The CIB Egyptian Open begins today with side court action from the New Giza Sporting Club as players bid to get off to a successful start as they eye up a spot on the glass court in front of the iconic Great Pyramid of Giza later on in the event.
We'll have reports and reaction from courts one and two here, where the likes of Mexico's Cesar Salazar, France's Baptiste Masotti, Wales' Emily Whitlock and Australia's Donna Lobban will be in action.
You can keep up with the live scores from the event here.
All times are local (GMT+2).
12:00 Lisa Aitken (SCO) v Sana Ibrahim (EGY)
12:45 Bernat Jaume (ESP) v Greg Lobban (SCO)
13:45 Hana Ramadan (EGY) v Zeina Mickawy (EGY)
14:30 Karim El Hammamy (EGY) v Christopher Binnie (JAM)
17:00 Menna Hamed (EGY) v Emily Whitlock (WAL)
17:45 Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v Dimitri Steinmann (SUI)
18:45 Donna Lobban (AUS) v [WC] Malak Khafagy (EGY)
19:30 Ryosei Kobayashi (JPN) v Raphael Kandra (GER)
You can also watch the action from court one below.
12:00 Liu Tsz-Ling (HKG) v Ineta Mackevica (LAT)
12:45 Henry Leung (HKG) v Cesar Salazar (MEX)
13:45 Lee Ka Yi (HKG) v Jasmine Hutton (ENG)
14:30 Mazen Gamal (EGY) v Shahjahan Khan (USA)
17:00 Enora Villard (FRA) v Jana Shiha (EGY)
17:45 [WC] Ibrahim Elkabbani (EGY) v Baptiste Masotti (FRA)
18:45 Coline Aumard (FRA) v Emilia Soini (FIN)
19:30 Tayyab Aslam (PAK) v [WC] Yahya Elnawasany (EGY)
You can also watch the action from court two below.
Aitken and Liu Battle to Five-Game Victories
Lisa Aitken in action
The first two matches of the day both went the distance as Scotland’s Lisa Aitken and Hong Kong’s Liu Tsz-Ling both battled to 3-2 victories to secure their places in the second round of the CIB Egyptian Open.
Aitken, the World No.39, was up against 18-year-old Egyptian Sana Ibrahim in her fixture and dropped the first game before coming back to take a 2-1 lead.
World No.60 drew Ibrahim level in the fourth, but she cut an increasingly disconsolate figure in the decider as Aitken inflicted a ‘bagel’ upon her opponent in a thoroughly convincing fifth-game performance from the Scottish player.
“I was sent home at the British because I was a case contact with James Willstrop, so today I was so excited to play after being so disappointed not to play at the British,” Aitken said.
“When I got on court, I was a bit flat. It was like I didn’t have that hunger to win, almost like I was “ok, I got here”. So it had to be a bit close – well 2-2 is what we can call close I guess – until I got that burning in the belly.
“I hadn’t played a match for a while, so the fact it went to five gave me a bit of practice, and I’m happy with the way I played in that fifth game. She might not have the most skilful attributes but actually everything else she does have makes her very dangerous. I really admire all the young Egyptians, they each possess weapons of their own, and I admire that.
“Everyone is unique and ultimately they all have that fire all the time, it it doesn’t matter who they play, whether it’s No.1 in the world or No.100, it’s the same story. They turn up to fight, and they fight to the death.
“That was never going to be easy. It’s also nice to play someone new with a different style.”
Aitken will play another Egyptian – either Zeina Mickawy or Hana Ramadan – in the last 32, while World No.45 Liu will take on either England’s Jasmine Hutton or compatriot Lee Ka Yi next.
Liu Tsz-Ling in action
Liu turns 30 today and ensured that her birthday celebrations would not be derailed by a defeat as she withstood an attempted comeback from Latvia’s Ineta Mackevica to win 11-5, 11-9, 6-11, 1-11, 11-6.
After some consistent length hitting saw her outmanoeuvre her opponent in the first two games, a drop in focus from the Hong Kong player handed Mackevica a lifeline as the World No.52 found her way back into the match and she looked poised to complete the comeback after an 11-1 victory in game four.
However, Liu rediscovered her game in the fifth to hold Mackevica at arm’s length and earn her place in the second round.
“The battle today was within myself,” Liu said.
“It was a tough year, we didn’t get to play many matches, and I had some tough losses in our local tournaments that undermined my confidence.
“In previous matches I found myself in the same kind of circumstances, and I just gave up. So today I didn’t want to let myself down again, I kept pushing, just focused on each point and tried to play one more game.”
