Reports by Linda Elriani

Main Draw Finals - October 24, 2016

Today was the final day of our 2016 Carol Weymuller Open. It's been a tremendous week of squash and the PSA players have definitely left everyone inspired and motivated. The tournament is obviously named after Carol Weymuller herself. Carol started the junior squash program here at The Heights Casino many years back with her husband Fred and it has obviously grown and expanded along with the sport. We always like to thank Carol for all her hard work and dedication back at the start, as we wouldn't be where we are today with our program if she had not been forward thinking enough to develop squash in this area. At 7.30pm the bleachers were packed with eager members, anticipating the outcome. Our 2016 finalists were Alison Waters from England and she is the 2014 Carol Weymuller Champion and former world # 3, and Nour El Sherbini from Egypt, is the world champion and world #1. Both players looked bouncy and eager to go on knowing this was their last huge effort after a very successful and tiring week at the Weymuller. 
Nour and Alison will go off to other countries to play other tournaments soon. They will both be competing in the World Team Championships the first week of December in Paris, France. With the England and Egyptian teams being two of the stronger squash nationals, especially with the amazing depth of each team, they may be playing again soon! England are actually the defending World Team Champions so maybe they can bring home the trophy once again. Their next big PSA event will be back in NYC for the TOC in Grand Central Station January, so we are lucky to all these amazing players back in the town in the near future.
In the head to head Ali is 4-2 up, but both players have had plenty of experience in finals. Nour has competed in 59 Tour events in her career, playing 183 matches and winning 132. She has won 8 titles and tonight is playing in her 17th final. Ali has competed in 155 Tour events, playing 397 matches and winning 252. She has won 10 titles and tonight was her 23rd final. All very impressive!

They last played at the US Open 10 days ago where Nour came away the victor, but Ali won in a momentous five setter at the TOC in 2015, so it would be very interesting see which player could come away the Champ tonight. 
This match was going to be particularly interesting as both players, whilst very much on-form, play very different styles. Ali plays a very fast, precise and attacking game, stepping forward on the court and has more traditional tactics of cutting the ball off around the T. Nour varies the pace more and goes short with wonderful creative shots at almost every opportunity and tries to twist and turn her opponent and take away their rhythm. Who was going to manage to force their game plan over the other? We'd soon find out!!!!
Nour came out in the first one game fire and with a couple of strokes against Ali too, she was very soon 6-1 up. Ali seemed to settle in more and with a couple of errors from Nour and Ali fading a wonderful slow backhand drop into the front she climbed back to 4-6. A push from Nour gave her back a big margin five point margin to 9-4. After a decision from the ref that Ali wasn't too keen on she suddenly start pushing up the court, taking the ball much earlier and slotting in some amazing shot shorts. Nour's lengths were a little on the short side and Ali took complete advantage of them. Ali stormed through to take the next 6 point in a row, showing us just how skillful and deceptive she can be. At 10-9 Ali had her first game ball and Nour took away her chance with a perfect cross court drive that died in the back to equalize at 10-10. It then got a little tense and there were a series of let balls until Ali managed to hit a hard, flat drive past Nour to give her the second chance at 11-10 to win the first game. After a long rally Nour got a dubious stroke to get her back even 11-11. Another long and hard fought rally and Ali made a wrong shot choice to set Nour up on the forehand to smack the ball down the wall away from her. This gave Nour her first game ball and in true Nour style she played her game ball unflinchingly and even finished the point with a perfect flick crosscourt over to the forehand that left Ali stranded on the backhand. Nour took the first 13/11.
The second game started evenly with both players trying hard to control the middle of the court, playing some delightful and exciting squash and it stayed pretty even until 6-5. Nour then surged ahead with some wonderful and creative winners that Ali desperately tried to stop but to no avail. Nour went through to win the second game 11/6 with a perfect backhand drop.
The third started with some long and hard fought rallies with flashes of excellence from Ali, but she just couldn't manage to contain the skillful and light footed Nour. Nour really had an answer for everything that Ali threw at her! Ali had had 2 five set matches to bring her through to the final and it was now that maybe it was taking its toll on her and showing through some errors, but she still kept hanging in there and fighting for each point. Nour is looking fitter than ever and really is such a fearless competitor and mature beyond her years. Nour was almost getting better and better as the third game went on and with a number of very impressive flicks, dying lengths and drops she went straight through from 4-3 to 11-3 in one hand to become the much deserved 2016 Carol Weymuller Champion!

