11:43 am
21 Apr 2024

US Duo Sobhy & Blatchford Clyne Make Windy City History In Chicago

1 Mar 2020

The quarter-finals of the Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family will feature two Americans for the first time in the tournament's 26-year history after home players Amanda Sobhy and Olivia Blatchford Clyne claimed third round wins in the PSA World Tour Platinum event at the University Club of Chicago.

Boston-based Sobhy, the country's No.1 player, twice came back from a game behind as she survived a stern test against Hong Kong's Annie Au, rising to an 7-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-5, 11-7 victory after 51 minutes.

The world No.8 initially struggled as Au's lob and drop game worked perfectly on a cold court, but a change of ball after the third game worked in the Sobhy's favour as she ground out the win. Sobhy will take on world No.2 Nouran Gohar for a place in the last four after the Egyptian made short work of Belgium's Nele Gilis, winning 11-3, 11-3, 11-6 in 24 minutes.

"That was definitely tough, Annie came out firing and I think the ball in the first three games kind of suited her because it was a bit dead and she loves a good lob, drop" said Harvard graduate Sobhy.

"I think she is possibly the best in the game at the lob, drop game, so I was getting killed a little bit. Thankfully I asked to change the ball, so that helped. Instead of trying to hit the ball hard I had to use the height a bit, so it was almost like I got sucked into playing Annie's game.

"I just told myself to fight for every point, to hustle, hustle, hustle and fortunately I did that and came out a winner."

World No.17 Blatchford Clyne also required five games to overcome Egypt's Nadine Shahin, winning a captivating contest by an 8-11, 11-6, 11-3, 9-11, 11-9 scoreline to reach the quarter-finals of a PSA World Tour Platinum tournament for the first time in her career.

Shahin came into the fixture on a high after hammering 2018 runner-up Joelle King in straight games in the previous round and tested her opponent throughout. However, an immaculate short game ultimately laid the foundations for Blatchford Clyne's triumph and the 27-year-old will play world No.1 Raneem El Welily in the next round.

"It's such a pleasure to be a part of this new group [of US women]," Port Chester-based Blatchford Clyne said afterwards.

"I'm really privileged that I get to train with Natalie Grainger who did so much for US squash when she came and played for us. I definitely see that it's blossoming and I think our biggest goal has to be encouraging girls to come and do this [professional squash] rather than playing recreational squash after college."

Three-time Windy City Open champion Raneem El Welily booked her place in the quarter-finals for a sixth successive edition after beating world No.13 Salma Hany. Hany struggled with a knee injury and never really got going physically as El Welily swept to an 11-6, 11-3, 11-6 victory in just 22 minutes.

In the men's event, Spanish veteran Borja Golan - the oldest player left in the tournament - has reached his first major PSA World Tour quarter-final for three years after the 37-year-old beat Egypt's Youssef Soliman 8-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-9.

Golan's last quarter-final appearance at a PSA Platinum event came at the 2017 Windy City Open. He will once again compete on that stage in Chicago as he locks horns with World Champion Tarek Momen, who defeated Golan's compatriot, Iker Pajares Bernabeu.

"I'm so happy, I don't think this moment is going to come for me again because I'm finishing my squash career," said Golan, who won the Windy City Open in 2013.

"I came into this tournament well-prepared with having the Nationals a few weeks ago and I had a few matches in my legs. I play so well in Chicago, probably because it's a great club, great city and a great crowd. I'm very happy with this win today and with the way I played."

Meanwhile, world No.2 Ali Farag and world No.7 Diego Elias will go head-to-head in a mouth-watering quarter-final contest after they achieved respective wins over world No.17 Omar Mosaad and world No.11 Joel Makin.

Farag, playing his first tournament since losing the world No.1 ranking to fellow Egyptian Mohamed Elshorbagy, prevailed in a crucial tie-break to take the first game, which gave him the platform to progress to an 13-11, 11-5, 11-6 triumph.

"The first game was crucial, I played Omar last week at the Egyptian Nationals and I never feel comfortable against him," Farag said.

"He hits very good straight lines, so it is always a struggle to find a good game plan against him. If I was to lose the first, then I had to put some work into his body, but luckily I was able to win the game, saving three game balls, so that was crucial. Then I ran away with the second, but I started to see the finish line way too soon, and Omar will punish you if you do that."

Elias has been in fine form recently after winning the Motor City Open and reaching the semi-finals of the Canada Cup earlier this month. Against Makin, he displayed the skills that have long seen him heralded as a future contender for the sport's biggest prizes to complete a 12-10, 11-9, 11-8 victory over his in-form opponent, who had beaten him at the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions last month.