Day TWO : Quartet of Round Two upsets

Four upsets in Round Two as Sivasangari Subramaniam, Satomi Watanabe, Emily Whitlock and Patrick Rooney take out seeds to reach the quarter-finals …

Manchester Open 2023 : DAY TWO, ROUND TWO

Men’s Round Two
[1] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-1 Iker Pajares (Esp)  5-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-9 (50m)
Patrick Rooney (Eng) 3-2 [5] Youssef Soliman (Egy)  9-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-2, 11-9 (73m)
[6] Fares Dessouky (Egy) 3-0 Omar Mosaad (Egy)  11-7, 12-10, 11-3 (36m)
[4] Joel Makin (Wal) 3-0 Aly Abou Eleinen (Egy)  11-3, 11-2, 11-9 (47m)
[3] Victor Crouin (Fra) 3-1 Saurav Ghosal (Ind)  11-4, 7-11, 11-5, 11-5 (43m)
[8] Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy) 3-0 Todd Harrity (Usa)  11-9, 11-9, 11-9 (35m)
[7] Nicolas Mueller (Sui) 3-0 Greg Lobban (Sco)  11-6, 11-8, 12-10 (34m)
[2] Tarek Momen (Egy) 3-0 Leonel Cardenas (Mex)  11-7, 11-6, 11-4 (29m)

Women’s Round Two
[1] Joelle King
(Nzl) 3-2 Jasmine Hutton (Eng)  11-4, 11-7, 7-11, 8-11, 11-2 (51m)
[7] Nele Gilis (Bel) 3-1 Yathreb Adel (Egy)  8-11, 11-2, 11-5, 11-8 (44m)
[8] Tesni Evans (Wal) 3-0 Nada Abbas (Egy)  11-9, 11-7, 11-4 (29m)
Satomi Watanabe (Jpn) 3-2 [4] Sarah-Jane Perry (Eng)  11-7, 6-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9 (60m)
[3] Nour El Tayeb (Egy) 3-0 Farida Mohamed (Egy)  11-6, 11-7, 11-2 (21m)
Sivasangari Subramaniam
(Mas) 3-1 [5] Rowan Elaraby (Egy)  11-9, 12-10, 9-11, 11-9 (42m)
[6] Gina Kennedy (Eng) 3-0 Nadine Shahin (Egy)  11-5, 11-3, 11-8 (20m)
Emily Whitlock (Wal) 3-0 [2] Amanda Sobhy (Usa)  11-2, 1-0 rtd (8m)

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Evening Roundup

Watanabe takes out Perry as Gilis Fights Past Adel

Sivasangari Subramaniam (Mas) 3-1 [5] Rowan Elaraby (Egy)  11-9, 12-10, 9-11, 11-9 (42m)
[7] Nele Gilis (Bel) 3-1 Yathreb Adel (Egy)  8-11, 11-2, 11-5, 11-8 (44m)

Japan’s Satomi Watanabe is through to the quarter finals in Manchester after getting the better of England’s Sarah-Jane Perry, the World No.10, in a five-game contest.

The duo were doing battle on Tour for the first time, and it was the Japanese No.1, who made history by becoming the first player from the nation to break into the world’s top 20 earlier this month, who took the early lead.

She would go on to lead 2-1 after the pair exchanged games, and Watanabe then led 7-3 in the fourth. The Englishwoman, buoyed on by the home crowd, was able to fight back, though, and came through to win the fourth.

Watanabe then saw Perry save three match balls from 10-6 in the fifth, but the Japanese star was able to take the fourth match ball, winning the deciding game 11-9 to book her quarter final place where she will play either Welsh No.1 Tesni Evans or Egypt’s Nada Abbas.

“It was my first time playing SJ in an actual match on Tour, she is very talented and experienced. At the end, I was really struggling to keep concentrating, because it was so nervewracking even though I was 10-6 up. I am so happy to close it out like this!” Watanabe said.

“I was expecting the crowd to be more on her said because it’s her home here in England, but I was really happy that some of you supported me, so thank you! I really enjoyed the atmosphere and I am glad that I can be on this court again.

“Tesni  is really talented. We have played a lot in practice, and she is insane. Nada [Abbas] is one of the fastest women on court. I am looking forward to playing either on of them tomorrow!”

Over on Court G2, Belgium’s Nele Gilis had to fight from behind to defeat Egypt’s Yathreb Adel at the National Squash Centre.

The pair had met three times before, with Gilis winning the most recent of those, in December’s Everbright Securities International Hong Kong Squash Open. It was Adel that got off to the quick start in this contest in Manchester, though.

