11-1? Yes, England’s Alison Waters makes it a nightmare on 42nd Street for Nicol David
By HOWARD HARDING – Squash Mad Correspondent
England’s Alison Waters produced the shock of the championship when she despatched defending champion Nicol David, the world number one from Malaysia, in the quarter-finals of the Women’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, the WSA International 100 squash event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.
The defeat was the first to deny David a semi-final berth in a WSA World Tour event since September 2012, when Waters recorded her only other victory over the sport’s dominant force for the past nine years in 25 meetings! Waters’ dominance was illustrated by the astonishing 11-1 scoreline in the fourth and final game.
“Nicol clearly wasn’t at her best,” said Waters in her post-match interview. Indeed, many in the crowd were wondering if there was something wrong with the 31-year-old Malaysian, who seemed to be lacking her trademark energy.
Waters, the world No.5 from London, edged ahead at the start, winning the first game 11-9. David responded by winning the second 12-10. The on-song Waters grabbed the third 11-7. Undoubtedly, most in the capacity crowd were waiting for David to take her game to the next level or to find a way to win, as she has so many times in the past.
Instead, Waters jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the fourth game, getting great depth on the ball and then wrong-footing the usually agile David several times with a deceptive two-wall boast to win the game 11-1 and clinch the match.
“She seemed very tired at the end,” Waters continued. “I worked very hard to make that happen! Still, squash is very much a mental game and I was just focusing on playing one point at a time.”
The ecstatic Waters told her Twitter followers later: “Delighted to win 3-1 tonight over Nicol! Very happy woooo! Onwards to the semis tomorrow vs sherbini! Can’t wait!”
In her second successive appearance in the semis, Waters meets Nour El Sherbini after the 19-year-old ousted fellow Egyptian Nour El Tayeb by the barest of margins, 11-9, in the fifth. The two players treated the afternoon crowd to a superb match that showcased their fearless, contrasting styles.
The tall and powerful El Sherbini played a classic attacking game, controlling the centre of the court by driving her opponent deep and then deftly placing the ball in the front corners when she had an opening. 21-year-old El Tayeb was the retriever, nullifying Sherbini’s power by varying her shots and lifting the ball, occasionally throwing in a split lunge or a floor dive to return seemingly ungettable balls.
El Sherbini seemed to dominate the match and yet El Tayeb hung in, winning a fourth game tiebreak after saving two match balls and rebounding in the fifth from 3-7 and 6-9 before succumbing 11-9.
“We have been playing each other since I was 10 and it is always close,” said El Sherbini. “I was focused on keeping the ball away from her because she can flick it from anywhere in the court. Winning a match like this gives me confidence going into the next round.”
The other semi-final will also feature Egyptian interest when Cairo-based world No.2 Raneem El Welily takes on England’s world No.3 Laura Massaro. The 2013 world champion Massaro needed five games and 72 minutes to defeat Camille Serme for a place in the final four.
The Frenchwoman started the match bouncing on her toes and looking hungry for victory as she quickly shot out to an 11-3, 11-4 lead. “I did not want to lose this match,” said Massaro later. “I was a touch flat in the beginning, but I stayed calm and finally started getting good length and hitting my targets.”
After winning the third game 11-7, Massaro fell behind in the fourth, 1-5 and 2-6. “I always feel like I can come back and that helps me dig deep,” explained the 31-year-old from Preston. Recovering to 6-7, Massaro suddenly displayed more spring in her step and reeled off the next seven points to force the match into a fifth game.
The decider was nip and tuck through to 6-5, after which Massaro surged ahead to win the match 11-7.
El Welily dismissed young American star Amanda Sobhy in four games. “Last year I was little overwhelmed by the ToC – all the people, all the noise – and I lost in the first round,” El Welily commented later. “This year, I am much more comfortable here.”
Comfortable might be an understatement: 21-year-old Sobhy played well, yet lost decisively. “I have a lot to do to get the No.2,” said the Harvard senior after the match. “Raneem had an answer for everything I threw at her today.”
Sobhy did in fact win the third game 11-2 – after El Welily asked for, and got, a new ball which the New Yorker started smacking into the nick for winners.
The 25-year-old Egyptian reasserted her authority in the fourth to clinch the match 11-5, 11-5, 2-11, 11-4.
RESULTS: Women’s JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, New York, USA
 Alison Waters (ENG) bt  Nicol David (MAS) 11-9, 10-12, 11-7, 11-1 (56m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 11-5, 10-12, 11-3, 12-14, 11-9 (65m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt Amanda Sobhy (USA) 11-5, 11-5, 2-11, 11-4 (28m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 3-11, 4-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-7 (72m)
 Alison Waters (ENG) v  Nour El Sherbini (EGY)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
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Pictures courtesy of WSA