Sobhy Bows Out as Rosner and Brown Upset the Odds
Today saw the culmination of the round of sixteen as the quarterfinalists in the bottom of the draw at the Delaware Investments U.S. Open were decided on the glass court at Drexel University’s John A. Daskalakis Athletic Center.
There was an upset in each of the draws as Kasey Brown, the 2011 finalist from Australia who is sponsored by Delaware Investments, beat seventh seed Jenny Duncalf in four games, while in the men’s draw Germany’s Simon Rosner ousted Egyptian eighth seed Tarek Momen.
It was otherwise a good day for the English as Laura Massaro, Nick Matthew, James Willstrop and Peter Barker all progressed, while Malaysia’s Low Wee Wern disappointed the home crowd with a come-from-behind win against the USA’s Amanda Sobhy.
The closest finish of the day came at the end of a quickfire all-Egyptian five-setter between Raneem El Weleily and Omneya Abdel Kawy as Weleily, the second seed, found a fortunate backcourt nick at 10-9 in the decider!
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 6-11, 11-2, 11-9, 11-7 (44m)
Kasey Brown (AUS) bt  Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 11-4, 11-7, 12-10 (41m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [Q] Campbell Grayson (NZL) 11-5, 11-5, 11-6 (36m)
Simon Rosner (GER) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 11-7, 10-12, 11-2, 11-9 (62m)
 Low Wee Wern (MAS) bt Amanda Sobhy (USA) 2-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-5 (40m)
 Raneem El Weleily (EGY) bt Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) 11-7, 5-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-9 (50m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 11-7, 11-9, 11-4 (35m).
 Peter Barker (ENG) bt Joe Lee (ENG) 8-11, 11-2, 11-6, 11-4 (66m)
Massaro Wins a ‘Catfight’
Former world junior champion Nour El Tayeb came out firing from the start of the opening match of the day, taking the play to Laura Massaro and taking a rapid first game, 11-6. Massaro, the second seed and 2011 champion here, was by her own admission ‘terrible’ in that game.
The Englishwoman settled down in the second, drastically reduced her error count, and took the next three games in what she afterwards termed a ‘catfight.’ It was too, with some frantic rallies, winners and errors from both, plenty of fist-pumping and “cmon” cries from both, and a few excursions to the floor by Tayeb, usually in vain.
“I hadn’t played Nour for such a long time, and she took me by surprise in the first,” admitted Massaro. “I was pretty terrible in that game though! After that it turned into a bit of a catfight, I had to really get myself up to stay in it.
“I’m happy to get through that one. Hopefully I can refocus for the quarters now.”
Kasey at Home and Shocks Duncalf
It helped that her opponent, seventh seed Jenny Duncalf, made just as bad a start as her compatriot Laura Massaro admitted to in the previous match, making a series of unforced errors that handed the advantage to Brown.
Duncalf settled after that, taking leads of 4-1 in the second and 5-2 in the third, but Brown, as determined as always, wouldn’t go away and it was the Aussie who almost invariably won any rally that went beyond a few strokes—of which there were plenty.
Brown levelled at 5-all in the second and went on to take it 11-7; caught up at 6-all in the third, and closed it out, 10-7. After a conduct warning for language—at herself out of frustration—Duncalf won the next three points to level, but a powerful drive took Brown to the brink again before a stroke sealed the upset.
“It feels great to be able to pull it out today. I’ve been working on a few things to help me out in tight matches like this, and that certainly helped me pull through at the end.”
Matthew in Charge
Nick Matthew, 2007 U.S. Open champion and finalist here at Drexel two years ago, started off the men’s matches as he took on the only qualifier to make it through to this stage in either draw, New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson.
The Englishman was on top from the start, keeping the pressure on by taking the ball early and volleying at every opportunity, depriving Grayson of time to get settled into the match. Leads of 6-2 in the first and 6-3 in the second were both converted 11-5.
“He’s one of those players who can keep going at the same level for two hours,” said Matthew, “so I knew I had to get on top from the start, and I was pleased with how I did that, but he was still going strong at the end.
“Maybe I let my opponent off the hook a little in the last round, and it became a tough match, so I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again.”
Rosner Squelches Momen
In a clinical opening game, Germany’s Simon Rosner put on a dazzling display of length followed by precise drops to both sides of the court to run out to an early 5-2 lead over Tarek Momen of Egypt. The towering six foot, three inch, German felt the nick repeatedly, particularly on the forehand side. But Rosner’s height also makes it difficult to twist and turn, and that is exactly what Momen was looking for midway through the game as he clawed his way back to 5-6 using a “change of direction” tactic.
Up 8-7, Rosner paired a backhand boast and straight volley drive that ran away from Momen to take him to 9-7. A poor volley tin carried Rosner to game ball and an inch-perfect backhand straight volley drop secured the game, 11-7. The question was whether the Egyptian could force Rosner to work hard enough going forward to take his legs from him.
Despite an early lead in the second, Momen began to capitalize on an injection of pace that forced Rosner to ramp up the work effort. And in an ironic twist, the tactic actually benefitted Rosner even though he dropped a few points. Rosner sweats profusely, plus Momen kept putting his wet hand down on the floor, resulting in repeated breaks for the court to be mopped dry by court attendants. The breaks seemed to allow Rosner to avoid running out of gas and keep attacking. Pair that with two unforced tins by Momen, and Rosner nearly escaped with a two-game lead. Momen, however, ran off four straight points from 8-10 down to draw level.