After the final I interviewed the very happy Nour. She said "It's a thrill to defend my title again this year after winning it last year and that was the start of a really special season, so let's hope that this will be the start of a special season again this year!"  When I asked Nour if she gets nervous before she plays, she said, "Yes, I get a little nervous before all my matches, but once I'm on the court I'm ok and I just have fun!" Well, we can see that this is the case and we certainly have a lot of fun too watching Nour in action too!!
Nour El Sherbini beat Alison Waters 13/11, 11/6, 11/3 in 40 minutes. 
I'd like to say a HUGE thank you to some key people who have put a lot of time, effort and generosity into making this tournament what it is. 
Firstly our corporate sponsors Corcoran, who generously support us year after year (14th year this year!) and help so much towards the prize fund and Leslie Marshall for helping us with this.
To Lassen and Hennings who very generously provided a wonderful spread 
of breakfast food for our players each day. It's very much appreciated and enjoyed! 
To Five Acre Farms for providing delicious organic food and drink this week. It's been a pleasure to sample it all!
To Key Food for providing the tournament with sports drinks all week and keeping everyone hydrated and energized!
To all our amazing members who bought tickets for the quarters, semis and finals which contributed towards the prize fund. We wouldn't have a tournament if we didn't have this incredible support. We had such a great entry yet again and the matches were so strong and of such high caliber all the way through from the qualification to the final.
To all the PSA players for choosing to come and play our event and for playing such beautiful squash and inspiring all of us, especially our juniors, and taking the time to get on court with them at the Play a Pro. Their sportsmanship this week has been remarkable. 
To all our members who opened up their homes to house the PSA players and to Clare Bradshaw who excellently organized the housing of all the players.
To all the social media that put up my reports and Jean's amazing photos so quickly and brilliantly every day.
To Will Bunn, our adult squash chair for all his support throughout the Weymuller and this new squash year.
To Mary Lou Bunn and Eliza Alsop for co-chairing of the Weymuller for the first time this year. They did a tremendous job and ran a great Weymuller@Lunch and an amazing Weymuller@Dinner, which was our new event this year and a roaring success. 
To Paulina Rojek, our media manager, for taking care of the Weymuller facebook, instagram and tweeting. 
To Rita Lascaro for her expert help with our tournament materials. 
To Jean Ervasti who is our amazing Weymuller photographer. Jean takes such wonderful photos and we appreciate her taking the time to do this for us (and the late nights she had to entail to do so!) and providing the rest of the world with wonderful mementos of the action here this week. 
To Mike Riley, Aaron Ford and Wayne Smith for all their refereeing throughout the week. We really appreciate all your time and efforts with our event. 
To Alberto, our tournament DJ, who is did all our music at the Weymuller, by the courts. He did a wonderful job and it was so much fun and adds such a great vibe to the tournament. 
To Tommy Berden for coming over to spend the last 3 days here in Brooklyn to get the Weymuller experience. 
Then last but certainly not least, Cristian, Tiberius, Danny, Jayson, Flor, Carson, Frank, Zhanna, Christy and the list goes on and on. Our Heights Casino staff is an amazing team, who are all dedicated people, who all pull together and make every event we run here a success. Thanks SO much. Thanks again and we hope you all enjoyed the 2016 Carol Weymuller Open as much as we did and we look forward to running it again next year.
Congratulations again to Nour El Sherbini and good luck to all the PSA players for their next tournaments and beyond!
Linda

Main Draw Semi Finals - October 23rd, 2016

Semi finals day is here at the 2016 Carol Weymuller Open. Everyone was excited to see some more action packed squash and that's certainly what they got and more!! There are two English players in the semi finals today so maybe there will be at least one player from England in the final! (not that I am biased or anything!)

The first semi final of today was between England’s Sarah-Jane Perry who is world # 11, who played an amazing tactically perfect game yesterday against Joshna, playing the world #1 and world champion Nour El Sherbini. Nour has had the best year of her career to date and she has had so much success especially considering that she is only 20 years old! They have only played twice before, with the last time being at the US Open in Philadelphia ten days ago, where Nour won in a close four games. Nour is known for her array of amazing shots and ability to find the open spaces on the court, but if SJ played the same way as she did yesterday in the quarters, it would be very interesting to see if she can derail the world champion.

Nour got off to an amazing start and before we knew it she had a 6-1 lead, which was when she made her first error. This seemed to give SJ an opening to take some control back and she managed prolong the rallies, be more patient and contain Nour more in the back. Nour made a few errors too and SJ managed equalize at 6-6. The points went back and forth with some wonderful rallies all over the court, but just as Nour managed to get to a 9-7 lead, SJ kept the pace slower and slotted some great drops and they were soon both at 10-10. SJ made the crowd laugh with a couple of cheeky remarks to the ref. This always adds to the entertainment value as a spectator to see a little bit of humor! Nour came up with the goods at the vital time with a great backhand drive down the line past SJ and a perfect backhand volley drop. She squeezed the first 12/10.

Nour took a 3-1 small lead in the second, but SJ used some great lobs and drops to move Nour about and control the pace. SJ had one particular opening with Nour completely out of position and she hit the tin and SJ shouted  “Ahhhhh, you plonker” at the top of her voice and made the crowd burst into laughter! Maybe this relaxed SJ, but she then pulled back again and they were equal at 4-4. A push again from Nour enabled her to take back the control and use the front of the court really creatively. SJ dug in and yet again managed to equalize 8-8 with a perfect backhand drop and with the help of a backhand drop from Nour that just chinked the tin. Nour pushed to reapply the pressure and took the second 11/8. 

The second was very similar to the first game, with both players winning runs of points at a time. With Nour taking control first, then SJ would come back, give a big push and play some great squash and Nour would make some errors. Nour would then step on the gas to finish the game, just when she needed to. In the third the pattern was different as Nour managed to keep her focus for the whole game and even though SJ played some amazing and thoughtful squash, Nour was just too accurate and there was a wonderful display of what amazing shots Nour can play. At Nour’s match ball it should have been a stroke to SJ in the front forehand corner, and Nour dropped down to avoid being hit, but SJ still chose to play it and hit the ball right into the tin!! This gave Nour the final point to take the match 12/10, 11/8, 11/4 in 35 minutes.

