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Mazen Hesham

TOC Quarters: Player Reaction

We’ve reached the quarter final stage in New York as 16 players look to book their spots in the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions semi-finals.

Play begins at 13:30 (GMT-4) live on SQUASHTV and you can also stay up-to-date with all the live scores from the tournament here.

All top four seeds have progressed to the quarter final stage as well as two USA players, Olivia Clyne and Olivia Fiechter. Clyne will play Egypt’s Salma Hany for a place in the final four whereas Fiechter will face Rowan Elaraby.

There are only two unseeded players featuring on day five as France’s Victor Crouin plays talented Egyptian Mazen Hesham and Nada Abbas plays USA No.1 Amanda Sobhy.

Order Of Play
All times are local (GMT-4)

Order of play

Hany first through to semis after confident display against Clyne

Salma Hany celebrates her win

First up on quarter final day was New York-born Olivia Clyne taking on No.3 seed Salma Hany from Egypt. The pair last met in the CIB PSA Black Ball Squash Open in March 2021, with Hany storming to victory in just 22 minutes.

Hany came out to the perfect start and took the ball in short straight away and found immediate winners against a slow-starting Clyne and after just 5 minutes, the Egyptian was ahead 1-0.

Another great start followed for Hany as she ran out to a 5-0 lead in the second game by finding her targets both short and long on the all glass court in New York’s Grand Central terminal. The momentum showed no signs of slowing down and Clyne had no answers for the impeccable squash of Hany. The No.3 seed doubled her lead, 11-3 to place one foot in the semi-finals.

Despite a better showing from Clyne in the third game, it was still all about Salma Hany. The World No.7 showed her class and confidently booked her place in the last four, taking the game 11-7 and the match in 26 minutes.

Hany had this to say after her win:

“I'm very proud of how I turned up today, the scoreline might seem easy but nobody knows how hard it is to play Olivia. She is one of my closest friends, it's so hard to turn on that beast mode with her. She's very talented, she can make you do a lot of work on court, I'm just happy I managed to play well and stay strong and I'm happy to be in the semis.

“I have very special moments here. I've had some good upsets here, it’s always very special to be in New York at Grand Central, the crowd are amazing all the time. Even though I was paying an American today, I could feel a little bit of love which I'm very lucky to have so I'm just really happy and looking forward to getting on court again tomorrow.”

[3] Salma Hany (EGY) bt [6] Olivia Clyne (USA) 3-0: 11-2, 11-3, 11-7 (25m)

Hesham beats Crouin to make his 4th final of 2022

Mazen Hesham

Mazen Hesham was next to book his place in the semi-finals as he beat up and coming Frenchman Victor Crouin for the second time this season.

Hesham’s unmatched shot-making abilities were on display from the start of the match as the unorthodox Egyptian twisted and turned Crouin to great effect and troubled him with nearly every shot he played.

After losing the first game, Crouin seemed to settle into a comfortable rhythm in the next game and used his strong movement to counterattack Hesham with accurate straight drops. Errors started to come from the racket of the Egyptian and Crouin levelled the match at 1-1 by winning 11-7.

Crouin started the third game in great form and raced out to a 4-1 lead, It all changed from this point however as Hesham stepped up the court and fired in winner after winner to take the next eight points and lead 9-4. The World No.8 closed out the game 11-6 to take a crucial 2-1 lead.

‘The Black Falcon’ moved from strength to strength in the fourth game and after some slengthy rallies, he showed his class to set himself up with four match balls to make yet another PSA World Tour semi-final. He converted on the third time of asking to move into his fourth semi-final of 2022.

The Egyptian had this to say after his win:

“I’ve been dreaming of playing in the later stages of this event, I actually only won my first match on this court a few days ago and it’s not because I'm a bad player. I’ve had some injuries but hopefully, it can happen more from now on. But it feels amazing to be able to compete against these top guys everywhere in the world, not just here.

“He’s not copying my shots, he has his own brand of squash, he's an amazing player, very hungry and ferocious, it's not the type I want to play against, to be honest. Last time he was overexcited because he beat Paul Coll the day before, but today was a different story, I had to be on my metal, in the second game I think I whipped the ball and I think that was good for my game as I might have stayed lazy.”

[3] Mazen Hesham (EGY) bt Victor Crouin (FRA) 3-1: 11-4, 7-11, 11-6, 11-8 (48m)

Fiechter completes stunning comeback to reach the semis

Olivia Fiechter

Featuring next on quarter finals day was USA’s Olivia Fiechter facing recent Carol Weymuller Champion Rowan Elaraby. The pair recently played in the Allam British Open third round with Fiechter winning in straight games.

Elaraby ensured the same scoreline wasn't replicated as she took a crucial first game in 14 minutes, 12-10. The rallies were extremely close between the two, Elaraby used her trademark attacking play to continually trouble the American at the front of the court and despite forcing a tiebreak, Fiechter couldn’t stop the Egyptian from converting.

The confidence started to ooze from the World No.8 in game two as she used her deception and skill to move Fiechter into all four corners of the court. The American had a hige mountain to climb as she lost the second game 11-6 to trail 2-0.

