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Aifa Azman in action against Joey Chan

Women's World Champs: Round One Evening Session - Reports & Comment

The CIB PSA Women's World Championship gets under way today with the first round action taking place at the Shooting Club 6th of October in Cairo, Egypt.

All 64 players in the draw will be in action across four courts, with defending champion Nour El Sherbini making her first appearance of the 2019-20 season, as she takes on England's Rachael Chadwick, after struggling with a knee injury at the start of the new campaign.

While last season's runner-up Nour El Tayeb, World No.1 Raneem El Welily and 2019 U.S. Open champion Nouran Gohar all also top the bill for the home country.

France's Camille Serme, New Zealand's Joelle King, England's Sarah-Jane Perry and America's Amanda Sobhy will also all be looking to get their World Championship campaigns off to strong starts.

Find out how to watch the action live here.

If you are unable to watch, you can keep up with the live scores from the event here.

You can also follow reports and reaction from the players right here.

El Sherbini and Gohar Make Winning Starts

World No.2 and reigning World Champion Nour El Sherbini made a winning return to action on the PSA Tour as she defeated England’s Rachael Chadwick in a quickfire 25 minute match to get her title defence off to a winning start.

23-year-old El Sherbini claimed her third World Championship title in February in Chicago and the Egyptian ensured her winning streak continued at the tournament as she made her first appearance of the new season after struggling with a knee injury at the start of this campaign which has kept her sidelined.

The World No.2 eased herself into the first game before powering past Chadwick comfortably to secure a second round tie against the winner of Hollie Naughton v Farida Mohamed.

“I really missed the tour and the matches,” said 23-year-old El Sherbini afterwards.

“I was really excited about today’s match and I just wanted to get on court and see how it goes, but it went really well. I was playing good and I’m really happy to be back.

“In the first game [my knee] was in my head a little bit, but I was running ok and it felt good. I didn’t have any problems and hopefully it is going to be like this the whole week.

“I’m really looking forward to playing in front of the Pyramids and this court is very special. You can play and see the Pyramids, so it is very special and I’m really looking forward to playing my next round there.”

Meanwhile, 2019 U.S. Open champion Nouran Gohar continued her imperious run of form as she came from a game down to beat Malaysia’s Low Wee Wern.

The Malaysian took the opening game on the tie-break, before Gohar roared back comfortably to win 11-13, 11-5, 11-1, 11-0.

[2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Rachael Chadwick (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-5, 11-4 (25m)
[4] Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt Low Wee Wern (MAS) 3-1: 11-13, 11-5, 11-1, 11-0 (37m)

Azman Claims Big Upset, while Adel Progresses

Malaysia’s World No.89 Aifa Azman caused a huge upset to claim her first ever PSA World Championship victory after taking out World No.17 Joey Chan in five-games.

The 17-year-old from Kedah, Malaysia, was featuring in just her second World Championship event after losing in the first round of qualifying back in 2013 at the tournament when it was held in Penang.

However, the Malaysian talent, who qualified for the tournament after winning the Roberts & Morrow North Coast Open, made sure she put on a performance to be proud of today as she held her nerve to hold off a comeback from the Hong Kong player.

Azman will now face the winner of Tinne Gilis v Enora Villard in the second round.

“I’m very happy with my performance today,” said Azman following the biggest win of her career.

“I was 2-1 up, in the fourth she just came again. I played the same game in the fifth and it’s the biggest upset for me. I knew she was World No.16 and there was no pressure on me, so I think that’s what really helped my game today.

“Playing in the World Juniors, I played against Jana Shiha in the semi-finals and I felt a lot of pressure and I couldn’t play well.

“It’s my first time [in the World Championships main draw] and I just wanted to play my best whether I won or lost and I think I played really well today.”

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Yathreb Adel ensured she progressed through to the second round in Cairo with a confident win over Scotland’s Lisa Aitken.

Adel comfortably claimed an 11-5, 11-3, 11-6 victory in 21 minutes and will face compatriot Nada Abbas in the next round, after she defeated South Africa’s Milnay Louw.

“I’m very happy to start with a strong win,” said Adel afterwards.

“It means so much that we are having the World Championship here in Egypt. I get to see my parents watching me and to be playing again at the amazing venue by the Pyramids would be the best thing ever.

“It’s overwhelming, all of us Egyptians when we were younger used to go and watch Barada used to play at that venue and I always thought that one day I would grow up and play there, so it’s a dream coming true. I’m taking it one step at a time and hopefully I can do well at this tournament.

“There have been ups and downs so far, but it’s good to get going and the more you play, the more you train it keeps you focused. There is stuff I need to be working on, but I’m happy with how it’s going so far.”

