2022 Tournament of Champions

Grand Central Terminal — January 13 - 21, 2022

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Seven Seeds Elias and Amanda Sobhy Bow Out in ToC Second Round

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January 12, 2020
by Chris McClintick

[Above: Emily Whitlock celebrates her first career win over Amanda Sobhy]

The J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions men’s and women’s round of sixteen with be without both seven seeds after Joel Makin and Emily Whitlock both pulled off five-game upsets over Diego Elias and Amanda Sobhy Saturday, January 11, in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal.

Saturday’s two surprise results occurred back-to-back on the glass court in a day that otherwise saw men’s third round and women’s second round matches play out according to seeing.

In both cases, the upsets marked Makin and Whitlock’s first respective career wins over their higher-ranked opponents.

In their last PSA match up, Elias dispatched the world No. 12 in three games during October’s U.S. Open. Both players put on a seventy-eight minute show for the capacity crowd in Vanderbilt Hall, displaying their attacking skill and power in extended rallies. After going 2-1 down, Makin forced a fifth game, and used his endurance to wear down his Peruvian opponent until clinching the match 6-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-6, 11-7. Makin will face veteran of seventeen ToC’s and former world No. 1 James Willstrop who win in straight games against Scotland’s Greg Lobban.

“If you’re outside the top eight then you can get these draws at any time,” Makin (below, right) said. “I’ve had two of those in a row now but if I want to get up to the top eight then I have to start beating those guys and do it anyway, I’m glad I did that and hopefully the draw has opened up a little bit. It’s still tough against James [Willstrop] being a quality player and he won this tournament ten years ago.”

The biggest result of the day followed on court and showed no signs of materializing in the first two games of the match. Sobhy, world No. 7, appeared to be on cruise control taking a quick lead 11-5, 11-1. The world No. 27 changed her tactics in the third, quickly taking the American off guard 11-4, and maintained the pressure throughout the rest of the match to win 11-8, 11-7 in the fourth and fifth after forty-seven minutes.

“The last three games were a symbol of how I’ve been playing towards the end of last year,” Whitlock said. “I’ve really been working on everything, no injuries and being mentally and physically strong. I was so lost out there and seeing it a bit late in those first two games and she was just so dominant. I think I maybe saw the ball a bit quicker, hit the ball a bit cleaner on the racket and it just seemed to go my way. My coach said to me when I won yesterday: ‘You’re playing Saturday night, prime time, under the chandeliers in Grand Central Terminal in front of one of the best crowd on the tour’. Even if I’m the away player, I could hear people shouting my name, it just couldn’t have been a better time to win.”

The evening session also saw the end of an era for Greenwich, Connecticut-based Aussie Ryan Cuskelly. Two years after recording a career upset over world No. 2 Mohamed ElShorbagy on the same court to reach his only ToC quarterfinal, it was the same Egyptian who ended his professional squash chapter in three games. Cuskelly competed in thirteen straight ToC’s since 2008.

“Ryan has been one of the most hard-working athletes that I have come across,” ElShorbagy said. “He got to two Platinum event semifinals and the way he got up to world No. 12 was unbelievable because the way he worked was something for all juniors to look up to and I hope he really enjoys retirement and time with his family now. I remember two years ago that he has beaten me on this court. I had to switch off from that and think about what I needed to do.”