The El Gouna International Squash Open begins today, with action coming from all four courts at the El Gouna Squash Complex. We are focussing on Courts 3 & 4 here.
If you want to follow the action from Courts 1 & 2, then visit our as It Happens page for those two right here.
There are plenty of top notch players in action on the opening day, including the French quintet of Enora Villard, Lucas Serme, Baptiste Masotti, Victor Crouin and Auguste Dussourd, while Haley Mendez, Olivia Fiechter, Todd Harrity and Shahjahan Khan all fly the flag for the USA.
You can also keep up with the live scores from the event here.
11:00 – Enora Villard (FRA) v Haley Mendez (USA)
11:45 – Raphael Kandra (GER) v Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND)
13:00 – Olivia Fiechter (USA) v [WC] Habiba El Dafrawy (EGY)
13:45 – Vikram Malhotra (IND) v Lucas Serme (FRA)
16:00 – Hana Ramadan (EGY) v Nadine Shahin (EGY)
16:45 – George Parker (ENG) v Todd Harrity (USA)
18:00 – Mariam Metwally (EGY) v Cindy Merlo (SUI)
18:45 – Edmon Lopez (ESP) v Baptiste Masotti (FRA)
Watch the action live from Court 3 here.
11:00 – Lucy Turmel (ENG) v Emilia Soini (FIN)
11:45 – Alan Clyne (SCO) v Shahjahan Khan (USA)
13:00 – Sana Ibrahim (EGY) v Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS)
13:45 – Auguste Dussourd (FRA) v Victor Crouin (FRA)
16:00 – Zeina Mickawy (EGY) v Tessa ter Sluis (NED)
16:45 – [WC] Aly Abou Eleinen (EGY) v Youssef Soliman (EGY)
18:00 – [WC] Nour Aboulmakarim (EGY) v Farida Mohamed (EGY)
18:45 – Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) v Aditya Jagtap (IND)
Watch the action live from Court 4 here.
Villard and Turmel Win in Three To Advance
The European duo of Frenchwoman Enora Villard and England’s Lucy Turmel safely made their way through to the second round of the El Gouna International, with both winning their respective matches in straight games.
Villard started her campaign against USA’s Haley Mendez and despite being ranked four places lower than the American, she seems in control throughout their contest. She went on to win in three, claiming her first ever win at a Platinum level event.
The World No.46, who made her breakthrough on Tour at the Open de France – Nantes in 2019, took the first two games comfortably, before Mendez tried to fight back. The American had game balls in the third game, but the Frenchwoman was able to save both, before winning it 12-10 on a tie-break, setting up a clash with Egypt’s Rowan Elaraby in the second round.
“Although my game plan was to pin her at the back before taking her to the front, she didn’t seem to move very well, in particular on the left front corner. So I was hesitating between taking her to the front quickly or to keep her at the back and I was losing my plan a bit,” the Frenchwoman said.
“In the first two games I feel I was in control. But then in the third, she changed her tactic, she starting hitting hard and low, and I was a bit too much at the back, it took me a while to adapt. And also, it was the first time I was getting close to a Platinum victory, so I guess I was a bit nervous, and I had to control that. I could have made my life easier, for sure!”
Meanwhile, England’s Lucy Turmel came up against Finnish No.1 Emilia Soini in her opening match of the Platinum event, coming through in straight games, dropping just 14 points across the entire contest.
Lucy Turmel in action
She took the first two games 11-3 to establish her dominance over Soini, ranked 11 places lower than the Englishwoman in the World Rankings. The third game was closer, but Turmel took it 11-8 to book her place in the last 32, where she will face US No.2 Olivia Clyne.
“Today I was very clear on the way I wanted to play, my concentration was good, and I knew that if I was able to execute the plan I put in place, I would be alright,” the Englishwoman said.
“My game plan was much more thorough that it was last time, because I had played her. Tomorrow I think I’m playing Olivia Clyne but to be honest I didn’t really look at it, I wanted to focus on my match.”
