PSA Day One Roundup

Ramadan leads Egyptian charge on Day One of Black Ball Open

The opening day of action at the 2020 CIB Black Ball Squash Open saw Egypt’s World No.67 Hana Ramadan take out compatriot Mariam Metwally in five-games as she led the Egyptian charge on the first day of action in Cairo, Egypt.

Ramadan was one of five Egyptians who booked their place in the second round as the Black Ball Open returned as a PSA World Tour Platinum tournament following the inaugural Gold event that took place last year, which saw World No.1 Raneem El Welily crowned champion.

22-year-old Ramadan, who is ranked 33 places below Metwally and was initially a reserve player for this tournament, started brightly and showed her talented racket skills to take the opening game.

Her resolve began to wane in the next two games as Metwally fought back to take the lead, before the World No.67 got back to her strong tactics to take an 11-8, 6-11, 5-11, 11-7, 11-5 victory in a quickfire five-game battle.

“I came into this tournament as a reserve player,” said Ramadan. “So, I had the mentality that I have nothing to lose. I’m excited to be in the tournament and really looking forward to the second round.

“I had to calm down a bit [after the second] and try to get back my length. She was putting me under a lot of pressure with all of her kills and short shots and I was just trying to keep her away from the T.”

Ramadan’s compatriot Zeina Mickawy also faced her own five-game battle as she was forced to come from two-games down to secure her victory against Malaysia’s Rachel Arnold. She will face USA’s No.1 Amanda Sobhy in the next round.

“I didn’t think about my game, I was thinking about not losing,” said Mickawy. “After I lost the second game, I just cried and cried, and I guess I poured out all the negative emotions I felt. During the first two games, I kept complaining, looking at my coach Omar Abdel Aziz, and saying to him that I just couldn’t focus and that I wasn’t in the match.

“But after I cried it off, I just did what my coach told me: I played point after point, I kept hitting and retrieving every single shot, I fought for every ball, and played point by point. It worked out. This win means a lot for me.”

Joining their compatriots in round two are Farida Mohamed, Mayar Hany and Nada Abbas after they all got their Black Ball Open campaigns off to winning starts.

Meanwhile, Former World No.1 Rachael Grinham and USA’s Sabrina Sobhy both took out the wildcards to set up respective round two matches against Belgium’s Nele Gilis and USA’s Olivia Blatchford Clyne.

2007 World Champion Grinham was forced to save two match balls as she battled back from the brink to down 17-year-old Nour Aboulmakarim in an entertaining five-game encounter. While Sobhy’s match proved to be much more straightforward as she axed Black Ball Sporting Club player Salma Youssef comfortably in straight-games.

“I have absolutely no idea how I managed to win,” said Grinham following her win over the World No.136.

“The match begun and I felt like I wasn’t timing the ball well, I was loose and she was absolutely killing it. She was smacking it around and I felt like I didn’t have any time to think about what was going on and somehow, I managed to pull the third back and I was basically telling myself to hang in there.

“I knew she was going to be in a position where she felt like she should win from this and I thought that instead of giving her easy shots, I needed to try and put it in the back and make her go for things and at least try to make it a bit harder.

“It’s incredible, whether it’s Nour or any of the other young Egyptians, you can never underestimate them no matter how old they are.”

Elsewhere, South Africa’s Alexandra Fuller confirmed a second round clash against defending champion and World No.1 El Welily after her opening day win over Egypt’s Menna Nasser.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to play Raneem once before in Chicago last year,” said Fuller. “So at least it’s not my first time and I know what to expect. I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully we can get some more people to watch and cheer us on. Playing those top players, you have to treat it like a learning experience and give it your all and hopefully you can test them too.”

At the opposite end of the draw, Canada’s Hollie Naughton overcame Netherlands Tessa ter Sluis in straight games to set up a second-round meeting with No.2 seed Nouran Gohar on Tuesday March 10.

Day one of the PSA Platinum event also saw wins for French duo Melissa Alves and Coline Aumard after they defeated compatriot Enora Villard and Hong Kong’s Tsz-Wing Tong, respectively. Alves will now face World No.3 Camille Serme in the next round, while Aumard takes on Egypt’s Salma Hany.

Other wins on day one came from England’s Emily Whitlock and Millie Tomlinson, along with Belgium’s Tinne Gilis and Hong Kong’s Joey Chan, with the latter forced to come from 2-1 down.

“For the second and third game, she was controlling the T,” said Chan afterwards. “I was finding it hard to find my length, but from the fourth onward, I managed to slow down the pace, and in my mind, that was the key to the match.”