Lisa Aitken (SCO) bt Sana Ibrahim (EGY) 3-2: 8-11, 11-7, 11-6, 5-11, 11-0 (45m)
Liu Tsz-Ling (HKG) bt Ineta Mackevica (LAT) 3-2: 11-5, 11-9, 6-11, 1-11, 11-6 (35m)
Salazar & Lobban Advance
Cesar Salazar in action
Mexico’s Cesar Salazar laboured to a hard-fought 3-2 win against Hong Kong’s Henry Leung as he made his first appearance on the PSA Tour in 10 months.
Salazar’s last PSA event saw him withdraw from a Qatar Classic clash with Youssef Ibrahim due to injury and the 33-year-old had to dig in against World No.71 Henry Leung, with the match finally being settled by a tie-break in a nail-biting fifth game.
World No.27 Salazar will now play Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez for a place in round three, while Scotland’s Greg Lobban also advances after a comfortable 3-0 win over Spain’s Bernat Jaume.
“My last tournament was Qatar last year, that’s a long time,” Salazar said.
“My last match ended with an injury, that wasn’t nice. I then worked very hard for my recovery, four months, and in April I was all set for the Worlds, but one week before the event I tested positive for COVID,and got pretty ill with my breathing for a week days.
“So it was hard for me, it was such a long time without playing a tournament, but now I’m so happy. I was sort of ready for the British, but I lacked a bit of preparation time. So I had to take my name off again, and it was hard for me because I had been working so hard.
“So to be here is just great and I’m happy with the result. Of course the result is important, it’s good to win, but the most important for me is to play, to feel the sensations, to be amongst the other players, and getting to play the best players in the world.”
Lobban will play either Egypt’s Karim El Hammamy or Jamaica’s Christopher Binnie in the next round.
“I knew the strength of Bernat, he’s got very good hands, and it’s quite a dead court on there as well,” Lobban said.
“Even if the court is quite bouncy, the ball stays in the corners. It was tough against him, I really needed to be sharp and on my toes. And it’s been a while since I won on the PSA World Tour.
“It was a tough few months, but I’m happy to get that one under my belt. I struggled a lot with the tournaments being so far apart, I like having momentum, having match practice. Then when a few things don’t go your way, the confidence goes down a lot.
“But the last couple of months, I've been feeling confident, I changed a few things in my game, a few things in my setup and staff, so I feel really good. I felt really good on court, and I’m looking forward to this week and future tournaments in the next few months.”
Cesar Salazar (MEX) bt Henry Leung (HKG) 3-2: 9-11, 11-8, 11-9, 4-11, 11-9 (54m)
Greg Lobban (SCO) bt Bernat Jaume (ESP) 3-0: 13-11, 11-5, 11-5 (39m)
Hutton and Ramadan Claim Victory
Jasmine Hutton in action
England’s Jasmine Hutton and Egypt’s Hana Ramadan booked their spots in the next round following wins over Hong Kong’s Lee Ka Yi and World No.22 Zeina Mickawy, respectively.
World No.43 Hutton will appear in the last 32 of this tournament for the first time after a she came back from a game down to beat Lee by an 7-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-5 margin.
The 22-year-old’s reward is a second round fixture with Lee’s compatriot, Liu Tsz-Ling, after she dispatched Latvia’s Ineta Mackevica.
“We are not allowed to watch matches and support each other [due to COVID-19 protocols] which is quite hard,” said Hutton.
“It’s hard when you don’t have anyone to talk to, but it’s nice to have someone you are close to just around and knowing they are there.
“I have never seen her play and a lot of girls from Hong Kong haven’t played many events recently. I knew she had a lot of games against good players, and a few people told me she likes to go for shots. So I knew I had to be on it from the word go, otherwise it would have been a really tough game today.
I feel good physically, I know I lost the first game, but sometimes you need that extra game just to let yourself go a bit more.”
Hana Ramadan (left) takes on Zeina Mickawy (right)
Meanwhile, Ramadan moves on to face Scotland’s Lisa Aitken after she defeated Sana Ibrahim in five games.
Ramadan wasn’t able to make the most of her two-game lead initially as Mickawy came back to halve the deficit but a nail-biting tie-break went the way of Ramadan in the fourth as the World No.46 won it 17-15 to seal her spot in the last 16.
“Zeina and I go way back, we play against each other a lot, we train together, we travel together, so it’s really tough every time we play together, it's very annoying,” Ramadan said.
