Windy City Open 2022

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Finals : Coll and Gohar capture Windy City Open Titles

New Zealand’s Paul Coll and Egypt’s Nouran Gohar have captured the 2022 Windy City Open Presented by the Walter Family titles after wins over Youssef Ibrahim and  Hania El Hammamy at the University Club of Chicago.

Coll came back from the brink of defeat against the unseeded Ibrahim as the new men’s World #1 overturned a two-game deficit to run out a 7-11, 10-12, 11-4, 11-7, 11-9 winner, getting his hands on his first Windy City Open crown and his second PSA World Tour Platinum title.

Ibrahim, the first unseeded player to reach the Windy City Open final since 2012, was magnificent in the opening stages as his free-flowing, attacking brand of squash blew his opponent away.

However Coll – who became the first man from New Zealand to reach World No.1 the previous day – never admitted defeat and dragged himself back into the contest with some long, physical rallies taking their toll on Ibrahim. Coll then held his nerve in a nail-biting decider to complete the win in what is, at 96 minutes, the longest Windy City Open final ever.

“I thought I played pretty well,” said Coll after winning his 18th PSA title. “Youssef was incredible. He was so tight to the back and I’d put a drive one foot off the wall and he’d roll it out of the nick. To play like that in his first platinum final is a mark of a great player, he’s a danger to everyone.

“This week has been a hugely emotional week for me, going to No.1 was the best thing that’s ever happened in my squash career. I really wanted to win this tournament whilst going to No.1.”

Meanwhile, Gohar has captured her third successive Platinum title after a 15-13, 11-9, 11-8 victory over El Hammamy saw her win her first Windy City Open crown. The win also sees her become the first female player since Malaysian legend Nicol David at the 2015 Hong Kong Open to win a Platinum event without dropping a game.

It was a repeat of the 2021 U.S. Open final and Gohar came out on top once again to add the Windy City Open triumph to her collection of major tournament wins this season, which includes September’s CIB Egyptian Open in front of the famous Great Pyramid of Giza.

It’s Gohar’s 15th PSA title and her fifth of the 2021-22 season. Gohar and Coll both win over $35,000 in prize money for their efforts in Chicago this week, while Coll secures automatic qualification for the CIB PSA World Tour Finals in June. All Platinum title winners – as well as the PSA World Champions – qualify for the PSA World Tour Finals, with the remaining spots being allocated to the highest ranked players on the CIB Road to Egypt Standings.

“Wow, that was tough, that was really tough,” said Gohar afterwards. “I know we’ve been playing for over an hour, Hania was retrieving everything and it was very tough out there. I’m glad I didn’t drop a game in this tournament.

“I can’t really believe it, the first time I came to Chicago I was 15 and I was in qualification on the traditional courts. I was just dreaming to be on the glass court, not even to win, and now seven or eight years later I’m winning the event, it’s huge for me.”

Day Seven, Semis :  Ibrahim reaches first platinum final as Hammamy topples Sherbini

Egypt’s World #17 Youssef Ibrahim reached his first PSA World Tour Platinum final after he came out on top in a feisty five-game battle with sixth seed Marwan ElShorbagy to reach the title decider of the Windy City Open Presented by Walter Family.

Ibrahim had already beaten the older ElShorbagy brother Mohamed in the quarter finals and he followed up that win with a victory over two-time runner-up Marwan at the University Club of Chicago, winning 11-5, 6-11, 9-11, 11-1, 11-0 in a match that saw both players penalised with conduct strokes due to dissent.

“I expected the match to have a lot of mind games involved,” said Ibrahim, who is the first unseeded player to reach the Windy City Open finals since Pakistan’s Yasir Ali Butt in 2012. “The last time we played, the same thing happened, and I unintentionally got dragged into his game. He’s the best at playing that type of game, so I have to give this to him. I’m happy that I dealt with it after the third game I lost.