A happy Nour said “I’m definitely happy to be back in the final again this year. SJ, I played her last week and won in 4 so I’m pleased to win in 3. Also the 1st game was important, I always seem to have a tough first game. I’m looking forward to the final. I played both players last week so either will be hard and I’m just happy to be back in the final.”

The second semi final match featured Alison Waters, who won the Carol Weymuller back in 2014, and is currently ranked  #14 in the world, but she has been as high as world # 4. Her opponent, Camille Serme, is world #7 from France, but she is very likely to move up in the November ranking after her magnificent win at the US Open last week where she took out the world #2 Laura Massaro and world #1 Nour El Sherbini. Camille was the finalist of the Weymuller back in 2013 so I’m sure that both players are very keen to get back into the final tomorrow. This is likely to be fast and furious and with both players having attacking games and hard hit accurate drives. They both like to volley a lot and have great retrieving, covering the court well with fantastic foot work. In the head to heads Camille is 5-4 up in Alison and the last time they played Camille won a closely fought 3-1. Let’s see what today brings! The match started very well with both players playing crisp, tight squash and having some wonderful rallies using the whole court, front, back, high, low, side to side. It was very entertaining and fun to watch and really showed what amazing athletes they both are. The points evenly back and forth and only Ali got a two point lead twice in the game at 7-5 and 9-7. At 10-9 game ball to Ali, Camille got a ‘No let’ to give Ali the first 11/9.

What was most impressive abut the first game was that almost all the rallies ended due to a fantastic shot from each player rather than an error. They were also very creative with their shot choices and it was definitely very fun to watch. Ali even won a couple of points with a shot straight down the middle that Camille couldn’t react quick enough to. In the second Ali came out on fire and very soon got an 8-3 lead. Ali kept the pressure on constantly and Camille had to do a lot of work to hang in. Suddenly Camille found her groove again and she started plugging her way back with tight lengths and early volleys. Ali still managed to get to game ball first at 10-8 but the determined Camille did not let up and with the help of a back wall nick Camille took the second 12/10. It was a HUGE comeback from Camille and Ali must have kicking herself that she didn’t manage to capitalize on her very large lead to be 2-0 up.

In the third, losing the second so closely didn’t seem to faze Ali and she soon managed to gain a 7-3 and 9-4 and 10-6 lead with the help of some unforced errors from her opponent. Camille, as always, was battling in every rally and with the help of two strokes, she started another comeback but this time she only got to 10-8 before Ali won her last very impressive shot of the third game. Camille played a great forehand drop and Ali practically did the splits while trying to reach it and fell down in the process but in the process she managed to hit an amazing forehand drive straight down the wall away from where Camille was expecting it to be. It was a brilliant get from Ali and amazing racket control under such pressure. Ali took the third 11/8. It looked like if Ali could keep this intensity up that she could win the match, but it’s easier said than done when you are on court with Camille Serme who is such a wonderful competitor.

The fourth was very similar for Camille as the third was for Ali. She kept further forward on the court and hit tighter lengths and her shorts shots were back to being inch perfect. At 8-4 down Ali hit a winning cross court nick on the return of serve and there was only a small splattering of claps from the crowd so Ali turned to everyone with a smile on her face and asked them to cheer and said “That was my best shot!”. Then of course, everyone gave her a huge cheer! It was just another display of what great players these girls are and how they can give a little joke even at the most tense time in a match. Ali managed to pull back some points but with a stroke to Camille and almost another back wall nick, Camille took the fourth 11/7. We knew this match was going to be tough but we didn’t realize just how tough. What a treat our Casino crowd got this evening to see a match of this caliber and excitement. Now it was just a matter of who could stick to their game and make no errors under pressure in the fifth.

Ali came out on fire after her 2 minute break in between games. She looked fresher again and she managed to dominate the T and take the ball too early for Camille. Ali took a 3-1 lead and of course Camille pulled back to 4-3, because she is always fighting for every point. Ali then turned it on full throttle and went from 4-4 straight through to 10-4 match ball. It was looking like it was all over but again Camille went into another gear and started another famous comeback! Ali didn’t do anything wrong but Camille just hit a barrage of amazing shots, with a wonderful flick from the front and several perfect backhand drives to get herself  from 4-10 to 8-10. You could see Ali starting to feel a little desperate to win the last point and just when we left thinking that Camille would maybe pull it off, she hit her shot out of court and Ali finally went through to take the fifth game 11/8! (11/9, 10/12, 11/8, 7/11, 11/8.)

A very happy and relieved Ali after the match said “ Wooohhhhh! I’m obviously delighted to have won and backed up yesterdays match. I’m happy to see the work I have done over the summer came into play. I felt like I was thinking more about me and controlling the pace and not just letting her get into her rhythm, which she is so strong at. I’m looking forward to being in the final tomorrow and I’m really enjoying being here in Brooklyn”.

Congratulations to both winners who played absolutely amazing squash and we very much look forward to the final tomorrow between Nour El Sherbini and Alison Waters at 7.30pm. Please be at the Casino and seated before 7.30pm. Everyone is so excited to see who will be the 2016 Carol Weymuller Champion. See you then!


