By Edgardo Gonzalez
Amanda Sobhy made her 17th birthday one to remember, winning the 2010 World Junior Championship in Cologne, Germany. “It’s the best birthday present anyone could ever ask for,” said Sobhy after winning the event. The win capped a remarkable season for Sobhy, who won the GU19 U.S. Closed Championship and recently made squash history when she became the first woman to garner four Women’s International Squash Players Association (WISPA) tour victories at the age of 16.
The United States sent a contingent of five players to the World Championships, including Sobhy, Olivia Blatchford (CT), Maria Elena Ubina (CT), Katie Tutrone (MD) and Haley Mendez (NY).
Coming into the event Sobhy was seeded third and had the highest WISPA ranking of all the participants (World No. 36). Sobhy defeated Denmark’s Nana Frederiksen handily in the first round (11-1, 11-1, 11-1), but faced a stiffer challenge in the second round before topping the up and coming Yathreb Adel of Egypt, 11-7, 11-6, 5-11, 11-7. In the quarterfinals, Sobhy needed just three games to knock off the No. 8 seed from India, Anaka Alankamony (12-10, 11-4, 11-6), before facing her biggest test in the semifinals—against top-seeded and reigning champion, Nour El Sherbini of Egypt.
In last year’s World Junior Team Championship semifinals, Sobhy defeated El Sherbini in three games just a day after Sherbini had won the Individual Championship. That match set the stage for an epic encounter this time around and, again, Sobhy defeated Sherbini in three extremely close games, 12-10, 14-12, 11-9.
“I knew that I had to come out strong from the first point and show everyone that my win against Sherbini last year was no accident, and that I can beat her again,” said Sobhy. “When I won, it felt like the finals. I couldn’t help but cry from joy again like last year.”
In the final, Sobhy dropped the first game against Nour El Tayeb but rebounded to sweep the next three (3-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-7). It was Sobhy’s first victory over the Egyptian in four meetings and earned her the World Junior title—putting an end to Egypt’s seven-year stranglehold on the title.
Blatchford also had a successful tournament, reaching the quarterfinals before losing to El Tayeb. This marked the first time that two American players had reached the quarterfinals of any World Championship. Blatchford ended the tournament by defeating Anaka Alankamony in the 7/8 playoffs. Ubina and Tutrone, representing the US for the first time at the world level, gained valuable experience along with team veteran Mendez.
Sobhy’s tremendous accomplishment shows that US squash can compete on the highest international level, and her and Blatchford’s success continues to demonstrate the strength of the junior program in the US. Jack Wyant, the U.S Junior Women’s Head Coach, remarked, “It shows progress. 20 years ago this was unimaginable; a pipe dream. With more kids playing via scholastic, urban and club squash, and so many talented coaches invested in the sport in the US, we can continue to have success at the international level.”
“Amanda’s future is incredibly bright,” added Wyant. “If she continues to train hard and remains dedicated to the sport, she can reach the top-20, even top-10 in the world. From there anything is possible. Perhaps she can someday earn a senior title to go along with her Junior World Championship!”
Next summer, the Women’s World Junior Team Championship will be contested in Cairo, Egypt. With Sobhy and Blatchford leading the charge, there is reason to believe that the US could be ascending to the top step of the trophy platform once again.