A very strange third game followed in which Rosner needed just four minutes to slam the door shut on Momen, 11-2. Rather than being deflated by the second game meltdown, Rosner took it to Momen by continuing to attack the front of the court of the volley.
The fourth game was all cat and mouse with Rosner trying to keep the pace down to make his dropshots more effective, and Momen forcing the pace to keep Rosner moving. Back and forth they went through 7-6 to Rosner, but Rosner made three unforced errors after getting to 8-6 to nearly hand the game to Momen.
Another break to dry the court, though, settled the big German down again as he resorted to slow balls tight on the backhand wall followed by straight forehand drops. It worked in spectacular fashion as three points later he was through to the quarterfinals.
“It’s amazing. It’s always my goal to get to the quarters in big tournaments,” said a winded but happy Rosner. “It’s an amazing feeling. I love this tournament and I love coming back here. I felt I had to stay straight with the drop shot. There’s no point in playing to the back if your short game is going so well like mine was today. This is only my second tournament to reach the quarters. I’ve been in the quarters twice in the North American Open, so it seems like I play well in America.”
Wee Wern Turns it Around
It wasn’t a particularly quick game though, just that the Malaysian—despite being in the rallies—was simply failing to cause her opponent any trouble, and would eventually put up a loose ball that Sobhy, moving easily and hitting well, would put away.
That pattern changed from the start of the second though as Low, with Nicol David in her corner, stepped up in the court and dialed up the pace too. It wasn’t a complete turnaround, yet, but now it was the American struggling to keep up more often than not.
Low stayed ahead throughout the second to level 11-6, then got the better of a close third with a trio of winners at the end to take the lead 11-9.
The fourth game was a repeat of the opener, but now it was Low in control with Sobhy unable to make an impact—even her little left-handed flicks at the front, so effective early in the match, were hitting the tin.
Low reached 10-3, hit the tin a couple of times, then Sobhy did the same to finish the match 11-5.
“Playing on the glass court is so different,” said Low, “and if you give Amanda anything loose she’ll punish you.
“I just couldn’t get it past her in the first, but with Nicol giving me advice I started to step up more—playing a bit more like she does! This court is punishing if you get stuck at the back, so I’m glad I was able to change it around.”
Raneem Wins all-Egyptian Shootout
“They both have magic hands,” said Low Wee Wern of her prospective quarterfinal opponents, and boy did Raneem El Weleily and Omneya Abdel Kawy prove that in the last match of the women’s second round.
It was 50 minutes of non-stop action—give or take a few video reviews—with winners and errors coming as fast as the the scoreboard could keep up. There were some extended rallies of course, although not that many in the first four games, which were shared.
Kawy led the way for most of the fifth, with the tension rising and the retrieving becoming more desperate. Weleily levelled at 9-all, then they played a tremendous rally that ended in a desperate lunge and no let for Omneya.
It would have been cruel to see match point come like that, and the video referee gave Omneya a reprieve—which she immediately spurned by hitting the ball back at herself down the middle!
Match ball then and, as if to show that the match could just as well have been decided on the toss of a coin, Weleily’s lob at the end of a tough rally dribbled out of the back corner, to Kawy’s anguish and Weleily’s relief.
“Playing a friend is the hardest thing you can do in a tournament,” said the winner. “I was so nervous, just trying to stop making mistakes, and I was so so lucky in the end.”
Willstrop Quells Gawad
“There’s no easy matches at this stage” is something you’ll often hear, and James Willstrop‘s win against young Egyptian Karim Abdel Gawad fit easily into that category. Three-nil and 35-minutes it might have been, but the second seed had to work very hard to achieve that scoreline.
Willstrop started well and had the edge throughout the first, taking it 11-7, but Gawad stuck with him all through the second, rarely more than a point behind and showing the Drexel crowd some lovely touch and tremendous retrieving skills. Willstrop hit a few tins in the middle of the game to keep Gawad interested, but then advanced to 10-7.
Gawad won two tough points to reach 10-9 and was getting the upper hand in the next rally only to tin with the court wide open for 11-9. That was crucial, we now know, as Willstrop made rapid advances in the third, and quickly had the match wrapped up 11-3.
“It’s such a great event here, the venue is wonderful, it’s a great city to come to, and the Philadelphia crowd is really knowledgeable about their squash.
“For the next round, Simon [Rosner] is another of the gaggle of hungry up and coming players, he’s fast, plays at an intense pace and he’ll be taking the game to me for sure.”
Barker Wears Lee down
“Joe’s fit and strong, he’c coming up the rankings fast and it takes a long time to wear him down these days,” said Peter Barker after the sixth seed had beaten fellow-Englishman Joe Lee to complete the quarterfinal lineup in Philadelphia.
It did too—the first game was brutal, 23 minutes long with long rally after long rally. Lee edged ahead from 4-all but Barker levelled at 8-all. Three more tough rallies but Lee took them all with winning shots to take a well-deserved lead 11-8.
Barker came out with more attacking intent from the outset of the second, and fairly blitzed it 11-2 in just six minutes. The point had been made, and although the next two games were much tougher, Barker was in charge of them, leading early and holding off Lee’s attempts at comebacks.
It finished 11-6, 11-4 in 18 and 15 minutes, and Barker was through to a quarterfinal against another Englishman, Nick Matthew.
“I’m glad everyone stayed to watch, especially after that first game,” he quipped. “It was pretty long and attritional. Joe will be happy with how he played in that one, it’s usually my strength, but I was glad to be able to come back and take the next three.”
Quarterfinals—the top half of the draw—start at 5pm on Tuesday