Main Draw Quarter Finals - October 22nd, 2016

Tonight is quarter finals night of the 2016 Carol Weymuller Open. The quarter finals night is always my favorite night at tournaments because it's four extremely high quality matches all in one afternoon. The weather for most of today was so rainy and grey, but the atmosphere here in the Heights Casino squash courts was vibrant, exciting and fun! Today we had the junior 'Play a Pro' which ran from 12.00pm-1.00pm before the quarterfinals. It's our juniors chance to get on court with some of the best women's squash players in the world. That doesn't happen every day! A huge thank you goes to Jenny Duncalf, Donna Urquhart, Samantha Teran, Christine Nunn and Nicolette Fernandes for taking the time to play with them. They all gave up part of their afternoon to play with our juniors and the kids all had such an amazing time (including my son Jack!). The PSA women are so great at giving back and spreading the joy and love of squash to others.  

Today’s quarter finals had 7 different countries being represented which shows the diversity in this great sport. Egypt, USA, India, England, France, New Zealand, Hong Kong are all strong squash nations and we are very lucky to have all these wonderful players travel from around the globe to play in our event.

First up on the championship court was giant killer Olivia Blatchford, who is the world #32 and the only qualifier to make it through to the quarter finals. Her opponent needs no introduction, the world #1 and the youngest ever world champion, Nour El Sherbini! Olivia and Nour have played four times before but not in the last year and it’s clear that Olivia has made huge improvements recently and she could obviously go out there to play with no pressure. First game started well for Nour with her controlling the T and finding the perfect spaces on the court to put her opponent under maximum pressure. If Olivia left any shots loose then Nour would just slot them away. Soon Nour was 6-2 up. Olivia didn’t stop fighting and trying to impose her game and it started playing dividends and she clawed her way back from 3-6 down to take the lead at 7-6. Nour made a few errors and it was almost as if she has so much fun going for her shots that she tries them out when she has a few points lead. This can however sometimes back fire and your opponent can capitalize on the error or tactical weaknesses. Olivia was moving great and really making the effort to take the ball really early, pushing up the court and putting Nour under some considerable pressure. Olivia certainly hit her own share of incredible winners too. But with all Olivia’s great efforts, at 8-9 Nour put her foot on the gas and went through in one hand to take the first game 11/9.

The second game was all Nour. Whist Olivia tried her hardest to reapply some of the pressure she had found in the first, Nour just never looked rushed and she absorbed any pressure and stayed relaxed and smooth in her play. Nour played an amazing game with no errors, tight lengths and wonderful tactical choices. It was tough for Olivia to stop the rampage of great squash coming her way. Nour won the second 11/4. The third game followed the same route as the second. Olivia managed to hang in and stay even at 3-3 but Nour’s control and error free squash was hard to stop. Nour went through to take the third and final game 11/4, but Olivia really did herself proud and kept pushing hard and staying positive the whole time. Nour won 11/9, 11/4, 11/4 in 25 minutes.

After her match when I asked how she felt, Nour said, “Better. Playing better and getting used to the court more and found my shots more. I felt like the 1st was quite close and it was very important to win that game, as I don’t know how it would go it I had lost it. Last time I played Olivia I lost game and I didn’t want to lose it this time. I found my length more and my shots and I was trying to attack more”.

 

Second match on court was the between England’s world #11 Sarah-Jane Perry, who is very in form at the moment, getting her career best PSA win over legend Nicol David last month and Joshna Chinappa from India who is world #13.They have not played for a couple of years and have only ever played twice before. Their head to head is 1-1 so it was going to be interesting to see who could move forward in the tally. The matches took a little time for the players to settle in but once it did it was SJ that took control. She kept the rallies short and controlled the speed completely, keeping the rallies slower than the pace that Joshna likes to play at. SJ went through to win the first 11-6.

SJ came out in the second and really managed to keep her game plan going. Joshna tried very hard to impose her game but to no avail. SJ’s lengths were just that bit deeper and tighter and therefore giving herself some great opening to use her accurate drops. SJ was telling herself to drop in between points and this tactic certainly worked today as she played a few winning drops from the back corner as well as from the T. We were left wondering if Joshna could change this game around and start to use some of her amazing pace and kills or would SJ manage to keep up this amazing controlled squash?

SJ did an even better job of following her game plan in the third. She was so steady, controlled and accurate. She never seemed rushed or off balance. Joshna ran out of ideas as every time she tried something SJ came back with interest. SJ went through to take the third 11/3 and the match 11/6,11/6,11/3 in 22 minutes.

A happy SJ said after her match “I’m really pleased with that, to get off in 3 against such a skillful player. We’ve only played twice before and it is 1-1 in wins. Twice in 5 years isn’t very often!! It was nice to stick to my game plan so well. I need to follow my game plan extra, extra well for tomorrow. More than I did at the US Open when I played Nour, but I’m looking forward to it.”

The third match of the evening was between the 2014 Weymuller champion Alison Waters from England against Kiwi Joelle King who is currently world #9. These players have been competing against each other since 2010 and have played an impressive 9 times with Alison just up on the head to head by 5 to 4. They are both very strong and hard hitting players that like to take the ball early so we knew we were in for an exciting match. This was by far the closest contested match of the night lasting well over an hour. The first game started really well for Ali and she managed to control the T and volley well and play just the way she likes to. Joelle looked like she wasn’t moving fast and efficiently like her normal self and Ali managed to dominate more because of this. Ali took the first quite comfortably 11-4.

