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James Willstrop

Egyptian Open Day One: As It Happens - Courts 1 & 2

The CIB Egyptian Open gets under way at the New Giza Sporting Club today in what is the first PSA Platinum event to take place since the return of the PSA World Tour following the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can follow all the action from courts one and two here, where the likes of former World No.1 James Willstrop, World Junior Champion Mostafa Asal, Scotland's Lisa Aitken and Egypt's Zeina Mickawy are all in action.

You can keep up with the live scores from the event here.

All times are local (GMT+2).

Court one
11:00 James Willstrop (ENG) v Leonel Cardenas (MEX)
11:45 Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) v Alan Clyne (SCO)
13:30 Declan James (ENG) v Dimitri Steinmann (SUI)
14:15 Bernat Jaume (ESP) v Mostafa Asal (EGY)
16:00 Cindy Merlo (SUI) v Farida Mohamed (EGY)
16:45 Lisa Aitken (SCO) v Nada Abbas (EGY)
18:30 Menna Nasser (EGY) v Millie Tomlinson (ENG)
19:15 Danielle Letourneau (CAN) v Hana Ramadan (EGY)

Court two
11:00 Haley Mendez (USA) v Julianne Courtice (ENG)
11:45 [WC] Sana Ibrahim (EGY) v Zeina Mickawy (EGY)
13:30 Mayar Hany (EGY) v Emilia Soini (FIN)
14:15 Greg Lobban (SCO) v George Parker (ENG)
16:00 Mazen Gamal (EGY) v Victor Crouin (FRA)
16:45 Arturo Salazar (MEX) v Shahjahan Khan (USA)
18:30 Nathan Lake (ENG) v Raphael Kandra (GER)
19:15 Adrian Waller (ENG) v Todd Harrity (USA)

You can also watch the action from court two below.

Mendez and Willstrop Start Day with Wins

Haley Mendez (left) in action against Julianne Courtice (right)

USA’s World No.45 Haley Mendez held off a comeback from England’s World No.28 Julianne Courtice to book her place in the second round of the CIB Egyptian Open courtesy of a 11-8, 4-11, 13-11, 11-9 victory.

The two players were closely matched throughout, but it was Mendez who was able to edge out the first, but Courtice hit back to draw level in the second with a confident performance.

Mendez regrouped well though and was able to save game ball to take the third on the tie-break and move back into the lead. The American continued that form into the fourth leading 9-5 before she looked to have twisted her knee and was forced to go off court for treatment.

That led to a small resurgence from Courtice who managed to get back to within one point of Mendez at 9-8, but it was the latter who got her accuracy back on track to close out the match.

“Julianne and I play for the Gloucestershire League, so we played each other a couple of times I think but not in PSA,” said Mendez.

“I am really happy to be honest, after everything that has been going on, I realised that there was much more to life than squash, and it allowed me to relax and enjoy the moment whereas before, I would have put a lot of pressure on myself, trying to perform and get the win in those Platinium events. It hurt my game, whereas now, I try not to take the match too seriously, and I just enjoy it.”

She will face Egypt’s Rowan Elaraby in the next round.

England’s former World No.1 James Willstrop triumphed in a battle of experience v youth meanwhile, as he overcame Mexico’s Leonel Cardenas, who was named last season’s PSA Challenger Tour Player of the Year.

James Willstrop

37-year-old Willstrop took a strongly contested first game, 11-7, against the 20-year-old before expressing his dominance in the rest of the match to take a comfortable 11-7, 11-5, 11-1 victory in 31 minutes.

“When I hit with him yesterday, I thought immediately he was coached by Jonathan Power,” said Willstrop.

“But apparently, today, he told me he never heard of him. His game has a strong reminiscence of Jonathan’s game, not in a flashy sort of way, I think he’ll work on and develop that later on, but a basic game, his technique, quality of shots, he is a classy player. He looked strong out there, I guess the fact he is training in altitude plays its role. He is definitely an exciting prospect.

“The body is responding ok, I still get a buzz out of competing, hopefully, I can get the tournament going.

“It’s a beautiful place, we are wonderfully well looked after, playing squash right next to the Pyramids, I guess when you are in the latter part of your career, you get to appreciate it a bit more, playing squash, where we are, how lucky we are.”

Willstrop will face Wales’ World No.9 Joel Makin in tomorrow’s round two clash.

