Round Two : Seeds win through to the quarters in Brooklyn
Linda Elriani reports, photos by Jean Ervasti
Today was the 2nd round of the 2022 Carol Weymuller. We had eight more wonderful matches today with the top 8 seeds now joining the fun!
One thing that struck me when looking at the Weymuller draw today was the amount of women that are, or have, attended college here in the US and have now gone on to be amazing world class squash players.
This not only shows us that the standard of college squash in the US is truly incredible, but it also shows that a player can get a great education first before embarking on a professional squash career and still make it to the top ranks. So wonderful to see and very inspiring!
The first 5.30pm match on the championship court was between the world #8 Rowan Elaraby from Egypt against her opponent, wildcard Akanksha Salunkhe who is #99 in the world from India, though she is now based in Brooklyn. Akanksha also played squash at Trinity. Rowan has had a successful season so far and her high world ranking reflects this, and we haven’t seen her at the Weymuller for many years so we were all looking forward to seeing her play.
Rowan started the match very decisively and managed to control the T from the first point. Akanksha fought hard but she wasn’t patient enough and took Rowan in short too soon. Rowan won the first 11-3. Rowan played with great variety in her shots and at the beginning of the second game Akanksha was too impatient and didn’t wait for her openings. Mid game was when she played three incredible shots and started to look more settled and having some fun on the court.
Just as we thought that Rowan had lost some of her rhythm she burst through with three amazing shots in very short rallies to get to game ball and won 11-7.The third was similar to the first and Rowan made no errors and Akanksha didn’t quite get her length tight or deep enough to get Rowan in the back. Rowan won the third 11-3 to go through to the quarter finals. When Rowan came off the court her billet’s little daughter ran to congratulate her and Rowan gave Quinn the match ball as a keepsake.
Quinn remarked out loud “Wow, why’s it so hot!!!” which made the whole crowd laugh. Too cute!!! Love that our juniors are enjoying this Weymuller experience.
When I asked Rowan how she felt after her match she said: “I’m feeling fresh. I played here a few years ago and I was so young back then. I think I came here this time with more experience and lots of things learned. I have never seen her play before yesterday and I was expecting a good match as Akanksha played a good match yesterday. I’m happy I’m through in 3 and looking forward to tomorrow’s match.”
The other 5.30pm match this evening was between USA’s Sabrina Sobhy who is world #23 and, Latvian pro Ineta Mackevica. Sabrina is one of the many USA pro players that have been doing really well on tour after graduating from Harvard. It’s wonderful to see so many US women’s players highly ranked in the world. There are 6 US women’s players in the top 67 in the world and 4 in the top 25. Very impressive and inspiring for our juniors to see.
Sabrina started the first game very impressive hitting some superb shots. She closed out the first game 11-4. The second game Ineta started to find her length and it got a little closer. However, the speed and shots from Sabrina were very accurate and she eventually closed out the second game 11-6.
The third game Sabrina got a very good start. The crowd loved seeing Sabrina hit an impressive cross court nick giving her the lead. Eventually she closed out the match comfortably 11-6.
Sabrina will play Rowan tomorrow in the quarterfinals at 5.30pm
Sabrina said after her match: “Nerves are always present at the first match of every tournament, so I am trying to keep a very simple game plan. I am happy with the win and looking forward to tomorrow’s match”.
The 6.15pm match on the championship court was between Donna Lobban from Australia and world #30. Donna has been ranked as high as #13 in world, but has suffered from various injuries and had 4 surgeries (2 on her ankle, 1 on her knee and 1 on her foot!!!) so her ranking has consequently dropped.
It is always fun to see Donna compete. There are not many left handed players on the tour and we have two in this draw with Donna and Hollie. I feel they have a little advantage and it forces their right handed opponents have to change their natural tactics to accommodate this. Donna also won the best dressed award today as she was sporting a wonderful bright yellow dress!
Donna’s opponent Karina Tyma world #67 from Poland who played at Trinity. She had great match yesterday and plays with a different style from Donna, so this could prove to be an interesting match.
In the second Donna managed to still keep the T more than Karina. Karina was playing with almost an all or nothing attitude, with some outstanding winners but also some unnecessary errors along the way, giving Donna the chance to accumulate too many easy points. Donna took the last point of the second game 11/6 with a perfect backhand volley drop.
The third game was a great fast paced squash but Karina made a few too many tactical errors allowing Donna to come through 11/5 to earn her place in the quarter finals.
When I asked Donna after her match how she felt, she said: “I’m really happy with that. I felt I went out and tried to play my game and be confident. I felt good out there. I watched her last night and I had never seen Karina play before. I felt she played some errors but I felt I was controlled and maybe it wasn’t her best game but I felt I played well. I have seen Nadine play plenty of times and it will be nice to play someone different. I’m looking forward to the challenge of it.”
Fayrouz made a great impression in her match yesterday. Today she was up against fellow Egyptian and number 3 seed Nadine Shahin. During the first game points got exchanged equally until 5-5. Nadine hits very powerful strokes and she eventually ended up winning the first game 11-7.
During the second game Fayrouz got to a very promising start getting a 4-1 lead. However, Nadine showed determination fighting back getting a 7-4 lead. Fayrouz showed some great holds and shots but it was Nadine who closed out the second game with a fade cross court drop 11-7.
Again, the third game was close with intense rallies. At 7-7 there was a long really where Nadine showed her experience and won this crucial point. With Nadine’s powerful hitting she managed to also close out the third game 11-7. 3-0 (11-7/11-7/11-7).
Nadine will play Donna Lobban in the quarterfinals tomorrow at 6.15pm.
