Twenty-four year-old Olivia Blatchford snared her first women’s national title in a five-game, eighty-four-minute final Saturday afternoon at Chelsea Piers in Stamford, Connecticut.
Playing in her tenth consecutive National Singles and at her home club, Blatchford’s final didn’t start according to plan against two seed Reeham Sedky.
Sedky, a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, came out of the gates with her signature power and pace, pushing Blatchford to the back of the court until she clinched the first game 11-8. Things got worse for the top seed in the second game after a contentious no let call to give Sedky game ball at 12-11, which she converted to go up 2-0.
Blatchford made a tactical shift in the third game, which paid off and earned four game balls up 10-6. Sedky fought off all four game balls, however, to go level at 10-10. After nervy rallies with Sedky two points away from the title, Blatchford regained control to force a fifth game 13-11. In the fifth, Blatchford earned a three point lead at 8-5, when she pulled away to claim the title 11-5.
“I told my coach, Nat, that I was struggling and didn’t really know what to do after the second game,” Blatchford said. “She was pounding me in the back and how was I going to get in front of her. We made a small tactical change to try to open up the court and create more space. She was containing me so well in the back corners, and that’s not where I want to be spending my time. I had a few matches like that this season where I thought that’s why I do all of this fitness training, that’s why I go through the pain and do all of those hours and told myself to dig in, but it wasn’t easy.”
This month, Blatchford reached a career high ranking of world No. 19 after her best stint on the PSA Tour to date this spring and now caps off her season with her first national title. Blatchford lost both the 2015 and 2016 finals against world No. 7 Amanda Sobhy, who sustained a torn Achilles while playing Blatchford in Colombia last month.
“It feels incredible, this is the perfect ending for my season,” Blatchford said. “It was an absolute pleasure playing Reeham in the final. Obviously we’re missing a key leader of our team, Amanda Sobhy, who went through an awful injury, but she’s going to be back. This was my tenth nationals, and only the first time taking home the bacon, so it feels great.”
Blatchford has been a member of the US Squash Elite Athlete Program since her return to the PSA Tour in 2013.
“I’d like to thank US Squash,” Blatchford said. “I’m not able to do what I do to travel around the world and compete without the support that the US Squash Elite Athlete Program gives me. I love what I do so much, and it’s only because of them that I’m able to do that. They are completely behind me and I appreciate their support so much. I would like to thank my sponsor Technifibre for sticking with me and all my family members, friends and coaches for their support. This is for all of you.”