Men & Women $20k PSA Challengers, 27 Jun – 01 Jul, Washington, USA
The PSA Challenger Tour once again features international fields for the $20k Squash on Fire Open in the US capital Washington.
You can watch the replays, and check out tall he match reports and photos below the draws …
FINALS: It’s Nele and Victor at Squash on Fire
Second seeds Nele Gilis and Victor Crouin claimed the Squash on Fire titles in Washingon, Gilis ending the run of Gina Kennedy and Crouin toppling top seed James Willstrop.
A full house was in attendance well before the players even began their warmup for the women’s final and a sense of great anticipation hung in the air. The question on everyone’s mind was could Kennedy continue her incredible form to date or would the superior PSA World Tour experience of Gilis win the day. The Englishwoman again started like a rocket and jumped out to an early 4-0 lead. Gilis was undeterred and gradually found her rhythm as reduced the deficit to 3-5.
However, Kennedy pressed on again and two winners to the back of the court saw her build up a four-point advantage. Gilis responded superbly and reeled off six straight points of her own. An extraordinary rally followed at this point which Kennedy eventually won with Gilis stranded at in the front left. However, Gilis then edged clear to 10-8 and ultimately took the opener 11-9. The early setback didn’t seem to affect Kennedy as she moved 5-1 clear early in the second. Again, Gilis rallied to reduce her arrears and leveled the scores at 5-5.
The #2 seed then set about crafted a lead of her own and with unerring consistency strode away to take the game 11-6. In the third it was The Belgium who got her nose in front early as she went ahead 6-3. Kennedy came back strongly to achieve parity at 7-7 but Gilis wasn’t to be denied as she played faultless squash to secure the game and the inaugural Squash On Fire Open women’s crown.
The men’s final promising to be a fascinating contrast of styles with the experience and guile of Willstrop up against the speed and youthfulness of Crouin. It was the Frenchman who started the stronger as he jumped off to a 5-2 lead and despite one outrageous fake from Willstrop that had the crowd in raptures it was Crouin who secured the first game 11-5.
The second felt crucial and both players knew it. Crouin generally was in the ascendancy and perhaps could have closed it when he led 9-7. However, Willstrop stayed calm as he saved two game balls and level the scores at a game apiece. The third followed a similar pattern to the second aside from on this occasion Crouin was able to surge decisively ahead when it counted. He won the final three points to secure game 11-7 and move into a 2-1 lead.
Willstrop threw everything into the beginning of the fourth and it looked like he was turning the tide as he moved ahead 6-2. The momentum slowly shifted though and Crouin began to claw his way back. He tied the scores at 8-8 and heroically chased down ball after to ball to seal the deal to become the Squash On Fire Open men’s champion.
Squash On Fire Open, Semi-Final Reports
Georgina Kennedy (ENG) 3-0 Sabrina Sobhy (USA) 11-3, 11-9, 11-1
The first semifinal saw two former Harvard teammates clash in a highly anticipated affair. Kennedy was coming off the back of a big upset win over #1 seed Chinappa and Sobhy has had an outstanding season the PSA World Tour as she’s steadily climbed the rankings. It was Kennedy who made all the early running not keeping Sobhy a look in as she raced into a 1-0 lead. Sobhy remained calm and knuckled down in the second.
The standard of play went up a notch as Sobhy edged ahead 9-7. Kennedy won two grueling rallies to level the scores and a crunching forehand crosscourt win took her to game ball. She only needed one opportunity to move ahead by two games. In third game Kennedy was riding a wave throughout and was completely dominated. The home crowd was left stunned as she charged through to the final in convincing fashion.
James Willstrop (ENG) 3-1 Ryosei Kobayashi (JPN) 11-8, 6-11, 11-8, 11-8
A packed house was ready to see if Kobayashi could continue his incredible run having already eliminated two seeds. He faced a tough task up against the top seed and vastly experienced Willstrop. However, Kobayashi came to play and has won a lot of new fans in Washington this week.
The Englishman just kept his nose in front throughout the first before Kobayashi turned the tables in the second and tie the scores at a game apiece. Both the third and fourth games had the crowd in raptures as Kobayashi plugged away trying to find a chink in the Willstrop armor. There just wasn’t a way through and Willstrop ultimately sealed the match in four games moving through to Thursday’s final.
