[Above: Karim Ali Fathi (r) knocked out world No. 24 Cesar Salazar in his first Oracle NetSuite Open]
Egypt’s Karim Ali Fathi and Nadine Shahin led a slate of first round upsets to reach the second round of the 2018 Oracle NetSuite Open Thursday at Squash Zone and Bay Club Redwood Shores.
The match of the day came in the form of Ali Fathi, world No. 43, pitted against Mexico’s world No. 24 Cesar Salazar at Bay Club Redwood Shores. Ali Fathi was making his debut in San Francisco, while Salazar marked his seven appearance in a bid to reach his fifth round of sixteen.
The match went back and forth with the momentum shifting with each game until a decisive fifth game, where Ali Fathi fought back from 6-3 down to win 11-7 after sixty-eight minutes.
“I was trying to give it everything I’ve got,” Ali Fathi said. “I was chasing everything and that got to his head, and I think that’s how I won. Sometimes you just have to throw tactics out the window and fight for everything. We were both tired and breathing hard at the end, but I guess it went my way this time.”
Ali Fathi will now face 2018 Tournament of Champions winner Simon Roesner in Friday’s second round as the top seeds prepare to join the field.
Fighting through sickness, men’s Wild Card Charlie Johnson put on a show for his pupils at his home club, Bay Club Redwood Shores against Egypt’s Mazen Hesham. While Hesham won the match in three, Johnson executed some flair and precision of his own, including a between-the-legs nick to the entertainment of the home crowd. Despite the loss, Johnson surmounted both his health and expectations.
“I could have pulled out of this match Tuesday night, I didn’t see any way I could play this match with the fever I had,” Johnson said. “I told myself that I couldn’t let down any of the people who has supported me at this club for the past four or five months. I feel like I’ve made such a great connection with the players, parents, staff and community, and it’s meant a lot to me, so I didn’t want to let you down.”
On the women’s side Shahin, ranked No. 30 at twenty-one years old, recorded a top-twenty-ranked upset over India’s Dipika Pallikal in a surprise three games at Squash Zone. Shanin will now face New Zealand’s world No. 4 Joelle King in Friday’s second round.
Inaugural women’s champion Amanda Sobhy made quick work of former world No. 1 Rachael Grinham in twenty-two minutes, setting up a pivotal second round match against France’s world No. 5 Camille Serme on Friday. The twenty-five-year-old missed the 2017 Oracle NetSuite Open due to a ruptured Achilles that kept her off the tour for most of last season.
“I’ve worked really hard this summer and had a good training block to work on the issues that developed after the injury and on any imbalances in my movement,” Sobhy said. “Rachael in incredibly tricky to play and hits some incredible shots, so I’m just happy to get a decent performance in and get that first win. I’ve played a few team events in the last month but its a completely different vibe at a major event so I’m happy to get that first one out of the way.”
Sobhy’s next match against Serme is set to take place at Bay Club San Francisco at 5pm local time.
“I’m exited to play Camille tomorrow. I’m the underdog now and have no pressure on me but I want to go out there and prove that I belong on this stage. I want to get my ranking back to where it was before the injury and I’ll have the home crowd, and some friends, behind me so there’s even more incentive to win.”
France’s Coline Aumard extinguished American hopes of two players in the second round with an upset against world No. 14 Olivia Blatchford-Clyne in four games.
Friday’s match play moves up the peninsula to Bay Club San Francisco, Olympic Club and University Club. Bay Club matches are streaming live, and all matches are scoring live from noon local time on oraclenetsuiteopen.com/live.
For tickets visit oraclenetsuiteopen.com/tickets.
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