Fiechter stuck to her task however and straightened up her play from the back of the court to limit the attacking opportunities of her talented opponent. This tactic started to frustrate Elaraby as errors started to come from the Egyptian’s racket. Fiechter not only took the third game but also continued her momentum to force a fifth and final game, winning both games 11-8.

Fiechter ran out to a strong 4-1 lead in the fifth game but back game Elaraby and in the blink of an eye found herself 8-6 up. More quality rallies followed from the pair as the score reached 9-9. After saving a match ball at 10-9, Fiechter won the next two points to earn a match ball of her own and after an Elaraby error, Fiechter had completed the comeback.

Upon capturing the win, Fiechter had this to say:

“I'm a little tired, I'm lost for words. I knew Rowan would be out for revenge, I got the better of her when we played in the British Open about a month ago. I knew she'd come out firing, I definitely had a slow start and she was playing well and everything seemed to be running away from me. I told myself to try and relax and keep retrieving balls and my goal in the match was to just get in front as much as possible and volley and I think I got better as the match went on. I'm at a loss for words.

“Fortunately with my sports psychologist, Danny Massaro, we've been working on trying to stay positive and predict positive things, even in moments where things are running away from me and I'm feeling that I’m not hitting my targets, I can turn it around and play the match of my life. I'm not sure it was tonight but I'm just relieved that I could find a way through.

“It’s so hard to believe, when I've played this event in the past I've barely made the draw and just to be able to play on this court and to be able to come out and play again tomorrow and to try and book my place in the final is just incredible.”

[5] Olivia Fiechter (USA) bt [4] Rowan Elaraby (EGY) 3-2: 10-12, 6-11, 11-8, 11-8, 12-10 (63m)

Farag in top form as he reaches third consecutive TOC semi-final

Ali Farag in action

The reigning World Champion Ali Farag booked his place in his third consecutive Tournament of Champions semi-final as he beat ‘Colombian Cannonball’ Miguel Rodriguez in straight games.

In a closely contested first game, Rodriguez managed to restrict the winners of Farag and keep the former World No.1 behind him. Farag showed his class however and closed out the game 11-9.

Farag stepped his game up from this point and started to push and pull Rodriguez all over the court. Rodriguez was doing his best to stay in the rallies and showcased his exquisite movement to excite the New York crowd. Farag was unphased by the eccentric play of the Colombian and closed the second and third games out confidently 11-4, 11-5.

Farag will now face compatriot Mazen Hesham in the next round and had this to say:

“I'm taking one match at a time, they are both top, top players, they both have qualities that make me a little edgy. Yesterday I can’t match James’ accuracy so I have to open it up and make it physical, today was the opposite, if I open it up he is better at this game so I have to be the one to straighten it up and play tight. The first was a little too open and he flourished so I kept it tight in the second and third and I thought I did that well in the end.

“I was trying to make it tighter, he makes it hard for you because he opens up the court and hits a lot of good shots and I had to match him somehow but no matter how fast someone is there are always holes in their game and I'm pleased I could expose that in the end today.

“I go to every tournament trying to win the title, there's a lot of good payers in every draw, it's the Tournament of Champions that has a lot of history so everyone wants to hold that trophy. But now I have one task at hand which is Mazen so I just focus on that one.”

[1] Ali Farag (EGY) bt [5] Miguel Rodriguez (COL) 3-0: 11-9, 11-4, 11-5 (35m)

Elias in Control to Reach Semis

Diego Elias (right) takes on Gregoire Marche (left)

World No.5 Diego Elias has reached the semi finals of the historic Tournament of Champions for the first time after a hard-fought victory against Frenchman Gregoire Marche.

Elias had won his last seven matches against the World No.13 but had to be on his mettle tonight at the iconic Grand Central Terminal as he closed out an 11-3, 11-6, 10-12, 11-6 victory.

The Peruvian was in complete control in the first two games as his deft touch and pinpoint accuracy nullified his opponent’s impressive speed on court, while there were too many errors from the racket of Marche for him to truly pose his opponent too many problems.

That all changed in the third though as a slight drop off in intensity from Elias – combined with Marche finally finding his range – saw the Frenchman strike to keep the match alive and kicking.

But in the end, Elias’s quality was just too much for Marche and he will line up against either Egypt’s Youssef Ibrahim or India’s Saurav Ghosal for a place in the title decider.

“I’m feeling pretty good, I think I started very well,” Elias said.

“I had a good first two games, then he started playing better and making longer rallies, so all credit to him, he made it really tough and I’m just happy to win.

“I’m enjoying every match I’m playing here, it’s my first semi final here in New York, so I just want to play my best squash.

“I think I’m just going to recover, take care of my body and maybe watch it [the last men’s quarter final] tomorrow on replay.”

