Top-quality win takes top seed into Weymuller semi-finals
By LINDA ELRIANI at Heights Casino
Top seed Nour El Sherbini gained revenge for her defeat to Nour El Tayeb in the quarter-finals of the US Open by beating her Egyptian compatriot at the same stage in the 2017 Carol Weymuller Open at Heights Casino, the $50,000 women’s PSA tournament in Brooklyn, New York.
Quarter-finals night at the Carol Weymuller Open is always my favorite night of the tournament, because it’s four extremely high quality matches all in one afternoon. The weather outside was bright and sunny, but we still got a great crowd to come indoors the Heights Casino to watch this amazing squash event.
Today we had our junior ‘Salming Play A Pro’ which ran from 12.00pm-1.00pm before the quarterfinals. It’s our juniors chance to get on court with some of the best women’s squash players in the world. That doesn’t happen every day! A huge thank you goes to Haley Mendez, Milou van der Heijden, Alison Waters, Nele Gilis and Millie Tomlinson for taking the time to play with them. They all gave up part of their afternoon to play with our juniors and the kids all had such an amazing time. The PSA women are so great at giving back and spreading the joy and love of squash to others. All our Casino juniors that attended received a free Salming hoodie. Thanks so much to Salming for your generous Play A Pro sponsorship.
Today’s quarter finals had Egypt, England, New Zealand, Hong Kong being represented. These are all strong squash nations, especially Egypt and we are very lucky to have all these wonderful players travel from around the globe to play in our event.
First up on the championship court was an amazing clash of talent! It was also an exciting re-run of the US Open quarter finals when Nour El Tayeb beat Nour El Sherbini in a close 3-1. Nour El Tayeb is currently world #14 and Nour El Sherbini has been world #1 since May 2007. They have played 12 times before in PSA and their head to head is 6-6. Even though Nour El Sherbini is the world #1, Nour El Tayeb has won the last two times they have played this year, so it couldn’t be a more exciting set up for this match!!
It was a tentative start for both players and it took a while for them to settle into their usual state of play. The match very quickly turned into a display of outstanding squash and athleticism, and certainly the match of the tournament so far!!! The points went back and forth but Nour El Sherbini had a small lead most of the time. She squeezed through the first 11/9.
In the second Nour El Tayeb came out on fire! She couldn’t miss and hit an array of perfect backhand drops and volley drops and tight drives, scattered with a few errors from Sherbini. She soon took the second 11/4.
The third game was the toughest game of all and such a joy to watch. Both players where using the four corners so well and returning shots that I’m not sure too many other players could retrieve. Most rallies ended due to amazing shots, rather than unforced errors. The game score again went to and fro and it was Sherbini that got the first game ball at 10-9, but Tayeb put it all on the court and even dived to try to retrieve some of Sherbini’s shots and she evened up at 10/10. The match was so intense as we all knew how important it was to win this third game for both players. It was a mishit from Tayeb and a no let that finally took Sherbini through to take a 2-1 lead, winning the third game 14/12.
Tayeb was on her phone in between games, probably getting advice from her coach or pro squash husband from the live streaming. It was going to be interested to see if Tayeb could come out as strong in the fourth game as she did in the second to keep herself in the match. Sherbini got a nice 3-0 lead and Tayeb needed to give a huge push to get the control back and she did!
Her movement around the court was phenomenal and she evened it up at 6/6. Just as she equalized Tayeb lost her patience and made some errors and Sherbini grabbed her chance and played an amazingly steady game to get a run of four points taking her through to win this epic match 11/6.
Nour El Sherbini won 3-1: 11-9, 4-11, 14-12, 11-6 in 56 minutes.
What struck me the most was not just the pure amazing quality of the squash in this match, but also the immense respect each player has for one another. Even though they are fierce rivals and put it all out there on the court, they also have the ability to be completely fair and have wonderful sportsmanship too. They are such great role models for our juniors and for our sport in general.
After her match when I asked how she felt, Nour said,”I’m feeling good, it’s one of my hardest matches! There were a lot of long, hard rallies and it was tough, I’m so happy to be through. Just waiting to see who I’m going to play. It’s another Egyptian and I’ve been training with both of them for the last 11 years! It doesn’t matter to me who’s going to win, but I’m sure it’s going to be a great match.”
Second match on court was the between Egyptian giant killers Salma Hany Ibrahim who is world #19 and Mariam Metwally who is world #23, both taking out higher seeds in the first round. They have grown up playing squash together so they know each other and their game styles very well. Mariam is ahead 4-1 in the head to head so we’ll see if Salma can change this statistic.
Salma got a great start in the match and was 7/2 up and then 10/6 pretty quickly. Mariam dug in as she always does and got back some points, but Salma was managing to keep the ball tight enough that Mariam couldn’t use her wonderful shot shorts the way she wanted to. Salma managed to come through to win the first game 11/9.
Salma started the second in the same fashion and 4/1 and then 9/4 up. Salma’s movement was swift and made the difference. Mariam got wrong footed and stranded in various areas on the court, but if Salma put the ball loose near Mariam’s racket she would often see if put away in an instant! Mariam squeezed out three more points but Salma came through to take the second 11/7.
The third game went down to the wire but there were a lot of lets called from both players. The play was more broken but the points were more closely contested. It was Mariam that reached game ball first but Salma gave one last push and claimed her last point with an error from Mariam to win 12/10 to give Salma a place in the semi final for the first time.
Salma won 3-0…11/9, 11/7, 12/10 in 35 minutes.
A smiling Salma said after her match “I’m happy to be in the semi final in my favorite tournament. It’s like my second home. I tried to keep it as tight as possible as I know how dangerous she is. We’ve been playing for a long time and we know each other’s game. I know Marian has had a long tournament as she came through the qualification, so I knew I was less tired than her. It’s my 4th Weymuller and it’s my first semi and I’m so excited to play Nour tomorrow.”
