Sobhy sets up Cleveland showdown with Massaro

Matthew Lombardi reports

There were two additions to play on day four in Cleveland. We are now on-line live with the matches at ubsports.com, and Matthew Lombardi, a writer for ESPN was in town to do a story on Nicol David. While Matthew was at The Cleveland Racquet Club, I asked him for a small favour – How about writing the match reports today! So here it goes:

Tonight’s quarterfinal play at the Tub O’ Towels Cleveland Classic opened with defending champ and world #4 Laura Massaro matched against #14 Australian Donna Urquhart.

The two tall, powerful women were intent on playing at an assertive pace and attacking whenever the opportunity presented itself. To start Massaro got the better of things, jumping out to a 7-0 lead, but a few errors crept into her play, and Urquhart was able to fight back to 8-10 before surrendering a stroke to lose the game.

She carried the momentum into the second and blasted past Massaro with an impressive display of boasting and deception. It looked like the makings of a see-saw battle, but Massaro came out in the third playing more aggressively, got Urquhart on her heels, and never looked back, taking the game 11-6. The fourth was all Massaro, 11-2, as her precise shot-making forced a series of tins out of the Aussie.

Match 2 brought English world #2 Jenny Duncalf to the court against the #24 American, and Harvard freshman, Amanda Sobhy.

Duncalf began with a continuation of the classic English play Massaro had shown in the previous match – moving efficiently, hitting accurate shots, and squeezing errors out of Sobhy to take the first game 11-6. In the second the two started out trading points, then Duncalf seemed to slow a step. That was all Sobhy needed, as she pressed the advantage to take the game 11-5.

Down 1-5 in the third, Duncalf pulled up short on a ball, and it was clear to everyone that she was suffering the effects of the blow to the knee she’d received in the previous round. She stuck it out to drop the game 3-11, then at 1-4 in the fourth offered her hand in concession. It wasn’t the way Sobhy would have wanted to get the biggest scalp of her career, but her own play was rock solid, and she’s likely to give Massaro all she can handle in the semi.

The third match of the night pitted world #3 Madeline Perry against red-hot Egyptian #7 Raneem El Weleily, who was coming off a win at the Greenwich Open a week earlier.

It was a contest of strikingly different temperaments – Perry always on edge as she darted around the court, El Weleily almost nonchalant as volley drops rolled off her racquet. They gave the crowd another display of aggressive squash, trading points to 7-7 in the first before a pair of tins and a loose shot from El Weleily took Perry to game ball. She sealed the deal 11-8 with a beautiful overhand boast.

The next two games were nail-biters. In the second El Weleily jumped to a 9-3 lead but then lost focus; Perry fought back to 9-9, but from there the Egyptian rose to the challenge and finished the game off 11-9.

The third was a similar story, but with a different result: El Weleily again had the early lead but couldn’t hold it; up 12-11, she hit a potential game-winning drop into the tin, and that was the beginning of the end. Perry took the game 14-12, then cruised to an 11-3 win in the fourth. Perry put in a fine performance, but this was a night when, above all else, El Weleily beat herself.

The evening wrapped up with Malaysia’s Nicol David asserting her world #1 stature with an 11-5, 11-6, 11-1 win over #7 Annie Au of Hong Kong.

Au played a stronger match than the score would indicate, frequently using deft flicks and drops to put David under pressure. But David was able to extend the rallies until she could find a decisive advantage and finish the points off.

Now David finds herself two matches away from capturing one of the few titles that eluded her in 2011.


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