“I had to keep the rallies going, playing tight and high because anything in the middle he takes too much space. I’m happy that when I stayed on court after the third to get my mind right, I was able to deal with it today.”

Up next for Ibrahim is a meeting with 2020 runner-up Paul Coll, who celebrated his first day as the new World #1 with a gruelling 12-10, 8-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-5 victory against former World Champion Tarek Momen.

Coll, who today became the first man from New Zealand to top the PSA World Rankings, will look to win his second major title when he takes on Ibrahim in the title decider. Coll has won all three of their previous meetings on the PSA World Tour and is yet to drop a game to the Egyptian.

“It’s a new challenge for me and I’m enjoying it,” said Coll. “It’s a big week for me with a lot of pressure and I’ve loved every minute of it. I’m learning as a player and I think I’m growing, I’m loving this week and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’m very happy I contained him, I came out strong in the fifth, and I’m very happy with how I responded and I’m glad I brought it home. I’m really excited for tomorrow and another final here in Chicago, and I’m looking to win this one.”

In the women’s final, third seed Hania El Hammamy and second seed Nouran Gohar will go head-to-head in a repeat of October’s U.S. Open final following respective wins over top seed Nour El Sherbini and fifth seed Joelle King.

El Hammamy achieved a magnificent comeback from two games down to end El Sherbini’s title defence and her unbeaten run in Chicago, which stretched back to 2018 after 20 straight wins in the ‘Windy City’.

“I have no words to explain how happy I am with today’s win,” said El Hammamy. “I’ve beaten Nour twice before, but I think today is a little more special. Being 2-0 down is amazing to be able to win in five. She’s been World No.1 for 17 months and been a World Champion and she needs no introduction. Her confidence and stamina are so hard to break, and to win that after being 2-0 down means a lot to me.”

Gohar, who won that U.S. Open final bout with El Hammamy, was ruthlessly efficient against King as she dispatched the Kiwi in straight games after just 32 minutes of play. The 24-year-old will now appear in her first Windy City Open final and will look to win her third Platinum title in a row.

“I’m very happy with it, having a 3-0 match before the final definitely helps to prepare for that as it’s the most important match of the tournament,” Gohar said.

“I train really hard for these kinds of matches and I’m very happy with my performance today, Joelle is such a good player and I’m so happy I won in three and can go to bed early tonight. Last time, Hania beat me, it’s always tough playing her and you can never take her for granted. Even if you win a few times in a row, she’s definitely one of the best players right now and I’m really looking forward to that match.”

Draws & Results  Windy City Open 2022 Photos

Day Six, Quarters (B) : Kiwi duo King and Coll advance

New Zealand duo Joelle King and Paul Coll booked their places in the semi finals of the Windy City Open Presented by the Walter Family after a day of drama at the University Club of Chicago.

King, the World No.6, will take on second se3ed Nouran Gohar in the last four of the women’s event after she battled to a 12-10, 10-12, 8-11, 11-9, 11-6 victory after 66 minutes of exciting squash.

The 33-year-old was returning to the scene of her first PSA World Tour Platinum final, where she finished as a runner-up in 2018, and she had won eight of her nine matches with Sobhy on the tour. Buoyed by her home crowd, USA #1 Sobhy fought back from a game down to take the lead, but she was unable to press home her advantage as King fought back to make it five wins on the bounce against Sobhy.

“I think I’m loving five-setters, every match this week has gone to five games,” said King. “I’ve had lapses of concentration. Obviously playing against a class opponent like Amanda, she just never gave it to me, the last part of that fifth was just a blur and I just thought if I’m going to go down, then go down swinging, and it just went my way today.

“I love the Sobhy family, I stay with their dad when I got to Cairo, they’re like a second family to me, and unfortunately someone has to lose, so next time who knows?”

King and Gohar will go head-to-head for the 10th time on the PSA World Tour. Gohar has won five of their nine matches so far and will look to make it three in a row following her dominant 11-4, 11-9, 11-1 win against England’s Georgina Kennedy, who was appearing in her maiden PSA Platinum quarter final.