In the second Joelle came out with much more purpose and poise. She managed to hold the T more and keep in front of Ali to get a nice 4-1 lead. Alison got her length a little deeper again which forced Joelle back and pulled back to 5-5. Joelle took control again, she stepped up, volleyed more and looked to attack in the front whenever she could. Ali seemed to lose her focus and purpose on her shots and couldn’t get the T back. Joelle went on to win the second 11/6. The third game was closely contested all the way through with no one managing to pull away and control the game like in the previous two. Both players played some wonderful winning short shorts when they were on, but also played some unforced errors at other times. It was interesting to see who could bring out their best at the right times. It was Ali this time and she squeezed the third game 11/9.

The fourth game flipped back to Joelle taking more control of the T than Ali and she managed to hit some fantastic shots including a disguised backhand boast to give herself a 7-3 lead. Ali pushed on and made some leverage but Joelle was placing the ball so nicely and moving Ali all around the court. Joelle went on to win the fourth 11/7 to equalize the match.

We were left wondering who would bring their A game into the fifth, as clearly whoever did could win! Ali started solidly and even though she got a small 3-0 lead, soon Joelle was back into the swing of it and evened things up at 3-3. From then on it was so close back and forth, with both players vying for the control of the T and trying to force openings or errors from each other. It was even until 6-6 and then there were some quick points lost by Joelle due to a stoke against her, a serve that hit her and a no let!! This could not have come at a better time for Ali as it had been such a closely fought fifth game up until then. This time Joelle didn’t manage to turn it around and Ali, who really managed to play the big points so well, came through to win the fifth 11/7 and the match 11/4, 6/11, 11/9, 7/11, 11/7.

Ali said afterward her match “We tend to have big battles and so I’m pleased to win this one. I was just trying to keep active in my footwork and keep my body language positive. Really pleased to have won and onto the semi’s tomorrow!”

Last up on the championship court, but certainly not least was Hong Kong’s world # 12 Annie Au against Camille Serme world #7 from France. Camille is fresh out of her amazing US Open win so everyone was particularly excited to see her play. Annie and Camille played their first competitive match against each other back in 2005 as juniors at the British Junior Open in the GU17! They are 5-5 in overall head to head (including when they were juniors) and here they are still competing 11 years later. They played last week at the US Open were Camille won 3-0 but I’m sure that Annie will want to her own back!

It was fantastic first game for Camille. She was sharp, alert and much more relaxed than yesterday. Camille had mentioned in her interview yesterday that it was tough to get used to different court conditions after playing in the cooler glass court with a lower tin at the US Open last week, but today she looked like she had adjusted completely! Annie showed glimpses of brilliance with a couple of incredible forehand flick winners that no could read let alone Camille, but this wasn’t enough to stop the charging force that Camille brought on the court today. Camille won the first 11/3. Camille started the second with the same wonderful squash and went 5-0 and then 8-3 up in no time. Annie then gave a big push and there were three points of consecutive great squash with nice changes of direction, whipping the ball cross courts out of Camille’s reach. Annie clawed back some points but Camille’s dying drives into the corners caused Annie to stay back on the court and Camille, with the help of a back wall nick, managed to take the second game 11/7.

The third game was a repeat of the second with Camille starting the game by executing her game plan to the T and finding her targets in the back so perfectly. At 5-1 up it looked like Annie was out of the game but suddenly she had a spell where she showed us exactly why she is world #12. Her lengths got deeper and tighter and Camille started to look just a little bit shaky and rushed a few shots. After managing to tie at 6-6 Annie got a no let and this gave Camille chance to change up the rhythm and regain the control. There were some lovely long rallies but in the end Camille superior squash over ruled and she went through to win the match 11/3, 11/7, 11/8 in 29 minutes. 

Camille said afterwards “It felt the same last week at the US Open, when I would be ahead in the games and then Annie would push back, so it felt good to have a gap between our points. I’m happy with the conditions, its cooler today so I could find my length better. It’s going to be a good battle tomorrow. Ali had a tough one today so we’ll see how she can handle it physically. I’m just trying to find the extra mentally. As I said with the 5 matches last week and now more, it’s going to be all about the mental side.”

Here ends yet another amazing evening of squash. We really have been treated to some wonderful matches and the players are such incredible athletes. We can't wait for the semi finals tomorrow at 2.30pm and 3.15pm to see who will make it through to the Weymuller Open final on Monday night. After the completion of the quarterfinals we had our new Weymuller@Dinner event, which a wonderful success with delicious food and great company. It was a very special and fun way to celebrate the Weymuller week.

Main Draw First Round (Bottom Half) - October 21st, 2016

Tonight was the second half of the 1st round of the 2016 Carol Weymuller Main draw. The matches last night were amazing so everyone was very excited to see what tonight's match would bring!

First on the Championship court was 2014 Weymuller Champion and world #14 Alison Waters against Malaysian and world #15 Delia Arnold. Alison is 4-2 up in the head to head with Alison winning their last match in the British Open earlier this year.The match started out well with some long and fast paced rallies, with both players using the court well. At 4-4 some errors started to creep in from Delia and Alison started to quickly edge away and got to 9-4 before Delia scored one more point. Ali went through to the take the first 11/5.
In the second game Ali completely dominated the T and was hitting her targets perfectly. Delia's lengths were not deep or tight enough to make an impact on Ali's controlled composure. Ali cruised through to take the second game 11/2 in less than 6 minutes. 
The third game followed the same pattern with Ali keeping her precise and accurate squash going, but Delia didn't seem to have any fight or purpose to what she was or wasn't doing. It's unusual to see the pro players not dig in when the going gets tough out there on the court. It was almost as if someone took the will away from Delia after 4-4 in the first and she had nothing to put into the match. Delia continued to make unforced errors and Ali went through to take her quarter final spot, in a much easier 20 minute match than their last encounter had lead us to believe. 
Ali said after the match "I'm pleased to win in 3. It felt like Delia was a bit off, but I still had to play well to not let her back in. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. It's been nice to get started. We've had about 10 days since the last match at the US Open".