The Egyptian, who has been as high as World No.13, won the opening game 11-8. However, from there, Gilis was able to play her attacking game. She allowed the Egyptian to score just seven points across the next two games, before taking a tight fourth game 11-8 to move through to the last eight.

“Yathreb is one of the most talented players on tour. Anything loose in the middle she punished me, the court is quite dead so anything loose in the middle she was so severe,” Gilis said.
“I managed to finally get the ball past her and lift it slightly to move in front. I’m just very thankful I took the fourth game, she was coming back at me and I was getting edgy and she was just firing it in and like I said she’s so dangerous.
“I feel good, I feel like I’ve played my best season so far. Reaching the top 10 for the first time was a big goal of mine and there’s been other things that have exceeded my expectations too. I know a lot of players are tired from the season and want it to end but I’m already looking forward to the next one.”

Farag and Crouin Both Win In Four

[1] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-1 Iker Pajares (Esp)  5-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-9 (50m)
[3] Victor Crouin (Fra) 3-1 Saurav Ghosal (Ind)  11-4, 7-11, 11-5, 11-5 (43m)

Four-time World Champion Ali Farag had to come from behind to overcome the challenge of Spanish No.1 Iker Pajares Bernabeu, battling back after losing the opening game.

The Egyptian secured his fourth World crown in Chicago just seven days ago, and he was flat in the opening game of his first match after that triumph. Pajares took full control of the opening game, winning it 11-5.

The World No.4 fought back strongly, though. As expected, he started to put his stamp on the contest, and won the second game 11-6. The Spaniard was then in control in the third, and had four game balls at 10-6. However, Farag saved all four, and then won the next two points to take the game 12-10.

A tight fourth game also went the way of the four-time World Champion, and it is Farag who advances to the quarter finals in Manchester.

“I am very proud to get through today. Iker played well and started really well. He is very solid and he gets a lot of balls back. He never gives you any errors, you have to earn every point and that is not easy because of how quick he is,” Farag said.

“His length game is also very good so it is not easy to get in front of him and impose your own game. I knew I was going to be a bit flat after the past couple of months. The build-up of pressure at the Worlds, the pressure kept on getting higher and then once the tournament, the pressure balloon is completely deflated and you have to build it back up again from the beginning.

“I have spoken to Mohamed [ElShorbagy] about it because it has happened to both of us after winning the World Championships before, and I was prepared for it. I came early and warmed up well but Iker didn’t give me a chance to get into the match. I am very proud to get through despite the circumstances.”

Frenchman Victor Crouin, the tournament’s No.3 seed, got the better of Indian No.1 Saurav Ghosal in a well-contested four-game contest on Thursday evening.

Crouin won the opening game comfortably, but Ghosal fought back, showing the Frenchman that it would not be easy for him. The Indian won the second game 11-7 to level up the match.

From there, though, Crouin took control of the match. He dropped just five points in each of the next two games to continue his good form, and to reach the quarter finals of the Manchester Open.

“The draw is packed this week, everyone wants to get the points on the board as the events come to an end. I’m trying to secure a spot in the World Tour Finals and that’s my first win against Saurav [Ghosal]. He was one of those players that I hadn’t got a win against so I was looking to get that. I have a lot of respect for him, I was looking forward to an enjoyable match and I got that,” Crouin said after his win.
“We both are smaller guys, we’ve both made it to the top 10, we both have strengths that got us there and for sure we’re trying to focus on accuracy rather than pure power and strength. It’s another aspect of our games that make it enjoyable for both us and the crowd.
“We’re nearing the end of the season and I feel a bit tired but I think it’s not necessarily how many events you play but it’s how far you go in them. Travelling is ok for me but if you’re playing multiple tough matches back to back it takes its toll on the mind and body.”

Defending Champion King and Wales’ Evans Into Quarter Finals

[1] Joelle King (Nzl) 3-2 Jasmine Hutton (Eng)  11-4, 11-7, 7-11, 8-11, 11-2 (51m)
[8] Tesni Evans (Wal) 3-0 Nada Abbas (Egy)  11-9, 11-7, 11-4 (29m)

New Zealand’s Joelle King got her title defence underway at this year’s Manchester Open with a tough victory over England’s Jasmine Hutton.

The Kiwi is a two-time winner of this tournament, having been victorious in both 2019 and 2022, and it looked like she was getting her campaign off to a relatively comfortable start, winning the opening two games of this match within 20 minutes.

The Englishwoman fought back brilliantly though, and would go on to level the match, winning both the third and fourth games. However, a quick start from the Kiwi saw her take a five-point lead, and she would go on to win the fifth comfortably, to advance to the last eight once again in Manchester.

