Orfi and Soliman claim Egyptian double in DC
Amina Orfi and Youssef Soliman completed an Egyptian double in the Squash On Fire Open after wins over women’s top seed Tinne Gilis and men’s third seed Iker Pajares in Washington DC.
Orfi, 16, claimed her maiden PSA World Tour title after holding off a valiant comeback from Gilis in five games, ousting the defending champion in 88 minutes by a 15-13, 11-1, 9-11, 8-11, 11-9 scoreline.
At 2-0 up and 6-1 up in the third, Orfi looked destined for a straight-games win but defending champion Gilis clawed her way back into the encounter to level and take a 9-6 lead in the decider. But it was Orfi who finished stronger, reeling off five straight points and capture the biggest title of her burgeoning career.
“I’m over the moon,” Orfi said. “At the beginning, I couldn’t believe it when I was 2-0 up, and then she started her comeback. “It was such a rollercoaster. It’s been a while since I won a title. My last one on the PSA Tour was last year in February, so I’m so happy to win my biggest one to date. I just tried to tell myself to stay calm and play the squash I was playing at the beginning. If I’m tired, she is also tired, so it was all going to come down to who was mentally strong enough and who was believing in themselves.
“I definitely think playing a lot of 3-2 matches and tough battles this season helped me overcome this situation, because I previously lost when I was leading at the U.S. Open, so I’m very happy that this time I was able to learn my lesson.”
Meanwhile, Soliman, the second seed, claimed his 10th career PSA title with a composed 11-5, 11-4, 10-12, 11-3 victory over World #20 Pajares.
Despite seeing three match balls come and go in the latter stages of the third – a game which Pajares subsequently took in a tie-break – Soliman raced through a seven-minute fourth game to capture the title.
“I’m very pleased, it has been a great week for me,” Soliman said. “I’m very happy and proud of my performance. “I just wanted to feel how his legs were. I had no idea how he would be feeling and if he had recovered and what to expect. I just wanted to make the first game long and see if he was feeling it. I then got very edgy in the third game. I remember I had a few match balls, but then I was very happy with how I dealt with my nerves in the fourth.
“I felt like I saw the finishing line [in the third game], so I was very rushed. So as soon as I started the fourth game, I told myself not to rush my play and treat it as a normal game.”
Pajares dethrones Crouin as Orfi ends home hopes
Spain’s Iker Pajares delivered a defiant performance to conquer top seed and defending champion Victor Crouin in an 89-minute classic, winning 13-11 in the fifth to advance to the final.
The Spaniard, who saved two match balls in the decider, will play Egypt’s Youssef Soliman in the final, while Tinne Gilis and Amina Orfi will face each other in a repeat of last year’s title decider after coming through their semi-finals in straight games.
“It was third time lucky,” said Pajares. “This is my third time here in the Squash On Fire semi-finals, I finally made it to the final with some of the best squash of my career. I think I played three or four winners in the fifth game, and it made the difference today.”
Second seed Soliman saw off the challenge of Youssef Ibrahim in an entertaining all-Egyptian affair.
In the women’s draw 16-year-old Amina Orfi produced a superb display to knock out home favourite Sabrina Sobhy in three games.
“I’m so happy,” said Orfi, “because she is such a good player and last time I won 3-2, so I knew it was going to be tough. The first game was very crucial. In my last two matches, the start in my first game wasn’t the best, so today I just focused on that. In the third I lost my focus a bit and it was important to win it, because if I lost it I knew she would make a comeback.”
Defending champion Gilis continued her impressive run i with a confident and composed display against fourth seed Tomato Ho.
Quarters : Top seeds win through to the semis in Washington
It will be the top four seeds who contest the men’s and women’s semi-finals in Washington with top-seeded defending champions Victor Crouin and Tinne Gilis leading the way on quarter-finals day.
Crouin will meet third seeded Spaniard Iker Pajares, with the winner taking on an Egyptian as Youssefs Soliman and Ibrahim meet in the bottom half of the draw.
Gilis will take on Hong Kong’s Tomato Ho, while home favourite Sabrina Sobhy goes up against world junior champion Amina Orfi in a repeat of last year’s semi-final.
Day Two : Wildcard Wallid reaches quarters
Tournament wildcard Menna Walid fought back from 2-0 down and four match balls down to claim a remarkable victory over fifth seed Lucy Turmel and progress to her maiden PSA World Tour quarter-final at the Squash On Fire Open 2024.
World #70 Walid, who secured her spot in the main draw of the Bronze-level event after winning the Wild Card Challenge last week, looked destined for defeat when 10-6 down in the third game, but staged a remarkable recovery, also coming from 2-5 down in the fifth to secure the unlikely win.
“I’m literally over the moon,” she said after the match. “I started to play my shots when I was 2-0 down and 10-6 down. I had nothing to lose and I gave it my all. “I think that when I was 2-0 down I didn’t play my best squash, but there was still a lot to play, so I just tried to control myself. I kept telling myself to play my best squash because I had nothing to lose because I was playing the World No.24, and then I managed to come back.”
Meanwhile in the men’s draw USA’s Todd Harrity progressed to a career-first PSA World Tour quarter-final after upsetting seventh seed Omar Mosaad in straight games. Defending champions Tinne Gilis and Victor Crouin also got their campaigns underway with straight game wins over Haya Ali and Ben Smith.
Day One : Willstrop wins five game thriller as Mennas produce women’s R1 upsets
Former World #1 James Willstrop rolled back the years to recover from 2-1 down to defeat Portugal’s Rui Soares on the opening day of the Squash On Fire Open in Washington.
Elsewhere in the men’s American duo Todd Harrity and Spencer Lovejoy both fought back from two-game deficits to progress to the second round, while England’s Ben Smith upset Leonel Cardenas in four to set up a meeting with top seed Victor Crouin.
In the women’s draw wildcard Menna Walid recorded her maiden PSA World Tour victory following a back-and-forth five-game duel with Kenzy Ayman. The only other seeding upset saw Menna Hamed come from a game down to overcome home favourite Ineta Hopton.