“To beat Georgina 3-0, you definitely have to be at your best,” said Gohar. “She’s the one to watch right now. Thankfully I’ve played her a few times now, we played last month and it’s never easy, even if it’s 3-0. The second game was crucial for me to close it and have a big lead because she’s always pushing, even when she’s down. I have lots of respect for her, but I’m glad I had a game plan, I executed it pretty well and I’m looking forward to the semi final match.”

In the men’s event, Coll will take on former World Champion Tarek Momen in the last four following respective wins against Joel Makin and Fares Dessouky.

Coll, who will become the first male Kiwi to go to World #1 on 1st March, was immaculate against Makin as he achieved an 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 victory. Their previous encounter saw Makin hold a 2-1 lead before sadly retiring from the match due to injury, but an upset was never on the cards today in Chicago as a focused Coll went about his work with the minimum of fuss.

“Becoming World #1 is a dream come true, it’s going to be a great day,” said Coll, who was runner up at the 2020 edition of the Windy City Open. 

“I can’t wait to wake up but I have a job to do, we’ll enjoy it as a team tomorrow and then quickly focus on the match tomorrow night. It’s going to be a battle, he [Momen] looked like he was playing well tonight, so I’ll have to be on my game. I’ll enjoy the win tonight, have some dinner and relax and focus on that match tomorrow, it’s going to be a big match, but I’ll be ready.”

Fourth seed Momen ground out a five-game victory over Dessouky by an 11-2, 6-11, 10-12, 11-8, 11-7 scoreline. There were plenty of traffic issues and arguments with the referee throughout the 75-minute contest, but Momen rose above all of that and kept his head well to seal a place in the semi finals of the Windy City Open for the third time.

“I always like to play free-flowing matches and today I got sucked into a game I’m not comfortable with,’ Momen said.

“Fares is such a good friend of mine and such a good player, the artillery he has is unreal and unfortunately sometimes when we have to have discussions with the referee, it’s not how I want to play. I’m not blaming him for it, but I felt like we both were not comfortable with it. Seeing that I was almost knocked out first round, I’m very happy to be here. I’ve brought my family all the way from Egypt, so I didn’t want it to be an early week.”

Day Five, Quarters (T) : ElShorbagy sends top seed Farag out

World N7 Marwan ElShorbagy sent defending champion and World #1 Ali Farag out of the 2022 Windy City Open Presented by the Walter Family after coming from behind to win their quarter final fixture at the University Club of Chicago .

Farag was on an 18-match unbeaten run in Chicago following his triumph at the 2020 Windy City Open as well as the 2018-19 and 2020-21 PSA World Championships held in the city, but his recent form against ElShorbagy has been mixed, with ElShorbagy winning their last three matches.

After a closely-contested first and second game which left the match poised at 1-1, Farag surrendered three game balls in the third to hand ElShorbagy a crucial lead following a trio of uncharacteristic mistakes from the No.1 seed. It was a lead ElShorbagy wouldn’t relinquish as he hit his targets at the front of the court to record a 6-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-7 victory.

“Just to get another win over Ali means a lot to me,” said Marwan. “Ali is a great player, he’s the World No.1, he sets his standards very high and he makes everyone on the tour work very hard and he’s improving our own games. I’m just very happy to get the win today. When I woke up this morning I just had a good feeling today.

“It’s always tough playing Ali, it’s always tense, but I just tried to keep my composure, we were both arguing but I think it’s part of the game, we’re in such a small space, interference will always happen but Ali is such a great player and I respect him a lot. He’s a two-time World Champion and has been World No.1 for many months, and I know he’s losing it to Paul [Coll], but he’ll be determined to get it back.”

ElShorbagy was a runner-up at the Windy City Open in both 2017 and 2018 and he will look to reach a third final when he takes on compatriot Youssef Ibrahim in the last four.