“But we push each other every time, we get the best out of each other. It’s very mental, It’s always hard to keep your emotions and get your game out. We know each other’s game very well and it's always a challenge.”
Jasmine Hutton (ENG) bt Lee Ka Yi (HKG) 3-1: 7-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-5 (38m)
Hana Ramadan (EGY) bt Zeina Mickawy (EGY) 3-1: 11-9, 11-7, 9-11, 17-15 (48m)
El Hammamy and Khan Progress
Karim El Hammamy (left) takes on Chris Binnie (right)
Egypt’s Karim El Hammamy and USA’s Shahjahan Khan became the latest players to seal their places in the last 32 following respective wins over Jamaica’s Christopher Binnie and Egyptian Mazen Gamal.
El Hammamy fell a game behind against Binnie after some lengthy rallies, which was momentarily disrupted by a siren echoing throughout the venue.
Once order had been restored, Binnie held firm to record a one-game advantage but was unable to keep El Hammamy at bay as the former World Junior Champion came back to win three games without reply.
“The whole match, I couldn’t find my shots from the middle,” El Hammamy said.
“I played well at the back, I could create chances, I got some openings, but I never felt the ball well on the volley and until the end of the match I kept finding the tin.
“So I decided to change my tactic and if I was going to the front, it would be high and glued to the wall.
He was volleying a lot, he is a big guy. I could get him behind me and create shots, but today my problem was the finishing, I just couldn’t feel it.
I’m playing Greg Lobban tomorrow, I’m down 4-0 to him [on their head-to-head record]. All I know is I’m going to have to be 100% more more sharper than today.”
Khan’s comfortable 3-0 win over Gamal will see him play No.7 seed Fares Dessouky.
Shahjahan Khan in action
“Alhamdulillah, I felt good and confident today,” said Khan.
“Coming to this tournament, I have been preparing myself, more mentally than physically, because even though I was already there physially, I was a bit shaky mentally. But now I’m very positive, I’m in a good mindset.
A quick thank you to my coach, Zarak Jahan Khan, and also my preparator, Bader Khan, he is based in London. He helps me with my mentality, with my strategy, and he also has a good knowledge of squash.
Normally I struggle when the matches are stop and start with a lot of stoppages, but today I had a good mindset for it. I was ready and it didn’t affect the final result.”
Karim El Hammamy (EGY) bt Christopher Binnie (JAM) 3-1: 9-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-2 (65m)
Shahjahan Khan (USA) bt Mazen Gamal (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 12-10, 11-6 (39m)
Whitlock and Shiha Secure RD2 Berths
Emily Whitlock in action
Wales’ Emily Whitlock and Egypt’s Jana Shiha got the evening session under way in Cairo with a pair of 3-0 victories against Menna Hamed and Enora Villard, respectively.
Whitlock, the World No.21, is in the midst of a run of form that has seen her reach the semi-finals at two of her previous three PSA events and she continued her recent fine displays with an 11-9, 14-12, 11-4 triumph in 41 minutes.
“It was weird, it wasn’t too hard physically, she was taking the ball short on shots I didn’t expect, but I didn’t panic,” said Whitlock.
“She is a good player, so I'm not sure why the coach felt the need to get involved. It was I think in the second game, she looks up, he starts looking and he looked like he was nodding, and it seemed to me that she changed her tactics completely. I don’t speak Arabic, but I felt something was definitely going on and hat annoyed me a little bit.
“Then one of my shots that was good was called not up, one of her shots which I thought bounced a few times was called good because the ref didn’t see the ball clearly, so that annoyed me as well. Then there were a few too many contacts for my taste, so that annoyed me as well.
The tournament is run really well, for sure, and look at me, I’m complaining while I just won. Typically British I am, still complaining about something when I won.
“I think it’s mental really because I have a very long trip on my own now for a month, and I don’t think I’ve ever been away from home for that long on my own. The last two days have been difficult because I haven’t seen many people, I've been eating in my room on my balcony. I probably speak a lot because I haven’t been socialising for a while.”
20-year-old Jana Shiha was also successful in her pursuit of a second round spot after she overcame Villard 11-9, 11-2, 11-7 in just 21 minutes.
Today, no matter my opponent, I wanted to play tough,” said Shiha.
“I wanted to prove to myself I can be Jana the way I was a year and a half ago, as those past 18 months have been up and down. The only match I played that was fair was Coline’s match in Gouna, the whole season was disastrous.
“So today I was on the war path, although I had a good draw, I feel. I wanted to prove I can win 3-0, even if I tumble here and there.