Nele Gilis (BEL) 3-0 Olivia Fiechter (USA) 11-7, 11-7, 11-7
A mouthwatering clash was in prospect as Fiechter and Gilis clashed for the right to meet Kennedy in the final. Gilis had started slowly in the quarterfinals but came out of the blocks much quicker on this occasion. Fiechter also started well but it was the Belgian who held the ascendancy throughout most of the first game as she took the opener 11-7.
The match continued in the same vein through the second with Fiechter probing but Gilis controlling proceedings. The #2 seed moved into a two-game lead with a repeat score line of her first game success. Remarkably the third also followed a similar pattern and Gilis earned her spot in the finals where she will face Kennedy at 6 pm on Thursday.
Victor Crouin (FRA) 3-1 Leonel Cardenas (MEX) 10-12, 11-1, 11-4, 11-6
Crouin had been flawless through his first two matches, but Cardenas promised to be a much tougher challenge. This was certainly the case in the opening game as the Mexican reeled off four straight points from 6-9 down to earn a game ball. Crouin saved it with a superb backhand drop into the nick. However, Cardenas earned another opportunity and this time converted to win the game 12-10.
Crouin found himself in unfamiliar territory to be trailing and quickly set about restoring parity. He won the second game in a flash 11-1 and continued in the same dominant form for most of the third and fourth. Cardenas was able to save three match balls but in the end he was just delaying the inevitable as Crouin sealed the win and a date with Willstrop in the final.
Quarter-Finals Match ReportsQuarter-Final Photos
Georgina Kennedy (ENG) 3-0 Joshna Chinappa (IND) 11-6, 11-8, 11-7
The first quarterfinal of the evening session was potentially the most anticipated match of the tournament to date as top seed Chinappa clashed with wild card Kennedy. However, many observers had their money on Kennedy, the three-time CSA individual champion, and she proved to be a smart pick. The Englishwoman came sprinting out of the gate to race into a 9-0 opening game lead. Chinappa steadied herself to claw back to 10-6 but Kennedy wasn’t to be denied.
The second game was far more evenly contested until Kennedy won three straight points from 8-8. It appeared as if Chinappa was getting herself back into the contest when she led 7-1 in 3rd, but Kennedy had other ideas. The Harvard grad put her foot to the floor in an astonishing display as she reeled off 10 straight points to seal the match and a meeting with former collegiate teammate Sabrina Sobhy on Wednesday.
Victor Crouin (FRA) 3-0 Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND) 11-3, 11-6, 7-1 rtd
Crouin started in much the same vein as Monday night. Mangaonkar could do little to make any headway in the opening game as Crouin charged out to an early lead. The second game was tighter until Mangaonkar sustained a foot injury when trailing 5-7. He received some treatment, and the injury was taped.
However, his movement was clearly hampered and despite his best efforts his cause was futile. Crouin was relentless and Mangaonkar was forced to retire midway through the third game. Crouin moves on to play Mexican Leonel Cardenas in the semifinals.
Olivia Fiechter (USA) 3-0 Lisa Aitken (SCO) 11-8, 16-14, 11-8
A fascinating match up on paper and one that provided many spectacular rallies for a packed house to enjoy. Aitken is nothing if not tenacious and she retrieved heroically throughout. This was most notable in the second game as she saved five game balls including one at 14-13 where she somehow scrambled back a series of shots that looked beyond her.
However, Fiechter kept her focus and once she had secured a two-game lead there was a feeling of inevitability about the result. The American moves into the last four and will take on Belgium’s Nele Gilis for a spot in Thursday’s final.
Ryosei Kobayashi (JPN) 3-0 Ivan Yuen (MAS) 11-7, 13-11 rtd
Anticipation was high for the last men’s quarterfinal as Yuen took on Kobayashi. There were some excellent rallies as both players showed off their super movement. However, just as with the previous men’s match the contest was impacted by an injury.
Yuen was struggling with a right groin problem that he had brought into the match. After narrowly losing the second game he was unfortunately unable to continue. Kobayashi moves through to the semis to face top seed James Willstrop.