The third match of the evening was between World #9 Annie Au from Hong Kong against Kiwi Joelle King who is currently world #10. These players have been competing against each other since 2003 and have played an impressive 15 times with Joelle up on the head to head by 11 to 4. They both have very different styles with Joelle being powerful and attacking, and Annie playing a very steady, slower pace game.
Joelle was sharp, alert, relaxed and awesome in the first game and literally couldn’t miss! She played perfect squash and didn’t give Annie a thing to hit. Joelle hit her targets and made only one error the whole game and even that was from a forced error from a good forehand drop shot from Annie. Joelle sailed through to win 11/1.
In the second Joelle started well again, but at 4/2 up Annie started to mix up the pace and break Joelle rhythm and soon Annie took the lead for the first time this match at 6/4. It was a real fight to see who could get their game over on the other. With both styles being so contrasting it was fun to see Annie lifting the ball and putting the ball high away from Joelle’s reach, and Joelle working to keep the pace up and still dominate the T. The rest of the second game was a battle to take the control and use their playing styles to try and keep their advantage. Some rallies Joelle managed to use her power and agility and her tight lengths to apply pressure and other times Annie used her great lobs and delicate drops and flicks to derail Joelle from her plan. It was Annie that got to 10/9 game ball first, but with a series of frantic rallies and a number of great winners, and a couple of uncharacteristic errors, Joelle finally when through to win the second 17/15.
In the third Annie still fought hard, but Joelle managed to keep the T and kept hitting her drives with such a great weight that it was hard for Annie to use her skillful short game like she wanted to and Joelle went through to win the third and final game 11/7.
Joelle won 3-0…11/1, 17/15, 11/7 in 35 minutes.
Joelle said afterward her match “I started PERFECTLY! I couldn’t have played better than that! At this level you know your opponent is going to do something different and break your momentum. The second was tight and it was a see saw back and forth and no one really got a run of points. I think to win that second was so important, 2-0 or 1-1. Then in the 3rd I just tried to keep in front and it was pretty tight until 5-5 and then I got a lead. I’m very much looking forward to playing tomorrow. I haven’t played Lusty for a while and I played Raneem last week, so we’ll see.”
Last up on the championship court, but certainly not least was England’s world #15 Victoria Lust against Raneem El Welily world #3 from Egypt is fresh out of a great US Open losing closely in the final 3-2.
Raneem and Vicky have never played before tonight which is unusual as they are the same age and both been playing for many years now.
Whilst Vicky played hard and smart and tried to steal the T from Raneem in the first and second games, she just couldn’t do quite enough to take the control away from Raneem. Vicky could have been more patient at times too and made a few unforced errors at vital times. Raneem won the first and second 11/8, 11/8.
It was in the third game that Vicky started playing her best squash. Her lengths were deeper and tighter and her short game was firing and she was covering the court so well. Raneem clearly felt the pressure as she started making some errors. Vicky got to 10/6 game ball and we felt sure that Vicky would clinch that final point to take the third game. But Raneem managed to find it in herself to refocus and she won 4 hard fought points on a row to equalize at 10/10. Vicky gave another final push but it was a back wall nick from Raneem and a couple of errors from Vicky that allowed Raneem to finally make it through 15/13.
Raneem won 3-1…11/8, 11/8, 15/13 in 37 minutes.
Raneem said afterwards “I think I was a little bit flat today, so I’m kind of happy how I pushed myself to win in 3. In the third game up until 10/7 I was going too short, too quick and wasn’t doing my best. So I thought I’ll dig in and try to do better in the hopes that it would pay off in the fourth, but luckily it paid off in the third!!! Tomorrow I’m up against Joelle again who is playing really well, so hopefully it’ll be another good match.”
Here ends yet another amazing evening of squash. We really have been treated to some wonderful matches and the players are such incredible athletes. We can’t wait for the semi finals tomorrow at 2.30pm and 3.15pm to see who will make it through to the Weymuller Open final on Monday night.
After the completion of the quarter-finals we had our new Weymuller@Dinner event, which was a wonderful success with delicious food and great company. It was a very special and fun way to celebrate the Weymuller week.
There is a Sunday Weymuller Brunch from 12pm-2pm before the matches.
PSA W50 Women’s Carol Weymuller Open 2017, Heights Casino, Brooklyn, New York, USA.
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v  Joelle King (NZL)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 11-9, 4-11, 14-12, 11-6 (56m)
Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY) bt [Q] Mariam Metwally (EGY) 11-9, 11-7, 12-10 (35m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt  Annie Au (HKG) 11-1, 17-15, 11-7 (35m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Victoria Lust (ENG) 11-8, 11-8, 15-13 (37m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [Q] Mayar Hany (EGY) 11-4, 11-9, 11-5 (26m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt [Q] Milou van der Heijden (NED) 11-6, 11-4, 11-3 (24m)
Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY) bt  Joshna Chinappa (IND) 9-11, 13-11, 14-16, 11-5, 12-10 (72m)
[Q] Mariam Metwally (EGY) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 12-10, 4-11, 12-10, 6-11, 11-8 (55m)
 Annie Au (HKG) bt [Q] Nele Gilis (BEL) 11-7, 11-3, 3-11, 11-8 (49m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt Millie Tomlinson (ENG) 11-7, 11-5, 12-10 (40m)
 Victoria Lust (ENG) bt [WC] Emilia Soini (FIN) 11-4, 12-10, 11-7 (26m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) 11-8, 11-6, 11-7 (26m)
Picture from Squash Mad archive (Tournament images unable to upload due to technical issues)