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El Shourbini Stifles Shoby; El Tayeb overwhelms Whitlock
July 24, 2011, by Ron Beck, Editor © 2011 SquashTalk.com , Independent News; SquashTalk LLC

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(updated 24-jul-11 22:29  

El Shourbini Plays a Complete Game to Shut down Sobhy [DRAW]

Egyptian magic dashed English and American dreams in the World Juniors Semi Final tonight at the Murr Center at Harvard University.

The overflow crowd had come to watch the American star Amanda Sobhy take on the Egyptian squash juggernaut. They left, quiet and subdued. The overpowering performance put on by Nour El Sherbini, who out-flanked, out-shot and thoroughly out-played her opponent.

Amanda Sobhy, as in her quarterfinal match, started things off with a few quick mistakes, putting her immediately in the hole against  El Sherbini.   This was a big mistake against a foe with so many weapons and the mental strength to avoid errors. 

The left handed Sobhy found the right-handed El Sherbini playing to the left side, to Sobhy’s forehand, but this went to Nour’s strength, as she was able to produce both measured length and devastating drops off that backhand wall.   Sobhy wasn’t winning the battle of that wall, and in fact was left to scramble to handle El Sherbini’s excellent length. 

This seemed to be El Sherbini’s game plan, and increasingly it appeared that Sobhy didn’t really have a game plan.  Sobhy seemed to just be reacting to the initiatives set up by El Sherbini. 

A few more costly errors by Sobhy, especially when she tried the attacking boast from her forehand, left her in the hole with the score 6-1 against her in the first game.   This completely took the considerable crowd out of the game – they were left to plead with Sobhy to  get going rather than to be applauding her points. 

Sobhy did collect herself and pull within 5-7 in the first, but this was as close as she would get, as at this juncture Sobhy inadvisedly decided that attacking El Sherbini up front would be the thing to do.

Sobhy alternated severe power – and the power shots weren’t winning the points as the long reach of El Sherbini got her to most of those shots with time to spare – with attacks to the front. 

These attacks by Sobhy put her at a disadvantage, as El Sherbini is at her best as a counter-puncher, and she replied to the front court shots with a variety of counter drops, angle shots and cross-court drops, which had Sobhy scrambling badly. 

El Sherbini shockingly closed out the first game 11-5.

Amanda Sobhy came out determined in game two, and did build a lead. Sobhy’s early advantage was built on her realization that she needed to volley at all costs and avoid having to scramble into the back court.   Some wonderfully constructed points, punctuated with volleys, gave her some points. 

But such high intensity is hard to maintain. And El Sherbini also adjusted.  The combination of both factors lulled Sobhy back into the patterns of the first game.   Sobhy focused on driving El Sherbini into the back court.   But one high risk winning drop shot from El Sherbini from the back left hand corner into the front, jarred Sobhy’s confidence in that strategy.  Instead of sticking with it, Sobhy started mixing things up again.  Sobhy and El Sherbini played some wonderful and varied rallies. But Sobhy invariably attacked to the front, drawing the El Sherbini counterpunch. And more of those forays to the front were going El Sherbini’s way than Sobhy’s.

El Sherbini came back to get ahead at 9-8 in the second.  Sobhy showed her mental grit with some solid and attacking points. But at 10-10 in the second, Sobhy again got lured into trying to win the points at the front.  The oh so quick, skillful and focused El Sherbini seemed almost effortless as she retrieved Sobhy’s attacks to the front, replying with equally challenging counter attacks.  Two long points both ended in winning shots by El Sherbini and a looming 2-0 lead.

In the third game, El Sherbini wasn’t going to fall behind again.   Seemingly tireless, El Sherbini punished Sobhy again and again on the left hand wall with clinging length that forced Sobhy into constant racquet gymnastics.  Sobhy gamely fought tooth and nail, attacking where she could. She just didn’t have the attacking confidence or flair to answer El Sherbini’s focused pressure and precision. At the end, Sobhy appeared out of ideas, fighting on but not with a clear approach or plan to gain the upper hand.

At the end, the match was Nor El Sherbini’s in a physically and skillful dominance of her opponent.

In the other semi final, Eygptian Nour El Tayeb was here to play at a level that was just too high for Emily Whitlock. Whitlock, who's game I like very much, is a year or a year and a half away right now from being able to contend with El Tayeb.

Two great points played at the beginning of the second game, showed that Whitlock had the capability to stay with El Tayeb, blunt her best, and respond, at least in small doses. After those few points, Whitlock was visibly tired, and unable to pursue to the ends of the ensuing rallies which El Tayeb extended and extended.

Whitlock, unable to withstand the pace and unable to take the initiative, played out the last game and a half gamely, but was only a foil to El Tayeb tonight.



[1] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt [5/8] Emily Whitlock (ENG)
[3/4] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [2] Amanda Sobhy (USA) 11-8 12-10 11-8

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