Team USA’s Olivia Blatchford Clyne, Amanda Sobhy and Sabrina Sobhy all recorded first-round wins at the PSA Gold Black Ball Open Monday, December 7, in Cairo, Egypt.
Five American women entered the first round of the final major women’s PSA event of 2020. World No. 41 Haley Mendez was the first in action in the opening match of the tournament against world No. 17 Nadine Shahin. After taking the first game 12-10, Shahin came back to take the match in four 10-12, 11-6, 11-3, 11-3 in thirty-three minutes.
An all-American showdown between world No. 7 Amanda Sobhy and world No. 32 Olivia Fiechter followed. The two Philadelphia-based training partners sparred for the third time on the PSA World Tour, and it was Sobhy who maintained her unbeaten record against her teammate in three games and twenty-nine minutes 11-8, 11-7, 11-5. Sobhy, the six seed, will now face Shahin in the second round Wednesday, December 9, at 1:30pm local time, 6:30am ET.
“We’re both based in Philly, we train every week and play a practice match every week, so we were just excited to fly all the way to Egypt to play another practice match!” Sobhy said after the match. “We were joking around saying that we should just play in Philly and then the winner flies to Egypt. She’s improved a ton, even though my record against her has me winning, each time gets tougher and tougher. She’s climbing up the rankings, which is phenomenal to see squash in the US and see other countries represented in the later rounds of tournaments – it’s nice not being the only U.S. player.”
Blatchford Clyne, world No. 13, joined Sobhy in the second round with her first win since the PSA World Tour’s restart against Egypt’s world No. 31 Mariam Metwally. Blatchford Clyne dispatched the twenty-four-year-old 8-11, 11-5, 11-8, 11-8 in forty minutes. Blatchford Clyne now awaits Welsh eight seed Tesni Evans in the second round Wednesday at 11am local time, 4am ET.
“I felt like I prepared really well,” Blatchford Clyne said. “I watched and I thought ‘you’re going to have to chase after some really good boasts and be ready to be taken in at any time.’ I think I actually didn’t get caught off any crosscourt nicks off the serve, so that was kind of an achievement for me. She’s fantastic around the middle, I know she’s been injured and she’s just come back from a surgery but to me, it felt like she was moving great and even when I tried to attack her and make the court big, if I wasn’t perfect it was a disaster. This is kind of my first win in this weird season, I’ve had a tough nine months but I’m really happy to say I get to play again here.”
World No. 22 Sabrina Sobhy pulled off the tournament’s most significant first-round upset against world No. 10 and nine seed Salma Hany. Sobhy made a strong start to the match, edging the first two games 11-8, 13-11, but Hany quickly bounced back taking the third and fourth games 11-4, 11-6. Sobhy regained her composure in the fifth game and pushed through to take the match 11-9 in the fifth after fifty-nine minutes.
“I had a good start and then I started to fatigue,” Sobhy said. “And when you fatigue against Salma and you give her the loose balls, she’s just unbelievable. I was up 4-1 in the third and she won 11-4 because she just had time on the ball and when you give her time, she just puts everything away. I told myself at the end of that game “this is it, we probably don’t have another tournament for a long time, so you’re giving it everything you have”. I’m pleased I snuck that out at the end, it could have gone either way. I think we both got a bit tired in the fifth, but I didn’t notice too much because I was just trying to focus on my own game, rather than get distracted by her.”
Sobhy faces a daunting challenge in the second round Wednesday where she’ll face world No. 1 Nour El Sherbini at 7:15pm local time, 12:15pm ET.