Ibrahim will line up in his first Platinum semi final after beating Spain’s Iker Pajares in straight games. The World #17 came into the match following a stunning comeback from two games down against two-time winner Mohamed ElShorbagy in round three, but it was a more comfortable fixture against Pajares – who was appearing in his maiden Platinum quarter final – as he won 11-5, 11-4, 11-6 in 34 minutes.

“I remember in my first Platinum quarter final I was way too excited,” Ibrahim said afterwards. “I prepared so well for this match and just wanted to get a good start. From then on, I stuck to my tactics. It wasn’t his best day and Iker has a lot better to offer than this, but I think I held it together better. I didn’t give him a chance to get into the match and I’m happy with that.”

In the women’s event World #1 Nour El Sherbini and World #3 Hania El Hammamy will contest one of the semi finals after they achieved wins against fellow Egyptians Rowan Elaraby and Salma Hany.

El Sherbini struggled to a tight 3-2 win over Belgium’s Tinne Gilis in the previous round, but the reigning champion was firing on all cylinders today as she dispatched Elaraby by an 11-7, 11-3, 11-2 margin in just 29 minutes.

“I’m really happy with my performance, I think I really needed this win for my confidence after my last match,” admitted El Sherbini. “It’s always a tough battle against Hania and I think she proved herself this season. She’s been challenging all the players and I always like this kind of challenge, she beat me in Philadelphia and I won at Black Ball, so I’ll do my best to be ready for this one again.”

Meanwhile El Hammamy also recorded a comfortable victory, with an 11-8, 11-8, 11-5 victory seeing her move into the semi finals of this tournament for the first time.

“I’m really happy to beat Salma in three, she’s such a dangerous opponent and is very hard to play, very tricky,” said El Hammamy. “I’m very positive with the way I’m approaching each tournament, knowing that I have to beat one or two [of El Sherbini and Nouran Gohar] at least. I’ve been able to beat one of them in each tournament, and my next goal is to beat both of them in one tournament. I’m gaining confidence, and I hope to do it very soon.”

Day Four : Kennedy reaches first Platinum quarter-final as Round Three concludes

Draws & Results  Windy City Open 2022 Photos

England’s World #10 Georgina Kennedy reached the quarter finals of a PSA World Tour Platinum event for the first time after she came through a gripping five-game battle against Belgium’s Nele Gilis at the Windy City Open Presented by the Walter Family.

Kennedy, 24, has enjoyed an extraordinary rise up the PSA World Tour Rankings over the past 12 months, moving up from #167 in the world in February, 2021 to inside the top 10 for the first time earlier this month.

The Londoner showed no signs of slowing down either as she came back from 2-1 behind to get the better of Gilis in a fascinating contest. High-octane, lengthy rallies were the order of the day as both players entertained spectators at the University Club of Chicago, and it was Kennedy who put together a run of points at the crucial stages to cap an 9-11, 11-8, 8-11, 11-3, 11-8 victory in 78 minutes.

“All credit to Nele, it’s so difficult to get a point off of her,” said Kennedy afterwards. “She forced so many errors from me just because I didn’t know how to win points against her sometimes.

“Last year I was just watching SQUASHTV and hoping to be at these amazing events, and to be in the quarters is just way beyond my expectations.”

Kennedy will take on World #2 Nouran Gohar in the next round where she will look to claim her first win over the Egyptian at the third attempt. Gohar got the better of India’s Joshna Chinappa, winning 11-0, 11-6, 11-8.

Meanwhile, United States #1 Amanda Sobhy squeezed past Wales’ Tesni Evans in a captivating five-game contest. Evans had fought back from 2-0 down and then two match balls down to level the scores, but Sobhy tightened up and held her nerve in a nail-biting fifth game to progress to the last eight.

“Before the match I was joking that I would continue the trend of my five-set matches never going over the hour mark,” said Sobhy. “I saw the finish line when I was up in the third, she came with full force, but at the end of the day I’m through and I’m just happy about that.”