“Obviously, first of all, credit to Jazz. Even when I was 2-0 up and I had a bit of a cushion in the third, she came back fighting. I think I started to feel better towards the end, like Ali [Farag] said about a bit of flatness coming from the World Champs,” King said.

If you enter a tournament, you show up to try and win it. Even when it was 2-2, I tried to think about the mental side more than anything. Mentally, I was a bit in and out and Jazz took full advantage. So I am happy to get through!

“You have about a month or six weeks to plan what you’re going to play. Sometimes, you don’t know how you’re going to feel. That is what life on tour is about. it is not just one tournament, it is about backing it up time and time again. That’s what sets the top players apart, those who back it up again.

“Obviously, it is nice to defend titles, but for me it is just enjoying tournaments, and trying to win as many as I can before I finish. that is quite a healthy relationship to have with the sport. I don’t think about rankings any more, I am just trying to make the most of every opportunity.”

On Court G2, Welsh No.1 Tesni Evans came through a tough test against Egypt’s Nada Abbas, winning in straight games to advance to the last eight.

The pair were playing for the second time in three months, with Abbas having won their second round encounter at the DAC Pro Classic back in February.

There would be no repeat of that result in Manchester though, as Evans was in control throughout the contest. She won in straight games to book her quarter final spot.

“We only played in February and she beat me. There’s no secret that I love playing here and especially on this court and I was really excited to put in a good performance,” the Welshwoman said.
“I normally get caught up in what my opponent can do and not what I can do. I make the mistake of going quite passive and not going short and attacking as much as I should but I thought I found the right balance today.
“I don’t know what it is about Manchester but I love playing here and can’t wait for another chance to play out on that court again tomorrow night.”

Rooney Comes from two down to win, Dessouky overcomes Mosaad

Patrick Rooney (Eng) 3-2 [5] Youssef Soliman (Egy)  9-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-2, 11-9 (73m)
[6] Fares Dessouky (Egy) 3-0 Omar Mosaad (Egy)  11-7, 12-10, 11-3 (36m)

England’s Patrick Rooney came from two games down to overcome No.5 seed Youssef Soliman and to move through to the quarter finals of this year’s Manchester Open.

Rooney made the semis of this competition last year in his breakout performance on Tour, but it looked like he would suffer an early exit this year. He led in both of the opening two games, but Soliman’s grit and determination saw the Egyptian fight back to take both and hold a 2-0 advantage.

However, buoyed by the home crowd, the Englishman was able to stay in the contest. He won a tight third game 11-9, before then cruising to the fourth to send the match into a deciding game. The fifth could have gone either way, but Rooney took it to the delight of the home fans, and he will now face four-time World Champion Ali Farag on Friday night.

“It was tough! I thought I was playing well in the first two, I had two good leads. Coach [David] Campion kept telling me to keep with it, I was playing well. It was frustrating to lose those games, but I am proud of myself for keeping my concentration, because it took a lot of digging in,” Rooney said.

“I am the one on the comeback, so it was about keeping a level head. Keeping myself.. About the stoppages, I had the momentum and he was just trying to reset. I had to not think about what he was doing, think about the next point and all that stuff.

“Ali has no chance, has he! I play well for some reason on this court, I don’t know why. I have never played Ali on before, there is no pressure on me. I am just looking forward to the challenge and see what I can do!”

In the last match of the day on Court G2, Fares Dessouky downed compatriot Omar Mosaad in an all-Egyptian contest.

After Dessouky claimed the opening game, the second then went to a tie-break. Both men had their chances to take it, but it was eventually Dessouky that claimed the second 12-10.

That was crucial for the tournament’s No.6 seed, who went on to drop just three points in the third game, closing out the victory in three to reach the last eight.

Afternoon Roundup

Subramaniam stuns Elaraby, El Tayeb eases through

[3] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 3-1 Farida Mohamed (EGY)  11-6, 11-7, 11-2 (21m)
Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS) 3-1 [5] Rowan Elaraby (EGY)  11-9, 12-10, 9-11, 11-9 (42m)

In the first matches of the day, Malaysia’s Sivasangari Subramaniam shocked No.5 seed Rowan Elaraby of Egypt to set up a quarter final clash with Nour El Tayeb, who recorded a comfortable win over compatriot Farida Mohamed.

Going into their match, Subramaniam had lost her last two encounters against the World No.11, with Elaraby beating the Malaysian No.3 – who has missed a large chunk of the season after a serious traffic accident last summer – 3-0 in their most recent match, which came less than two weeks ago in the second round of the PSA World Championship.

