Day TWO : Eight seeds through

The 2023 VITAGEN Singapore Squash Open continued today with eight second round matches from the top half of the draws at the OCBC Arena as yesterday’s winners took on the seeded players.

It was a good day for those seeds, with all eight progressing with only defending men’s champion Mohamed ElShorbagy stretched to five games as he held of the challenge of Youssef Ibrahim to set up a mouth-watering last eight meeting with younger brother Marwan.

Reports and quotes below the results …

VITAGEN Singapore Squash Open 2023 : Day TWO, Round TWO (top)

[2] Georgina Kennedy(Eng) 3-1 Melissa Alves (Fra) 13-11, 5-11, 11-4, 11-1 (39m)
[5] Salma Hany
(Egy) 3-0 Rachel Arnold (Mas) 11-7, 11-4, 11-6 (31m)
[6] Rowan Elaraby (Egy) 3-0 Hollie Naughton (Can) 11-7, 11-6, 11-3 (27m)
[3] Nele Gilis (Bel) 3-0 Tomato Ho (Hkg) 11-5, 11-3, 11-5 (27m)

[1] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 David Baillargeon (Can) 11-9, 11-5, 11-4 (32m)
[7] Youssef Soliman (Egy) 3-1 Eain Yow Ng (Mas) 11-13, 11-9, 11-6, 11-2 (64m)
[6] Marwan ElShorbagy (Eng) 3-1 Sebastien Bonmalais (Fra) 4-11, 11-8, 11-9, 4-3 rtd (58m)
[3] Mohamed ElShorbagy (Eng) 3-2 Youssef Ibrahim (Egy) 11-13, 11-4, 11-9, 9-11, 11-4 (82m)

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Araby first into quarters

[6] Rowan Elaraby (Egy) 3-0 Hollie Naughton (Can) 11-7, 11-6, 11-3 (27m)

Egypt’s Rowan Elaraby became the first player to reach the quarter-finals with a straight-games win over Canada’s Hollie Naughton.

Naughton was ahead in a scrappy opening game, but Elaraby did well to tidy up several loose balls, pulled ahead to 10-7 and took the game at the first time of asking. Elaraby continued that momentum as she dominated the next two games.

“I wasn’t as confident as I looked! Hollie is a great player, it’s always tough playing her. I had to have a good game plan to win in three and I’m really happy that I stuck to it.

“Of course it’s always great to have their [Ali Farag & Nour El Tayeb] support, I really look up to them and I’m very lucky to have them in my corner.

“I don’t like the days off but for me, this time it’s helpful because I’m still a little jet-lagged so it will help with my sleep for the next round.”

Marwan edges past injured Seb

[6] Marwan ElShorbagy (Eng) 3-1 Sebastien Bonmalais (Fra) 4-11, 11-8, 11-9, 4-3 rtd (58m)

In the first men’s match of the day, England’s Marwan ElShorbagy found a way to defeat France’s Sebastien Bonmalais after the Frenchman picked up an injury in the fourth game and was forced to retire.

Bonmalais dictated the opening game, but ElShorbagy responded to stay ahead throughout the second game to level. Bonmalais was again on top in the third, leading 8-3 before Marwan responded once more, winning a run of points to take the lead.

With the score close at 4-3 in the fourth game Bonmalais was running down some tremendous balls, but pushed just too far and injured his hamstring. He was unable to continue and conceded the match.

“It’s not the way I wanted to win. To be honest, Sebastien was playing very well, he surprised me with the way he was playing. He was volleying everything and his short game was fantastic.

“I was lucky to go 2-1 up, I’m sorry for what happened, I hope its not too bad. He’s one of the nicest guys on tour and I hope he recovers quickly. He’s playing great squash and he can break into the top 20 or top 10 very soon.

“I was too defensive, I was patient but I needed to be more aggressive on the ball. I was just trying to get him away from the T. I was lucky to get through and now I’ve got another day off and hopefully I can perform better in the quarter finals.

“It’s a fantastic event, I’ve heard a lot of great things from my brother. The event has a lot of stuff that you need as a player, the hospitality is great and I hope to be back again.”

Nele races into Quarters

[3] Nele Gilis (Bel) 3-0 Tomato Ho (Hkg)   11-5, 11-3, 11-5 (27m)

Nele Gilis was dominant throughout her match against Tomato Ho, not allowing the Hong Kong #1 any opportunities to attack or impose her own style.

After sealing the first game, Gilis ran to 8-0 in the second and despite losing a few more points, took the game 11-3 and only gave away two points more than that in the third game as she booked her quarter final place – for the eighth tournament in a row.

“The first match of any tournament is always a bit nervy. I’ve actually never played Tomato before and I know that she has had a few good upsets recently so I was ready for a battle so I’m glad to be through.

“I still think about losing to Amanda here last year, a lot. Hopefully I can do better than last year and I can forget about it. I think it’s made me a better player but as I said, I’m hoping to do better this year to put it behind me.”