Second match on the championship court was between World # 9 Joelle King from New Zealand against Australian's Donna Urqrhart who is world #21. They have played 8 times before with Joelle winning all but once, but the matches have been closely contested with five of these matches going past three games. This was the longest match of the night and an entertaining one at that. 
Joelle started the match well, controlling the T and soon had a 5-1 lead. Joelle then started making some errors and Donna was doing a wonderful job of retrieving and sucking up the pressure. Donna found her length and soon she climbed her way back to take a one point advantage at 8-7. The last part of the game was very closely contested with the points going back and forth, with Donna reaching game ball first at 10-9. Joelle hung in there and managed to put in a great held forehand drop and also a perfect backhand drop at just the right time to take the first game 13/11. 
The second game was a complete contrast to the first as it was so one sided. Donna was on fire and couldn't miss and Joelle was making error after error. Donna managed to get to 8-0 before she made her first error. A couple more errors from Joelle and a perfect forehand drive that died in the back gave Donna the second 11/3. We were left wondering if Joelle could cut out the errors in the third that had plagued her for most of the second.

The third started with long rallies, fantastic variation in pace and amazing gets from both players. Joelle was making the effort to be more patient again and use her solid deep shots. The game went through pretty evenly with sparks of brilliance from both players but also some errors still popping in at unexpected times. It was Joelle that managed to sneak a lead at 9-7 and she squeezed the first game ball at 10-9. Donna was so resilient and pushed back to 10-10 but with a perfect back hand drop from Joelle and a boast error from Donna the second eventually went to Joelle 12-10. 
Losing the third so closely can be tough when it is 1-1. How would Donna come out in the fourth? The match so far had been awesome and both players had fought so hard whilst also being so fair and playing such clean squash. It's such a pleasure to watch squash when the players have such great sportsmanship.
In the fourth Joelle came out and controlled the T better than Donna and she got the lead that you would want to have when you managed to just sneak the last game so closely. At 4-1 it looked like it was all over for Donna, but then suddenly she gave a huge push and before you knew it, with some wonderful court coverage and accurate lobs, lengths and drops Donna had taken the lead again at 8-5! It was then Joelle's turn to put her foot on the gas and try to stop the match going to five. She dug in and soon she was equal at 9-9. The control really did flip back and forth between the players in this match and it really made for an exciting experience for everyone watching. With a lucky back wall nick, followed by a perfect forehand drop winner, Joelle came through to win 3-1: 13/11, 3/11, 12/10, 11/9. She certainly earned her place in the quarter finals tomorrow and even though this wasn't her best squash, she showed us that perseverance really is key to get through some matches. It can't always be your best and most attractive squash but you do need to give it your all and both players definitely did that tonight. 
A relieved Joelle said "I feel alright. I'm lucky to get through really. It was a kind of weird match, there were times when we both played well and not so well. There were two tie breaks and I was lucky to sneek away with them both."

Third match of the night was between Annie Au the world #12 from Hong Kong and our very own Casino prodigy, Haley Mendez, who has just embarked on her PSA professional squash career after graduating from Harvard and passing her MCAT exams. Haley has the wild card spot for the Weymuller main draw this year but her ranking should shoot up in to the world top 90 after her recent events. There were a lot of local supporters here to cheer on Haley and the atmosphere was just what you want it to be for your 'home' PSA match.

Haley probably felt good about winning the very first point of the match and she stayed close with Annie until 4-3. Annie found her steady length and kept Haley off the T enough to expose her in the front and she edged away to take the first game 11-4.
In the second Haley came out firing on all cylinders and she upped the pace and started to volley more and control the T. Haley used her pace and control to get a 4-1 lead before Annie edged back to 3-5. Haley managed to stick to her game plan and keep Annie in the back and finish the rallies with some lovely volley drop winners. Annie was making some errors and looked a little unnerved and couldn't regain her previous control in the first. Haley went through to win the second game 11/7. 
In the third game Annie managed to find her composure again and she really slowed the pace, and the accuracy with her lengths and drops was superb. Annie forced some errors from Haley too and she took the third game 11/2.

In the fourth game, the rallies went back and forth and Haley managed to find more of her purposeful, attacking squash that she had played in the second game. There were some long, hard fought rallies and Haley stayed with Annie until 5-3. Annie then got a run of five points taking her to 9-3. One last push from Haley and a great forehand volley drop winner got her up to 5-10, but Annie's methodical and precise play eventually got the better of the less experienced Haley Mendez, taking her to a 3-1 win, 11/4, 7/11, 11/2, 11/5.

The home crowd gave Haley a much deserved gigantic cheer of appreciation for her great efforts as she left the championship court, which did put a big smile on Haley's face. 
Annie said after the match "It was a bit scary. I haven't seen Haley play before and I think that she played really well. I was a bit nervous for this match and there were a lot of supporters for Haley and there was a great atmosphere and lots of cheering. It's going to a tough match tomorrow playing either one, so I'm just going to relax and see who I play!"