An exciting fixture against New Zealand’s Joelle King awaits. King’s match with England’s Lucy Turmel followed a similar pattern as the Kiwi surrendered a two-game advantage, before coming through to prevail in the decider. King has won eight of her nine matches against Sobhy, including the last four in a row.

In the men’s event, eighth seed Fares Dessouky and Mazen Hesham went toe-to-toe, with the former winning the all-Egyptian battle by a 7-11, 11-8, 11-5, 6-11, 11-8 scoreline. Up next for Dessouky is a meeting with Tarek Momen, who saw off former  Omar Mosaad in impressive style.

“Mazen is one of the most talented players on tour, I have so much respect for him,” said Dessouky. “We’ve been competing since we were very young and I’m happy today that I won, I felt he was the better player at times and I got a little lucky at the end I think. I’m just enjoying every match, I’m happy to be back here again competing on this court. I’m trying to find my way again and I’m happy to be in the quarters.”

2020 runner-up Paul Coll also booked his place in the last eight after a 3-0 victory against England’s Adrian Waller saw him set up a quarter final match with Welshman Joel Makin. Makin saw off former World #1 Karim Abdel Gawad to advance and he will look to avenge his defeat to Coll at December’s CIB Squash Open Black Ball, where he forced to retire from the match due to injury despite holding a 2-1 lead.

“I wanted a good, solid performance,” said Coll. “I’m last on and it’s a long day, I just tried to stay switched on and focused and executed my game plan from the first to the last rally, so I’m very happy.”

Day Three : Ibrahim comeback stuns ElShorbagy as the first quarter-finalists are decided in Chicago …

Draws & Results  Windy City Open 2022 Photos

World #17 Youssef Ibrahim made it three wins out of three against former World #1 Mohamed ElShorbagy as he came back from two games behind and then overturned two match balls to reach the quarter finals of the Windy City Open Presented by the Walter Family.

ElShorbagy has found it difficult against Ibrahim over the past two years, with Ibrahim claiming huge upsets at both the 2020 and 2021 Qatar Classics, with the latter win seeing ElShorbagy take a four month break to prepare for the second half of the season.

The two-time Windy City Open champion returned with a title-winning display at the Squash on Fire Open last week and was good value for his 2-0 lead against Ibrahim, with the 31-year-old playing tight, controlled squash and profiting off his opponent’s errors.

Ibrahim went up another level in the third game though as he started playing winners from all areas of the court. Initially, ElShorbagy couldn’t respond as he surrendered the third game, only to get back on top in the fourth to hold a match ball. A tin from the World No.3 handed Ibrahim a lifeline though and he made no mistake in levelling the scores, overturning a further match ball.

A promising start to the fifth from ElShorbagy saw him lead 4-1, but Ibrahim’s powers of recovery were evident once again as the 22-year-old – who is currently studying at Princeton University – launched yet another comeback, taking 10 of the next 12 points on offer to seal a huge win.

“What a week,” Ibrahim said afterwards. “I’m playing one of the best players in the history of the game and it’s such an honour to be on court with Mohamed. I knew it would be such a tough game and he did everything he could to win. I got caught in the first two games, but I stayed calm and I tried to stay with him in the third and with every game being so close it was so mental.”

Ibrahim has a big opportunity to reach a first PSA World Tour Platinum semi final but will need to get past Iker Pajares first. Pajares became just the third Spanish player to reach the semi finals of a Platinum event after he axed Mexico’s Cesar Salazar in five games.

“I was feeling very nervous, I think I was 7-1 up in the fourth and he came back but I’m just so happy to get through,” said Pajares.

“It’s never easy to play a good friend like Cesar, we spend a lot of time together but I just had to focus on my game and try to stay solid and get the win.”

ElShorbagy’s younger brother Marwan is also through after beating men’s USA #2 Todd Harrity 3-0 and he will take on top seed Ali Farag in a mouthwatering quarter final clash. Farag’s match with Ghosal did not go ahead, with Ghosal withdrawing due to an injury sustained during his second round fixture.