Enora Villard (FRA) bt Haley Mendez (USA) 3-0: 11-5, 11-8, 12-10 (29m)
Lucy Turmel (ENG) bt Emilia Soini (FIN) 3-0: 11-3, 11-3, 11-8 (31m)
Kandra Takes Five-Game Win, Khan Takes Down Clyne
The first set of men’s matches produced a couple of high-quality affairs, including the first five-game battle of the tournament, as Raphael Kandra and Mahesh Mangaonkar went all the way to a decider.
After losing the first, the German, who has reached the semi-finals of a Platinum event in the past, doing so at the British Open, fought back to take a 2-1. He won the second and third games to hold the momentum in the match.
The Indian Mangaonkar would not be defeated easily though, bringing the match level and taking it into a decider, before Kandra was able to show his class in the fifth. He eventually go over the line after 58 minutes of action, securing the victory and setting up a contest with either Vikram Malhotra or Lucas Serme.
“I don’t care I won in five. As long as there is a W next to my name, I’m happy. I don’t know what is happening at the moment to be honest. I am training well, playing well, but when I arrive on events, I don’t know if it’s the COVID effect or what but suddenly I seem to lose my confidence in myself, in my game. I’m afraid of not showing the best squash I can play for some reason,” he admitted.
“Today, in the third and fifth games, there were patches where I felt that’s the way I know I can play squash. But otherwise I try to push, I try to scream, but it just doesn’t come out.
“At least today, I was feeling fine physically, whereas last time against [Patrick] Rooney I was dead after one big rally! Today, I was happy to play five games, it could have gone to 7 games for that matter! And I have good memories here, plus I have now two girls, Mylenne and Livia, since the 26th April, so there is a lot of positivity in my life at the moment.”
On Court 4, USA No.2 Shahjahan Khan came from a game down to secure a surprise win over Scotland’s Alan Clyne, despite sitting 16 places lower in the World Rankings.
It was the Scot, who sits at World No.38, who took the first game 11-9, but from there on, Khan was able to put his stamp on the match, winning the next three games to advance.
The American, who is currently outside the top 50 in the World Rankings, won the next three 11-8, 11-7, 11-9 to book his place in the second of a Platinum event for just the second time, after doing so at the Qatar Classic in November. He will face either Auguste Dussourd or Victor Crouin in the next round.
Raphael Kandra (GER) bt Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND) 3-2: 5-11, 11-9, 11-8, 5-11, 11-3 (58m)
Shahjahan Khan (USA) bt Alan Clyne (SCO) 3-1: 9-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-9 (65m)
Fiechter and Subramanium Through In Straight Games
The second set of women’s matches saw comfortable victories for USA’s Olivia Fiechter and Malaysian Sivasangari Subramanium, who book their spots in the second round.
Fiechter came up against one of the four wildcards in the draw, in Habiba El Dafrawy, and she took the win in just 19 minutes, showing no mercy, and allowing the young Egyptian to tally just eight points in the contest.
She won out comfortably, securing the victory 11-3, 11-1, 11-9, and will now face Belgian No.1 Nele Gilis in the second round on Friday 21 May.
“It is my first time in Gouna, and I heard so much about it, the expectations were high and they’ve been exceeded, it’s so beautiful,” the American said.
‘I’m happy with my performance. I knew nothing about Habiba’s game. We just had a practice yesterday, so I had a bit of a feel of her game. I could tell she was talented, had good hands, as all the Egyptian players are!
‘So I knew I had to be on my toes, I knew I had to be on my ’T’ position, and I kind of wanted to use my experience over her, and shut the court down, come out, and find my lines. I just enjoyed being out there.”
Subramanium had a slightly tougher time of it in her contest, coming up against Egypt’s Sana Ibrahim, but the young Malaysian came through with flying colours, winning in just over half an hour.
The World No.36 got the better of the 18-year-old Egyptian in straight games, winning 11-7, 14-12, 11-8 to book her place in the last 32, and she will face World No.10 Tesni Evans in the second round.
“Sana is a good player, she got a good win in Black Ball, so I was definitely prepared for it, I didn’t take it easy. Yes the second game was crucial, I actually had to dig deep as she was leading a few points. I had to stay focussed on my match, more than on what she was going to do on court,” she explained.
“I’m training in the US with David Palmer so I could come here without any trouble. It’s very disappointing for the Malaysian team, they haven’t been playing for a while now, and I was quite excited forward to meeting with them.