Nele Gilis (BEL) 3-1 Melissa Alves (FRA) 3-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-4
Alves started the match out as if she had a train to catch sprinting into a 7-0 lead and going on to close out the opener 11-3. Gilis appeared a little shell shocked as Alves continued in the ascendancy early in the second but the number two seeded Belgian quickly regained her composure. She erased a two-point Alves advantage and dug her heels in as both players battled for court position.
Ultimately Gilis made the decisive move as she surged ahead from 6-6 with a streak of five consecutive points to level proceedings at one game all. The #2 seed maintained the edge throughout the third as she managed to keep Alves at arm’s length throughout and take the lead for the first time in the contest. The same pattern was repeated in 4 th despite Alves giving it her all and Gilis moved through to become the first player through to the semifinals.
James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0 Addeen Idrakie (MAL) 11-2, 11-6, 11-7
Willstrop put on quite the show for those lucky enough to be in attendance. The top seed’s full arsenal was on display as he utilized all parts of the court. At times he appeared to have Idrakie on a string as he masterfully controlled proceedings.
To his credit the Malaysian’s effort never wavered and he was close to gaining a foothold in 3rd game. However, Willstrop wasn’t to be denied and eased through to book his spot in the last four.
Sabrina Sobhy (USA) 3-1 Low Wee Wern (MAS) 11-7, 10-12, 12-10, 11-7
Sobhy had started her previous match slowly and seemed determined not to make the same mistake against Wee Wern. She kept her Malaysian opponent on the defensive for the majority of the first game and maintained that momentum through the early part of the second as she moved ahead 5-2. Low rallied with some accurate hitting to level the scores at 6-6. Sobhy responded with a cross court forehand volley return of serve into the nick.
This proved to be the catalyst for her to surge ahead to open a three-point lead. Wee Wern responded with a streak of her own to tie things up and ultimately the game headed into a tiebreak, and it was the Malaysian aided by two backhand winners who eventually took it. This left things nicely npoised at a game apiece. Wee Wern held the ascendancy for much of the third before Sobhy found her best stuff when she needed it to save three game balls to secure a 2-1 lead. The American’s confidence was noticeably higher in 4th, and she secured her spot on Wednesday’s schedule without too much further trouble.
Leonel Cardenas (MEX) 3-1 Spencer Lovejoy (USA) 11-8, 12-10, 3-11, 11-4
Lovejoy came into the quarterfinals on the back of a big upset win over #3 seed Aslam in the last 16. The big question was could he produce a repeat performance against Cardenas. The Mexican’s consistency and fitness levels are superb. These both came to the fore as he controlled affairs just enough to take the first two games.
Lovejoy was certainly pushing him and took the second to a tiebreak. At the start of the third Cardenas dipped somewhat and Lovejoy was ready to pounce. He quickly moved into an 8-0 lead and went on to halve his deficit as he won the game 11-3. In 4 th Cardenas was back to his focused best and extinguished the hopes of the last home hope in the draw. He will be a formidable opponent for whoever he faces in the semis.
Squash On Fire Open Day Two, Evening Session Reports
Joshna Chinappa (IND) 3-0 Ineta Mackevica (LAT) 17-15, 11-4, 11-7
Top seed Chinappa opened her campaign against a determined Mackevia. The Latvian dominated the T to move ahead 10-7 in the opener. Chinappa saved all three before an extraordinary passage of play with both having multiple opportunities before the Indian won the game 17-15.
Somewhat understandably this was a decisive blow and from then on, she was in control. Mackevica rallied in 3rd game to lead 7-6 but Chinappa calmly reeled off five straight points to seal her spot in the quarters.
Georgina Kennedy (ENG) 3-0 Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS) 11-8, 12-10, 11-6
Wild card Kennedy continued her great form from the opening round. Her outstanding movement and controlled hitting proved a lethal combination. Subramaniam never gave in and had her chances to level proceedings at a game piece.
However, once Kennedy had established a two-game lead there was no stopping the former Harvard standout. She goes onto face top seed Chinappa in the last eight.
Ryosei Kobayashi (JPN) 3-2 Nathan Lake (ENG) 0-11, 5-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-8
Lake came out of the blocks like a rocket. He raced through the first game without dropping a point and continued in the same vein for much of the second. It would have been easy for Kobayashi to be demoralized at being two games down within 15 minutes but to his credit he rallied back to compete hard in a tight third. His efforts were rewarded as he edged the game 11-9.