Nadine Shahin: “It is mentally tough because all these youngsters are so eager and hungry to win. I had to use my experience, I felt that all the pressure was on me since I am the higher seed. I am happy to hold my nerves and eventually close the match out in 3 games.”
Hollie played great match today with wonderful variation in pace, thoughtful shot choices and very few errors, especially in the third game. Nicole fought hard but did not manage to get her length consistently deep or tight enough to stop Hollie staying in control. In the last rally of the first game Hollie did some amazing retrieving from Nicole great shots and ended up winning 11-8.
The second and third games followed a similar trend with Hollie controlling the pace and adding some hold to her shots when she arrived early on the ball. Hollie went through to win the second 11-5 and third 11-7 for a quarter final spot.
After her match I asked Hollie how she felt: “Good, yeah!! I was feeling a bit dead and nervous this morning but I just tried to stick to my plan, talk my way through it. I have been struggling a bit with my performance recently so I had to go back to basics and focus on what I do on the court and not my opponent. This court rewards good length so I started from there. I’m excited to get playing again tomorrow and try to focus on what I need to do and be happy with my overall performance.”
The 7.00pm match on the west court was a battle between the world ranked college students. Sivasangari Subramaniam from Malaysia and is currently studying at Cornell and won the individual collegiate championships recently. Her opponent was Marina Stefanoni who is currently at Harvard studying and has arguably been one of the most successful players that has come out of US junior squash.
A very promising match between two of the best CSA college squash players. Sivasangar Subramaniam started off very impressive winning the first 9 points in a row. Luckily for Marina she started to find her length and made an impressive comeback to 9-6. However, Siva ended up closing out the first game 11-6.
The second game Siva was playing some very good squash. Her ability to hold and mix up the pace was impressive. The crowd was staggered by her magnificent playing style and she finished the second game with a beautiful hold to make it 2-0 (11-4).
The third game was very interesting. Marina started to play some great squash and it was very close. The crowd got larger and more animated and Marina seemed to thrive on this. However, Siva took the lead by 2 points (8-6) and it looked like she was about to close out the match. However, Marina had different plans and she managed to win the third game 11-8 by hitting a couple of good shots and by some errors from Siva making the scores 2-1.
The fourth game Siva was looking very determined and she started of leading 5-1 not making any errors. Siva’s movement and power were eventually too much for Marina and she ended up winning the fourth game 11-5 winning the match 3-1.
Sivasangari has earned her quarter final spot again Hollie Naughton at 7.00pm tomorrow.
Sivasangari said after her match: “I felt good on court today. I was up in the third but I got a little rushed but then in the fourth game I got my focus back. Marina is a really steady player and I feel if you are leading you need to keep the momentum going.
A very interesting matchup. Farida started off hitting the ball very powerful but also making some mistakes making it a close first game. At 7-6 there was some controversy with the referee about the score and things between Farida and the referee got a little bit heated. Lucy managed to hit some great tight shots while Farida hit many winners from Lucy’s serve. Eventually, Lucy had a game ball at 10-9. After a long rally she had a big chance to finish up the game but unfortunately for Lucy she hit the tin. Eventually, Farida managed to win the first game 13-11.
The second game was as tense as the first and it took a very similar course. Lucy got a 9-7 lead and it looked like she was going to close out the second game making it 1-1. Again, Lucy had a game ball at 10-9 but made a mistake at this crucial time. Farida used Lucy’s mistake in her favor and fought back to win the second game again 13-11.
Both the first two games could have gone either way but Farida showed determination to get this 2-0 lead. It’s always a steep hill to climb when you are 2-0 down so it was going to be interesting to see if Lucy could push hard again in the 3rd.
In the third game Farida got of a good start hitting unbelievably powerful strokes. Lucy showed her skill and fighting spirit but eventually it was not enough to win the third game. Farida closed out the last game 11-7. Overall, it was a very entertaining match.
Farida said after the match: “The court is different; it is dead and fast at the same time. I felt better on court than during practice. The first round you always try to get into the mood of the tournament. I am not happy with the way I played but I am happy with the character that I showed and that I finished each game. I am looking forward to build up from this point.”
The last match on championship court this evening was definitely the match of the night going down to the wire and some amazing attacking squash from both players. It was between world #17 Brooklyn born Olivia Clyne against Hana Moataz who is currently world #70. Hana is about to graduate college in 2 weeks and is excited to embark on her pro squash career. I have a feeling she has a bright future ahead of her in squash
The match was full of fast pace, exciting shots and both players vying for the T and covering the court amazingly. Neither player could afford to offer up a loose ball as their opponent would take full advantage of it. Olivia stayed in front the whole match by going 1-0 up and then 2-1, but she struggled to keep patient enough and not force the short shots. This is when she would make mistakes and give Hana a glimpse of the win. Hana won the fourth 11/8 leaving us wondering if Olivia could stick to her game plan enough to stamp out her skilful and resilient opponent.
Olivia had some wonderful home support and crowd really started to cheer her on. Olivia rose to the occasion and finally came through in fifth to win 11-8. Olivia left the championship to the whooping, whistles and cheering and a big smile on her face!
Olivia has a place in the quarter finals against Farida Mohamed at 7.45pm on Friday.
After her match a red faced and happy Olivia said: “Honestly it’s just nice to win a match! It’s been a rough couple of months and a win is a win. Just happy to play tomorrow and have another match back to back. Hana is a great player with lots of potential and one hell of a head of hair! It’s almost better when it’s hard and then you are ready for hard the next day.”
So here ends another incredibly exciting night of squash at The Heights Casino. The quality of the matches tonight was fantastic. It’s always inspiring to see these amazing athletes grace our Casino courts.
We all look forward to the quarterfinals starting at 5.30pm tomorrow night.