The last match on the championship court was between a very in form Camille Serme who is world #7 from France and India's Dipika Pallikal Karthik who is ranked #19 in the world. Camille has just last week won the 2016 US Open in Philadelphia beating the world #1, #2 and #7 to take home the title. Camille has a 6-1 advantage in the head to heads but Dipika took Camille to five when they last played in Hong Kong in August this year, so it was going to be interesting to see how this match panned out.

The match started out with a very fast pace, especially from Dipika, and great movement from them both. Camille managed to vary the pace a little and this played to her advantage as it broke Dipika's fast rhythm a little at crucial times. The points played out evenly throughout the first game and it was even at 8-8. It was Camille who managed to pull ahead at the important moment to take the first game 11/8. Camille looked bouncy and quick off the mark. The consistent pressure from Camille took its toll on Dipika at the end and didn't give her enough time to deliver her shots with the balance that they required.

It was Dipika that came out so sharp and in control in the second game. Her high pace and great use of the boast really put Camille under pressure and Camille didn't manage to control the T the same way she had in the first. Camille fought hard but Dipika was just too good in the second and she won 11/7. 
The third game started with some long rallies and the points were even until 3-3. Dipika started to make some errors and Camille's length was tighter and deeper so she could get the T back into her possession. Camille surged ahead and didn't drop another point and took the third game in a convincing 11/3. 
The fourth game had real chunks of complete control for each player. Dipika went 3-0 up in one hand, then Camille went straight from 0 to 5! Once the points were at 6-4 to Camille, it was Dipika again that had a run of points through to give her the lead at 9-6! Camille battled to stay in the game and there were a few contentious refereeing decisions which spiced things up and it was Dipika's errors at the vital time that caused her to loss the fourth and final game in a incredibly tight 13-11. Camille won 3-1: 11/8, 7/11, 11/3, 13/11.

A red faced Camille said after her match "I am happy to be through. I was a bit nervous tonight. I have never had to play another tournament so close to winning a big one before. Also I needed to get used to the different conditions, a higher tin, a normal court from glass, hot conditions... I know that it's the same for most of the girls as they also played the US Open but it is a factor. It's always a tough battle with Dipika, it was 3-2 last time we played. I play Annie in the quarters and we played last week. I guess I'll feel a bit more relaxed tomorrow after getting the first round out of the way!"
It was another fantastic night of squash and we all look forward to the quarterfinals starting at 2.00pm tomorrow afternoon. After the quarter finals we have a Weymuller@Dinner with a delicious sit down meal and drinks. 
Please also follow PSA and also the Carol Weymuller on instagram, facebook and tweeter #CW2015

To follow the streaming live please go to the Heights Casino website http://www.ustream.tv/channel/the-heights-casino-live

Main Draw First Round (Top Half) - October 20th, 2016

Tonight was the 1st round of the 2016 Carol Weymuller Main draw. The top half of the draw played their matches this evening and the bottom half plays tomorrow. All the qualifiers randomly ended up in the top half of the draw.

It was an all Egyptian affair on the championship court for the first match between the world #1, world champion and current Weymuller champion Nour El Sherbini, against qualifier and world #37 Kanzy Emad El Defrawy. Nour and Kanzy have previously played four times in PSA events and while Kanzy has never beaten Nour, they have not played since 2012 so maybe Kanzy will have some tricks up her sleeve for the very in form Nour. The match started with a great pace with both players hitting some great kills as they settled into the match. The points stayed pretty even but Nour seemed to have the edge on the control of the rallies and a little more precision and purpose. Kanzy certainly put it all out there and even did a huge dive at 5-7 down but eventually lost the point. The points went back and forth but Nour was just that bit tighter and found the spaces on the courts so well. Nour went through to win the first 11/8.

Second game started in a similar way back and forth between the players until the middle of the game. There were a lot of lets and Kanzy was a having a little bit of a problem clearing the ball. She was starting to look as if the qualification matches over the last 2 days had taken their toll on her. Nour surged ahead again with an array of great holds, and inch perfect boasts and drops. Nour was making such great tactical choices and was so precise with each shot and hitting her targets relentlessly, making it very tough for Kanzy to really find any constant rhythm. Nour took the second 11/6. In the third game Nour was in fire until 8-2 looking so calm and focused. It looked as if Kanzy was done and was not prepared to grind the rallies and be patient. She gave Nour far too many openings which you cannot afford to do with Nour. The after a second huge dive which lead Kanzy to win the point, it seemed to ignite something inside Kanzy to give a big push. Nour seemed to step off the gas and made a few errors and before we knew it the score was 8-9. A backhand drop error at the most crucial time gave Nour her one and only match ball and she went through to win 11/8, 11/6, 11/8 in 37 minutes.

Nour said after her match “I’m feeling good. The 1st round is never easy and Kanzy is never easy. I haven’t played Kanzy in a long time but we used to play all the time in the juniors since we were 7 years old! It’s my first time to play on the court this tournament and it’s hard to connect between two big tournaments, so I just wanted to go in and get used to the court. The last game I got used to the court more and try more shots. Maybe I relaxed a little and went for my shots. I was trying to try all the shots to get used to the court but maybe it wasn’t the best time to try them!!

