Blatchford (r) at the Hong Kong Open.

Team USA’s Olivia Blatchford opened her new year as the thirteen seed in the first major women’s professional squash tournament ever held in Saudi Arabia–the World Series Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters at Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University in the nation’s capital, Riyadh.

The world No. 13 earned a first-round victory against Egypt’s world No. 22 Mariam Metwally, 13-11, 11-5, 11-4 in twenty-six minutes on Monday. After the match the U.S. champion expressed her joy of playing in the progressive event.

“I love the pink, it’s so appropriate here, the pink atmosphere!” Blatchford said. “Squash is booming in the USA, we actually have more junior girls playing squash than boys, and the women are actually better than the men, we are asking our male colleagues to step up a bit!”

The ground-breaking tournament came as a result of PSA Chairman Ziad Al-Turki and recent initiatives from the General Authority of Sports in Saudi Arabia to increase sporting participation and awareness across the country, with the tournament poised to play a crucial role in inspiring a new generation of Saudi athletes.

“Things are changing in Saudi, and they are changing fast,” Al-Turki said, who is also the Chairman of the PSA, at the official tournament dinner. “Win or lose, you [the players] are making history.”

“This place is incredible,” Blatchford said. “Of course we fear the unknown, but there is nothing more powerful than stepping into your fears. This place is on the verge of growth, and I feel blessed to be here making history. Actually, not ‘his’tory, but ‘her’story.”

The American’s run in the tournament came to an end on Tuesday, when Egypt’s reigning world champion Raneem El Welily dispatched Blatchford in three games.

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