Sobhy (L) defeated England's Sarah-Jane Perry for the second time in two weeks. (image: Steve Line/
Sobhy (L) defeated England’s Sarah-Jane Perry for the second time in two weeks. (image: Steve Line/

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The second day of main draw play, another sixteen matches—eight on the glass court, eight on the DAC court—as the last sixteen in the men’s and women’s draws were decided.

Sobhy keeps U.S. hopes alive as Coppinger routs Rodriguez

SH0274Only one of the U.S. hopefuls survived, Amanda Sobhy repeating her San Francisco final win  over Sarah-Jane Perry, while the Indian pair of Joshana Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal both progressed against the odds. No troubles for former and defending U.S. Open champions Laura Massaro and Nicol David, as they won in straight games. There were significant upsets in the men’s draw as South African Steve Coppinger beat fourth seed Miguel Rodriguez in three, Mazen Hesham beat eighth seed Peter Barker, and qualifier Zahed Mohamed capped a good day for Egypt as he beat Cameron Pilley.  There was almost an even bigger upset in the final match as second seed Nick Matthew needed to fight back from one-two down against compatriot Chris Simpson.

Match Reports

Play opened on the glass court with two women’s matches. First up was an all-English affair between Alison Waters and Victoria Lust. Waters is known for the occasional slow start, but after dropping the first she hit back to level, both finishing 11-7. Lust was ahead in the third, but from 6-9 down Waters took five points in a row to take the lead. SH0271The fourth seed took charge in the fourth and quickly went 10-5 up, only for Lust to force a decider with a run of seven points for 12-10. Waters asked for an injury timeout as soon as the fourth ended, but came back to take the match, pulling away from 5-all in the fifth to close it out 11-7.

“She played really well in the first two and a half games, ” said Waters, “and she was probably the better player today and deserved to win that match, but I’ll take it!”

Then it was home hope Amanda Sobhy against Sarah-Jane Perry in a repeat of their San Francisco final. It was the same result too, as Sobhy led throughout three well-contested games, but the British champion just couldn’t quite get on term—despite being on the floor several times as she tried to contend with her opponent’s accurate ball placement.

“Really happy with that, ” declared Sobhy. “It’s tough to play someone again so soon after our last match, especially such a tough player as SJ. “I’m very pleased to come off three-nil, and it’s really nice to have my whole family here, plus my coaches, that never happens!”

The first pair of men’s matches produced a stunning upset and the demise of the sole home player. SH0282South Africa’s Steve Coppinger played tight, controlled squash to keep fourth seeded Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez on a tight leash for three games, that nevertheless took 70 minutes to complete. Coppinger was on the front foot throughout, taking the match on a stroke after attempting to climb over Rodriguez after another of his trademark dives.

“I’m thrilled to bits, ” said Coppinger. “He got me a lot of times but this was my turn. I got a lot fitter, so I wasn’t in so much of a rush when it got tough, and I was pleased with how I kept my discipline from start to finish.”

England’s Daryl Selby ended home hopes as he beat wildcard Chris Gordon in straight games.

Drexel’s Kline & Specter Court 1 reached full capacity Sunday afternoon to witness a behemoth first-round match between two rising stars on the PSA tour, Peru’s Diego Elias and Egypt’s Fares Dessouki. IMG_0436 Dessouki againElias, world junior champion and world No. 37, entered the match having already played two, five-game qualifiers Thursday and Friday, including an upset over world no. 32 Gregoire Marche, while Dessouki, world No. 19, began the match with fresh legs. From start to finish, the match played out with an exhilarating pace as both players fired off nicks, perfectly-weighted drops, trick shots—trading games until a decisive fifth. Twenty-one-year-old Dessouki sped to a 6-1 lead early in the fifth and never looked back, pushing the eighteen-year-old Peruvian until the Egyptian clinched the seventy-two-minute match 11-5. An exhausted Dessouki couldn’t even manage to go through the post-match interview afterwards.

Although this was their first proper PSA match against one another, it certainly won’t be the last. Watch the video of the third game

Prior to Elias and Dessouki’s marathon, another Egyptian in the form of Tarek Momen advanced in a challenging encounter against England’s Adrian Waller 11-8, 13-11, 11-9 in fifty minutes.

“We played many times this year, ” said Momen, who today marked his third victory over Waller in 2015. “Adrian is a very dangerous player when he’s controlling the tee, and he has such good hands. So you have to work hard to keep him out of that area, and that’s what I tried to do the whole match. Of course he gets there sometimes, and he can steal the court away from you.” SH0310

Like Dessouki, the legendary Amr Shabana—in addition to wife and world No. 1 Raneem El Welily—coached the world No. 8 to victory.