Second match on the championship court was 2009 and 2010 Weymuller Champion and world #17 Jenny Duncalf against USA’s Olivia Blatchford who fought her way through the qualifying winning two epic five set matches. Olivia ranking is world #32 and Jenny and Olivia have only played once earlier this year in Cleveland and Olivia managed cause an upset and beat Jenny in a close 3-2. It would be interesting to see if the last two days have taken their toll a little on Olivia or if they have just boosted her confidence.

Olivia started the match so well, she was instantly keeping the T and hitting such quality tight lengths that Jenny was forced to step back and had nothing to hit. Olivia stormed through with only glimpses of Jenny’s amazing touch poking its head here and there. Olivia won the first 11/5. In the second Jenny gave a push at the beginning to control the middle and get Olivia behind her. She took a 4-2 lead, but it was so difficult to contain the lively, energetic Olivia this evening, and soon she was back in control and was hitting some amazingly tight backhands that just clung to the wall, which created so many great openings for her. So not surprisingly, it was a perfect backhand drive that gave Olivia game ball to go through to win the second 11/6.

The third was even better for Olivia and she was looking so fresh, with not even a hint of tiredness from her previous two five setters in the qualifying rounds. She really looked like she was having fun out there! Olivia was basically unstoppable and Jenny seemed to run out of ideas of how to stay in the match. Olivia kept the pressure on and went through to give herself a much deserved place in the Weymuller quarter finals for the first time. The final score was 11/5, 11/6, 11/6 in 29 minutes.

An incredibly happy Olivia said “My dad always used to say ‘act the way you want to feel’…so I did! I thought that if I go out there and execute the game plan which was to go deep ad attack short when I could, win or lose I would have to be proud. I watched Jenny at this tournament years ago beating Natalie Grainger and I was in awe with the way she struck the ball. It was a pleasure to play her on the court that I first saw her play….Yay to the rest day tomorrow!!”

The next match on was between England’s Sarah-Jane Perry who is world #11 against Egyptian’s Mariam Wetwally who is currently ranked 31 in the world. They have only played once in the British Open earlier this year and Sarah-Jane was the victor but there is no pressure now on these qualifiers so you never know how the match will play out.  SJ started the match steadily and in control and managed to keep control of the middle of the court. She really used her height to her advantage and made Mariam move around her and the court where possible help her gain the 4-0 lead. The middle of the game Mariam hit some lovely short shorts but she didn’t manage to get her rhythm. SJ went through to win the first 11/6.

SJ kept the great steady squash coming and was using the lob and variation in pace so well to control the match pace. Mariam seemed to want a faster pace but SJ focused on sticking to her game plan. SJ went through to win the second 11/4.

The third game followed the same tone and Mariam was starting to look very tired and disconcerted as SJ stuck to her guns and didn’t waver. SJ went through to take the third winning the match 11/6, 11/4, 11/4 in 27 minutes.

A smiling SJ said afterwards “I was happy with how I finished the match. Since I was here last year I’ve got a new coach, Sue Rose (Wright, former world #3) so I have made lots of changes to my game. When I do them it’s really good, so I just have to do them!!I started a bit hacky and then better at the end. It’ll be good match in the quarters whoever I play. I haven’t played either of them recently or much. I like it here so……”

The last match on the championship court was the closest match of the four this evening. #4 seed and world #13 Joshna Chinappa from India played Egyptian’s Salma Hany Ibrahim who is world # 35. Joshna and Salma played each other at last year’s Weymuller and it was an incredible match with Joshna scrapping through 11/9 in the fifth. Joshna is 5-0 up in the head to heads but the matches are always closely contested so we knew we were in for a great battle.

The match started fast and furious with Joshna keeping the pace up and Salma trying to move the ball around a little more where she could. Salma pulled away at the beginning of the game 4-2, but the game stayed very even until Salma took a 10-8 lead. A great shot and then stoke to Joshna got her to equalize at 10-10. A second stroke to Joshna followed by a wonderful hold in the middle from Joshna earned her the first game 12/10.

The second was almost a duplicate of the first, with Salma taking a 4-0 then 5-2 lead with some perfect drops and great pressure. But soon Joshna found her consistent hard flat drive again and when she got her openings in the front she was very creative and unpredictable with her shot choices. Joshna got to 6-5 with a small lead, and then yet again to mirror the first game, Salma started to use the spaces on the court really well and she got a lead to 9-6. Joshna was playing the important points so well and she tightened up her length and finished the rallies with some fantastic shots and squeezed the errors from Salma. She went from 6-9 straight through to win the second 11/9, much to Salma’s dismay.

The third game started rather shakily with shorter rallies and a few mistakes but Salma took a small lead of 3-1 in the third. Joshna was not about to let Salma take control of the match so she went back to her game plan and soon managed to get a 8-4 lead and was looking much more comfortable than before. Feisty Salma was not going to give up without a fight and while she was starting to look tired previously she must have urged herself to dig deep and hang in there. Salma managed to equalize at 8-8 but Joshna managed to turn it around right when it mattered again and win the third and final game 11/8. The final score of the 38 minute match was 12/10, 11/9, 11/8.

So here ends another incredibly exciting night of squash at The Heights Casino. The quality of the matches tonight was fantastic and the matches were so enjoyable to watch.

We all look forward to the second half of the first round starting at 5.30pm tomorrow night.

Please make a special effort to come support our own Heights Casino touring PSA Pro, Haley Mendez, in her debut main draw Weymuller match at 7.00pm.