“Tesni [Evans] is a top player, she’s been at the top for a while now. Again, I just want to give my best, and as my semester is over now, I can focus on my game. Normally I come on tournaments with my laptop, my books.. But this time round, it’s only me, with my racquet, that’s one burden away, I can relax, and play my game.”
Olivia Fiechter (USA) bt [WC] Habiba El Dafrawy (EGY) 3-0: 11-3, 11-1, 11-4 (19m)
Sivasangari Subramanium (MAS) bt Sana Ibrahim (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 14-12, 11-8 (32m)
French Duo Of Crouin & Serme Advance
The French pair of Victor Crouin and Lucas Serme are through to the second round of the El Gouna International after securing wins in their opening clashes of the campaign.
Serme came up against India’s Vikram Malhotra in his first round match-up, and he saw himself fall behind after the first game, losing it 11-9, but he fought his way back into the contest.
He took the next three games to secure a 3-1 victory, winning 9-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-7 to advance to the second round of the tournament, where he will face Germany’s Raphael Kandra on Friday afternoon.
Compatriot Victor Crouin came through a five-game battle against another Frenchman, defeating Auguste Dussourd in the decider, having held the lead twice before that.
Victor Crouin celebrates
Crouin, ranked higher than his opponent in the World Rankings, took the first 11-9, but lost the second by the same scoreline to see the match level. He then went in front for a second time after winning the third game 11-4.
Once again, though, Dussourd fought back, and took the fourth 11-7 to set up a deciding game. It would eventually be Crouin who took the victory, winning the final game 11-7 to secure his place in the last 32, where he will face USA No.2 Shahjahan Khan.
“The rallies were short, the ball slow, which is not what I like. I like when I’m in it, when my heart rate goes to 80%, and that there is no stoppage,” he explained.
“Whereas he likes to take his time before serving, I get out of my rhythm, I lose my discipline, my accuracy, my game plan, I start making the error. Which allows him to clinch a few points, little by little. And he is super intelligent, he knows how to do it. So you lose a bit of confidence, and you find yourself playing a five-gamer.
“Still very happy to win after a long stoppage of 2 months, especially as I was working on my university studies from home, so I spent two months sitting on a chair in front of the screen. Not good. I feel my body is asleep, I feel aches and pains, like an old guy! Which is not good as my strength is actually to feel strong physically.
“The end was truly mental. Weirdly enough, I felt like I had forgotten everything I have been working on for the past year. I could feel the tension, as if I was in the juniors again. Good thing is that I managed to stay calm. I was just trying to keep the ball in play and that was when I was winning.”
Lucas Serme (FRA) bt Vikram Malhotra (IND) 3-1: 9-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-7 (41m)
Victor Crouin (FRA) bt Auguste Dussourd (FRA) 3-2: 11-9, 9-11, 11-4, 7-11, 11-7 (66m)
Egyptian Pair Mickawy and Ramadan Through
Egyptian duo Zeina Mickawy and Hana Ramadan got their El Gouna campaigns off to winning starts with a 3-0 and 3-1 victory over Netherlands Tessa Ter Sluis and Egypt’s Nadine Shahin respectively.
World No.25 Mickawy was in top form to quickly dispatch World No.65 Ter Sluis by an 11-3, 11-5, 11-5 scoreline in 15 minutes.
She will face World No.2 and 2019 finalist Nouran Gohar in the next round.
“I love this tournament and I’m very excited to play it,” said Mickawy.
“I’m very happy to finish the match as quickly as I can. I held onto the T as much as I could, and seized any opportunity that arose with a good accuracy at the back I thought. I went for it, volleys, shots in the middle. I took my chances and it worked.
“Tomorrow, I’m playing Nouran [Gohar] and I’m really looking forward to that match. Honestly, I enjoy playing against her, I have no pressure, she is the World No.2 and I’ll just enjoy my game and play my best squash possible. Last times we played went to four, it was pretty close. So, this time, I’ll try and keep going and keep focusing till the end and believing I can do it. If I finish the games the way I start them, maybe I can do it.”
Meanwhile, Ramadan pulled off the first upset of the day as she axed compatriot and World No.18 Shahin in four games.
