R2:  Hania El Hammamy (Egy) 3-2 Lisa Aitken (Sco) 11-8, 10-12, 11-6, 9-11, 11-7 (76m)
Since May 2019, Hania hadn’t lost in her first round, and that was a huge match, in 5, against Nele Gilis. Strangely enough, that’s the name Lisa mentioned in her aftermatch interview…. And today, Lisa, whose game is as physical as Nele’s – and that’s the biggest compliment I could give – really put the former Black Ball 2020 Champion on the Scottish Grill tonight.
It was so strange. Those two played in Nantes, and to be honest, Hania ate her alive – no offence. So maybe today, the Gazelle was a bit unprepared to the Tsunami Aitken? Was it a wrong tactical game? Or was it a bit of nerves from the pressure the young Egyptian has got to feel as she is expected to win every time now. Or was it that Lisa was on fire and would have threaten basically any single player on the planet?
Truth is, Hania seems very lost on there. Yes, she took the first game, but making an awful lost of errors, whereas she didn’t really look that pressured yet from the Scot, 10m first game, 11/8.
The Tsunami started right in the second game, at 9/6 for Hania. Out of the blue, Lisa was getting more and more present physically, retrieving a lot and managing to stay in front of the Gazelle, not an easy task. And it paid off, 12/10in 15m on her second attempt.
And she went on with the momentum, 3/1 before a few errors crept in. Hania manage to change the tide to her advantage, but the Scot ‘whoawed’ the Egyptian crowd with her dives, Hania still taking the advantage, 11/6 in 11m, errors number quite high for both girls.
A 20m fourth game will follow, with a truly and utterly impressive Lisa, as if Hania was maybe not playing her best game, now she was, and she was still suffering to close out any sort of rally. 1/1, 2/2, 3/3, 5/5, 6/6. A string of unforced errors coming from the Gazelle racquet, and it’s 11/9 for the Scot, 5 winners, 6 for Hania.
Hania finally got a way to pick up the pace, and managed to take the ball away from her fierce opponent, 4/1, 5/2, a last push from Lisa, 5/5, but it’s now 10/5 for Hania, match 11/7, in again 15 long minute.
That was NOT what the El Hammamy had in mind for their protégée today I tell you that.
Lisa: “I thought he focus was going to be on my backhand, when we played in Nantes, that’s what she did and it was very effective. I was not as strong as I am now then but I was surprised today she didn’t use the same tactic.
“So I tried to lengthen the rallies, and keep her out of the volley as much as I could, because she like to dominate, she likes to be in front, and dominate the middle.
“Well, yesterday was a bit like a tornado, you can train hard and play friendly matches as much as you want, but nothing can replicate that feeling you get at love all, that moment the lights shines on you. And although I have been playing a long time, I am learning about that feeling on the glass court because I didn’t have it often.
“Yes, I like a physical game. And to be having that kind of game, you need to be extremely fit. And look at Nele, everybody is talking about how strong she is physically, how fit she is. And just that, her opponents are intimidated. Plus, there is no excuse for not being fit. It’s the easy part. There is nothing hard at being fit. Every single player is getting leaner, fitter on the tour, year after year. That a great evolution of the game, and it’s a good thing.
Hania: “It was definitely a tough match today. Lisa took me by surprise to be honest. I wouldn’t say I played my best but I’m glad to get through.“All credit to Lisa, she is very talented and she really played well today. I couldn’t find my length or lines today. I got a little bit better at the end and hopefully it will get better with each round.“I managed to push to the end. I didn’t give up at some point when Lisa was really in control and I was behind her. She had a very good plan and the positive thing was that I found a way to get through it.
“With the pressure and playing five-gamers in the first round, it gave me the feeling of playing in the final, but it was slightly different!”
🗣 "She had a very good plan – the positive thing is that I found a way to get through it!"@HaniaaElHammamy reacts to a nail-biting contest against @LisaAitken1 at the @BlackBallSquash 🎥 pic.twitter.com/0Nd9AayPEi
— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) March 13, 2021