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High-Drama R.O.I.; a Seattle Shout-out; a Men’s Continental Divide; Day 4 Previews

A few things are top of mind for me after the third day of the ToC:

Good Return on Investment

We’ve had 28 matches so far. Five of them have gone to five games, and three of those were decided by two points in the final game—meaning they were about as close as you can get. Statistically speaking, that’s a pretty good actualization of high-drama potential. For me the match of the tournament so far has been Momen-Abouelghar.

And that, of course, doesn’t include all of the non-five-game entertainment, like last night’s Matthew-Willstrop battle, or the local and national pride that welled up in the crowd when young Marina Stefanoni held her own against the #5 player in the world.

More than “the ToC Four” for American Women

I’m a Seattle resident now, which is why when I hear all the buzz about four American women in the ToC main draw, my first thought is, “And that’s not all, folks!” The pool of talented young Americans includes Seattleite Reeham “the Hammer” Sedky, who’s beaten Sabrina Sobhy in college competition and took Olivia Blatchford to five games in the U.S. Nationals finals. There are a couple of other promising young women on the Seattle scene (including Sedky’s younger sister; squash is such a family affair). And I’m sure Seattle isn’t alone. It feels like the four women at the ToC may be at the vanguard of a movement.

The Men’s Continental Divide

The men’s draw this year could well end up having a continental divide. (Geographers may find that the wrong term, but it sounds right to me.) Going into the quarterfinals, the top half is already all European. If things go today as I expect they will, the bottom half is going to be all Egyptian. It’s just the luck of the draw, but it’s a curious phenomenon.

Day 4 Previews and Predictions:

Noon: Nicol David (Malaysia, age 34, rank 6) vs. Samantha Cornett (Canada, age 26, rank 26). Cornett, the Canadian #1, will try to work some magic with her attacking play against one of the greatest retrievers—and one of the legends—of the game, the eight-time world champion David. Prediction: David, 3-0.

12:45: Tarek Momen (Egypt, age 29, rank 7) vs. Diego Elias (Peru, age 21, rank 10). Momen showed impressive speed, skill, and composure in his nail-biting first-round win over Mohamed Abouelghar. He’ll keep the pace quick against the smooth-moving Elias, a two-time world junior champion, who showed signs in the first round that he may still be bothered by a hamstring tear. Prediction: Momen, 3-1.

2:00: Mohamed ElShorbagy (Egypt, age 27, rank 2) vs. Ryan Cuskelly (Australia, age 30, rank 13). This match resembles a middleweight boxing champ taking on a welterweight. ElShorbagy, the current world champion, will hit Cuskelly with a full arsenal of power, speed, and precision, while the nimble Aussie will try to wear his opponent down with dogged retrieving and the occasional knee-buckling boast. Prediction: ElShorbagy, 3-1.

2:45: Camille Serme (France, age 28, rank 3) vs. Sabrina Sobhy (USA, age 21, rank 208). Serme’s savvy use of tactical attacking earned her last year’s ToC championship. The younger Sobhy sister, taking a break of her studies at Harvard, was strong in qualifying and could give the champ a test. Prediction: Serme, 3-1.

5:00: Ali Farag (Egypt, age 25, rank 3) vs. Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Colombia, age 32, rank 23). Farag’s fluid play and uncanny court sense make an interesting contrast to the frenetic, acrobatic style of Rodriguez. They last met in December’s World Championship, with Farag winning 3-0. Prediction: Farag, 3-2.

5:45: Paul Coll (New Zealand, age 25, rank 11) vs. Ramy Ashour (Egypt, age 30, rank 14). The super-fit Coll will try to neutralize Ashour’s spectacular shot-making with persistent retrieval. The Egyptian star has battled injuries throughout his career, but he was hitting on all cylinders in the first-round. Prediction: Ashour, 3-0.

7:30: Raneem El Welily (Egypt, age 29, rank 2) vs. Jenny Duncalf (Enland, age 35, rank 25). There are few players, male or female, with the racquet skills of the gifted Egyptian, who’s the reigning world champion. Duncalf, a subtle shot-maker herself, was ranked #2 for 27 consecutive months earlier in her career. Prediction: El Welily, 3-0.

8:15: Amanda Sobhy (USA, age 24, rank 28) vs. Rachael Grinham (Australia, age 40, rank 29). At 24, Sobhy is already the most accomplished American PSA player ever. Tonight marks her return after a ruptured Achilles’ tendon that sidelined her for ten months. She’s matched against one of the game’s craftiest players in Grinham, who reached world #1 in 2004, when Sobhy was 10 years old. Prediction: Sobhy, 3-2.

9:00: Nour El Tayeb (Egypt, age 24, rank 7) vs. Dipika Pallikal Karthik (India, age 26, rank 20). The nightcap should be a rapid-fire battle. Karthik’s game is built on high-risk attacking shots, while El Tayeb is a skilled counterattacker and one of the fastest players on the tour. Prediction: El Tayeb, 3-0.

—Matt Lombardi