The Japanese continued his momentum into the fourth and strode away to take it comfortably. Lake looked a little rattled coming out to start the decider but stuck to his task as he tried to find a way back into the match. However, Kobayashi wasn’t to be denied and completed a remarkable turnaround to earn on spot on Tuesday’s order of play.
Ivan Yuen (MAS) 3-1 Mohammad Syafiq Kamal (MAS) 17-15, 4-11, 13-11, 11-8
The first game of this all-Malaysian encounter lasted 29 minutes as both players had several game ball opportunities. In the end Yuen nicked it 17-15 and that could have proved to be a tough pill for Kamal to swallow. However, he calmly regrouped and methodically plotted his way to a second game win. The third and fourth games followed a similar pattern to the first with numerous long rallies with incredible movement on display from both. After nearly 80 minutes it was Yuen who secured victory and a date with Kobayashi in the quarterfinals.
Olivia Fiechter (USA) 3-1Rachel Arnold (USA) 6-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-7
Fiechter, who has recently broken into the top 20 in the world rankings, fought back strongly to edge the second 11-9. This gave her the momentum to sprint through the third and take the lead for the first time in the match. Arnold stuck to her task in 4th but Fiechter was always ahead to seal the win and a spot in the final eight.
Lisa Aitken (SCO) 3-1 Hana Moataz 11-3, 11-9, 2-11, 11-7
Aitken said before the match that she felt like she’d been waiting forever to play started out looking as if she was determined to make up for lost time. Moataz has no answer as the Scot took the first 11-3. The second game was more of the same as Aitken continued in the ascendancy, but Moataz came back to towards the end. This held in her good stead in 3rd as she was in control throughout. The Egyptian took the game 11-2 to cut her arrears. Aitken came out in 4th and reasserted herself on proceedings. Despite some valiant resistant from Moatz the #8 seed wasn’t to be denied and she’ll take on Fietcher on Tuesday night.
Victor Crouin (FRA) 3-0 Asim Khan (PAK) 11-4, 11-7, 11-3
Men’s #2 seed Crouin looked sharp throughout his opening match against Pakistan’s Khan. The Harvard student kept his opponent under relentless pressure and when he was forced onto the defensive his speed saw him recover several seemingly lost causes. There was little Khan could do to the stem the tide and it was no surprise that Crouin wrapped up proceedings in straight games to earn his spot in the quarters.
Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND) 3-0 Christopher Gordon (USA) 11-6, 11-5, 11-4
The young Indian was ruthless on any opportunities he was presented with and eased through to set up an eagerly anticipated meeting with Crouin in the last eight.
Squash On Fire Open, Day Two morning session reports
Nele Gilis (BEL) 3-0 Marina Stefanoni (USA) 11-3, 12-10, 11-2
On paper a very tough assignment for 18-year-old Stefanoni as she faced world #14 Gilis. The Belgian quickly moved into the ascendancy with her graceful movement to the fore and secured the first game 11-3. The young American wasn’t deterred and started the second game strongly racing into a 4-0 lead.
She extended her advantage to 8-2 before Gilis regained the ascendancy to reel off eight consecutive points. Stefanoni saved the first game ball with an excellent straight forehand drop before bringing the score level at 10-10. However, Gilis wasn’t to be denied and at the third time of asking closed out the game to move ahead 2-0. Despite Stefanoni’s best efforts the momentum was all with #2 seed from that point onwards and she remained in control throughout the third to win in straight games.
Melissa Alves (FRA) 3-2 Marie Stephan (FRA) 11-4, 9-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-1
An intriguing clash to start the day on court 8 between two French women and Penn graduates. #7 seed Alves started out superbly and eased away to win the first game. Stephan then proceeded to dig in and battle hard in the second. Her efforts were rewarded as she edged it 11-9 to tie the match at a game apiece.
The third game returned to the pattern of the first and it appeared as if Alves had proceedings under control as she retook the lead. However, Stephan wasn’t going down without a fight and despite Alves saving three game balls Stephan held firm to send the match into a decider.
