Seventeen-year-old Sabrina Sobhy pulled off the shock of the weekend when she beat her sister for the first time to become the youngest U.S. national champion in the 103 years of the U.S. Squash Championships. On the men’s side, Julian Illingworth tied Demer Holleran’s record of nine national singles titles.
The men’s final led off the morning matches on the McArthur Squash Center’s blue and orange glass court at Boar’s Head Sports Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Brimming with confidence after his highest-ranked career upset against defending U.S. champion Chris Gordon in Saturday’s semifinals, twenty-three-year-old world No. 114 Todd Harrity was in search of his first U.S. national title in his first U.S. nationals final appearance against eight-time U.S. champion Julian Illingworth.
Having defeated Harrity in four games just two weeks earlier in Chicago, thirty-year-old Illingworth continued his momentum in the fixture to defeat Harrity in three games 11-7, 11-4, 11-7.
Despite the final loss, recently-turned-professional Harrity leaves Charlottesville with many positives.
“I’m really happy with my performance this tournament, it’s been really good for me. It’s all of the little things I’m trying to improve and focus on like getting that much tighter and efficient, making my short game closer and sharper.”
With some recent injury problems, including during his 2013 SL Green semifinal exit, Illingworth was pleased to stay fit while matching a national record.
“It’s a good feeling tying Demer’s record, ” Illingworth said. “I didn’t really come into the tournament with super high expectations. I saw Todd playing really well yesterday taking out Chris. I was pretty happy to see Todd win—also sad for Chris—but in my own mind, I thought I would have a better chance because Todd had a tough match and would be on a high. I thought it’d be tough for him to replicate that performance.
“It was really tough though, he was controlling things really well. I had a few breaks, he hit a few tins here and there, and I was lucky to get through in three. I’m not sure my fitness would have held up too much longer actually. Very excited and sort of relieved.”
The ensuing women’s final came down between Sobhy sisters Amanda and Sabrina. One-time U.S. champion and world No. 17 Amanda aimed to end her season on a high after another personal undefeated college season with Harvard University, winning three professional titles in 2013, and winning her third College Squash Association individual title and largest prize money professional title in the last week alone.
The twenty-year-old Harvard junior’s fatigue from a strenuous season and week was apparent, however, helping younger sister Sabrina—defending U.S. Junior national and open champion—to take full advantage of her older sister.
Take advantage the seventeen-year-old did as she powered to a three game 11-7, 11-8, 11-7 victory, becoming the youngest U.S. national champion ever in claiming her first-ever victory against her older sister.
Exhausted after the match, the elder Sobhy vowed to never lose to her again.
“It was always bound to happen, but I wish it didn’t happen this early, ” Amanda said. “Watch out Beans, because you’re never going to win again! I’m just happy that there was at least another Sobhy to win the title and not someone else, so at least the Sobhy name stays in line.”
It’s been a great few months, there’s obviously been some ups and downs. She played really well. I think she capitalized on my tiredness from the past couple of weeks, but all credit to her. I tried, but it wasn’t enough.”
A humble Sabrina admitted she was just as surprised as everyone else.
“Honestly I went in there thinking Amanda was going to win, ” Sabrina said. “She’s had amazing results the past two weekends, and I’m just as shocked as all of you. I know she was tired after the past couple of weeks keeping up with school and squash while winning tournaments. It’s great to see her be able to go from one tournament to another, to another.”
At twenty and seventeen years of age respectively, Amanda will surely have another opportunity to avenge her loss to Sabrina in what has already become one of the most engrossing rivalries the highest level of U.S. squash has seen. Long may it continue.
Stay tuned to ussquash.com for more reports and images from other U.S. national singles age-division brackets. To view all results from the weekend, visit the 2014 U.S. Masters Squash Championships tournament page.