In the women’s event, all four of the matches went to seeding, with defending champion Nour El Sherbini, Hania El Hammamy, Salma Hany and Rowan Elaraby – all from Egypt – all winning.

El Sherbini will take on Elaraby next after she got the better of Belgium’s Tinne Gilis in a thrilling five-game battle. Gilis was magnificent and unsettled the reigning World Champion, but El Sherbini used her big-game experience to grind out the win.

“To win this match I had to really dig deep” admitted El Sherbini. “She was playing so well and getting everything back, it was an amazing match and I’m really happy to be through, these matches give you confidence and belief.”

Meanwhile third seed El Hammamy sailed through to the quarter finals after beating Mariam Metwally, who retired through injury mid-way through the third game. El Hammamy and Hany will go head-to-head for a place in the semi finals.

“I think from growing up watching the top Egyptian players, I learned that you need to be consistent in this game to reach World No.1 or to be successful, so that’s something I think about,” said El Hammamy.

“I’m really looking forward to playing Salma, she’s been doing really well recently. I haven’t played her for a while and I think we’re both playing well, so it should be a good match and I’m looking forward to it.”

Draws & Results  Windy City Open 2022 Photos

Day TWO :  Pajares comeback stuns Elias

Spain’s World #23 Iker Pajares claimed the biggest win of his career to date after he claimed a huge upset against World #6 Diego Elias in a dramatic 3-2 victory at the University Club of Chicago to secure his place in the third round of the Windy City Open Presented by the Walter Family.

Draws & Results  Windy City Open 2022 Photos

Pajares – who was last seen retiring from last week’s Squash on Fire Open semis due to injury – found himself two games down against a dominant Elias, but he displayed grit and determination to haul himself back into the encounter.

The Spaniard held three match balls in the decider, only to see Elias rattle off three quick-fire winners to force a tie-break. Pajares was able to take the next point, and then a controversial decision from the referee saw him call Elias’s retrieval as a double bounce to hand the win to Pajares. A frustrated Elias remonstrated with the referee, but his appeals fell on deaf ears as Pajares moved through to the last 16.

“I’m over the moon, it’s the best win of my career,” said Pajares afterwards. “I wasn’t expecting that, I’ve been in the US for three weeks and I woke up this morning with my body not feeling great and I was just thinking about home. I don’t know what happened, I went 2-0 down then just carried on. I saw he started to get a little tired, so I pushed a bit more.

“At the end, it’s just a fight, I was at 10-7 then he came back well and I think I was lucky to sneak another point to get another match ball. I don’t know if the ball was double or not, it’s not my decision to make, but overall I’m just very happy.”

Pajares will play Mexico’s Cesar Salazar in the third round after he beat Hong Kong’s Tsz Fung Yip in straight games.

Meanwhile, men’s US #1 Todd Harrity will appear in the third round of a PSA World Tour Platinum event for the first time in his career after the World No.35 recorded an 11-2, 9-11, 11-8, 13-11 victory over England’s Declan James.

“It’s my first time winning two matches at a major event like this and my first time in the last 16, so it’s very exciting for me,” said Harrity, who will play two-time runner-up Marwan ElShorbagy next.

“I’ve worked hard and it’s finally paid off, and it’s also my first time beating Declan. I think we’ve played a few times now and he’s so skilful, so I’m very pleased with this win. There’s no pressure on me going into the next round, all I want to do is play well and make the most out of the opportunity.”

Defending champion Ali Farag got his title challenge under way with a 3-0 win against Germany’s Raphael Kandra, while 2020 runner-up Paul Coll defeated James Willstrop in the final match of the day. Mohamed ElShorbagy – a winner in 2016 and 2018 – was also in action, with the Egyptian toppling Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet.

