Kennedy retains Cleveland title
England’s Georgina Kennedy has retained her Cleveland Classic crown after defeating Olivia Clyne of America 3-1 in the 2023 title decider.
Kennedy, who defeated her compatriot Sarah-Jane Perry at last year’s event, continued her rich vein of form to land the Cleveland Classic title in successive years after reaching the quarter-finals at the Tournament of Champions and scooping the Carol Weymuller Open trophy earlier this year.
The pair had only met twice on the PSA World Tour going into the final, with Kennedy winning both previous encounters.
Afterwards Kennedy said: “I’m thrilled to have retained the title. I’ve said it a few times this week but I definitely did not expect it. “Coming into this event with the strength of the draw, the fact that I made it to the final is a huge achievement for me and I knew it would be an extremely good battle with Liv.
“She’s been playing amazing squash – I watched her match yesterday and I was definitely worried. She’s so attacking and puts you under so much pressure, so I’m really proud of myself for coming through that because that really could have gone either way.”
Kennedy and Clyne head to Detroit next for the DAC Pro Squash Classic, a silver-level event, which takes place from 7th to 11th February at the Detroit Athletic Club.
Semis : Kennedy set to defend title against Clyne
Defending Cleveland Classic champion Gina Kennedy moved a step closer to defending her title after dispatching Tomato Ho in straight games. Kennedy, who has been in excellent form after overcoming some health issues earlier this season, was relentless throughout in her pursuit of reaching the final against Ho, who impressively claimed two scalps on route to the last four.
“I’m really happy. The preparations were tough for Tomato (Ho) – she’s been playing so well all tournament and I knew she would be full of confidence, but I also knew it was her first time in the semi-final of a big tournament and, sometimes, you’re so content with that it can be hard to mentally get up for that.
“I tried my best to keep the tempo high and get on top of her as quickly as possible and never let off. I was happy with my performance today and I’m absolutely chuffed to be in the final. Coming in, with the strength of the draw, I didn’t expect it but there’s been a few retirements and I’m really happy and I’m looking forward to it tomorrow.”
“I’m a bit in shock!” said Clyne post-match. “I’m also not shocked as I was just saying to my husband that I said to everyone around me that maybe all this work I’m putting in, I may not reap the dividends for six months and I have to be okay with that.
“It might take until next season to start seeing the rewards of all the hard work that I’ve been doing, but it’s great that we’re in the second tournament of the start of this year and I’m in the final!”
Quarters : Ho claims another scalp as Fiechter downs top seed King
Hong Kong’s Tomato Ho continued her impressive streak at the Cleveland Classic as she claimed another scalp, defeating Wales’ Tesni Evans to reach the semi-finals for the first time at a Silver-level event.
Ho, who knocked World #8 Sarah-Jane Perry out of the tournament yesterday, continued her rich vein of form against Evans as she battled back from an early deficit to take the first game 11-9. The Hong Kong #1, who sits 22 places behind Evans in the World Rankings, produced high quality squash throughout as she clinched the second 11-6, finding her targets superbly to strengthen her grip on the match, before capping off an excellent performance with a comfortable 11-2 win.
Afterwards, Ho said: “It feels amazing! I’ve been through to a Bronze event quarter-final before, but this is the first time at a Silver event I’ve reached the quarter-finals and semi-finals so I feel so amazing! “I’m surprised with the result because I didn’t think it would be 3-0. I just played point by point and didn’t think much because the first game I was losing by four or five points so I didn’t think about it and just played my game.”
Ho will face defending champion Georgina Kennedy in the semi-finals tomorrow, who sealed a last four spot in circumstances she wouldn’t have wanted – as Amanda Sobhy retired from the match at the end of the second game due to injury.
Kennedy took the first game 11-7, converting game ball at the first attempt, and managed to hold off a fightback from Sobhy in the second to go 2-0 up. However a troubling back injury for the US No.1 led to her ending the match early through retirement.
“It’s so sad to see Amanda in pain like that. I knew from the first game that she was struggling and when it got to the second game, when I went 6-2 up, I thought it was inevitable at that point,” said Kennedy. “I could see she was really struggling. She’s a joke skill-wise and I lost my concentration a little bit because I was feeling bad for her, I could see how much pain she was in and she rattled so many quick points!
“I had to lock in for a couple more points but I knew she wasn’t up for it today, which is a shame because the last time we played at World Tour finals she absolutely thrashed me and I was excited to see what I could do today against her. Me and Amanda get on really well and I wish her the speediest of recoveries.”
Meanwhile, USA’s Olivia Fiechter downed the tournament’s top seed Joelle King in five games for a place in the semi-finals.
Fiechter, who defeated King in their last meeting at the CIB Egyptian Open, responded well to trailing to the Kiwi by taking the first game 11-8. However King, who’s been in sublime form this season, was in determined mood after falling behind, taking the second 11-6 before a comprehensive 11-3 triumph in the third nudged her ahead. But Fiechter produced the perfect riposte, a commanding 11-3 win in the fourth was followed up by edging a closely-fought battle in the decider to advance to the last four.
“It was such a battle. Joelle (King) has been in incredible form this year, she’s had an incredible season with some huge wins and she just came off a semi-final at ToC,” Fiechter explained. “It was really falling away from me after the second and third – she was just controlling the match. I just told myself to do something different to throw her off her game and inject myself back into the match and fortunately doing that, picking the pace back up, I worked my way back in.
“The fifth game was back and forth and I told myself to be positive and to take some risks, and beating a player like Joelle is one of the biggest wins of my career and it means so much.”
Fiechter will meet American compatriot Olivia Clyne for a place in the final, whose semi-final clash with Nour El Tayeb was cut short after the Egyptian retired through injury in the second game. El Tayeb went 1-0 up after winning 11-8, but a heel injury sustained midway through the second game halted play for a few minutes. The Egyptian attempted to carry on, however she was unable to continue and retired from the contest.
“I wish Nour the speediest of recoveries. I had a panic attack when it happened as when you see someone get injured when you’re playing it’s one of the worst feelings,” Clyne said. “No matter how much you want to win or make a semi-final, no one wishes to win that way. It’s terrible and bad things happen sometimes, but you’ve got to make the best of the situation and I’m looking forward to getting back on court tomorrow.”
Round Two :
Hong Kong’s Tomato Ho produced the biggest shock of round two of the Cleveland Classic as she dispatched Sarah-Jane Perry to progress to the quarter-finals, claiming a 3-2 victory at the Cleveland Racquet Club.
Meanwhile second seed Amanda Sobhy avoided an early exit from the tournament as she managed to overcome a spirited fightback from Emily Whitlock to win 3-2.
Round One :
The Cleveland Classic 2023 began in earnest from the Cleveland Racquet Club, as Melissa Alves fought back from two games down to defeat Aifa Azman in five games. Elsewhere, Emily Whitlock and Lucy Beecroft’s first round clash also had to be settled in five games, with Whitlock coming out on top.
New Zealand’s Joelle King has been named as the top1 seed for the 2023 Cleveland Classic, PSA World Tour Silver event, which will take place between from 1st to 5th February at the Cleveland Racquet Club.
King was in red-hot form towards the end of 2022 following title wins at the New Zealand Open and the Singapore Open, while she reached the semi-final of the Hong Kong Open. The 34-year-old will headline a draw that features six of the world’s top 10 women, with USA #1 Amanda Sobhy, Egypt’s Nour El Tayeb, England’s Sarah-Jane Perry, Belgium’s Nele Gilis and USA #2 Olivia Fiechter all lining up in Ohio to battle for the winner’s share of the $75,000 prize pot.