R1 : Hollie Naughton (CAN) 3-1  Rowan Elaraby (EGY) 8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-7 (40m)
And cheers to living in Pontefract! I guess Hollie will be quite happy she chose to be based in the legendary Yorkshire Club working her racquet off, as she displayed today a superb authoritarian squash that left double world junior Champion Rowan El Araby with no answers from game 2.
It’s a bit of a strange story with Rowan. She had her best results away from her country, she won the world championships in New Zealand and India, but since that good spell as a junior, she struggled a bit on the senior circuit, contrarily to Hania El Hammamy, who she beat twice in those World Junior finals, and who is now in the top 5!
Rowan started well today, but still made a few too many errors, signs she was not entirely relaxed out there. Hollie was doing well, but not really threatening the Egyptian.
But from the second on, we saw a different Canadian on court, plenty of energy, accuracy, power and clarity of shots. And Rowan, contrarily to a lot of Egyptians, doesn’t look like she is enjoying the pressure of playing home as plainly as other players. She had the vocal support of her coaches, but it didn’t seem to relax her. She got more and more tense as the match went along, kept looking at her clan with desperate and sad looks and seemed to get smaller and tinier on court, if that’s ever possible, bless her.
Example, in the second, she made 4 direct tin errors in 6 points in the middle of the game, and went fromm 4/4 to 10/4, eventually losing the game 11/6 in 8m.
A good start in the third gives hope to her camp, 4/0 but although she leads the way up to 8/8, it’s again the Canadian that is retrieving beautifully all what Rowan is throwing at her, but also finding crispy winners of her own, and again, the Canadian prevails 11/8 in 11m.
The fourth game, I can see the panic in Rowan’s eyes, and although she manages to stay close 5/5, 6/6, she is not letting go of the arm, thank you says the Canadian, playing a superb balanced squash, sprinkled with a few flicks, and it’s 11/7 match to Hollie, in 8 m last game…
I’ve been playing these girls that are ranked above me and just narrowly missing out.
So, to come out on the other side is a great relief and something that I’ve been working for. I’ve been trying to work on my variation and the front court, I feel that’s something I’ve lacked and isn’t natural to me. I’ve always been able to hit it hard and be comfortable on the volley but I’ve been trying to add those front shots to make the other girls worried.
You’re aiming to get the top of the rankings, but I’ve been working on it with my coaches and sports psychologist to ultimately push that back and if you play, you can take out anyone.