Haley Mendez (USA) bt Julianne Courtice (ENG) 3-1: 11-8, 4-11, 13-11, 11-9 (50m)
James Willstrop (ENG) bt Leonel Cardenas (MEX) 3-0: 11-7, 11-5, 11-1 (31m)

Mickawy Avoids Wildcard Scare

Zeina Mickawy (left) Sana Ibrahim (right)

Egypt’s World No.26 Zeina Mickawy was made to work hard for her round one victory as she overcame wildcard Sana Ibrahim in five games.

It looked as though it was going to be a straightforward match for Mickawy as she took a commanding 8-1 lead in the first game, but soon saw it all unravel as Ibrahim hit back to rattle off 10 points in a row and take the first game.

Mickawy once again took the lead in the second, but 17-year-old Ibrham came back again to draw level at 5-5, however, this time the higher-seeded Egyptian was able to keep a grip on the game and take the second.

Ibrahim continued to push Mickawy all of the way in just her second PSA World Tour event after playing in the Women’s PSA World Championships last season, as she recovered to losing the third game by taking the fourth and taking the match to a tense finale.

However, it looked to be too much of a push for the young Ibrahim as Mickawy was able to break ahead and keep her focus to power to the finish line by an 8-11, 11-9, 11-5, 8-11, 11-4 margin.

“I used to train with Omar Abdel Aziz, but because I live in Alexandria and he is based in Cairo, during the lockdown, it was very difficult to commute, so at the moment, I’m taking some time to just work on trying to be a bit on my own, it’s helping feeling more responsible and think by myself,” reflected Mickawy after her win.

“I’ll work with one dedicated coach when I’m ready, at the moment, I’m playing with a lot of different players.

“Today, I was up 8-2, feeling very comfortable, thinking I was doing well, and I missed a couple of shots. Suddenly, she changed her game completely, played some superb squash, and played a different game that she was playing from the beginning. I lost that game 11-8.

“Losing that game made me lose confidence in my squash I think, even if I took the second game, I was not attacking, I was very passive, not taking my chances. I got better in the third, and felt a bit more confident.

“But I know how the young Egyptians are, they are hungry, they just want to win, no matter who they are playing. And that’s what she did. She played very well, she was hungry, she didn’t stop trying.

“It was a tough match for me, mentally. And I’m very glad I got through it.”

Mickawy will face World No.1 Nouran Gohar in the next round.

Mickawy’s compatriot Youssef Ibrahim also got his tournament off to a winning start, recovering from a game down to beat Scotland’s World No.36 Alan Clyne 8-11, 11-4, 11-2, 11-5.

Youssef Ibrahim in action against Alan Clyne

Ibrahim will face the winner of Declan James v Dimitri Steinmann in the next round.

“I’m over the moon with the win,” said Ibrahim.

“I think I utilised the lockdown to my advantage. I worked very hard on my fitness, which was a bit my weakness, with the mental side as well. And if I want to compete with the top guys, I need to be super, super fit.

“So, getting on court with Alan Clyne who is a very physical player, I felt confident, in my movement. I was a bit disappointed from losing the first game where I was up 5-2, but I recovered in the next game, both physically and mentally, I felt strong. I'm really happy with my performance.”

Zeina Mickawy (EGY) bt [WC] Sana Ibrahim (EGY) 3-2: 8-11, 11-9, 11-5, 8-11, 11-4 (55m)
Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) bt Alan Clyne (SCO) 3-1: 8-11, 11-4, 11-2, 11-5 (48m)

Hany and James Claim Wins

Mayar Hany

Egypt’s Mayar Hany and England’s Declan James both secured 3-0 wins in their opening rounds at the CIB Egyptian Squash Open.

Hany battled past Finland’s World No.51 Emilia Soini in a tough first game before powering to victory by an 11-9, 11-2, 11-8 scoreline to set up a round two clash with France’s World No.3 Camille Serme.

“It’s my first match of the season, so I think I was a bit nervous at the start,” said Hany. “But the fact I was in Egypt, at home, with my team and family around me, really helped my confidence.

“Emilia has got a tricky squash game, she likes to play short and to take the pace off the ball, so I made sure I was getting the ball deep at the back and put pressure on her to force mistakes out of her.

“I train in Wadi Degla, my coach is Shehab Essam, but I feel I need really to focus on my fitness. That’s what makes the difference I think, and for the past four, five months, I’ve started training with Sami Farag, and it’s our first tournament together.