Despite Elaraby’s record, it was the World No.40 who looked the more confident player today. The 24-year-old attacked well and forced a number of errors from Elaraby as she took the first game 11-9 in eight minutes.

Subramaniam continued to dominate in the second, with her attacks at the front proving a particularly effective weapon. Although the Malaysian had a wobble in confidence when she made two errors at 10-7 up to waste three game balls, she eventually converted 12-10 to take a crucial 2-0 lead.

Elaraby, buoyed by forcing an unlikely tie break in game two, came back well in an even third game and reduced the deficit with an 11-9 win. However, the 22-year-old was unable to keep up the momentum, and Subramaniam, after seeing three match balls saved, dragged herself over the line and into the third round with an 11-9 victory.

After the match, Subramaniam said: “It feels good. I played Rowan in Manchester [in 2021] and got a good win against her. So having lost her to her two weeks ago in Chicago, I felt more prepared and happy today and I’m happy to be progressing so well. The last two tournaments were not that good because I put too much pressure on myself but I think I just went in to enjoy it.

“When we played at the World Champs it was different so I had a different game plan today, the court suited me really well today and I think today was my day. Rowan is a fighter and I’m just happy to win in four.”

On the first match on Glass Court One, No.3 seed El Tayeb enjoyed the smoothest of routes through to the quarters as she breezed past Mohamed.

Both players moved well in a flowing encounter, but El Tayeb never looked in danger.

The 30-year-old was in control throughout, placing the ball well and keeping Mohamed moving all over the court as she took a rapid-fire victory 3-0: 11-6, 11-7, 11-2.

“It went better than any plan. I think to win, play well and win in three is good,” El Tayeb said. “Siva is one of my favourite players. I like her style a lot and I’m not surprised, they’re both playing very well.”

Spectacular Momen through in three, Mueller sees off Lobban

[7] Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-0 Greg Lobban (SCO) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 12-10 (34m)
[2] Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-0 Leonel Cardenas (MEX) 3-0: 11-7, 11-6, 11-4 (29m)

In the second set of matches, men’s No.2 seed Tarek Momen was in immaculate form to beat Mexico’s Leonel Cardenas, while Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller beat Greg Lobban of Scotland.

Momen, who beat Cardenas 3-2 in the second round of this year’s World Championship, looked in fine form throughout after an uneven start to game one. The 35-year-old, back at the Manchester Open after a three-year absence, took the game to the Mexican No.1 well and played efficient, error-free squash to quickly take a 2-0 lead after 11-7, 11-6 wins.

Momen continued to play some of his best squash in the third, with the World No.7 able to see out the match in three with an 11-4 win to progress.

“I thought it was a good start. I arrived quite late yesterday and was on edge, thinking I might not be as sharp as I want to be. But thankfully I managed to get a hit two hours ago on the glass and that got things going,” Momen said afterwards.

“I had a good start, maybe a few errors in the first game, but throughout the match I think I executed my gameplan quite well and it’s a match I’m happy with.”

On Glass Court Two, Mueller avenged his World Championship defeat to Lobban as he made a rapid start to the match, taking the first seven points of game one on the way to an 11-6 win. The ‘Swiss Rocket’ continued to dominate in the second game and took a 2-0 lead thanks to an 11-8 victory.

Lobban appeared to have clawed his way back into the match when he had three game balls at 10-7 in the third game. Mueller, however, saw each one off calmly as he scored five unanswered points to reach the quarter final, where he’ll take on Momen.

Afterwards, Mueller said: “I’m very, very pleased with the way I played this match. He beat me last week at the Worlds, so I wanted to get my revenge. I had a good start at 7-0 and that helped with the confidence. I was down in the third and came back and was very relieved to win that one.

“It’s a lot of events, I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the season, I have El Gouna next and then German league finals. I’m still enjoying it so hopefully I can put on a good show tomorrow. Accuracy is the name of the game against Tarek. If you’re not accurate you’ll be doing a lot of moving. It’s all about hitting your targets.”

Kennedy gets first home win of the day, Whitlock through after Sobhy injury

[6] Gina Kennedy (ENG) 3-0 Nadine Shahin (EGY)  11-5, 11-3, 11-8 (20m)
Emily Whitlock (WAL) 3-0 [2] Amanda Sobhy (USA)  11-2, 1-0 rtd(8m)

Gina Kennedy was the first English winner on day two as she powered past Egypt’s Nadine Shahin to reach the quarter final, where she’ll play Wales’ Emily Whitlock, who was 1-0 up against No.2 seed Amanda Sobhy before the American was forced to retire injured.