World No.49 Ramadan had never beaten her compatriot before today with the higher seeded player taking the last two wins. However, the 23-year-old played with composure to produce a confident performance and closed out 11-8, 11-4, 5-11, 11-7 in 33 minutes.
“We’ve been playing each other for such a long time, we know each other’s game pretty well,” said Ramadan afterwards. “It was all about who was going to keep pushing and stay in the rallies till the end, and keep the focus and the game plan.
“I was doing well in my second game, then in the third, I completely lost the flow of things, and she changed her game, by reading mine very well.
“I’m so happy it didn’t go to five, I knew that if I let go of that fourth, she would come back and put me under pressure again.
“I’m playing Yathreb, we played such a long time ago, I’m going in there with a blank page, will put my game plan down there, and go for my shots as much as I can, and not lose my concentration, as she is a very skilful player. And I have to be very clean and stay away from her volley backhand.”
She will face compatriot Yathreb Adel in the second round.
Zeina Mickawy (EGY) bt Tessa ter Sluis (NED) 3-0: 11-3, 11-5, 11-5 (15m)
Hana Ramadan (EGY) bt Nadine Shahin (EGY) 3-1: 11-8, 11-4, 5-11, 11-7 (33m)
Harrity and Soliman Take RD1 Wins
Todd Harrity in action against George Parker
USA’s Todd Harrity recorded an impressive straight-games win over England’s George Parker, while Egypt’s Youssef Soliman took out wildcard Aly Abou Eleinen in four games.
Harrity, who is now based in Egypt and trains with renowned coach Haitham Effat, was in dominant form to overcome a tough opponent in Parker.
The USA player will face the winner of Spain’s Edmon Lopez v France’s Baptiste Masotti in the second round.
“Egypt has been great. I’ve learned so much out of the past six months or so I have been living here,” said the USA player afterwards.
“All the best players are there, it’s like a microcosm of squash, and it’s amazing. I’m learning so much from my coach Haitham Effat and the other players. Also, I am playing a lot of matches, and I am getting better at wining matches, I guess, which is in fact wait for it, the purpose of it all.
“I worked with Haitham on some techniques and so, but mostly, he is so experienced, he’s watched so much squash over the course of his coaching career. I think his help with me has been as much the mental aspect and how to think, how a winner or a champion thinks and not worrying about the score, trusting the process in fact.”
Meanwhile, Soliman and Eleinen played out the longest match of the day so far with the wildcard pushing the World No.28 to 80 minutes in their tight four game battle.
Youssef Soliman and Aly Abou Eleinen in action
Soliman looked as though he had the win wrapped up when he went two games up, but Eleinen, who was playing his first PSA tournament, had other ideas as he rallied back but was unable to push the match to a fifth.
Soliman will face New Zealand’s Paul Coll in the second round.
“I was not expecting that at all to be honest. I was confident, and then he caught me off guard, he was playing so well,” Said Soliman.
“I told myself ok, I’ve got to find a way and then I thought ok, now I’ve got the first game, it’s going to be ok but it wasn't ok!
“I was physically alright, I just didn’t feel I was in the tournament. I kept telling myself, next game, I’ll be better, next game, I’ll be better. But I wasn’t. And that’s all credit to him. It’s not like I was not ready or anything. He pushed me hard.
“Mind you, it could be a good thing to be prepared for what’s waiting for me tomorrow, Paul Coll. It’s all about being mentally prepared, well I think today did that beautifully. Now, I’m definitely in the tournament.
“He is so hungry, even when he was down, he never gave up, he kept fighting. And yes, it’s a long four setter, although we had a few injury breaks. But that’s what we train for, to get through those kind of matches and hopefully being more prepared tomorrow.”
Eleinen added: “I play in Penn University, and I work with Gilly Lane and Stuart Crawford.
“I’m just so excited to play here in Gouna. I was supposed to play in April last year, then in November, it kept being postponed. I am so happy to finally get to play here, I have been waiting for this tournament for God knows how long! So grateful for this opportunity.
“I have been working so hard, and I also want to be a top professional player. I am originally from Alexandria but I moved to the States when I was 15 and I’ve been in Penn for now three years. I have been working with top class coaches. But when I finish my studies, I probably want to come back to Egypt as everything about squash happens here really, but I’m taking one day at a time, and see where it takes me.
