Nicol David (MAS) v  Low Wee Wern (MAS)
 Alison Waters (ENG) v [Q] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
Madeline Perry (IRL) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v  Joelle King (NZL)
Madeline Perry, World No. 7, advanced to the quarter-finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions at Grand Central Terminal after scoring a stunning upset in the opening round of the Women’s Squash Association (WSA) Gold event in New York City.
Perry, dropped the first two games in her afternoon match against third seed Raneem El Welily, the world No3 from Egypt who seemed to be in complete control after her 11-8, 11-4 lead.
But, from the very start of the third game, Perry (pictured right in action with El Welily) was a different player. The 36-year-old pushed up several feet and started playing attacking shots much as her Egyptian opponent had done in the first two games.
“She’s really a better player than me in terms of skills,” said Perry later. “So I realised that I just had to stay positive, enjoy myself and do something different than my usual conservative game.”
The change in Perry’s strategy worked exceptionally well as she took a 10-3 lead in the third game, before winning it 11-6. The fourth was more of the same and Perry won the game by the identical score. Welily, 25, from Cairo, reasserting herself at the start of the decider, taking an 8-5 lead.
But the WSA Tour veteran from Banbridge, was not about to give up against her younger opponent and scrambled to move ahead 9-8. After Welily tied the score at 9-9, both players dug in their heels and played the point of the day as each covered all four corners of the court and Welily retrieved several seemingly irretrievable balls. After the young Egyptian hit a cross court from the deep forehand corner, Perry flew forward to hit an attacking backhand dead nick volley – clinching the match on another attacking backhand volley.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Perry in her post-match interview. “I just hope that one of the photographers got the picture of that backhand volley at nine-all!”
After gathering her thoughts, two-time ToC semi-finalist Perry added: “I’m obviously delighted. I was completely outplayed for the first two games and completely turned it around and played some great squash.
“I had some trouble with my knee for a few months after the summer which disrupted my training but trained well for the last couple of months and felt much better. I love the court and the amazing venue!”
Fifth seed Camille Serme will be Perry’s quarter-final opponent after the French number one advanced with a 3/1 victory over two-time defending champion Natalie Grinham. Madeline last played Camille in the European team Championships quarter final last May, where Madeline won a superb victory to enable Ireland get to the Semi final. Ultimately Ireland got to the final and just lost to a very strong English team, 2-1 to win the silver medal.
Natalie Grinham won the first game 13-11 by hitting an extensive variety of shots and using the lob exceptionally well. Serme – who has lost only to world No1 Nicol David since August 2013 – admitted to being surprised by her 35-year-old opponent’s first game strategy.
The world No 8 from Creteil, near Paris, adjusted in the second by playing more length. “I just tried to be more patient, which wasn’t so easy,” said Serme. It may not have been easy, but the adjustment worked and, after taking an 8-3 lead, Serme won the second 11-6.
A number of uncharacteristic errors from Grinham – who confessed to getting nervous – and excellent court coverage by Serme, gave her the third game 11-4. The five-time French champion sealed the victory after winning the fourth 11-7. As a wistful Grinham stood by the stands watching the next match later, she said: “I really wanted to have another chance to play on this court.”
Qualifier Sarah Jane Perry, looking remarkably relaxed and confident, earned her trip to the quarter-finals in her maiden appearance in the event with a seesaw five-game victory over seventh seed and England team-mate Jenny Duncalf. Perry, the 23-year-old world No17, controlled the first game with good length and accuracy.
In the second, the lead exchanged hands several times until Perry closed out the game 11-9. Duncalf, the world No9 who has been ranked as high as two in the world, cut down on her errors in the third and fourth to even the match at two-all. Deliberately slowing the pace in the fifth, Perry was the beneficiary of more unforced Duncalf errors, winning the game 11-4 to take the match.
“It is easier to be relaxed when you are the underdog,” said Perry, who is just returning to the WSA Tour after a three month injury hiatus. “I certainly wasn’t expected to win.” As for the confidence factor, Perry added: “I know I am playing well and you have got think you can win; otherwise, what’s the point of playing?”
Perry will now face countrywoman Alison Waters. The fourth seed played in front of the most vocal crowd of the day – the Harvard University women’s squash team who had turned out in force to support their number one player Amanda Sobhy, ranked 18 on the WSA Tour.
Waters, who defeated US number one Sobhy 11-3, 11-9, 11-6, was unfazed by the partisan fans. “I quite enjoyed the loud crowds – it is much more fun to play for them.”
Waters completely contained the American star, who had survived a tough five-game qualifying match the night before. “Amanda is very strong and can be a dangerous player if you let her have the ball in the middle of the court,” said the three-time British national champion. “So my strategy was to keep her in the back of the court and out of the middle.”
It was a strategy that worked. “Ali was hitting her targets really well,” admitted Sobhy. “I was scrambling most of the time.”
In the day’s other matches, sixth seed Joelle King of New Zealand dominated her match against Australian Kasey Brown, the newly-elected Women’s Squash Association president. King’s quarter-final opponent will be world No2 Laura Massaro of England who defeated Australian veteran Rachael Grinham – two days before her 37th birthday – in four games.
RESULTS: Women’s JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, New York, USA
 Alison Waters (ENG) bt [Q] Amanda Sobhy (USA) 11-3, 11-9, 11-6 (25m)
[Q] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 11-5, 11-9, 6-11, 9-11, 11-4 (63m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt Natalie Grinham (NED) 11-13, 11-6, 11-4, 11-7 (38m)
Madeline Perry (IRL) bt  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 8-11, 4-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-9 (49m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt Kasey Brown (AUS) 11-2, 11-7, 11-7 (25m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [Q] Rachael Grinham (AUS) 11-2, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7 (44m)
1st round: (played Tuesday 21st Jan)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt [Q] Annie Au (HKG) 11-4, 11-4, 11-6 (25m)
 Low Wee Wern (MAS) bt Latasha Khan (USA) 11-6, 11-7, 11-5 (27m)
Official event website: www.tocsquash.com