In the women’s event, Belgium’s Nele Gilis got the better of 2018 champion Nour El Tayeb in a gripping contest that saw her win 11-9, 11-6, 2-11, 8-11, 11-9 in 60 minutes.

El Tayeb, down to world #81 and playing just her third tournament since returning from a 14-month spell on the sidelines due to the birth of her daughter, almost mounted a magnificent comeback, but Gilis kept her focus to see off an incredibly dangerous opponent.

“It was a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions, you know she’s still coming back from giving birth, and I have huge respect for her and how she’s managed to come back so strongly,” said Gilis.

“I came into the match with no pressure because I know she’s still a top five in the world player, and I just wanted to give it my all. At 2-0 up, I then thought that I have a real chance of winning and then she came back like she did last week and came out firing in the third like she had nothing to lose.”

Gilis will take on England’s Georgina Kennedy next following Kennedy’s 3-1 win over USA #2 Olivia Fiechter.

USA #1 Amanda Sobhy got her tournament under way as she recorded a routine 3-0 victory over Canada’s Hollie Naughton. Sobhy will take on Wales’ Tesni Evans after Evans came back from 2-0 down to beat Egypt’s Hana Ramadan.

“I haven’t played a major event since the U.S. Open,” said Sobhy. “My last couple of results weren’t the greatest, but I’m back and that’s all that matters. I kept it, in true Sobhy fashion, 3-0 under the 30-minute mark. I’m excited to be back, I love this venue, I have great memories here and I hope to keep progressing.”

Reigning champion Nour El Sherbini got off to a winning start against England’s Julianne Courtice, while second seed Nouran Gohar dispatched Canada’s Danielle Letourneau.

Draws & Results

Windy City Open 2022 Photos

Round One : Sobhy and Harrity provide home wins

USA duo Sabrina Sobhy and Todd Harrity claimed wins on home soil as the 2022 Windy City Open Presented by the Walter Family got under way at the University Club of Chicago with 32 first round matches.

World #24 Sobhy got the better of Australian wildcard Sarah Cardwell, winning 11-3, 11-5, 11-3 in just 19 minutes to set up a second round encounter with Belgium’s Tinne Gilis.

“It’s pretty important, but just to play well is more important, and to have a good opponent and to have fans is also very important,” said Sobhy. “I am happy that I won in three, and I am happy that I accomplished all those other things, so I am pleased with how it went. I am very happy with how the first couple of tournaments in 2022 have gone. It was definitely a confidence boost, but it was also quite exhausting.”

The day’s biggest upset in the women’s event saw England’s Julianne Courtice come back from a game down to get the better of Wales’ Emily Whitlock.

Whitlock started the better of the two as she stormed out of blocks and lifted the ball well to move her opponent off the ’T’, but Courtice’s response was impressive as she stormed back to take a 2-1 lead. In the second rally of the fourth game, Whitlock suffered an injury after chasing down a boast. Following a length break for treatment, the 28-year-old returned to court but her movement wasn’t the same as Courtice closed out the win in four.

“Unfortunately, she had a fall and I hope that she feels better and gets recovery for it,” said Courtice afterwards. “It is never nice to win a match like that, but I am also happy to get through. It has been a really hard time, I have had a few knocks, I got COVID and have really struggled to get back from there. Since Christmas, though, I really feel like I have made a U-turn and I am on the way back up.”

Courtice will play top seed and defending champion Nour El Sherbini in the second round, while the likes of Danielle Letourneau, Nada Abbas and Lucy Turmel also secured wins on day one.

In the men’s event, USA #2 Harrity is through to the last 32 after his first round opponent, India’s Ramit Tandon, was forced to retire from their match due to injury. Harrity will play England’s Declan James next.

However, the home country’s top player bowed out as Shahjahan Khan fell to Hong Kong’s Yip Tsz Fung in a tight five-game affair. World No.30 Khan was outplayed in the opening two games but showed impressive resilience to weather the storm. Fung Yip recovered in the decider though to seal a 12-10, 11-3, 8-11, 12-14, 11-4 triumph to set up a round two fixture with Mexico’s Cesar Salazar.

