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The quarter-finals of the Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family will feature two Americans for the first time in the tournament’s 26-year history after US duo Amanda Sobhy and Olivia Blatchford claimed wins earlier today at the University Club of Chicago.
Boston-based Sobhy, the country’s No.1 player, twice came back from a game behind as she survived a stern test against Hong Kong’s Annie Au, rising to an 7-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-5, 11-7 victory after 51 minutes.
The World No.8 initially struggled as Au’s lob and drop game worked perfectly on a cold court, but a change of ball after the third game worked in the Sobhy’s favour as she ground out the win. Sobhy will take on World No.2 Nouran Gohar for a place in the last four after the Egyptian made short work of Belgium’s Nele Gilis, winning 11-3, 11-3, 11-6 in 24 minutes.
“That was definitely tough, Annie came out firing and I think the ball in the first three games kind of suited her because it was a bit dead and she loves a good lob, drop” said Harvard-graduate Sobhy.
“I think she is possibly the best in the game at the lob, drop game, so I was getting killed a little bit. Thankfully I asked to change the ball, so that helped. Instead of trying to hit the ball hard I had to use the height a bit, so it was almost like I got sucked into playing Annie’s game.
“I just told myself to fight for every point, to hustle, hustle, hustle and fortunately I did that and came out a winner.”
World No.17 Blatchford Clyne also required five games to overcome Egypt’s Nadine Shahin, winning a captivating contest by an 8-11, 11-6, 11-3, 9-11, 11-9 scoreline to reach the quarter-finals of a PSA World Tour Platinum tournament for the first time in her career.
Shahin came into the fixture on a high after hammering 2018 runner-up Joelle King in straight games in the previous round and tested her opponent throughout. However, an immaculate short game ultimately laid the foundations for Blatchford Clyne’s triumph and the 27-year-old will play World No.1 Raneem El Welily in the next round.
“It’s such a pleasure to be a part of this new group [of US women],” Port Chester-based Blatchford Clyne said afterwards.
“I’m really privileged that I get to train with Natalie Grainger who did so much for US squash when she came and played for us. I definitely see that it’s blossoming and I think our biggest goal has to be encouraging girls to come and do this [professional squash] rather than playing recreational squash after college.”
Three-time Windy City Open champion Raneem El Welily booked her place in the quarter-finals for a sixth successive edition after beating World No.13 Salma Hany. Hany struggled with a knee injury and never really got going physically as El Welily swept to an 11-6, 11-3, 11-6 victory in just 22 minutes.