Quarterfinals day at the 2010 U.S. Open Squash Championships in downtown Chicago, IL. Once again some phenomenal squash matches by the world’s best squash players. Awesome turnout, sponsors and crowd loved it.
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contributed by squashwriter Phil Yarrow
Tonight saw the continuation of the quarter-finals matches of the MetroSquash US Open. First on court was 11-time French national champion, Isabelle Stoehr, versus the Danish number one, Line Hansen. Conditions were perfect as it was another beautiful evening in Chicago. And a large crowd in the Pritzker pavilion at Millennium Park was treated to a highly entertaining opening match.
Stoehr made a solid start and won the first game 11-8. She continued to have the edge in the second game as well, although Hansen battled hard to keep it close. A couple of fabulous backhand volley drops gave Stoehr an 8-5 advantage, but Hansen hit back to tie the game at 8-8. A couple more backhand winners gave Stoehr a 10-9 advantage. But a delicate backhand volley drop from Hansen took the game to a tie-break. A tense tie-break saw both players miss opportunities to close the game out before a couple of errors from Stoehr allowed Hansen to take the 15-minute game 15-13 and level the match at a game a piece. The lower ranked Hansen’s confidence seemed to be growing and she was striking the ball solidly with her drives and boasts on both sides of the court. She built a 6-3 lead in the third game. A couple of penalty points gave Hansen game ball at 10-5 and she closed the game out with a beautifully executed forehand drop in the next rally. Stoehr came out more determined in the fourth game. She seemed determined to wrestle back the momentum and she drove Hansen deeper into the back corners and built up a 6-2 lead. Hansen gradually reeled her back though and her height enabled her to reach into the front corners to retrieve Stoehr’s boasts. She got back on level terms at 8-8 and then won the next three points to take the fourth game 11-8 and book her spot in the semi-finals. A clearly delight Hansen said afterwards that the second game was absolutely crucial and that head to head she had now beaten Stoehr twice versus many losses!
The next match was the first of this evening’s men’s quarter-final’s between Egyptian Mohammed Abbas and Dutch number one Laurens Jan Anjema. Anjema has a strong, steady game. His, deep, hard hit drives kept Abbas under pressure and didn’t allow the Egyptian to play his normally attacking squash. Anjema built a 9-3 lead and soon after took the game 11-5 as Abbas tined out an attempted forehand crosscourt drop shot from the back of the court.
The second game started off with more of the same and the world number 12 was now really working over the Egyptian. Abbas called on all his years of experience to hang in there and keep the game close and he was able to get back on level terms at 4-4 and then at 8-8. Two incredible tight backhand drops shots gave Abbas a couple of game balls. The first was wasted with a loose forehand crosscourt drop that Anjema gladly put away and the second was lost when the referees adjudged that an Anjema backhand drive had died in the back corner, refusing Abbas a let. Another forehand crosscourt tin from Abbas gave Anjema game ball and he closed it out 12-10 with a solid backhand volley kill. Despite an increasing number of let calls as both players jockeyed to control the T, both players continued to play highly entertaining squash. Anjema remained on top throughout though and eventually triumphed 11-6 to complete a 55-minute victory. LJ said afterwards that despite the 3-0 score line, the match was far from easy and he really had to play close to his best to beat the experienced Egyptian.
The third match continued to show case top Dutch squash professionals. This was time it was former world number one Vanessa Atkinson who was up against the rapidly improving English woman Emma Beddoes. Atkinson looked in control as she built a 10-6 lead in the first game. But some uncharacteristic errors allowed Beddoes to force a tie break. Atkinson regained her composure though to win the game 12-10. Beddoes battled hard in the next two games, but Atkinson seemed just a little quicker and stronger. Atkinson won the second game 11-8 and led 10-8 in the third. But Beddoes dug in. She won the next two points to force another tie break. Atkinson could not convert on another two match balls in the tie break as her young English opponent scrambled to stay in the match. Finally at the fifth attempt Atkinson hit the winner which would take her into the semi-finals.
Atkinson highlighted after the match how important it is to take the ball early on the glass court as it tends to die in the back corners. She felt she attacked just a little bit more than her young opponent and that was the difference in what was a tight 3-0 victory. Atkinson said that she is enjoying her squash as much as ever and that she feels more relaxed on court as she nears the end of her career knowing that she has achieved everything that she set out to do in the game.
Last on court was a mouthwatering match-up between another former world number one Frenchman Thierry Lincou and the young Egyptian Omar Mosaad. The first game was a tight affair. Lincou built a 9-6 lead, but was by no means controlling the play. A couple of errors from the Frenchman brought the score back to 8-9, but a backhand drop from Omar that clipped the top of tin set up game ball and Lincou closed out the game with a beautiful backhand volley kill. The second game though was all Mosaad. He took the ball early putting Lincou under substantial pressure. Midway through the game Lincou seemed at a loss with how to deal with this attack and Mosaad ran out an easy 11-3 winner to tie up the match.
The third game started with some nervy errors from both players but then the game settled into a pattern of play similar to the first game, with tight, well contested rallies. Both players began to grow a little testy with each other and the referees as they struggled to take control of the match. Neither player could find that little advantage they needed though and the lead yo-yoed throughout. It was fascinating stuff; the vastly experienced Frenchman who will battle to the end versus the young and powerful Egyptian who is clearly a rising star. At 9-9, Mosaad won a fantastic rally with a reflex backhand volley to the open court after Lincou had recovered half a dozen seemingly winning shots at the front court. But a no let followed that took the game into a tie break. It appeared a critical moment in the match and it would be Masaad who would eventually come out on top 12-10 as Linocu failed to get a ball out of the back forehand court and then saw a shot from the Egyptian stick to the backhand sidewall.
Lincou started well in the fourth opening 4-1 and 6-3 leads. He would eventually advance to 10-8, but successive forehand and backhand kills from Mossad took it to a tie break. This time though it would be Lincou who would hold his nerve and he shouted with joy as Mosaad tinned out to give the Frenchman the game 12-10.
The deciding game was as hard fought a battle as you can get on a squash court. Neither player giving an inch as the game became increasingly physical. There was nothing in it to 5-5. Two fine volley drops though helped Mosaad open up an 8-5 lead. But Lincou came right back with the most delicate of backhand drop shots and a tin from the Egyptian brought him back within a point. Two fantastic crosscourt kills from Mosaad gave him three match balls. Lincou would save the first but a backhand into the nick just after midnight gave him the victory.
Mosaad was very happy after the match with his first win ever over Lincou. It capped a fantastic evening of squash in the park!