There was nothing she could do in 5th though as Alves knuckled down and play flawlessly to earn a spot in the quarters against Nele Gilis.
James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0 Emyr Evans (WAL) 12-10, 11-8, 11-2
Sporting clashes between England and Wales are always something to savor. The first game of Willstrop vs. Evans certainly didn’t disappoint as both players traded blows eager to get that first game on the board. Willstrop just did enough to win it in a tiebreak. The second followed a similar pattern but Willstrop’s variety and court craft gave him enough of an edge to move ahead 2-0. Perhaps understandably Evans appeared a little deflated and Willstrop eased through the third game to book his spot in the last eight.
Addeen Idrakie (MAS) 3-2 Shahjahan Khan (USA) 12-10, 11-7, 5-11, 7-11, 11-8
The longest match of the tournament to date as Idrakie and Khan extended in each in a 78-minute marathon. The Malaysian held the early ascendancy as he moved ahead by two games. Khan wasn’t in the mood to go down quietly, and he stayed patience waiting for his opportunities in 3rd and 4th games.
The decider was always going to be tight but Idrakie appeared to be the stronger physically and kept his nose in front throughout to earn a Tuesday date with James Willstrop.
Sabrina Sobhy (USA) 3-1 Emilia Soini (FIN) 6-11, 11-4, 12-10, 11-6
Soini came out of the blocks on fire as she showed the benefit of having already played a match on the glass. Sobhy kept her composure and erased the early deficit by fighting back to win the second game comfortably.
The third game was nip and tuck throughout with neither player able to make a decisive push. Soini saved one game ball to take it into a tiebreak, but Sobhy wasn’t to be denied as she claimed a 2-1 lead. The fourth was tight until Sobhy put together a run for 5-6 down as she reeled off six straight points to seal her spot in the last eight.
Low Wee Wern (MAS) 3-1 Lucy Beecroft (ENG) 11-7, 11-9, 9-11, 11-6
Despite Beecroft’s ranking those in the know felt that she had a good chance of trouble #5 seed. Wee Wern was alert to the danger and played very consistently for the first two games. She did particularly well to dig out of a 9-5 hole to win 2nd.
Beecroft didn’t give in as she battled hard throughout 3rd and was rewarded for her efforts as she secured the game and a foothold in the match. The fourth was very close until 6-6 but from then on Wee Wern had just enough to keep Beecroft at bay and move onto face Sabrina Sobhy in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.
Spencer Lovejoy (USA) 3-2 Tayyab Aslam (PAK) 9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-6, 11-7
Young American Lovejoy came prepared to take it to the #3 seed. Aslam appeared ready to meet the challenge as he worked his way into the lead by taking the opener 11-9. Lovejoy wasn’t deterred and worked his way back into the match with a combination of excellent movement and accurate short game play.
Aslam righted the ship in 3rd to restore his advanced before Lovejoy stormed ahead in 4th going up 8-2. The lead proved to be enough as he took the game 11-6 to send the match into a decider. Despite his inexperience Lovejoy’s composure throughout the final game was exemplary. He kept his head well and waited for the right moment to attach. This approach also extracted some errors from Aslam, and it was the Yale graduate who prevailed to advance to the final eight.
Leonel Cardenas (MEX) 3-0 Nasir Iqbal (PAK) 11-7, 11-4, 12-10
Cardenas had been diligently practicing since arriving in DC last Thursday and his focus was unwavering during his opening match against Iqbal. The Mexican’s consistency was ever present and even though Iqbal never gave up it always felt like a tough ask for the Pakistani to upset the seedings. Cardenas moves onto face American Lovejoy in the quarters which promises to be an exciting encounter on Tuesday.
Squash On Fire Open, Day One Evening Session Match Reports
Ineta Mackevica (LAT) 3-1 Diana Garcia (MEX) 9-11, 11-2, 12-10, 12-10
Mackevica has been a regular visitor to Squash On Fire in recent years as she’s visited DC to train with Head Coach, Ronny Vlassaks, on a number of occasions. The nine-time Latvian national champion therefore had a strong contingent of local fans on her side. The first game was extremely tight with players trading points and battling for court position. Garcia held her nerve at the back end to take an early lead. In contrast the second game was one way traffic. Mackevica raced out into a 10-0 lead with a flurry of winners and quickly levelled the match.