“I’m happy with the match, and I am happy with the way my team supports me, and my family always.”

James, meanwhile, was pushed hard in the first two games by Swiss No.2 Dimitri Steinmann on court one before easing to victory in the third and setting up a round two battle with Youssef Ibrahim, who beat Scotland’s Alan Clyne in the match before.

“Dimitri hits the hard low kills very well, he lets the racket go and he is a good ball striker,” said James.

“It was a bouncy court and it took about 30 minutes to get the ball to die out. Actually he was up 5-1, 4-1 in the first two games, so it was very close.

“Crucial time is 8-8 in the second, then he gives me two strokes, and I get the winner off the serve. I was happy to play those crucial points well. I think he lost a bit of heart in the third, I got away quite quickly.

“I used the lockdown to work hard off court, like cycling with friends. It was time to reflect really, and realise there is more to life than squash. Time also to realise how lucky we are, to be grateful to be playing squash.”

Mayar Hany (EGY) bt Emilia Soini (FIN) 3-0: 11-9, 11-2, 11-8 (28m)
Declan James (ENG) bt Dimitri Steinmann (SUI) 3-0: 11-7, 11-9, 11-4 (42m)

Parker Claims Big Win Over Lobban

George Parker

England’s World No.44 George Parker triumphed in the battle of the Brits as he took out Scotland’s World No.21 Greg Lobban in straight games at the Giza Sporting Club.

Parker had lost both of his previous two meetings against Lobban but made sure to reduce that head-to-head deficit with a strong showing in Cairo, Egypt.

The fiery Englishman stepped up to the mark after finding himself 9-6 down in the first to take the game on his second attempt.

Lobban once again caused problems for Parker in the second, with the 24-year-old again be forced to come from behind to double his advantage. It was a confident performance in the third though that ensured victory for Parker as he kept his composure to claim a big 12-10, 11-9, 11-5 win in 47 minutes.

He will face New Zealand’s World No.5 Paul Coll in the next round.

“The ball was quite dead and was taking the shots quite well I found,” said Parker afterwards.

“I was getting to the front, and the court was taking in a good volley drop shot which suited my game maybe more than his. He kept playing into my volley and got me off the hook by not doing too much with the ball at the front.

“I think that about 50% of my game was accurate enough today, but tomorrow, against Paul Coll, I will need to up my game and raise the accuracy, because with his speed, he’s going to put me under a lot of pressure.”

Elsewhere, on court one, Egypt’s World No.18 Mostafa Asal made light work of Spain’s World No.69 Bernat Jaume to set up a second round clash with Germany’s Simon Rösner.

The World Junior Champion impressed in his first tournament since the PSA Tour restart, taking an 11-6, 11-6, 11-5 victory in 30 minutes.

“It’s so funny, I don’t feel I’m playing in a tournament,” said Asal.

“I feel I’m practicing. I was chatting with a friend last night, and he was asking me why I was so chatty and relaxed and I told him, it’s because I am not in a tournament, I feel like it’s practice! I hope that feeling is going to last, it’s so much more relaxing.

“I think maybe I miss a bit that feeling of competition, but I think my game is benefiting from not being too tense.

“I was playing a very tough opponent today, but maybe he was not at the top of his form as he was a reserve and didn’t know he was going to play until the last minute. So I’m very grateful to win against him today.

“Tomorrow, I’m playing one of the legends of the Tour, Simon Rösner, I hope it goes well. You know, this is my city, this is my town, I live 10 minutes from here, and I feel I’m going to go through and though this tournament.”

George Parker (ENG) bt Greg Lobban (SCO) 3-0: 12-10, 11-9, 11-5 (47m)
Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt Bernat Jaume (ESP) 3-0: 11-6, 11-6, 11-5 (30m)

Crouin and Mohamed Advance

Victor Crouin

France’s Victor Crouin and Egypt’s Farida Mohamed have both advanced to the second round of the CIB Egyptian Open after 3-0 victories at the Giza Sporting Club.

Crouin enjoyed a string of upsets at this tournament last year, reaching the last 16, and the Frenchman made sure he started this season’s tournament in the same form as he axed Egypt’s World No.63 Mazen Gamel in straight games.

Crouin will face recent CIB PSA World Tour Finals winner Marwan ElShorbagy in the next round.

“Mazen is very gifted with the racket,” said Crouin. “And if sometimes he makes a few errors and gives you free points, he keeps trying until he gets it right.