Mo squeezes past Youssef

[3] Mohamed ElShorbagy (Eng) 3-2 Youssef Ibrahim (Egy) 11-13, 11-4, 11-9, 9-11, 11-4 (82m)

Mohamed ElShorbagy was up against familiar foe Youssef Ibrahim for a quarter final spot – with Ibrahim leading the head-to-head record coming into the match but ElShorbagy

The scores remained close throughout the opening game as the score reached 8-8. Two errors from the younger Egyptian took ElShorbagy to 10-8 but battled back to take the lead 13-11.

ElShorbagy ran out to an 8-2 lead in the second and converted to equalise, then edged a close third to lead 2-1.

Ibrahim found top form in the fourth game though, and closed the game out 11-9 to force a decider, which ElShorbagy took early control of with a 5-1 lead and continued to press to take the match – setting up a quarter-final with younger brother Marwan on Friday.

“He’s one of the most talented players on tour, I’m a fan of his game. There is no doubt that he’s going to win a lot of the major events one day. This is actually his first full season on tour so there is so much learning for him to do. He’s already a nightmare to play, he was probably the worst player to have in my first match but I’m pleased to win and looking forward to another match.”

“When I lost the fourth, it was like it was in Qatar, he came back at me but I tried to stay as positive as I could in the fifth game and thankfully I could get through after a good start and I’m looking forward to the next round and to face my brother again.”

Gina powers through to quarters

[2] Gina Kennedy (Eng) 3-1 Melissa Alves (Fra)  13-11, 5-11, 11-4, 11-1 (39m)

England’s Georgina Kennedy and France’s Melissa Alves had shared their four previous meetings, and this encounter started as tightly as that would suggest. It was Alves’ error count that would be telling as Gina edged the first game 13-11.

Alves looked far stronger in the second game to take it 11-5, but in the final two games it was all Kennedy.

“I know how dangerous Melissa can be, our head-to-head was 2-2. Whoever plays better on the day wins.

“Squash was such a interesting sport. When you step on here you’ve got to forget everything and I had the person who helps me do that the best so genuinely Mohamed, thank you so much. It could’ve been a very different result if I didn’t have him in my corner.”

Soliman battles past Ng

[7] Youssef Soliman (Egy) 3-1 Eain Yow Ng (Mas)  11-13, 11-9, 11-6, 11-2 (64m)

In a matach featuring some some monstrously long rallies – in the first two games – Egypt’s Youssef Soliman got he better of Asian Games champion Eain You Ng in four games.

It was Ng who won the opening game though, taking six points in a row to force extra points and taking the lead. The second was close, with Soliman managing to keep narrowly ahead.

The match stayed a close contest in the second game, but it was Soliman who managed to keep himself narrowly ahead without being able break clear. After he edged that game to take the lead, he quickly went through the fourth with Ng becoming increasingly irritated and erratic.

“I just trusted my game plan, he was playing so well and was doing so well to contain me. I was trying to volley and make it fast but he started to use height and it worked so I kept trying to be accurate and that made the difference I think,” said Soliman after the match.

“I hate playing someone who I’m friends with. It’s so easy to play someone that you don’t like, but that wasn’t the case today. You have to remind yourself that it’s a tournament match and not practice and keep your focus to get the job done.”

Salma sails past Delia

[5] Salma Hany (Egy) 3-0 Rachel Arnold (Mas)  11-7, 11-4, 11-6 (31m)

Rachel Arnold looked to still be struggling with the leg difficulties that plagued her Malaysia Cup final in a first game that saw the Egypt’s Salma Hany take advantage of the Malyasian’s errors and secure the lead.

Arnold made an early push in the second game but Hany weathered that to take the game 11-4, and it was a similar pattern in the third and final game.

“I knew how good Rachel is playing nowadays. I know how attacking she is. I made sure to minimise my errors and be sharp with my movements and I think I managed to do that today.

“I’m very very excited for the next match against Gina. We haven’t played in maybe two years. Gina’s being playing really well and I’m really looking forward to the match.”

Top seed Farag eases into last eight

[1] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 David Baillargeon (Can)  11-9, 11-5, 11-4 (32m)

Ali Farag started the last match of the day in his usual consistent and dominant manner, but Canada’s David Baillargeon made a solid account for himself, playing a variety shots that earned acknowledgment from Farag as the World #1 took a well contested the first game 11-9.

Farag was dominant in the next two games though, and quickly enough claimed his last eight spot.

“I’m very happy. It feels like I haven’t been at a tournament for a while even though I was playing last month in the U.S. Open. I had to go out of Switzerland so it’s been a good rest actually,” said Farag after securing his spot in the quarter finals.

“I watched his match against Miguel a bit last year, but I just want to get an idea, the obvious game plan against lefties is to take them away from this mid-court fore-hand area. But also I just wanted to start solid and not give any easy points away, and I think I did that.

“Youssef (Soliman, his next opponent) is probably one of, if not my closest friend on tour. We play with each other all the time. We bounce ideas off each other all the time. We have so many things in common, we were even on flight together all the way over here.

“It always makes it a little bit trickier. On the squash side he’s very solid, he volleys very well, so I have to be wary of his lengths and try and expose his weaknesses and may the best player win.”