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Audacious Asal Halts Gaultier to Reach ToC Quarterfinals; Sabrina Sobhy Records Second Top Twenty Upset

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January 13, 2020
by Chris McClintick

[Above: Mostafa Asal (r) against Gregory Gaultier]

Eighteen-year-old Egyptian Mostafa Asal is through to his first career PSA Platinum quarterfinal after a five-game upset over former world No. 1 Gregory Gaultier, while American Sabrina Sobhy is through to her first career Platinum third round following her second top twenty upset at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions Sunday, January 12, in New York City.

Two days after an audacious upset over world No. 9 Mohamed Abouelghar in Grand Central Terminal, Asal ended Gaultier’s comeback run to the PSA World Tour in the third round. More than twice Asal’s age at thirty-seven, the Frenchman was able to thwart Asal’s offensive more than Abouelghar could, forcing more errors and controlling the match tempo at times to extend the match to five games. The Egyptian ran away with the lead in the fifth, going up 6-0, and pressed on to clinch the match 5-11, 13-11, 12-10, 10-12, 11-5 after seventy-five minutes.

“Gaultier is such a legend, and I can’t describe the feeling of sharing a court with him,” Asal said. “I remember when I was thirteen years old, I went on court to practice with him, every single day after his matches in El Gouna, so I want to thank him for the opportunity to play with him. He really is a legend and I can’t describe my feelings to him. I was a child and I texted him to ask if I could play with him in El Gouna and he said yes. I know if he hadn’t have been injured then he would have finished me in about five minutes. It’s unbelievable to play here, it’s my second home, and it’s the best tournament that I have ever played on the PSA.”

Asal’s next test will come against reigning world champion Tarek Momen, who defeated Malaysia’s former world junior champion Eain Yow Ng in four games.

One of the day’s biggest results took place in one of the last matches of the tournament outside of Vanderbilt Hall, when American Sabrina Sobhy recorded her second straight top twenty upset at the River Club. Sobhy reached her first career ToC second round with a win over Hong Kong’s world No. 19 Joey Chan, which the Sea Cliff-native followed up with a win over England’s world No. 15 Victoria Lust. The world No. 39 prevailed 10-12, 11-6, 11-9, 12-10 in forty-two minutes. Sobhy now faces another Englishwoman in the round of sixteen on the glass court Tuesday—eight seed Sarah-Jane Perry, who defeated Belgium’s Nele Gilis.

“She made it incredibly challenging for me,” Sobhy said. “I needed to focus point by point and on my game and not let the crowd or my emotions get involved. It’s big to be able to see my family and friends supporting me here and makes these matches more memorable. My goal was actually just to get past the first round so it’s going to be really cool playing on the glass.”

Team USA will have another representative in the women’s round of sixteen in the form of Olivia Blatchford Clyne, who advanced in unfortunate circumstances after Wales’ nine seed Tesni Evans sustained an ankle injury in the first game and was forced to retire.

“It’s awful, I’m very blessed that I’ve never had that happen to me,” Blatchford Clyne said. “I’m sure she’s heartbroken and I’m heartbroken for her. I’m also gutted I didn’t get to do it, but I just hope that she’s able to recover as quickly as possible. She’s a really tough, entertaining cookie and I’m sure she will be back soon.”

Blatchford Clyne, world No. 17, has a daunting task of facing world champion Nour El Sherbini next on the glass court Tuesday.

Monday’s play sees the second half of the men’s third round, and first half of the women’s third round called into action.