Massive wins for Perry, Massaro and Willstrop in ToC
By NATHAN CLARKE in New York
England’s Sarah-Jane Perry, World No.11, triumphed in a remarkable rollercoaster encounter with 2015 tournament winner Raneem El Welily, World No.3, in New York yesterday (Jan 17) to reach the semi-finals of the iconic 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament Champions and secure her first ever appearance in the last four of a PSA World Series tournament.
Perry halted home favourite Amanda Sobhy, 2016 runner-up, in an epic five-game thriller yesterday but showed no signs of fatigue as she raced to a 2-0 game lead over El Welily. But the wheels looked to have come off the track as the Egyptian levelled up at 2-2 before taking a 4-1 lead in the decider.
However, a sublime run of nine consecutive points swung the match back in favour of Birmingham-based Perry as she completed the 11-7, 12-10, 10-12, 5-11, 11-5 win to set up a seismic clash with compatriot Laura Massaro, guaranteeing an English finalist.
“That’s my first win over Raneem, to reach my first ever World Series semi-final, and I get to play here again inside Grand Central Terminal tomorrow – so I’m very pleased and very proud,” said Perry.
“I’ve been working hard on and off court for the past year and I’ve got more confidence and belief in myself. And having that self-belief is imperative at this level because I was 2-0 up and all of a sudden she was back and I was down in the fifth – so I had to really work hard to make sure I got back on track.
“I didn’t realise I won nine points in a row. I was just focusing on each point, getting my discipline back, and refusing to stop believing and I’m excited about the semi-finals tomorrow.
“I’ve played Laura many times and it’s a massive match. I’m just going to focus on trying to play how I want to play and do my best.”
Perry will take on Massaro, World No.5, after the 33-year-old from Preston dominated last eight opponent Omneya Abdel Kawy, World No.9, winning 11-4, 12-10, 11-6, while World No.1 Nour El Sherbini kept her title defence alive with a narrow victory over 8x World Champion Nicol David in a thrilling 64 minute battle.
El Sherbini will now meet Camille Serme, World No.4, after the Frenchwoman knocked out World No.2 Nouran Gohar in a hugely impressive 3-1 win that was inspired by a newly adopted training technique – yoga.
“Nouran beat me twice last year in very tough five game battles so I knew it would be hard today,’ said Serme, who beat El Sherbini 3-1 in the U.S. Open final last October.
“But I had no pressure on me. She’s No.2 in the World and I felt like the pressure was on her – I just focused on what I needed to do, which is exactly what I done at the U.S. Open as well, so I’m very, very happy.
“I’m trying to get into the same state of mind as I was in Philadelphia. I started Yoga recently and any time I feel nervous I use the respiration techniques to try and let it go — and it seems to be helping!”
In the men’s draw it was another No.11, James Willstrop, who backed up his headline grabbing defeat of perennial rival Nick Matthew – his first win in 20 attempts over his old adversary – with an accomplished 3-1 win over New Zealand’s Paul Coll to reach his first World Series tournament semi-final since the 2013 Kuwait Cup.
The 33-year-old Willstrop, the 2011 tournament winner, utilised his exquisite court-craft and ball placement to counter the unrelenting physicality of the 24-year-old, ending Coll’s 10-match winning streak, and set up an intriguing battle with Egyptian World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad, who fought back to beat Germany’s Simon Rosner after being trounced in the opening game.
“I’m very happy to get through today because he’s flying at the moment and arguably one of the in-form players out there – to break that run I had to play very well,” said Willstrop.
“I had to make sure I didn’t lose sight of the end goal. He makes the court so small with his physicality and speed that you have to keep putting the work in, move him around as much as possible and try to break him down.
“You have to put the ball in good areas against guys like Nick and Paul because they’re such wonderful athletes. I’ve done that well in the past two rounds and I’m excited at the chance to be out on that stage against tomorrow and I’m keen to soak it up.
“But there’s no reason that I can’t look to progress further. I feel alright and if I’m beating players like Paul then I’m set to go and hopefully I can produce it again. It’s my favourite event – the venue speaks for itself – and there’s nothing like being here. I’ve had some great moments here and hopefully I’ll have a few more still to come.”
2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Grand Central Terminal, New York, USA.
Results – Men’s Quarter-finals (Top Half):
James Willstrop (ENG) bt [Q] Paul Coll (NZL) 3-1: 7-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-8 (82m)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt  Simon Rösner (GER) 3-1: 2-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-8 (52m)
Draw – Semi-finals (Played Jan 18):
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
James Willstrop (ENG) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
Results – Quarter-finals:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Nicol David (MAS) 3-2: 11-5, 6-11, 11-6, 13-15, 11-8 (64m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 3-1: 11-5, 9-11, 14-12, 11-9 (69m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) 3-0: 11-4, 12-10, 11-6 (35m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 3-2: 11-7, 12-10, 10-12, 5-11, 11-5 (56m)
Draw – Semi-finals (Played Jan 18):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
Pictures courtesy of PSA