Sobhy Downs Blatchford Clyne in All-American Battle
United States No.1 Amanda Sobhy overcame the country’s No.2 player, Olivia Blatchford Clyne, in Chicago’s Union Station to prevail in an all-American battle in round two of the 2018-2019 PSA World Championships presented by the Walter Family.
This season’s PSA World Championships offers up the biggest prize money in the tournament’s history – with $1 million split equally between the men’s and women’s events – and Sobhy will now carry US hopes on her shoulders after coming back from a game down to beat Team USA teammate Blatchford Clyne.
Sobhy had won five of their six PSA Tour meetings, with Blatchford’s sole win coming at the 2017 Ciudad de Floridablanca after a ruptured achilles saw Sobhy forced to retire. Blatchford Clyne started the brighter of the pair to take the opener, but World No.10 Sobhy fought back to claim an 6-11, 11-7, 11-1, 11-6 victory in 34 minutes.
“It’s never easy playing your teammate,” said 25-year-old Sobhy.
“64 players in the draw and of course you draw your teammate. We’ve grown up playing against each other and it’s never easy. She had no pressure on her and I probably had a bit more pressure on me and she came out firing.
“It was a bit more dead tonight then it was last night, I think the temperature has dropped quite a bit, so it was a bit of a lob-drop game and not very many long rallies, but I’m really happy to get through and make it through to the next round.”
Sobhy will play two-time World Champion Nour El Sherbini in the last 16.
El Sherbini, the World No.2, was in formidable form to see off Australia’s Christine Nunn, winning 11-2, 11-4, 11-6 to reach round three.
The Egyptian will look to extend her two-match winning streak over the American and has won five of their eight PSA matches, with Sobhy’s last win against the 23-year-old coming at the 2016 Hong Kong Open.
“I needed to make sure that I played my game and got used to the court more,” El Sherbini said.
“We’re playing in a new venue, so you try to get used to everything. It’s a new experience when there are train announcements while playing, and it’s important for me to prepare with a good game plan and get better match after match.”
Reigning champion Raneem El Welily also booked her place in the next round after beating fellow Egyptian Hania El Hammamy and she will take on England’s Alison Waters for a place in the quarter-finals.
Elsewhere, Malaysia’s legendary Nicol David – an eight-time World Champion – kept her title hopes alive at what will be her final World Championships after a dominant display saw the 35-year-old defeat World No.22 Millie Tomlinson in straight games. The former World No.1 will line up against France’s Camille Serme in the next round after Serme overcame Scotland’s Lisa Aitken at the University Club of Chicago.
In the men’s event, World No.1 and defending champion Mohamed ElShorbagy continued his title defence with a 3-1 win over Mexico’s Cesar Salazar. The Mexican – who defeated twin brother, Arturo, yesterday – got off to the perfect start against the defending World Champion as he denied ElShorbagy two opportunities to take the lead.
However, the momentum swung in the favour of the Egyptian in the second and he stayed ahead throughout the rest of the match to book his place in the third round where he will take on Hong Kong’s Leo Au.
“He has beaten me once before, so he’s obviously someone who knows how to beat me and I knew it was going to be tough from the first point,” said ElShorbagy.
“Anything can happen and I knew with Cesar today that since he beat me before, my turn could have been today. I felt sharper than yesterday and sometimes when you get harder matches at the start of the tournament, it can make you sharper.”
World No.2 Ali Farag – who will overtake ElShorbagy at the summit of the PSA World Rankings on March 1 – will join his fellow Egyptian in the last 16 after he eased past World Junior Champion Mostafa Asal, beating the 17-year-old 11-1, 11-4, 11-2.
Farag will line up against another Egyptian, Mazen Hesham, in the third round, with Hesham ending the run of World No.10 Diego Elias’s conqueror, Adrian Waller.
“He’s the World Junior Champion for a reason,” said 26-year-old Farag following his win.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence coming off the back of the British Junior Open and I had to be on my metal from the first point. We played in Cairo and it was not easy at all, especially in the second game. He had multiple game balls, so I knew what to expect and I had to be solid from the very beginning.”
At MetroSquash, Youssef Soliman – the World No.33 who scalped World No.5 Karim Abdel Gawad yesterday – saw his giant-killing run come to an end after he fell in five games to Welshman Joel Makin.
Meanwhile, 2010 runner-up James Willstrop and World No.7 Miguel Rodriguez will meet in a mouthwatering encounter at Union Station tomorrow after they beat Frenchman Victor Crouin and Scotland’s Alan Clyne, respectively, at the University Club of Chicago.