England’s World No.26 Patrick Rooney took out No.2 seed Marwan ElShorbagy in the biggest win of his career to date to reach the quarter finals of the Manchester Open, taking place at the National Squash Centre.
24-year-old Rooney was forced to battle his way from 2-1 down against World No.7 ElShorbagy, but found himself buoyed on by the home crowd to claim a thrilling five-game victory in 59 minutes at the PSA World Tour Silver event.
“That’s my biggest scalp to date,” said Rooney afterwards. “Going in today, I didn’t think I was out of depth, I thought I could win. I tried my best to play good squash and had a good first game. I lost my length a bit in the second and third and you can’t do that against a player that good and he put me away for it. But I managed to regain my composure and get back in it.
“The tempo felt quite comfortable all the way through that. We’re both really good at controlling the ball and controlling the middle, so whenever either of us play a loose shot it felt under pressure immediately. It was back and forth the whole way through. I’m just happy to keep it together towards the end.”
Up next for Rooney will be Germany’s Raphael Kandra after he got the better of France’s Lucas Serme on glass court two at the National Squash Centre to advance to the last eight.
The shocks to the seedings continued to come in the men’s draw with veteran Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet, who has said he will retire at the end of the season, besting India’s World No.17 Saurav Ghosal in straight-games.
Castagnet, known for his attritional style, got to work on narrowing down the angles of Ghosal and keeping the Indian buried in the back corners to take the first game 11-9 in 15 minutes.
“I’m so happy to be through,” said Castagnet afterwards. “Saurav is such a good player. He’s still struggling a bit with an injury, so he wasn’t completely at his best. I just tried to keep my focus and not let him move me around. So overall happy to be through.”
Castagnet will come up against former World No.1 Karim Abdel Gawad for a place in the semi-finals after the Egyptian defeated USA’s Shahjahan Khan earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, the tournament top seed Mohamed ElShorbagy navigated his way through a tricky second round encounter with France’s Victor Crouin.
The pair had only met once on Tour before, with Crouin yet to take a game from the Egyptian, but he did so to start this match, as he hit great line and length and stayed in front of the former World No.1.
ElShorbagy bounced back quickly, to win the second 11-3, but he then had to battle his way through the third game, saving game balls en route to a tie-break victory, which he took 14-12. The ‘Beast of Alexandria’ was then able to clinch the spoils, winning the fourth 11-6 to book his spot in the quarter finals, where he will face good friend and training partner Eain Yow Ng.
“It definitely has not been the best season in my career,” the World No.3 said afterwards. “I came here and I had to change my mentality, to enjoy the game again, and to remember why I play the game. Because I have won so much in my career, when I started losing, I forgot why I play the sport, so once I got too excited at the beginning of the match, you forget how you want to play.”
In the women’s draw, England’s Jasmine Hutton led the upsets to the seedings on an entertaining day of action as she axed No.5 seed Nadine Shahin to set up an all-English quarter final with Sarah-Jane Perry.
Hutton was slightly slow off the mark as Shahin thundered drives and kills past the Englishwoman to take the first game 11-8. Hutton responded in style, however, as she started to twist and turn the Egyptian leaving her struggling to come up with a response as she went on to claim one of the biggest wins of her career.
“I started very frantically in the first game and just got completely dragged into playing her style. I tried to mix it up and slow it down because she likes to hit really hard and fast and she was just all over me at times.
“Once I got myself in front, I started to feel a lot better and confident and I’m just really happy to be through to a quarter final. I did well at the British Open, but this feels like more of a breakthrough because it’s the quarter finals.”
Her opponent in the last eight will be top seed Perry after she battled her way past Egypt’s Yathreb Adel to come from a game down to advance in her first match at the National Squash Centre after receiving a bye in round one.
“I was so patchy today. Sometimes, when you’re playing someone as skilful as Yathreb, if you can get on top of them and keep that pressure on, you can start to run away with it,” Perry said.
“Unfortunately, I was too patchy and she is too good to let that happen. You saw anytime I didn’t put that ball in the corner, she was just slotting it away. More than anything, I am just happy to get through that.”
Azman secured her place in the last 16 after receiving a walkover due to Scotland’s Georgia Adderley being forced to withdraw before the PSA Silver event got started. And the Malaysian made the most of her extra day of preparation as she fought her way back from 2-0 down to set up a quarter final match with No.2 seed Joelle King.
“I started really slowly in that match,” said Azman afterwards. “Because I was expecting to play yesterday and then didn’t end up playing it kind of threw me slightly. But I’m overall happy that I managed to get back to game plan and get over the line.”
“Sometimes, you just have to find a way to win, you know. As we have seen this week, a lot of players who have come straight from the World Doubles have either got some kind of injury, or are just mentally exhausted,” King said.
“We watch all these youngsters coming up the ladder. Aifa won a Bronze event not so long ago and beat a number of top ten players. I played her earlier this year in Washington and I got the win there but tomorrow is another day. They’re all hungry, nipping at our heels and I am sure she will be a tough opponent.”
The quarter finals of the Manchester Open begin tomorrow (April 15). The top half of the draw will be in action and play begins at 14:00 (BST). All of the matches will be shown live on SQUASHTV.