Kennedy was at her best in today’s clash against an improved Shahin. The English No.1 came out flying, testing Shahin’s retrievals with relentless energy and good shot selection as she took a 2-0 lead after 11-5, 11-3 wins. In a tough third game, Kennedy was able to hold out to book her place in the quarters with just 20 minutes spent on court after an 11-8 win.

After the match, Kennedy said: “I’m really happy. Nadine’s such a dangerous player, as you saw. She gets so many balls back and has so many options, so it’s really hard to read her. I’m really pleased to be off in three and it’s really sharpened me up, so I’m really happy with that.

“It’s awful [to hear about the injury to] Amanda. It also happened in Cleveland when we were due to play each other and she retired. We were talking about how, if we both got through, we were looking forward to a good match. But Whitlock and I have been drawn against each other in loads of tournaments this season, a few draw changes have meant we’ve avoided it but she loves this glass court and it’s going to be really tough.”

On Glass Court Two, Sobhy’s Manchester Open was cut short due to an injury, with the World No.5 retiring hurt when 1-0 down to the World No.21.

Defending champion Makin safely through, Gawad comes through Harrity test

[4] Joel Makin (Wal) 3-0 Aly Abou Eleinen (Egy) 11-3, 11-2, 11-9 (47m)
[8] Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy) 3-0 Todd Harrity (Usa) 11-9, 11-9, 11-9 (35m)

In the final matches of the afternoon session, Welsh defending champion Joel Makin beat Egypt’s Aly Abou Eleinen, while last week’s World Championship runner up Karim Abdel Gawad of Egypt saw off a spirited challenge from USA’s Todd Harrity.

In an exhausting 17-minute first game on Glass Court One, Makin was able to assert himself better against Eleinen. Despite both men taking up high court positions, it was Makin who was happier to play more aggressively, with the Welshman hitting numerous volleys while Eleinen struggled to get on the front foot.

After taking the first game 11-3, Makin won the second more comfortably, needing just nine minutes to earn a commanding 2-0 lead after an 11-2 win. The third game, though, was a less straightforward affair for the Welshman. Eleinen gave a good account of himself as he tested Makin with a higher-tempo strategy.

The World No.10, however, was able to keep himself in front, wrapping up the match with an 11-9 victory to progress in three games.

“I wanted to be quite aggressive, step forward and play at a good pace,” he said afterwards. “The start has to be elongated against someone as dangerous as him. I played him in a practice match not long ago and he went 2-1 up against me very quickly, so I know how dangerous he is and I really had to be switched on tactically.

“I know it may have looked one-sided, but if I’d started trading with him, counter dropping too much, trickles going in, he’d have been right back in it, so you’ve got to close him down and keep those straight lines to keep on top of him.

“It doesn’t feel any different [coming here as defending champion]. I’m trying to win all of the events. I haven’t done over the last couple of weeks but that’s the intent every time you come to an event like this, you want to try and win it. I’ve been happy with my form here over the last few years, reaching a final and winning another, but it’s a new week and there’s a lot of high-ranked players, with a World Champion here.”

On Glass Court Two, Harrity continued his impressive form that saw him cruise past Ramit Tandon in the first round. The American looked the sharper of the pair early in game one as he took an 8-4 lead after a number of tight, accurate drives.

Gawad, however, soon began to feel his way into the game, eventually reeling in Harrity before taking the opener 11-9. The No.8 seed was pushed hard again in the second game, with World No.45 Harrity able to stay within touching distance throughout as both men struggled to put runs of points together.

At 9-9, however, Gawad was able to get the momentum he needed, and he took a 2-0 lead with a second consecutive 11-9 win.

The Egyptian stormed ahead in the third game as he looked to get off court quickly and seemed well set to record a 3-0 win with four match balls at 10-6. Harrity, however, clung on brilliantly to give Gawad an awkward time. The American, playing with real freedom, chased everything down that ‘the Assassin’ could throw at him and saved three match balls to pile the pressure on Gawad.

The 32-year-old, however, was able to make his final match ball count, and the World No.12 had Harrity desperately scrambling around the court before finishing with a volley that was just out of reach as the American charged towards the back.

Afterwards, Gawad said: “It feels good to be back on court, I played very good squash last week and in the tournaments before and I’m looking to keep this up for this event and the rest of the season for sure.

“Todd played very well today. He dominated most of the match but I was the one trying to get back in the scoreline, he was leading for a lot and I managed to come back. He played good squash today, I was looking forward to it and I’m happy to get through.

“My goal is to win the tournament but I just want to play my best squash and hopefully the win will come.”