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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

All-Egyptian semi-final in Brooklyn

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Top seed Raneem El Welily (right) and Joey Chan
Top seed Raneem El Welily (right) and Joey Chan

Top seed battles past Joey Chan at Heights Casino
By LINDA ELRIANI at Heights Casino

 

Quarter-finals night produced four outstanding matches with the results ending any English involvement in the competition and guaranteeing one Egyptian finalist. In the semi-finals, Joelle King (New Zealand) meets Joshana Chinappa (India) with an all-Egyptian battle featuring top seed Raneem El Welily and Nour El Sherbini.

First up on the championship court was the world #24m Joshana Chinappa from India against Egyptian qualifier Salma Hany Ibrahim, who is world # 20. Both players have fought their way from the qualifying rounds and well and truly earned their place in the quarter finals here tonight.

This was definitely the match of the night! Both players really put it all out there on the court and give it their absolute best to earn their place in the Weymuller semi-final.

Salma can out in the first game in control and managed to push to a 6-2 and 7-4 lead but it wasn’t long until Joshana started to find her length and then consequently started to get Salma off the T where she likes to be to slot in her wonderful short shots. There were a few lets asked for at the front backhand and many were no lets and before we knew it Joshana finished off the first game 11-9 with some precise drops and tight drives.

The second game was even through to 4-4 and then Salma started to pull away with the help of a few errors from Joshana and a couple of loose services where Salma hit two cross court volleys on the forehand straight into the nick! Salma took the second 11-8 to even the match up at 1-1.

In the third game Salma kept the pressure on and used her short game at every opportunity. Both players were enjoying using the front backhand corner but Salma’s shorts were particularly accurate in the third. Salma took the third game 11-5 winning the last point with a forehand cross court winner from the back and to take a 2-1 lead.

The fourth started out evenly but both players were a little tense and some unforced errors crept in. It was Joshana that took the momentum to the next level near the end of the game and Salma was left having to cover the court and suck up the pressure as much as she could to keep in the game. Salma did a huge dive at the front forehand which resulted in a cut on her elbow and a time out to stop the bleeding. Joshana pushed ahead with an array of great short shots and a loose forehand drop from the back from Salma gave Joshana the chance to step onto it and hit a wonderful dying cross court to take the match to the fifth.

With both players taking out higher ranked players you could see that today they were playing more cautiously than their last matches where they had nothing to lose and were playing free and relaxed.

The fifth game was very even all the way through with many creative winners, wonderful movement and both players hunting for the ball to volley and take control of the T. There were lots of lets (some resulting in ‘no let’) with both players not wanted to go through off balanced and risk playing a loose shot especially with both players having such great short games. At 10-9 match ball Joshana put Salma in one last pressure situation resulting in her forehand drive going out of court to give Joshana her very much deserved place in the semi final.

After the epic fiver setter was over I asked Joshana how she felt. She replied: “I feel great, I really do. It was such a hard match and at one point I really didn’t think I was going to make it! I really hung in there as I much as I could. I’m really looking forward to playing in the semi’s tomorrow.”

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Second on court was Sarah-Jane Perry from England who is world #15 against Joelle King from New Zealand, who came off a great win in the first round against the number three seed Alison Waters. They had only played once and that match went down to the wire, with Joelle winning 11-9 in the fifth.

This match was full of patient squash, with the ball mostly being played to the back of the court deep with long rallies. Joelle surged ahead with some perfect purposeful drives and wonderful short shots to take a 10-5 lead.

Sarah-Jane gave a big push and managed to regain some control of the T but it all happened a little too late and Joelle won the first 11-9.

In the second, Joelle climbed away from 5-5 to 10-5 again. The same push came from Sarah-Jane as in the first and this time she managed to even things up to 10-10. With both players being more than 6 foot tall they play their best squash when right up on the T and taking everything on the volley. They both were vying for the control of the middle but it was Joelle who came through with the help of a tin from Sarah-Jane to take the second 13-11.

Joelle followed the same pattern and started the third in fine fettle. Joelle was playing the ball so tight and controlling the middle so well that it was really exposing Sarah-Jane’s movement, where she sometimes struggles to twist and turn. Before we knew it Joelle was 5-1 then 9-6 up. Sarah-Jane was not going out without a fight and she battled to stay in the match which included some banter with the referee! Joelle eventually came through the very tight third game to win the match 11-9.

