World champion has to wait for number one spot
By SEAN REUTHE
World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad’s wait for the World No.1 spot goes on after the 26-year-old from Giza fell to a shock defeat against fellow Egyptian Mohamed Abouelghar on day three of the 2017 Allam British Open, the World Series tournament taking place in Hull’s Airco Arena.
Gawad required just a quarter-final finish at the sport’s oldest and most distinguished tournament to overtake current incumbent Mohamed ElShorbagy atop the World Rankings – but a stunning display from Abouelghar nullified Gawad’s shot-making talents, with the World No.23 taking it 6-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-7 to send shockwaves throughout the tournament.
“I know it was a very big deal for Karim, if he’d have won he’d have become the World No.1 and I think that relaxed me a lot,” said Abouelghar.
“I had nothing to lose, I just wanted to go out, enjoy my squash and prove something for myself.
“I had mixed feelings. I really wanted him to become World No.1 because I know how hard he works, but on the other side I wanted to win. I was thinking about that before the match, but as soon as I went in, I didn’t think about anything other than winning.”
Gawad will still move to World No.1 should ElShorbagy or World No.3 Gregory Gaultier fail to lift the iconic title – but Gaultier looked to be in top form as he put Australian World No.18 Cameron Pilley to the sword.
The 34-year-old, a British Open champion in 2007 and 2014, laid down a marker for the rest of the field by annihilating former World No.4 Miguel Angel Rodriguez in the opening round – dropping just nine points throughout and inflicting a dreaded bagel on the Colombian – and he was even better against Australia’s Cameron Pilley in round two.
Not a single element of Gaultier’s game wasn’t firing on all cylinders as he outclassed and outmatched Pilley, with the affable Aussie having no answer to Gaultier’s masterclass of a display as the 34-year-old wrapped up an 11-1, 11-3, 11-2 victory to stay in with a chance of lifting a third British Open title.
“I didn’t expect to win with such a score line,” Gaultier said. “Cameron is dangerous, especially on the glass courts because he can put the ball away really easily, so I made sure I gave no angles or openings. I was in front of him in most of the rallies, making him do a lot of work.
“I’m very confident, but there are a lot of really strong players. One day you feel 100%, another you can feel 30% for whatever reason and you still have to find the keys and solutions to win.”
Gaultier will take on compatriot Mathieu Castagnet for a place in the semi-finals, while 2013 champion Ramy Ashour defeated Peruvian Diego Elias to ensure that he will line up against Abouelghar.
The 2015 women’s champion, the World No.2 Serme, is on course for a second British Open crown after she beat Egypt’s World No.13 Nour El Tayeb, despite a contentious end to their second round match in Hull’s Airco Arena.
Serme was 2-1 up and 9-8 up in the fourth, when a cross-court effort from El Tayeb struck Serme’s racket – resulting in a controversial conduct stroke being awarded against the Egyptian player to hand Serme match ball.
The 27-year-old then converted at the second attempt to set up a quarter-final meeting with five-time winner Nicol David – a player who Serme has never beaten in 15 attempts.
“To be honest, I’m relieved to be through,” Serme said. “I’m not really sure what happened on court [at the end]. I need to see the match again to really see what happened. She came to me and asked why I didn’t offer a let like she did [in an incident earlier on in the match].
“But it was a different situation, to be honest. I think that she gave that let because she was 7-3 up, and it is easier to give a let when you’re winning, rather than 9-8 in the fourth.”
David claimed her quarter-final berth courtesy of a an 11-4, 14-12, 9-11, 11-2 victory over Hong Kong’s Joey Chan.
“I feel more comfortable every time I play matches and tournaments,” 33-year-old David said.
“You get spurred on playing on the glass court, so I think I raise my game up even more. I’m just happy to get through to the quarter-finals. There’s no expectations on me, so I’m looking forward to a good match tomorrow.”
England’s World No.8 Sarah-Jane Perry and Australia’s World No.18 Donna Urquhart were victorious against Tesni Evans and Egyptian qualifier Nada Abbas – the 16-year-old who scalped 2016 runner-up Nouran Gohar in round one – and they will go head-to-head for a place in the last four.
2017 Allam British Open, AirCo Arena, Hull, England.
Men’s Second Round (Bottom Half):
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 3-0: 11-1, 11-3, 11-2 (31m)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Max Lee (HKG) 3-0: 12-10, 11-8, 11-9 (54m)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt Diego Elias (PER) 3-0: 11-9, 11-6, 12-10 (42m)
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-1: 6-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-7 (64m)
Men’s Quarter-Finals (To Be Played March 24):
 Mohamed ElShorbagy v  Ali Farag (EGY)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY)
Women’s Second Round (Bottom Half):
 Donna Urquhart (AUS) bt [Q] Nada Abbas (EGY) 3-2: 8-11, 11-3, 11-8, 6-11, 11-1 (46m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt Tesni Evans (WAL) 3-0: 11-5, 11-8, 11-8 (43m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt  Joey Chan (HKG) 3-1: 11-4, 14-12, 9-11, 11-2 (47m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 3-1: 11-8, 11-9, 5-11, 11-9 (54m)
Women’s Quarter-Finals (To Be Played March 24):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Emily Whitlock (ENG)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
 Donna Urquhart (AUS) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
 Nicol David (MAS) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
Pictures courtesy of PSA