similar to the previous match in that Farida controlled the match from start to finish and it was only in the 3rd game that we saw glimpses of the Olivia we know, where she managed to use her great length and short shots as a combination to out man oeuvre her opponent.
Farida had the height advantage and used it well, taking the ball early, keeping the pace high and cutting the ball off short at every given opportunity. Farida’s short game was on point tonight with very few errors. It was only when Farida was 2-0 up and 10-6 up that a few errors crept in and Olivia fought back to 10-9. You could feel the excitement in the crowd grow in the hopes that Olivia could push this match beyond 3 games, but alas with stroke at 10-9 match ball Farida took her place in the her first 50K semifinal, winning 11/4, 11/4, 11/9.
A relaxed and happy Farida said afterwards: “It’s my first and biggest semi-final so far so I’m really happy. She has so much experience and she’s world #17 and #2 seed in the tournament so I had to be prepared mentally and physically. I’m really happy with the way I played and I looking forward to the match with Siva. It’s the first time I have played Siva so it’s exciting to play new players and great to play someone new.”
We can’t wait for the semi finals tomorrow at 3.30pm and 4.15pm to see who will make it through to the Weymuller Open final on Sunday at 3.30pm.