“I was grateful to come here, and didn’t want to take the opportunity for granted, I wasn’t to give it all. I’m very happy with my performance, I’m going to learn from it and move forward.”
Todd Harrity (USA) bt George Parker (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-8, 11-5 (41m)
Youssef Soliman (EGY) bt [WC] Aly Abou Eleinen (EGY) 3-1: 12-10, 14-12, 3-11, 11-8 (80m)
Metwally and Mohamed Conquer in El Gouna
Mariam Metwally in action against Cindy Merlo
Egyptian pair Mariam Metwally and Farida Mohamed are safely into the second round of the El Gouna International PSA Platinum event after they defeated Switzerland’s Cindy Merlo and wildcard Nour Aboulmakarim respectively.
Metwally took just 22 minutes to axe Merlo and set up a second round clash with England’s former World No.3 Alison Waters. While, Mohamed was forced to hold off a comeback from young wildcard Aboulmakarim as she made her way into the next round courtesy of an 11-9, 15-13, 10-12, 11-8 scoreline.
Mohamed will face World No.1 and 2018 runner-up Nour El Sherbini on the glass court in the next round.
“Mentally today I wanted to play as a top player, not a junior,” said Mohamed.
“I wanted to make her feel that she was losing the match 50% because I’m a bigger player, more experienced. Which I guess I managed to do but only at the better end of the match.
“At the beginning, it was a point for point squash, with the pressure on me. It was difficult, and she only wanted to play a good match. I was not satisfied with the number of errors I played, especially as they were at crucial times. I feel I was playing too short too soon.
“I’m happy that I managed to keep pushing at the end of the games, when it’s close, I often lose the games. But today, I was able to win those games.
“She played really well, she never gave up. In the third, although she was down, 10-5, she kept pushing and finally she took that game. But it was good for me as in the fourth, I made sure I was keeping ahead with the score and not letting her come back, because I knew she would have been able to take the game, and maybe even take the 5th. So I knew that I had to take in four.”
Mariam Metwally (EGY) bt Cindy Merlo (SUI) 3-0: 11-4, 11-6, 11-3 (22m)
Farida Mohamed (EGY) bt [WC] Nour Aboulmakarim (EGY) 3-1: 11-9, 15-13, 10-12, 11-8 (44m)
Bernabeu and Masotti Close Out Wins on Day One
Spain’s Iker Pajares Bernabeu and France’s Baptiste Masotti were the final winners on the opening day of action on courts three and four at the El Gouna International after they defeated India’s Aditya Jagtap and Spain’s Edmon Lopez.
Bernabeu was made to work hard for his victory over World No.66 Jagtap, who was a late reserve into the PSA Platinum draw following a number of withdrawals. The Indian, who hadn’t played a PSA tournament since February 2020, ran the Spanish No.2 close in all three games but was unable to challenge him in the big points.
Iker Pajares Bernabeu in action
Bernabeu moves into the second round where he will face reigning World Champion Tarek Momen.
“He is a nightmare. He was in Barcelona for almost a year, I know him very well,” said Bernabeu.
“There is no rhythm in his game, he is firing shots all the times, with the volleys from the back, he is very difficult to read, he holds the ball very well, he holds, he holds, and then he plays.
“The court is very cold, and I feel that’s to his advantage. I find him very difficult to play. I was very nervous. I know he can play very good squash, and if he is confident, he is very hard to play.
“I’m playing Tarek. It’s the third or fourth time I play him, he is the World No.3 and I think it’s good for me we are playing on the traditional court. But of course, a very hard match tomorrow but I will fight. I have no pressure, I’ll have to be confident, I have worked very hard so we will see.”
Meanwhile, Masotti came up against Bernabeu’s compatriot in Lopez who managed to fight back from one game down to draw level but was unable to make it count against the French World No.37 who close out on the tie-break in the fourth.
He takes on USA’s Todd Harrity for a place in the third round.
Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) bt Aditya Jagtap (IND) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 (33m)
Baptiste Masotti (FRA) bt Edmon Lopez (ESP) 3-1: 11-9, 9-11, 11-7, 12-10 (59m)