“I am happy to be able to win the match, because as you can all see, Shah is very, very tough,” Yip said. “Any break of focus would have been a nightmare, so I am very lucky and happy to have got through in the fifth. During the pandemic, it was not easy, we did not have much chance to compete, especially overseas, so it will take some time to gain back the momentum. I am hoping I am going in the right direction to gain that momentum again to try to get back to a higher ranking.”

Home favourite Nathan Lake – who plays at the University Club of Chicago – was cheered to the rafters by a partizan crowd but ultimately went down in four games to former World Championship finalist Omar Mosaad.

“He is a big guy like me, so I knew I had to move as much as I could,” Mosaad said. “Of course, he just moved to Chicago, so everyone was cheering for him, hopefully [they cheer] for me tomorrow. I am really happy with my win today, and I think the last few tournaments I have started to play well, and I hope to keep this going with the next match.”

Elsewhere, former World No.1 James Willstrop came through an entertaining four-game battle with Qatar’s Abdulla Al Tamimi and he will take on No.2 seed Paul Coll in a mouthwatering second round clash.

Draws released for Windy City Open

The draws for the 2022 Windy City Open Presented by the Walter Family have been released, with eight US stars in action across the women’s and men’s events at the University Club of Chicago from 23rd Feb to 2nd March.

The Windy City Open is one of the richest events on the calendar, with the PSA World Tour Platinum event boasting $500,000 in total player prize compensation.

96 of the world’s leading female and male players will battle it out under the chandeliers of the University Club of Chicago’s stunning Cathedral Hall for the prestigious trophy – and World No.4 Amanda Sobhy represents USA’s best chance of having an American winner for the first time.

The 28-year-old, who is based in Philadelphia, is a four-time Windy City Open quarter finalist and is seeded at No.4 for this year’s event. Sobhy will line up against Canada’s Hollie Naughton in round two and is seeded to play World No.2 and two-time semi finalist Nouran Gohar in the semi finals.

Meanwhile, World No.1 Nour El Sherbini returns to the scene of her fifth PSA World Championship triumph following her win over Gohar last July. El Sherbini will take on either Wales’ Emily Whitlock or Chicago-based Haley Mendez in round two, while she is predicted to take on No.3 seed Hania El Hammamy in the last four.

The other three US players in action in the women’s draw are World No.11 Olivia Fiechter, World No.12 Olivia Clyne and World No.24 Sabrina Sobhy. Fiechter will clash with 2018 winner Nour El Tayeb in round two, while Clyne will take on 2018 runner-up Joelle King. Meanwhile, Sabrina Sobhy will take on wildcard Sarah Cardwell in the opening round.

Like El Sherbini, Farag also tasted PSA World Championship success at the University Club of Chicago during the 2020-21 season, and he returns to defend his crown following his victory over New Zealand’s Paul Coll in 2020.

Farag will find himself up against either Germany’s Raphael Kandra or Mexico’s Arturo Salazar in the second round and is seeded to play two-time champion Mohamed ElShorbagy in the semi finals in what would be a repeat of the men’s 2020-21 PSA World Championship final.

Coll lines up on the opposite side of the draw. The 29-year-old will become the first male Kiwi ever to reach World No.1 on March 1 – the day of the semi finals in Chicago – and he will look to get his name on the winner’s list after falling at the final hurdle in 2020. Coll is seeded to play former World Champion Tarek Momen in the semi finals.

A trio of American men will compete, with the USA’s No.1 male player, Shahjahan Khan, taking on Hong Kong’s Tsz Fung Yip in round one. Todd Harrity will play Frenchman Auguste Dussourd in the opening round, while wildcard Andrew Douglas will lock horns with England’s George Parker.

Action from the University Club of Chicago will be shown live on SQUASHTV, while the semi-finals and finals will be shown by PSA’s broadcast partners.