[L] Aifa Azman (MAS) bt [16] Joey Chan (HKG) 3-2: 14-12, 7-11, 11-6, 7-11, 11-8 (48m)
[15] Yathreb Adel (EGY) bt Lisa Aitken (SCO) 3-0: 11-5, 11-3, 11-6 (21m)
[32] Nada Abbas (EGY) bt [L] Milnay Louw (RSA) 3-0: 11-5, 11-5, 11-6 (21m)

El Welily & Serme Get Under Way

Camille Serme

World No.1 Raneem El Welily and France’s Camille Serme began their tournaments with wins over Sana Ibrahim and Salma Youssef, respectively, with both players advancing in straight games.

El Welily, the 2017 World Champion and a runner-up in the 2014 and 2016 editions of the biggest event on the women’s tour, wasted no time in winning 11-3, 11-5, 11-4 to progress after just 22 minutes of action.

Despite the win, El Welily admitted that the prospect of lining up in a home World Championship – which was the setting for both of her final defeats – resulted in some early tournament nerves.

“It's the first match of the tournament, I'm always nervous with that one, I'm trying to get the emotions sorted and get used to the vibe and the atmosphere,” the 30-year-old said.

“I was a bit up and down, but I'm getting here hopefully. I'm very pleased with the way I managed things around me today and hopefully tomorrow I can keep up the momentum.

“Sometimes there are nerves, sometimes I'm more motivated. It's an emotional feeling [playing a World Champs on home soil] but I'm trying to keep positive and energised.

“These are exciting times from squash in Egypt, so I'm happy to be home.”

El Welily became the first female squash player in history to win a trophy in front of the iconic Great Pyramid of Giza when she won the Al Ahram Open in 2016, but says she isn’t looking beyond tomorrow’s match with US No.2 Olivia Blatchford Clyne at the Shooting Club 6th of October.

“I'm looking forward to that [appearing in front of the Pyramids] but I'm just here now thinking about what I just did and what I should be doing to get to tomorrow's match and hopefully I get through.”

Serme, a four-time semi-finalist, got the better of Youssef by an 11-6, 11-2, 11-2 scoreline and she will compete in front of the Pyramids in round two against England’s Millie Tomlinson.

Joshna Chinappa (right) v Haley Mendez (left)

Elsewhere, India’s Joshna Chinappa defeated Haley Mendez of the United States, but she required five games to do so, eventually coming out on top 11-6 in the deciding fifth game.

She will play Hong Kong’s Ho Tze-Lok in front of the Pyramids after Lok defeated Egypt’s Mariam Metwally.

“I think I was a bit nervous in the beginning and Haley played really well,” Chinappa said.

“That’s probably one of the best I’ve seen her play. Everything went well for her, and today it was just about hanging in and taking it point by point. I think I was a little lucky towards the end.

“This is one of the biggest tournaments in our calendar and everyone is looking to play their best over here and me as well. I probably thought a little bit too much about it, but I calmed down in the fourth and the fifth and found my game after that.

“I’m very excited [to play in front of the Pyramids]. It’s one of the best venues in the world to play at. Luckily I have a rest day so I can recover and I’ll start thinking about the match tomorrow.”

Ho said: “I played really well today, I lost to her at the ToC in January and I lost 3-0, but I won 3-1 today. It’s my first time since the Hong Kong Open (in 2018) to get to the second round at a major tournament.

“The 26th is my birthday, so playing in front of the Pyramids is an early birthday present.”

[1] Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt [WC] Sana Ibrahim (EGY) 3-0: 11-3, 11-5, 11-4 (23m)
[3] Camille Serme (FRA) bt Salma Youssef (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-2, 11-2 (22m)
[12] Joshna Chinappa (IND) bt Haley Mendez (USA) 3-2: 9-11, 12-10, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6 (49m)
Ho Tze-Lok (HKG) bt [23] Mariam Metwally (EGY) 3-1: 8-11, 11-5, 11-6, 12-10 (41m)

Gilis Sisters Prevail in Round One

Nele Gilis

Both Nele and Tinne Gilis prevailed in their respective round one fixtures on the opening day of action at the PSA Women’s World Championship.

Older sister and World No.19 Nele was forced to come from 1-0 down to secure a second round berth as India’s Sunayna Kuruvilla put her under pressure in the opening exchanges before the Belgian fought back to close out an 8-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-5 victory.

“I’m super pleased,” said 23-year-old Nele afterwards, who will face World No.5 Nouran Gohar in the next round.

“I think last year I lost in the first round, my opponent was very good but I was very nervous because it’s the World Champs and I never really get that feeling but I felt the same way today. She played very well and came out firing. Anything loose she punished me, so I was happy that I was able to control my nerves and come through in the end.

“I had no idea what to expect, I had never seen her play before. I tried to do some research but it is hard and I’m pleased I won in the end.

“It was my first time playing Gohar at the U.S. Open, I felt like I got into the match straight away, but this time I know what to expect and what worked well and what didn’t – hopefully I can do better than U.S. Open this time.”