“If he is ahead in the score, or close, those shots that were ending in the tin become winners. So you can never relax really. I was lucky that it didn’t happen in the tie-break.

“I don’t feel I was 100% today, my game was not the best, I think I put a bit of too much expectation on my shoulders, but I got on court thinking oh well, you cannot play your best all the time.

“I was also finding it difficult between points, he was clever and was taking his time to serve, and that was breaking my rhythm a bit. I’m glad I didn’t lose my concentration there.”

Meanwhile in the women’s draw, Farida Mohamed set up a second round clash with England’s No.1 Sarah-Jane Perry after she battled past Switzerland’s Cindy Merlo by an 11-5, 11-8, 11-5 margin.

“Today, Cindy was patient, she didn’t give me any easy points,” said Mohamed following her win.

“She kept on trying, and she never stopped. Even 10-2 down in the third, match ball, she came back to 5-10.

“I was happy with my concentration today. I don’t think the Corona break affected me too much because I used that time to work on things I was not comfortable with. I worked on my fitness, and getting stronger, on playing more winning shots, and also to be more patient, and constructing rallies.”

Victor Crouin (FRA) bt Mazen Gamal (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 13-11, 11-3 (32m)
Farida Mohamed (EGY) bt Cindy Merlo (SUI) 3-0: 11-5, 11-8, 11-5 (25m)

Salazar and Aitken Prevail in Five Game Thrillers

Arturo Salazar in action against Shahjahan Khan

Both Mexico’s Arturo Salazar and Scotland’s Lisa Aitken were forced to five games in order to book their places in the second round of the CIB Egyptian Open with respective victories over USA’s Shahjahan Khan and Egypt’s Nada Abbas.

Salazar looked strong in the opening exchanges to take a two-game lead, before Khan hit his stride and was able to play without fear to take a tightly contested third game, before comfortably drawing level in the fourth for the loss of two points.

Mexico’s Salazar regrouped well in the fifth, however, and it looked as though Khan had ran out of attack with Salazar clinical to close out an 11-7, 11-6, 8-11, 2-11, 11-2 victory in 64 minutes.

“I know Shah very well, he is a very dangerous opponent, and he has had some good results,” said Salazar.

“He moves very fast, very well. I tried to take the ball short, and to get a good start. I kept the ball in the back corners, trying to take my chances when I could. If in the first two games I had the initiative, in the next two, he changed his game plan and that put a lot of pressure on me.

“The fifth game, I had a very good start and it gave me a very important advantage, and a lot of confidence.”

Lisa Aitken

On the other court, Scotland’s Aitken had her own big battle on her hands coming for one game down against World No.19 Abbas before managing to close out in the fifth and execute her game plan to perfection securing a 7-11, 11-7, 11-7, 8-11, 11-4 win.

The Scottish player will face India’s Joshna Chinappa in the next round.

“I played Nada a couple of years ago, and the score line was similar, 3-2,” said Aitken.

“I knew what to expect. Also, I watched her play in Manchester, and I noticed she seems to have one way of playing, and she sticks to it.

“You have to get used to the pace, used to the ball getting very fast on you, she hits as hard as she can, and once you are used to it, you adjust your game. I tried to slow her down, and disrupted her rhythm as much as I could, also putting the ball in areas she cannot hit the ball from.

“I think the minimum crowd played in my favour, had there been a lot of support, maybe things would have been very different.

“I think I lacked a bit of courage to take the ball to the front, to step up. As she hit deep, it’s easy to stay at the back and go with the flow.

“I’m very happy with my determination. I got food poisoning for two days, and it would have been very easy to take that as an excuse to come out weak. But I knew that if I pushed myself, nothing bad would happen to me. So, happy with the way I pushed.”

Arturo Salazar (MEX) bt Shahjahan Khan (USA) 3-2: 11-7, 11-6, 8-11, 2-11, 11-2 (64m)
Lisa Aitken (SCO) bt Nada Abbas (EGY) 3-2: 7-11, 11-7, 11-7, 8-11, 11-4 (48m)

England’s Lake and Tomlinson Take Wins

Nathan Lake in action against Raphael Kandra

English duo Nathan Lake and Millie Tomlinson both booked second round places at the CIB Egyptian Open following wins over Germany’s Raphael Kandra and Egypt’s Menna Nasser, respectively.

