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Sobhy Stuns Defending Champion El Welily at Tournament of Champions

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Team USA’s 2015 triple-Pan Am Games Gold medal-winning hero Amanda Sobhy pulled off the biggest win of her career, and arguably one of the most significant triumphs in the history of US Squash, as she eliminated defending champion and World No.2 Raneem El Welily in the second round of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions – the prestigious PSA World Series tournament currently taking place in her home city of New York.

16TC27517El Welily, who held the World No.1 mantle from September to December, was a hot favorite to retain the title she won in convincing fashion twelve months ago. Sobhy, who only transitioned to life as a full time pro last summer after completing a degree in Social Anthropology at Harvard, was 0-6 against the Egyptian going into this evening’s match. Undaunted, the two-time US national champion played fearless squash under the majestic chandeliers of Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall, and in front of a capacity crowd that was decidedly in her favor.

“I’m a little shocked to be honest because the last three times we’ve played it has not gone well for me at all and to get the win today was way above what I expected,” said Sobhy, who came into the tournament ranked no. 8 in the world, her highest to date. “I knew I had nothing to lose against her, and I couldn’t have done any worse than the last time we played in Hong Kong (when Sobhy lost 3-0 in 22 minutes) so I just went out there and tried to stick to the game plan. I had to go out of my comfort zone and mix up the pace to get her on the back foot and I’m very, very pleased that it paid off.”

16TC28185“It’s definitely one of, if not the single, biggest wins of my career. She’s a phenomenal player, she won here last year and she’s been World No.1. I felt relaxed and knew I had my coach, my friends and the crowd behind me so I was excited to go in there and do my best.”

Sobhy jumped out quickly to win the first game, and despite losing the second, dominated the rest of the match, using her strength to consistently hit the ball into the back corners to take away El Welily’s trademark shotmaking game. The Long Island native also attacked every loose ball to complete a 3-1 victory in 40 minutes and send the New York crowd into raptures.

“I was nervous when we played here last year, which was the only time I took a game off her, but I wasn’t nervous tonight,” added the 22-year-old who currently trains in Boston under the guidance of former Men’s World No.1 and World Champion Thierry Lincou. “Thierry has made a huge difference to my game. I started working with him when I was a junior and his experience and knowledge has been amazing. Both he and my other coach, Shahid Zaman, have really helped me raise the level of my game.”

16TC28312Sobhy will face Alison Waters in the last eight after she recorded a comfortable 3-0 victory over Delia Arnold. Englishwoman Laura Massaro, the current World No.1, was forced to call on all her mental strength to come through a difficult second round match with Frenchwoman Coline Aumard during which Massaro struggled to find her best form.

Massaro looked on course to seal a straightforward victory after she dominated the first game, taking it 11-3, but found herself embroiled in a tense battle from there on in. The 2014 World Champion had to use her big match experience to save game ball in the fourth and progress after a hard-earned 3-1 win.

“I didn’t feel at my best on court but I’m very happy to come through because winning is the important aspect,” said Massaro. “I’m relieved and honestly just happy to still be in tournament. I have a rest day now to work on the things and come back better in my next match because I know I need to raise my level of play.”

16TC24097In the men’s draw hard-hitting German Simon Rösner pulled off one of the most impressive wins of his career to defeat 2010 champion James Willstrop, booking a quarter-final berth against crowd favorite Gregory Gaultier, the current World Champion.

Rösner and Willstrop treated the capacity crowd to an 80-minute thriller which came to a crescendo during a fourth game that saw the German squander four match balls before saving three game balls to finally to secure the win 9-11, 11-4, 11-3, 16-14.

“To beat James, in the form he has been in recently, and on this stage, is one of the most significant wins of my career in recent years and especially so as I struggled a bit at the end of last year,” said Rösner.

“I had a few tough defeats at the end of 2015 and was maybe losing a little bit of confidence. To be moving well on court again and winning a big match like this is very important for me. I’m really happy that I managed to close it out in the end and move into the quarter-finals here.”

J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Grand Central Terminal, New York, NY
Women’s Second Round (Top Half)
[10] Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt [1] Raneem El Welily (EGY)  11-5, 6-11, 11-5, 11-6 (41m)
[6] Alison Waters (ENG) bt [14] Delia Arnold (MAS)  11-5, 11-8, 11-6 (29m)
[8] Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt Heba El Torky (EGY)  7-11, 11-7, 11-2, 11-5 (41m)
[3] Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [Q] Coline Aumard (FRA)  11-3, 8-11, 11-2, 12-10 (51m)

Men’s Second Round (bottom half)
[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Fares Dessouki (EGY)  11-5, 11-9, 11-2 (62m)
[6] Simon Rösner (GER) bt James Willstrop (ENG)  9-11, 11-4, 11-3, 16-14 (80m)
[8] Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)  12-10, 12-14, 11-9, 12-10 (78m)
[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)11-8, 11-9, 11-3 (48m)

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