Joelle said afterwards: “I guess I’m happy to finish that off in three. I felt I played well in patches and SJ kept coming back at me, especially at the end of each game. I’m really happy to win the third and come back from 9-6 down. I’m looking forward to being back in the semi-finals tomorrow and hopefully I can play well.”

Nour El Sherbini (left) and Omneya Abdel Kawy
Nour El Sherbini (left) and Omneya Abdel Kawy

The third match of the evening was an all-Egyptian quarter final between Omneya Abdel Kawy and Nour El Sherbini, ranked six and seven respectively. 

The first game was very closely contested with both players going for quick winners. Omneya got to game ball first at 10-8 but Nour made her team mate work hard to finally win the game 12-10.

In the second game Nour was very simply on fire! Nour could NOT miss! Omneya didn’t have an answer to any of Nour’s play. Nour made no errors and played a very smart game with many amazing winners thrown in which made Omneya look a little flat and sluggish. Nour won the second in an impressive 11-1.

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The third followed a very similar tone and Nour went 8-2 up before Omneya could even think about what she needed to do. Omneya started to go for some desperate shots to try and get some points back but it didn’t pay off. Nour won the third 11-4.

Nour took a 3-1 lead in the fourth and we thought she would go straight through like the last two games, but Omneya started to find a better length and control the T and started to look more relaxed and fluid so she could start to use her deadly front court winners. Nour also lost her previous great straight length and started cross courting which Omneya took full advantage of. Omneya pushed to get a 9-7 lead.

Some wonderful retrieving and great tactical play got Nour to her first match ball at 10-9. Omneya gave one last push before Nour went through to win the fourth 12-10 taking her into the semi-finals.

A smiling Nour said: “I’m really, really glad I won that. I really wanted to win so badly. Omneya is so talented and she’d not just my team-mate, she’d like my big sister. She’s definitely more experienced than me as she’s 10 years older.

“Her shots weren’t working for her today and she hit a lot of tins. I’m really happy to be through. I just needed this match to give me more confidence. Even though Omneya wasn’t at her best, in the end I was praying that she would put it in the tin.”

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Last up on the championship court, but certainly not least was the world #1 Raneem El Welily against Hong Kong’s on form Joey Chan who is world #29.

Early on, Raneem was trying to take the ball in short whenever possible while Joey was trying to make the rallies longer, slow down the pace and keep the ball on the walls.

With such contrasting styles, the rallies they were won in very varied ways. The points went to and fro all the way through and at 14-13 Raneem won the game with a back wall nick off a great lob.

In the second game, Raneem looked as if she was struggling to get herself up a gear when needed and Joey played so steadily and error free that Raneem really had to win all her points as Joey wasn’t giving any away. Raneem showed us quick flashes of her brilliance and there was enough to pull herself through 11-7.

The third game was a continued battle for Raneem to find her usual graceful rhythm and Joey was doing a fantastic job of putting up some lobs and using her great fading drops in the front. The score was even at 7-7 and suddenly Raneem found a few points where she could put the ball away. Raneem when through to win the match 11-8 in the third.

Raneem clearly wasn’t playing her best squash but the true sign of a champion is still managing to find a way to win even on your not so good days.

After the match Raneem said: “I’m feeling OK, a bit too calm and slow and I’m trying to be more energetic. The court is so hot and obviously the ball is too bouncy so I’m trying to find myself between all of that! I’m happy that we have an Egyptian finalist either way and hope that tomorrow will be a better day!”

2015 Carol Weymuller Open, Heights Casino, Brooklyn, New York, USA.

Quarter-Finals:
Joshana Chinappa beat Salma Hany Ibrahim 11-9, 8-11, 5-11, 11-8, 11-9.
Joelle King beat Sarah-Jane Perry 11-9, 13-11, 11-9.
Nour El Sherbini beat Omneya Abdel Kawy 12-10, 11-1, 11-4, 12-10.
Raneem El Welily beat Joey Chan 15-13, 11-7, 11-8.

Semi finals:
Joelle King (New Zealand) v Joshana Chinappa (India)
Raneem El Welily (Egypt) v Nour El Sherbini  (Egypt)

Pictures by JEAN ERVASTI 

 

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