The third game returned to the pattern of the first and it was Garcia who forged ahead holding two game balls. However, Mackevica remained calm and won four straight points from 10-8 to take a 2-1 lead. In 4th roles were reversed as Mackevica reached match ball at 10-7 before Garcia rallied to save all three. Mackevica hit a superb backhand drop to earn herself a fourth opportunity and this time she sealed the deal to earn a second-round meeting with the top seed, Joshna Chinappa.
Rachel Arnold (MAS) 3-0 Wen Li Lai (MAS) 11-3, 16-14, 11-6
Once Arnold had taken it there seemed to be little way back for Li Lai as Arnold cruised through the third. Her reward is a match up with American Olivia Fiechter on Monday.
Mohammad Syafiq Kamal (MAS) 3-0 Karan Malik (IND) 11-4, 11-7, 11-6
Squash On Fire Senior Coach Malik had an army of local supporters in attendance. Kamal handled the hostile atmosphere well and started the match in a very measured fashion. Kamal’s control and tactical awareness were always to the fore. Malik had his moments and hit some spectacular winners to the delight of the crowd. However, he was always up against it with Kamal’s court craft and superb fitness seeing him through in straight games. The hometown fans were still delighted by Malik’s efforts and cheered his winners loudly throughout. Every seat was taken, and it was quite the sight to see a full house after months of restrictions. Kamal goes on to face countryman Ivan Yuen in the last 16.
Ryosei Kobayashi (JPN) 3-1Nick Sutcliffe (ENG) 11-6, 11-7, 10-12, 11-2
Wild card Sutcliffe faced a tough assignment in Kobayashi. He acquitted himself and kept the contest close in the first two games. Kobayashi had him under constant pressure though with impeccable length and excellent consistency.
Sutcliffe rallied hard in 3rd and edged out the game 12-10 but it was clear that effort had taken its toll. Kobayashi broke through early in 4th and eased his way to victory. He plays #4 seed Nathan Lake on Monday night.
Georgina Kennedy (ENG) 3-0 Haley Mendez (USA) 11-5, 12-10, 11-5
Former Harvard star Kennedy came storming out of the gate to race into an early lead. The English woman seemed very determined to make the most of her wild card. However, Mendez seemed unphased about quickly finding herself a game down as she calmly established a 9-6 lead in the second. Kennedy battled back to 9-9 before Mendez earned the first game ball opportunity with a forehand volley winner.
Ultimately Kennedy wasn’t to be deterred as she saved it and then produced two backhand winners of her own to move ahead 2-0. In the third game Kennedy resumed her form from the opener and smoothly forged ahead to close out the match without too many further alarms. She takes on Malaysian Sivasangari Subramaniam in round two on Monday night.
Hana Moataz (EGY) 3-0 Amna Fayyaz (PAK) 11-1, 11-5, 11-3
Two current collegiate met in this opening round encounter with Harvard’s Moataz taking on Dickinson’s Fayyaz. Despite the young Pakistani’s best efforts Moataz was dominant throughout and never gave her opponent a chance to settle. She raced through the match in only 17 minutes and earned a second-round date with Scotland’s Lisa Aitken.
Christopher Gordon (USA) 3-1 Timothy Brownell (USA) 11-8, 11-13, 11-9, 11-8
A fascinating all-American clash to round out the first day on the glass court. PSA Tour veteran Gordon up against recent Harvard graduate Brownell. Gordon’s experience ultimately won the day, but Brownell played his part in an excellent match that was nip and tuck throughout. Gordon played the bigger points better and that proved enough to keep his young opponent at bay. He goes on to face Mahesh Mangaonkar of India in the last 16.
Asim Khan (PAK) 3-2Ammar Altamimi (KUW) 8-11, 8-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-8
At the end of a long opening court 8 served up a classic with Khan rallying from two games down to defeat Altamimi. It looked like the Kuwaiti had things in hand after edging into an early lead, but Khan kept his composure to make his way back into the match. He looked the stronger physically and as the match time extended past the hour mark this made in a key difference in the decisive 5th game.
