Seattle Open Final

Final : Letourneau thinks her way to Seattle Open title

Jay Prince and Matthew Lombardi report

The final of the 2020 Seattle Open treated fans at the Seattle Athletic Club to a showcase of the multifaceted nature of squash. Danielle Letourneau of Canada and Vanessa Chu of Hong Kong had both relied on exceptional athleticism in winning their relatively stress-free earlier rounds, but their ebb-and-flow final would hinge on tactics and racquet skills, with Letourneau taking the title in four games.

At the outset it looked like Letourneau might have an easy time of it, capitalising on six Chu errors to take the first game, 11-5. But at the end of the opener Chu was having more success executing her attacking style, and she built on that momentum in the second. Her short game was suddenly flawless as, rally after rally, her winning shot was an unreachable drop or boast. She took the game 11-6 to even the match.

The third game started much like the second, with Chu establishing an 8-3 lead, but at that point the tide turned. Letourneau fought back, retrieving relentlessly and keeping her shots tight, while Chu’s error count began to rise. The Canadian would win eight of the next nine points to take the game. Her reestablished dominance carried through into the fourth, which she won 11-6 to earn the title.

After the match, Letourneau attributed the win to strategy. “This morning I prepared with more focus and a clear plan,” she said.

“I wanted to take away her angles and volleys. In the second game she was in control and hitting her shots. In the third, I turned things around when I told myself to simplify.

“I tend to overthink. When I refocused and stuck to the basics, things went the way I wanted.”

Letourneau lavished praise on the tournament. “It was a great event, with a good atmosphere and a welcoming club. Good vibes bring out good performances.”

Semis : Letourneau and Chu Take Seattle Open Semis in Contrasting Styles

Jay Prince and Matthew Lombardi report

Seattle Athletic Club was buzzing Friday night as the top four seeds took the court for the semifinals of the 2020 Seattle Open.

The first match saw no. 1 Danielle Letourneau of Canada triumph over fourth-seeded Englishwoman Lily Taylor, 11-6, 11-8, 11-9. Both started with similar game plans in mind, aiming to control the court with medium-paced straight length, but both struggled early to finish points. By the second and third games, Letourneau was singularly focused on retrieving, extending rallies and keeping Taylor on the run.

The strategy worked. Taylor, who had a high-paced five-game match in her legs from the night before, covered the court valiantly, but in the end Letourneau’s greater accuracy and lower error count prevailed.

Letourneau was happy with her win but not satisfied with her level of play. “At the start I wasn’t executing, wasn’t finding my length,” she said. “I felt nervous and shaky. I thought she was hitting better shots, but I used my experience and my movement to grind it out. I’m relieved more than anything.”

In the second semi, third-seeded Vanessa Chu got the better of the two seed, her Hong Kong compatriot and training partner Lee Ka Yi, 11-6, 12-10, 9-11, 11-6. In contrast to the earlier match, both players here were committed to varying the pace, mixing lobs and drops, and finding ways to wrong-foot one another. A couple of well-timed boasts were decisive for Chu in the first, while throughout the match Lee’s often deadly short game was too often off target, giving Chu opportunities to counterattack.

“We’re training partners, so we basically know everything about each other’s games,” Chu said afterward. “She’s a very, very good shot-maker. I’m not as good! So I took the ball early and tried not to give her opportunities.”

The finalists have met once before on the PSA tour, with Letourneau winning 12-10 in the fifth over Chu last year in the quarters of the HKFC Open in Hong Kong. Seattle fans are hoping for similar drama tomorrow night.

Round Two : Top Four Seeds through to Semifinals

Jay Prince and Matthew Lombardi report

Quarterfinals evening in the Seattle Open featured two local players with high hopes of advancing, and with strong opening games by both, things looked promising. In the end, it was two players from Hong Kong, one from Canada, and another from England, who will be playing in the semifinals on Friday.

Canadian Danielle Letourneau had the right recipe for winning squash by controlling the court to force her opponent to the back corners and then winning points by cutting the ball off in the quarterfinals opener. Letourneau, World No. 38 and Seattle Open top seed, was relentless in forcing Egypt’s 17-year-old Amina El Rihany away from the middle of the court. Combining heavy pace with deft touch at the front, Letourneau easily secured her spot in the semifinals.

“I was really just trying to find my length on the glass court since I had a bye yesterday. It took me the first part of the first game, but then it seemed to come together,” said Letourneau afterwards.