“When Shabana is there, you really don’t need anyone else. Of course my wife’s support is so important, I need to have her by my side as much as she can. They’ve both been great. Shabana’s been great, we were roommates for many many years, and it feels a bit weird now that he’s my coach. We’re all really really excited about it, and I hope he’s my coach until I stop playing.”

The first women’s match of the day downstairs saw India’s world No. 20 Joshana Chinappa upset Hong Kong’s eight seed Annie Au. Au, world No. 10, held an 8-4 career record against Chinappa entering the match, but it was Chinappa who came out on top in their first Philadelphian encounter, 11-6, 11-7, 12-10, in twenty-eight minutes.

SH0311“I’ve always had very hard games against Annie, ” Chinappa said. “I’ve been chopped pretty bad a couple of times. Going in today I obviously knew she had the upper hand, so I’m really glad I hung in there and didn’t make many errors, which helped me win this one.” The younger Sobhy sister, Sabrina, provided six seed Onmeya Abdel Kawy a scare with three close games, including five squandered game balls in the second, but the world No. 6 held fast to reach the glass court. Once again, Amr Shabana provided guidance in between games, while a group of Egyptian supporters draping the Egyptian flag backed Kawy.

“They give you the extra push, ” Kawy said of her coach and supporters. “If you’re playing alone and no one is cheering for you, it keeps you down and you think negatively, so you need someone to give you the push and keep you positive.”

The final two women’s matches on the glass court featured the champions for the last four years – Laura Massaro won in 2011, Nicol David in 2012, 13 and 14. Both won in straight games, Massaro despatching young Egyptian Heba El Torky and David dealing with the challenge of Hong Kong’s Joey Chan.

“I felt pretty good out there, ” said Massaro, “it’s always tough playing on the glass for the firs time in a while but I’mSH0312 happy with how I finished the match and I’m excited to be taking on Amanda [Sobhy] next round, it should be a good match. “It feel great to be back on court in Philadelphia – it’s always nice to be back here, ” said David. “Getting off to a 3-0 win is important as you just want to get in and get your game together. I had to step up and play the big points well against Joey and I did that so I’m happy.”

The day concluded on the glass court with two contrasting men’s matches – an upset and a five-game survival. Young Egyptian Mazen Hesham beat eighth seed Peter Barker in straight games, although the Englishman struggled to contain Hesham’s often chaotic style of play, the winner acknowledged after the match that he was “less happy about the win than I might be, because he’s injured and struggling with his movement.”

He was looking forward to the next round though: “Fares [Dessouki] and I have played a hundred times, at every age, so a 101st match here should be a great one, I’m Iooking forward to it.” SH0323

Finally Nick Matthew took to court against fellow Englishman Chris Simpson, someone he’s faced many times in the early rounds of major events in the last few seasons, and the usual outcome is that Matthew takes a tight first game and then pulls away in the next two. This time, though, Simpson made a good start tell, and after Matthew had levelled, took the lead again and a major upset looked on the cards. Matthew was having none of it though, as he took the last two games both 11-4 to maintain his winning record over Simpson.

“Maybe I spent too much time watching the Egyptians like Mazen play, ” joked Matthew afterwards, “but I just wasn’t getting a structure to my game early on. He played well, and I needed more time on the ball than he was giving me, so I just had to go back to basics. It’s one of those matches you’re just glad to be able to get out of.”

Meanwhile in the penultimate match on Drexel’s Kline & Specter Court 1, India’s Dipika Pallikal recovered from 2-1 down to defeat resurgent former world No. 4 Joelle King in five games. King, who has enjoyed recent success having recovered from her devastating ACL injury, appeared to be on the verge of reaching the round of sixteen as a qualifier, but Pallikal boosted by a vocal supporters section pulled turned the match on its head to win 11-9 in the fifth. Pallikal had previously exited two tournaments this season in the first round, and now makes her first career appearance in the U.S. Open round of sixteen. Clip0002

“I’ve been in America for the last month and a half training with Amir Wagih, ” Pallikal revealed.

“When I lost in the first round of San Francisco I had to go back to the drawing board and figure out what went wrong. When I was 2-1 down, I just kept telling myself that Joelle had a great week last week, but she had to beat me and had to fight me so that was gong through my head. I’m just glad to get to the second round of the U.S. Open; it’s my first time.”

Pallikal has boycotted the last four Indian nationals due to lack of prize money parity, and is now competing in the U.S. Open for the first time since the event became the first world series squash tournament to offer prize money equality.

“It’s a great step for squash and women’s sport to get equal prize money. I’ve always believed that we’re all equals in this world and we deserve to be treated equally so it’s a great initiative and I really hope all of the tournaments in the world follow.”

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