Squash On Fire Open, Day One Morning Session Match Reports
Marie Stephan (FRA) 3-1 Ali Loke (WAL) 11-4, 8-11, 11-1, 11-5
Loke rallied back strongly in the second with some excellent high serving as she looked to take pace off the ball. This appeared to frustrate Stephan somewhat as Loke close out the game 11-8 to level proceedings.
Stephan regained control in 3rd keeping Loke constantly on the defense and eased back into the lead. She maintained the momentum throughout most of 4th to close out the match and book her place in the last 16.
Marina Stefanoni (USA) 3-2 Lily Taylor (ENG) 9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 7-11, 11-8
An intriguing match on paper with 18-year-old Stefanoni fresh off winning the US Wild Card Challenge for a spot in next month’s World Championship in Chicago. The more experienced Taylor edged the first game before Stefanoni rallied to win the second relatively comfortably.
The third game was one of swings and roundabouts as Taylor worked her way to an 8-4 lead before Stefanoni won six straight points and ultimately secured the game 11–9. To her credit Taylor remained composed and played steadily throughout 4th to send the match into a decider.
The 5th game was hard fought throughout but Stefanoni always kept her nose in front and converted her second match ball. Her reward is a 2nd round meeting with #2 seed Nele Gilis.
Emyr Evans (WAL) 3-0 Christopher Binnie (JAM) 11-4 rtd
Both players were returning to Squash On Fire having represented their nations in the 2019 Men’s World Team Championship at the same venue. Unfortunately Binnie tweaked his hamstring moving forward to a ball in the front right corner early in the first game….his movement was clearly hampered from then on. Evans secured the opener 11-4 and Binnie was unable to continue for any longer. Evans moves onto to face James Willstrop in his next match.
Addeen Idrakie (MAS) 3-0 Faraz Khan (USA) 11-9, 11-3, 11-2
Idrakie’s week of preparation at Squash On Fire seemed to pay off as he looked very comfortable on the unique blue paneled court 8. Khan challenged him in the first game but after Idrakie edged the opener 11-9 it was very much one way traffic from there on. Khan appeared to be a little hampered by a knee problem and could do little to combat Idrakie’s precision.
Emilia Soini (FIN) b3-0 Maria Arseniev (RUS) 11-4, 11-3, 11-7
Wild card Arseniev as the youngest player in the draw at 16 faced a tough assignment against the experienced Soini. The match was also Arseniev’s PSA debut, but the diminutive Russian acquitted herself well throughout. However, Soini was always in control and looked to be very comfortable on the glass. She goes onto face #4 seed Sabrina Sobhy in the second round.
Lucy Beecroft (ENG) 3-1 Nicole Bunyan (CAN) 11-1, 5-11, 11-4, 11-4
Beecroft only made it into the draw at the eleventh hour, but the former Yale star was determined to make the most of the opportunity. She came out of the blocks on fire to secure the first game 11-1. Bunyan responded by hitting back to level the match at a game piece.
However, from thereafter Beecroft was in the ascendancy as she ruthlessly capitalized on anything loose from her opponent to march into the last 16. She takes on Malaysian Low Wee Wern on Monday.
Spencer Lovejoy 3-0 Babatunde Ajagbe (NGR) 11-4, 11-5, 11-8
Yale graduate Lovejoy was in fine form throughout his matchup against charismatic Nigerian Ajagbe. His agility and movement were exemplary much to the frustration of his opponent. Ajagbe had played at Squash On Fire previously when representing his country in the 2019 Men’s World Teams and he displayed some of his trademark flair. However, Lovejoy had answers for everything and full deserved his placed in round 2 where he will meet #3 seed Tayyab Aslam.
Nasir Iqbal (PAK) 3-0 Syed Azlan Amjad (QAT) 11-3, 11-8, 11-6
Iqbal looked like he wasn’t going to be able to make it to DC as three days before the event he hadn’t been able to secure a visa. However, a rushed appointment at the US embassy later and he was on his way travelling for over 20 hours via Doha. He was clearly in the mood to make the
most of his trip as he convincingly swept aside Amjad. The court lends itself well to aggressive play and Iqbal was relentless in attacking both front corners. His straight games win earns him a place in the last 16 where he will face #8 seed Leonel Cardenas from Mexico.