Seattle’s Laila Sedky, the No. 7 seed, takes the court with a blistering forehand. However, the incredible pace with which she hits the ball should not be confused with a lack of control because her length and accuracy is dumbfounding at times. England’s No. 4 seed, Lily Taylor, found that out the hard way as Sedky hit five outright winners to the back right corner to start the match.

Taylor, in just her first year on the PSA Tour, made the necessary adjustments from there and squeezed out the win in five games by lifting the ball down the walls and forcing Sedky to generate her own pace.

“I just had to try and play my own pace, because she hits the ball so hard,” said Taylor. “And then when I got the opportunity, I just had to try and move her. The ball is so bouncy because of how hard she hits it, I just really had to try and slow it down. In practice, the corners are dead, but they aren’t when she’s hitting the ball so hard. I feel really good about that one.”

Hong Kong’s Vanessa Chu took advantage of cooler conditions and a new ball to establish complete control over England’s Alicia Mead. The third-seeded Chu established solid length followed by easy drop shots to frustrate Mead who simply couldn’t find a way to get in front of Chu.

“If you’re not taking the ball early, the ball will not come back,” said Chu of the glass court. “I just wanted to play straight drops and make her move.” The results were winners because the ball just wouldn’t come back for Mead to keep the points going.

The last match of the evening featured another player from Seattle, Elena Wagenmans, who dominated the first game by playing short at every opportunity. But the No. 2 seed, Hong Kong’s Lee Ka Yi, made the adjustment from there and focused on taking away the front of the court.

“I tried to put the ball more to the back court with better length,” said Lee. “I missed a lot of her drop shots in the first game. So I tried to prevent her from going into the corner, especially the forehand corner.”

Round One

Jay Prince and Matthew Lombardi report

This Wednesday, 14 women representing 10 countries and four continents descended on the Seattle Athletic Club to contest the first round of the Seattle Open, a PSA Challenger Tour 10 event.

Amid the international field there was also local interest, with two 19-year-old Seattleites in the draw, and youth was further represented in the draw by two even younger up-and-comers, 17-year-olds from Egypt and Pakistan.

The match of the night, though, was turned in by the final two players to step onto Seattle Athletic Club’s all-glass show court, Alicia Mead of England and Jihyun Lee of South Korea. It was a classic back-and-forth battle, with Mead concentrating on patient retrieval and counterattack, while Lee mixed unconventional drops and depth in combinations that were both daring and dangerous.

Lee seemed sharper at the outset, taking the first game 11-9, but Mead took the next two, 11-9 and 11-7, as Lee’s error count rose. In the fourth, as both players started to show signs of fatigue, exacerbated by jetlag, Lee became even more daring, repeatedly going short early. The tactic paid off, 11-8, pushing the match into a fifth. Mead carried a slight lead through most of the final game, and though Lee battled back to 10-10, Mead’s relentless retrieving and greater precision won the day, 12-10.

Afterward, Mead seemed astonished at her own performance. “It was very tough, tough mentally,” she said. “I told myself I have to fight – dig in and get everything back. Sometimes there’s something you have to find in yourself, something a little deep.”

The remainder of the matches were decisive victories. It took one of the two hometown favorites, 19-year-old Laila Sedky, just 18 minutes to hammer her way to a win over South Africa’s Tayla Diepenbroek. Sedky didn’t drop a point until early in the second game, using relentless pace to keep Diepenbroek buried deep in the back of the court for the duration of the match.

“This is my first season playing PSA tournaments, and this one is really fun because I don’t haveto travel,” Sedky said afterward. “My first tournament was in August in Moscow, Russia. I got to the quarterfinals and had to play the No. 1 seed, but my sister Reeham won it.”

Like her Seattle counterpart, Elena Wagenmans, also 19, used punishing length to run away with her match against 17-year-old Pakistani Amna Fayaz. “I haven’t really played on this court much, even though it’s my home club,” said Wagenmans. “I was just trying to get a dying length.”

Another 17-year-old, Egyptian Amina El Rihany, had better luck, using tight rails and judicious boasts to take out Serbian national champion Jelena Dutina in straight games. English fourth seed Lily Taylor was even more clinical, controlling the middle and attacking with precision in her 3-0 win over Zahab Kamal Khan of Pakistan.

Hong Kong’s Vanessa Chu proved a step faster than South African Bongi Seroto in another 3-0 win, while Chu’s compatriot, two seed Lee Ka Yi, used controlled shot-making to dominate Canada’s Catherine Giachino, despite dropping an error-filled third game 13-11.