Tinne Gilis

Younger sister, Tinne, meanwhile ensured she joined her sibling in the second round as she overcame France’s Enora Villard in 28 minutes.

“From the start of the season, I was not training properly. I mean, I lacked matches, and I came early to Egypt to play as many matches as possible,” said Tinne following her victory.

“Enora beat me twice in a row, so this time, I was extremely focused, and in my mind the pressure was on her. I was trying to be very accurate with my shots, not like the last times whereas I was just hitting the ball all over the place.

“I really want to thank Hollie [Naughton], Coline [Aumard] and my sister because they have been so important for me in those past weeks, when I was down, they tried to cheer me up and make me feel better. They are so important for me.

“Playing on the glass in front of the Pyramids would be a dream come true and in my next round I’m going to give everything on there. And I think that it actually motivates me even more to give it everything knowing that it might take me to the Pyramids.”

Hollie Naughton

Elsewhere, Canada’s Hollie Naughton will take on defending champion Nour El Sherbini in the second round after she overcame Egypt’s Farida Mohamed in a tense five-game battle.

The momentum constantly kept exchanging hands, with Naughton drawing first blood before Mohamed took control with a 2-1 lead. Naughton battled back bravely, however, to ensure she progressed by a 13-11, 10-12, 7-11, 11-4, 11-7 margin.

“It was a bit of an ugly match,” said Naughton afterwards. “I was struggling at times to get the ball at the back, I lacked consistency. She was hitting super hard and I had to make sure I was hitting my target to cut down her shots.

“I'm really happy I managed to keep my focus enough to go back to the game plan that was not all the time well executed, and to get the win.”

[17] Nele Gilis (BEL) bt [L] Sunayna Kuruvilla (IND) 3-1: 8-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-5 (40m)
[26] Tinne Gilis (BEL) bt Enora Villard (FRA) 3-0: 11-5, 11-3, 11-5 (28m)
[28] Hollie Naughton (CAN) bt Farida Mohamed (EGY) 3-2: 13-11, 10-12, 7-11, 11-4, 11-7 (60m)

Waters and Blatchford Clyne Book RD2 Spots

Alison Waters (right) v Marina Stefanoni (left)

England’s World No.13 Alison Waters and USA’s Olivia Blatchford moved into the last 32 courtesy of respective wins against Marina Stefanoni and Menna Hamed as first round action drew to a close at the Shooting Club 6th of October.

Waters got the better of up-and-coming US player Stefanoni, the 16-year-old who qualified for the event through winning the Aspin Cup qualifying tournament, in straight games, but it could have been different if Stenanoni could have taken victory in the second.

As it was, the experience of Waters saw the 35-year-old edge it 17-15 to add to her one-game advantage, and she held the teenager at bay in the third to set up a second round fixture against England’s Julianne Courtice, who beat Hong Kong’s Liu Tsz-Ling.

“To get off 3-0 is really good, it was a tough 3-0, Marina played really well and I hadn’t played her before or seen much of her, so I didn’t really know what to expect,” Waters said.

“I knew she won a $5k on the calendar a few weeks ago and I knew she liked the backhand drop, but that’s all I really knew, and she played it a lot. I came into it not taking anything for granted, and I knew I had to move well on there, so I’m really pleased to get off.

“She was really good and it felt like I was playing a short game, she takes it in short a lot and I felt that I was doing a lot of work on there. The second game was obviously a key game to win, to go 2-0 up is a big difference to going to 1-1.

“She came back from 8-2 down at the end and made it tough for me as well, so I’m happy to get through to the next round.”

Meanwhile, Blatchford Clyne will contest her second round fixture with World No.1 Raneem El Welily after her 11-5, 11-6, 11-5 victory.

“I love playing squash, and in the past, there were moments I didn’t realise how lucky I was to be involved in that sport,” Blatchford Clyne said.

“But if I was to make my way to the Pyramids, there wouldn’t be a second of that blessed time on the glass that would be lost, I would enjoy every shot played on there.”

The day’s final match saw England’s Millie Tomlinson overcome Hong Kong’s Lee Ka Yi, coming back from 2-1 before finally seeing off her competitor.

[11] Alison Waters (ENG) bt [L] Marina Stefanoni (USA) 3-0: 11-8, 17-15, 11-7 (36m)
[18] Olivia Blatchford Clyne (USA) bt Menna Hamed (EGY) 3-0: 11-5, 11-6, 11-5 (31m)
[29] Julianne Courtice (ENG) bt Liu Tsz-Ling (HKG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-3, 11-5 (25m)
[21] Millie Tomlinson (ENG) bt Lee Ka Yi (HKG) 3-2: 9-11, 11-4, 9-11, 11-9, 11-8 (52m)

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