8:33 pm
26 Mar 2019

Unseeded Elaraby Leads Egyptian Charge on Opening Day of Black Ball Open

12 Mar 2019

The opening day of action at the 2019 CIB Black Ball Open saw Egypt's World Junior Champion Rowan Elaraby upset Hong Kong's experienced world No.11 Annie Au in straight games to lead the Egyptian charge at the inaugural women's PSA World Tour Gold event in Cairo.

Elaraby was one of four Egyptians who advanced to the last 16 after producing one of her best performances to take out the Hong Kong No.1 at the Black Ball Sporting Club.

The Black Ball Squash Open is the first major women's tournament to take place in the Egyptian capital since the 2016 Wadi Degla Open and it was the Egyptians who dominated the day as they flew the flag for the home nation on the opening day.

Elaraby will now face compatriot Raneem El Welily in the next round, with the world No.1 and the other top eight seeds receiving a bye into the second round.

"The last two times I have played Annie I have lost in five and I couldn't push the fifth game in both," said 18-year-old Elaraby following her win.

"There is always the push you get from playing in Egypt, in front of your family and your friends, it's a blessing really. But I also learned from the last two times we played and I made sure that this time I had enough energy to close it out, not like previous matches."

Elaraby will be joined by fellow Egyptians Salma Hany, Yathreb Adel and Hania El Hammamy after they all secured first round victories.

Hany was forced to dig deep to prevail against a tough Nele Gilis of Belgium in four games, while Adel was taken the full distance by compatriot Mayar Hany in the first match of the day.

They will now face Egypt's world No.8 Nouran Gohar and England's former world No.1 Laura Massaro, respectively, in round two.

"Today was such a tough battle," said 22-year-old Hany following her win over Gilis. "Me and Nele go way back to juniors when we played a lot and every time she proves that she has got better. Her and Paul [Coll] have brought a new level of physicality to the game and today she proved that.

"She pushed me way beyond my limits and I think maybe I wasn't 100% accurate but I made sure I stuck to the game and didn't let go."

Fellow Egyptian El Hammamy, meanwhile, will face PSA World Championship runner-up Nour El Tayeb for a place in the quarter-finals after she defeated tournament wildcard Salma Youssef in straight games.

"I'm looking forward to playing Nour tomorrow," said El Hammamy afterwards. "Obviously she is in great form, and we played three or four times, which went all in her favour, but hopefully tomorrow I can perform well and create an upset."

Meanwhile, Welshwoman Tesni Evans prevented a complete Egyptian domination after surviving a scare against world No.24 Mariam Metwally.

Evans went 2/0 up, before a resilient Metwally battled back to level the scores and take the match to a tense deciding fifth. However, the experience of Evans, who last month claimed the British Nationals title, proved vital in the end to close out a 3/2 win.

The Welshwoman will now face New Zealand's world No.5 Joelle King.

"I was 2/0 up and feeling really good and then I just mentally knocked off in that third game and switched off completely," said the Welsh No.1. "Mariam played unbelievable in the last three games, she was absolutely going for it and it was such hard work to keep my head there in the fifth.

"It's no secret how good friends me and Joelle are, we are actually rooming together this week and it will be another tough battle, especially with how well she is playing at the moment. I just need to recover as best I can and have another good go tomorrow."

Joining her in the second round will be India's Joshna Chinappa after she despatched Malaysia's eight-time World Champion Nicol David in straight games.

The Indian No.1 executed her game plan to perfection to take a 2/0 lead, before managing to close out a tight third game and book her place in the last 16 where she will take on England's Sarah-Jane Perry.

"Obviously it was such a tough opponent to face in my first round here," said Chinappa following her victory. "I'm just really lucky to get through in three, the third game was really tight and I'm really pleased that I was able to close that out.

"It's another hard match. SJ is coming back from injury but she is in great form and I hope it is going to be a good match between us."

Meanwhile, there were also victories for Hong Kong's Joey Chan and England's Alison Waters after they defeated England's Millie Tomlinson and Egypt's Zeina Mickawy, respectively, to reach the last 16.

Chan will go up against France's world No.4 Camille Serme for a place in the quarter-finals, while Waters faces the challenge of Egypt's reigning World Champion Nour El Sherbini.

"You have to keep yourself going," said England's Waters after her match. "She played well and was so strong around the middle on that forehand. I just tried to straighten up when I had the chance and get to play my shots.

"I'll regroup tonight and get some rest. Playing the World Champion in Egypt will be a tough match, but I'm looking forward to it."