[2] Diego Elias (PER) bt [4] Gregoire Marche (FRA) 3-1: 11-3, 11-6, 10-12, 11-6 (49m)

Sobhy Downs Abbas in Straight Games

Amanda Sobhy

United States No.1 Amanda Sobhy booked her place in the last four of the ToC for the second time in her career – and the first since 2016 – following an assured 3-0 win over World No.16 Nada Abbas.

Sobhy was cheered on to the rafters inside Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall and made a terrific start as she dominated the first game courtesy of some positive, attacking squash.

Abbas, sporting strapping on her right leg, wasn’t quite moving at her best but was able to respond with some fine shots into the front of the court and was level at 7-7 in the second, before Sobhy got back on the attack again to double her lead.

It was nip and tuck in the early stages of the third too, but Sobhy was able to lift the ball when she needed to and strike when the opportunity arose to seal the win in straight games.

Sobhy is now one win away from a second ToC final and the World No.4 will take on No.3 seed Salma Hany for a place in the title decider. The match will be a repeat of the 2021 Oracle NetSuite Open, which Sobhy won.

“It’s a privilege to play here,” said Sobhy.

“I love playing on home soil in front of the New York crowd, they are amazing. I want to enjoy every moment that I can here, it’s been two and a half years [since the last ToC], so I don’t want to wait any longer for the next time the ToC happens. I want to enjoy this moment and be out there as long as I can, except for when I’m actually playing because I’d like to win as quick as possible.”

Sobhy’s win came the day after the New York Times released a feature on the American and she encouraged all squash fans to learn more about her story and career thus far.

“It’s long, but it’s worth it.” Sobhy said.

“It’s not every day squash and myself get to be in the New York Times Magazine. Yesterday was overwhelming in the best way possible. I’m just owning the spotlight at the moment and I’m going to ride this wave for as long as I can.”

[2] Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt Nada Abbas (EGY) 3-0: 11-4, 11-8, 11-8 (29m)

Ghosal Claims Ibrahim Scalp to Reach Biggest Semi Since 2019

Saurav Ghosal in action

World No.17 Saurav Ghosal has reached his biggest PSA semi final since 2019 after a magnificent performance saw him take out Egypt’s Youssef Ibrahim under the chandeliers of Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall.

It was the pair’s first meeting on the PSA Tour and 35-year-old Ghosal – who has recently suffered with an abductor injury which saw him miss out on the Allam British Open – made the better start of the two.

Ghosal had the superior line and length, meaning he was able to starve Ibrahim of the ball in the centre of the court, which is where the Egyptian is often at his deadliest.

The exciting squash continued into the second and third game. In the former, Ibrahim was able to level up after finally unleashing the attacking squash for which he is known. In the latter, he was tested to the max by his opponent but just managed to get his nose ahead to take a 2-1 lead.

He was all at sea in the fourth game though and was outplayed by Ghosal, who controlled proceedings and moved his opponent into all four corners of the court to send the match into a tantalising decider.

The fifth game certainly didn’t disappoint, with both players going toe-to-toe in front of a sell-out crowd. And it was Ghosal who managed to hold his nerve to get a massive win over the line and he will take on Peru’s Diego Elias for a place in the final.

“It means so much, this is my 11th time here and I hadn’t gotten this far,” said Ghosal.

“I’ve been putting a lot of work in and it’s good to see it come to fruition. For it to come to fruition at somewhere like Grand Central Terminal is brilliant, I’m super happy.

“I don’t think you can call Youssef an up-and-coming player anymore, he’s chopping people that are much higher up. He’s playing at such a high level, it’s so difficult to play him. I had to be super disciplined in my head to execute the plan that David Palmer, who has been coaching me, had put together.

“He’s going to be around for a really long time entertaining a lot of people around the world. I’m just glad that today we had such a good match and hopefully we can have a few more before I walk into the sunset.”

[7] Saurav Ghosal (IND) bt [8] Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) 3-2: 11-8, 7-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-9 (72m)

Gohar Overcomes Naughton To Advance

Nouran Gohar

World No.1 Nouran Gohar was the last player to advance to the semi-finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, after she convincingly got the better of Canadian No.1 Hollie Naughton in straight games.

Gohar was in typical ‘Terminator’ mood, and her hard hitting was ferocious from the off, racing out into a lead in all three games of their quarter final contest at Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

The Canadian fought back in both the first and second games, but was unable to stop the momentum from being in the World No.1’s favour. Gohar wrapped up the win after taking the third 11-5, moving through to the semis in New York for the third time in her career.

“I just think feel like a match a day, that is the main focus, to win obviously but I just take it step by step, point by point,” Gohar said.

“I just try to improve certain things in my game because I know if I can focus on this, the results will just come after.

“In the past, I would just be focussed on myself and not really watch a lot of matches but now I have to.. I felt like I had stuff to improve so I just wanted to focus on myself, but now I look at other players and what they do. Everyone wants to beat me now, I am no longer the underdog.

“Now it is a different perspective so I am watching what is going on. Even the men’s matches, I can learn more things, how they hit the ball and everything. It doesn’t really help when i am playing the last match at 10pm, because it is a very long day!”

[1] Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt [8] Hollie Naughton (CAN) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-5 (28m)

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