“Tomorrow, I play Nadine [Shahin], it’s not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not playing Nour [El Sherbini] or Nouran [Gohar], but Nadine is a very tough player, both mentally and physically, so I need to be as tough.”
Emily Whitlock (WAL) bt Menna Hamed (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 14-12, 11-4 (41m)
Jana Shiha (EGY) bt Enora Villard (FRA) 3-0: 11-9, 11-2, 11-7 (21m)
Castagnet Battles Past Steinmann in Entertaining Battle
Mathieu Castagnet in action
Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet is through to the last 32 following an entertaining four-game battle with Switzerland’s Dimitri Steinmann.
There were some high-octane rallies between the pair with Steinmann flying around the court to pick up ball after ball, and the World No.51 was rewarded with the opening game against an opponent he had lost 3-0 against in their only previous PSA meeting three years ago.
The second game was crucial as the experienced Castagnet halted Steinmann’s momentum courtesy of an 11-8 victory, and he held his opponent at bay in the next two games to set up a second round clash with Mohamed Abouelghar.
He joins his compatriot – Baptiste Masotti – in the last 32 after he defeated wildcard Ibrahim Elkabbani to earn a second round spot against top seed Mohamed ElShorbagy.
Baptiste Masotti (right) takes on Ibrahim Elkabbani (left)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Dimitri Steinmann (SUI) 3-1: 8-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-6 (60m)
Baptiste Masotti (FRA) bt [WC] Ibrahim Elkabbani (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-3, 11-6 (30m)
Aumard Battles Past Soini
Coline Aumard in action
The battle between France’s Coline Aumard and Finland’s Emilia Soini became the eighth match of the day to go all the way to five games, with Aumard storming to an 11-1 victory in the decider to secure passage through to round two.
Before that point, the match had been an even affair, with Aumard looking like she was on the verge of a straight games victory after narrowly having the edge over her opponent in the first two games.
Soini refused to back down though and unleashed some winners of her own and soon drew level after earning victories in games three and four.
Suddenly, the momentum swung back in Aumard’s favour though, with the World No.25 dominating the play in the fifth to set up a second round clash with Egypt’s Salma Hany.
It was a more straightforward fixture for Australia’s Donna Lobban, who took on wildcard Malak Khafagy over on court one.
The 34-year-old completed an 11-9, 11-1, 11-5 victory to ensure she will play Belgium’s Nele Gilis next.
Coline Aumard (FRA) bt Emilia Soini (FIN) 3-2: 11-9, 11-8, 7-11, 8-11, 11-1 (49m)
Donna Lobban (AUS) bt [WC] Malak Khafagy (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-1, 11-5 (22m)
Wildcard Elnawasany Upsets Aslam
Yahya Elnawasany in action.
Wildcard Yahya Elnawasany has reached the second round of a PSA Platinum event for the first time in his career after the 19-year-old dispatched Pakistan’s Tayyab Aslam with a 9-11, 11-1, 11-4, 11-8 victory.
The World No.74, from Cairo, comes into this event after picking up his third PSA title at the CIB Egyptian Challenger Tour 3 a fortnight ago and he came back from a game down to secure a landmark victory.
Elnawasany will now compete in the last 32, where he will take on fellow Egyptian Mazen Hesham.
“I think my mum must be jumping up and down with joy,” Elnawasany said following the match.
“It’s crazy, you know I just came here to prove myself. Two or three weeks ago, I lost in the Wadi Degla tournament, I played two 5K tournaments and I was bad in both. The level was not that high, so to be honest, I was about to quit squash.
“Then I tried to come back bit by bit, the last 5K I played I won, and that gave me a bit of confidence. So this tournament, I wanted to give it my all if I was to reach the top level.
“I played here 2 years ago in Al-Ahram, but it was my first time and I was not really up for it. But this time, I am taking it for real, I had a great opportunity to play Tayyab and not a top seed, so I saw that as an opportunity, and I had to take it.
“I will give it my all tomorrow against Mazen. I don’t go on court thinking 'oh well, that’s it', I will give it my all because I want to get up there with the top players.”
Germany’s Raphael Kandra will take on Allam British Open champion Paul Coll in the next round after he overcame Japan’s Ryosei Kobayashi in straight games.
Raphael Kandra (GER) bt Ryosei Kobayashi (JPN) 3-0: 11-7, 11-2, 11-9 (27m)
[WC] Yahya Elnawasany (EGY) bt Tayyab Aslam (PAK) 3-1: 9-11, 11-1, 11-4, 11-8 (38m)