Stunning victory at Grand Central railroads American hopes
By NATHAN CLARKE in New York
England’s Sarah-Jane Perry, the World No.11, stunned a capacity crowd inside New York’s Grand Central Terminal as she downed crowd favourite and 2016 runner-up Amanda Sobhy in a thrilling five-game battle to reach the last eight of the iconic J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions.
The 26-year-old from Birmingham produced one of the best performances of her career as she thwarted Sobhy’s all-out attacking style to claim a huge win that sees her into a PSA World Series tournament quarter-final for the first time since the 2015 British Open, on a day that also saw Egyptian World No.3 Raneem El Welily, No.2 Nouran Gohar and defending champion Nour El Sherbini, World No.1, come through in unconvincing fashion.
“I beat Nicol (David) in September which was huge for me and this win today is similar to that,” said Perry, who won 9-11, 14-12, 12-10, 8-11, 11-5 after 67 minutes of drama.
“They were both big matches in amazing locations (Grand Central and the Pyramids of Giza) against very strong opponents. You don’t get to play in better venues than those so it’s great to get that win today.
“I watched her (Sobhy) here last year and saw how much she enjoyed playing in front of a loud supportive crowd, so I just had to put that out of my mind. I had to focus on playing my way, not going short too much, and I stuck to my plan just enough to edge it.
“I changed coach about 14 months ago and have had some good results in the past six months. It’s all about believing in myself, approaching the game slightly differently mentally and going on court believing that I can compete with anyone and I know if I can stick to my game plan, win or lose I’ll be happy.”
Perry will face 2015 winner El Welily for a place in the semi-finals after she edged past Indian Dipika Pallikal Karthik while eight-times World Champion David put in a second consecutive performance of total domination to down Annie Au 3-0 to underline her championship credentials and set up a quarter-final encounter with El Sherbini.
David and El Sherbini met here at the same stage last year, when El Sherbini recorded the second of five consecutive wins over David en route to the title, but the Malaysian will likely have her best chance yet to halt that run and install a needed confidence boost with El Sherbini struggling to hit her stride in the event to date – having narrowly beaten Salma Many Ibrahim in four games today.
“I’m pleased with my performance today,” said David. “You don’t get to experience something like playing in Grand Central Terminal every day and when you train so hard and work all your life, you just want to be in venues like this competing with the best players and enjoying it.
“I’m excited to play Nour here. I’m going to give it my all tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.”
England’s Laura Massaro, World No.5, staged a huge comeback to defeat New Zealand’s Joelle King, World No.10, to reach the quarter-finals of the 2017 Tournament of Champions taking place in New York’s Grand Central Terminal.
Despite being far from her best Massaro managed to grind out the 8-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-5, 11-3 win in just over an hour, showing impressive resilience and mental fortitude to twice come from behind, wearing King down physically in the end.
“That’s probably the best she has ever played against me so I have to be pleased to have come through – I’m proud of myself for that but my performance was poor,” said Massaro.
“I was frantic. But at 2-1 down I tried to relax and make sure that if I lost I did so playing the way I wanted to and I think I relaxed a little. At that same time I think she started to feel it physically because I made her do a lot of work.
“So there’s definitely a lot of relief there.
“I played very well in the first round and I maybe took my foot off the gas subconsciously and lost a little edge and intensity – which you can’t do against anyone.
“But to get a win in that situation will give me a little kick to approach the quarters differently. I have no (ranking) points to lose here so I can go out there tomorrow to genuinely try and enjoy it and relax and hopefully I’ll play better.”
In the Men’s tournament World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy kept his title defence alive by beating younger brother Marwan, World No.6, in straight games to secure his place in the semi-finals where Frenchman Gregory Gaultier awaits after beating Tarek Momen 3-1.
“I think people enjoy watching us but it’s not fun competing against each other and it’s hard for everyone in the family,” said Mohamed.
“But we have to deal with it and I’m very glad to have won today and to be coming back here to compete in another match in this amazing location.
“The crowd here make it very special and they show us some great support so I’m looking forward to the next round.”
2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Grand Central Terminal, New York, USA.
Results – Men’s Quarter-finals (Top Half):
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-5 (44m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-1: 11-3, 8-11, 11-5, 11-7 (60m)
Draw – Bottom Half (To be played Jan 17)
James Willstrop (ENG) v [Q] Paul Coll (NZL)
 Simon Rösner (GER) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
Results – Women’s Second Round:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [Q] Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY) 3-1: 8-11, 11-9, 13-11, 13-11 (70m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt  Annie Au (HKG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-6, 11-7 (30m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Joshna Chinappa (IND) 3-0: 11-8, 11-7, 11-3 (36m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 3-2: 9-11, 11-1, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6 (56m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 3-2: 8-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-5, 11-3 (64m)
 Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt  Victoria Lust (ENG) 3-1: 11-9, 6-11, 11-7, 11-3 (44m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Amanda Sobhy (USA) 3-2: 9-11, 14-12, 12-10, 8-11, 11-5 (67m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) 3-1: 15-17, 11-8, 11-6, 11-8 (44m)
Draw – Quarter-finals
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Nicol David (MAS)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v  Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA