Home Wildcard Shiha’s run continues after spectacular comeback
In the shock of the tournament so far, the Black Ball Club’s home wildcard Jana Shiha conjured a miraculous comeback to stun Wales’ World No.17 Tesni Evans, recovering from two games and match ball down to win 3-2.
In her first-round match against Hong Kong’s Ho Tze Lok, World No.55 Shiha’s attacking volleys proved a potent weapon. Evans, though, was able to neutralise this threat early on, pushing the ball deep whenever possible to take the first two games 11-3 and 11-5.
The Welshwoman appeared on course for a routine 3-0 win when she took a 10-8 lead in the third, only for Shiha to save both match balls and force a tie-break. The 20-year-old then saved a further match ball at 11-10, before flipping the game on its head with a 14-12 win.
The 20-year-old stormed out in the fourth game to the delight of the fans and took the match to five games with an 11-6 win.
With momentum and the crowd truly behind her, Shiha continued to press relentlessly in the fifth game. As Evans began to tire, Shiha’s devastating range of attacking shots increasingly found their mark, and the World No.55 walked off the court to rapturous applause as she sealed a memorable victory with an 11-8 win.
Shiha will play No.8 seed and compatriot Rowan Elaraby in the next round, following Elaraby’s 3-0 win over Canada’s Danielle Letourneau.
Afterwards, Shiha said: “I have no words! After being 2-0 down, I don’t think I’ve ever come back from 2-0 down, even in juniors, so I’m very very very proud of how I managed to win today. It was my first time playing Tesni so I didn’t know how to react. She’s very talented and her shots are amazing, so I knew this was going to happen. In those first two games, she really bagelled me. Usually, I let go of the whole match, but I didn’t today, for the first time which is a plus. In the third game I tried to hold onto the basic game, but then I had to attack. I tried to take as many volleys as I could, I tried to do my shots.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect this. I wasn’t training my best, but I had confidence because I’m at my home club. I didn’t want to let my home crowd down, so I’m on the right track and I hope tomorrow I play as well as today.”
Joining Shiha in the next round will be compatriot and World No.1 Nour El Sherbini, who was forced to do things the hard way in an enthralling five-game battle with Belgian World No.24 Tinne Gilis.
It initially looked like it would be plain sailing for the defending Black Ball Open champion, as she quickly took the first game 11-3. Gilis, however, fought back well to take the second game 11-8, with the Belgian’s backhand drives a consistent source of trouble for El Sherbini.
El Sherbini then won the third game and looked set to win the fourth, only for Gilis to save a match ball before taking the game on a tiebreak 12-10 to send the match into a deciding game.
The fifth followed a similar pattern, with Gilis falling behind only to threaten a comeback. While the Belgian was able to pull back to within a point of the ‘Warrior Princess,’El Sherbini was able to close out the match with an 11-8 win and secure her place in the next round, where she will face compatriot Hana Ramadan.
“I am very lucky to go through this time. Tinne surprised me the last couple of times we have played. I tried to be strong, have a good gameplan, but she is very strong and very good. I am enjoying these tough matches against her and we are definitely going to have more tough matches like this again!” El Sherbini said after the match.
“Even if I were not the defending champion, I am still the highest seed. That means there’s no pressure on them, they want to play the best and they always get the best out of themselves. I am trying to get used to the pressure, trying to not be stressed or under pressure, to always play and enjoy my squash. Getting the win today is a really good start, and I like to play a tough first match, so it’s a good start for me!”
Elsewhere, there was a first on the PSA World Tour as World No.4 Amanda Sobhy took on younger sister Sabrina in their first tour meeting.
Despite her superior experience, Amanda didn’t have it all her own way as Sabrina, nicknamed ‘The Roadrunner’ for her speed around court, hustled and pushed her sister all the way to five games.
It was Amanda who held her nerve in the crucial moments, though, and she kept Sabrina at arm’s length to take the fifth game by an 11-6 margin, earning a last-16 clash with India’s Joshna Chinappa, who today picked up her 250th win on the tour.
“I think every older sibling kind of knows how I feel,” said Amanda.
“The younger sibling never really has much pressure and everyone kind of roots for them to make the upset. It gives me added pressure, expectations and stress. It’s a relief when you win and then you just hope and pray that you don’t have to play each other for a very long time.
“I’ve been avoiding it, thankfully, for a couple of years and mentally preparing for this day. This day has happened now and I hope I have a few years to recover, I’m sure we’re going to play each other and I’m sure it’s not going to be fun.”