World No.45 Lake had never beaten Kandra until today, with the German winning both of their previous meetings. However, the Englishman was full of confidence to see his accurate shot making rewarded with a straight games victory over the World No.29.

Lake will face Mexico’s Arturo Salazar in the next round.

“I think we’ve played two or three times, and it seems to me it always went to five,” said Lake.

“I don’t think any of the players are really relaxed although we had the time to reflect on our lives, but also, we want to make the most of the few tournament we get.

“Today, the difference with our other encounters was my accuracy I think. I was hitting my back target pretty accurately. Taking the second was crucial. He never got tired, he is too fit for that, but I think I got him under pressure with my accuracy.

“Could have I done something better today? Honestly no, I think I played well. I need to mention how good it is to be back playing again.”

Meanwhile, Tomlinson avoided an upset against Egypt’s World No.53 Menna Nasser after she drew level in the second following a tie-break win. However, Tomlinson was able to keep the 26-year-old at bay to close out 11-5, 10-12, 11-8, 11-5 in four games.

Next up for Tomlinson is either Canada’s Danielle Letourneau or Egypt’s Hana Ramadan.

“I was expecting her to play amazing shots but also to make a few errors if I managed to put her under pressure. So I managed to stay focused,” said the Englishwoman.

“I played at a fast pace, trying to be consistent, and to stay focused even if she was getting ahead.

“I’m happy with the way I was mentally, I think I was more aggressive on the court, even if my shots lacked of consistency at times. And tomorrow, I’ll work on my length dying more.”

Nathan Lake (ENG) bt Raphael Kandra (GER) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 11-3 (37m)
Millie Tomlinson (ENG) bt Menna Nasser (EGY) 3-1: 11-5, 10-12, 11-8, 11-5 (45m)

Harrity and Letourneau Win in Five

Todd Harrity in action against Adrian Waller

USA’s World No.62 Todd Harrity pulled one of the upsets of the day off after he axed England’s World No.19 Adrian Waller in five games at the Giza Sporting Club.

Harrity started well to take the opener, but Waller fought back strongly to put himself in pole position to reach round two after taking a 2-1 lead. American Harrity had other ideas though, as he punished any loose shots from Waller in the fourth to comfortably take the game and draw level.

It was a more evenly matched affair in the fifth, but Harrity was able to do the most damage to close out an 11-5, 6-11, 6-11, 11-2, 11-7 victory in 50 minutes and set up a round two encounter with Peru’s World No.6 Diego Elias.

“I’m really happy,” said Harrity afterwards.

“I worked really hard, I’ve been in Egypt for the past two months, and it was a big change for me. It was a rich period of training, both on mental toughness and squash and I think that’s what got me through today.

“I kept on saying to myself hang in there, one shot at a time, don’t think ahead, just focus on each point, don’t get down. And that made the difference.

“That mental toughness, I learned it from my matches here with the Egyptian players. I always lacked confidence and self belief and I struggled to find the same form in competition that I display in training. Today I think I got a step closer, and I’m excited with what’s coming ahead.

“Tomorrow, Diego, to be honest, I haven’t thought about it. I think I’m looking at it as a great opportunity to play one of the top players, no pressure on me, it will be all on him. So, focus, and I will try to build on today.”

Canada’s Danielle Letourneau was also pushed to five as she was forced to come from 2-1 down against Egypt’s Hana Ramadan.

Danielle Letourneau

It was a tight match all the way up until the fifth, with three games going to tie-breaks. However, Letourneau was comfortable in the fifth as she saw out victory by a 12-10, 6-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-3 margin in a 61-minute battle.

She meets England’s Millie Tomlinson in the next round.

“At the beginning it was going back and forth, we were both feeling each other as we have never played and I’m happy to sneak that one out,” said Letourneau.

“In the second, she attacked all the opportunities she had – she is good at that – and her length was really good. I never felt comfortable, and I kept focusing on things on court and outside my control.

“In the fourth and fifth, I pushed through, and made it physical, as my attacking game was not where I wanted it to be today.

“Millie tomorrow, we know each other’s game pretty well, we played together through Uni, and then on PSA. It will be the case of who shows up better on the day.”

Todd Harrity (USA) bt Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-2: 11-5, 6-11, 6-11, 11-2, 11-7 (50m)
Danielle Letourneau (CAN) bt Hana Ramadan (EGY) 3-2: 12-10, 6-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-3 (61m)

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