Amanda Sobhy, Sarah-Jane Perry and Joelle King outnumber Egyptians in Cairo
By ALAN THATCHER and SEAN REUTHE
Amanda Sobhy, Sarah-Jane Perry and Joelle King not only took out the top three seeds to reach the semi-finals of the Black Ball Open in Cairo, they achieved the rare distinction of other nations finally outnumbering the dominant Egyptians in the last four of a major tournament.
On a day of shocks at the Black Ball Club, all three players achieved landmark victories against higher-ranked opponents, with Sobhy stealing the show for a superb victory over world No.1 Nour El Sherbini for the first time since 2016.
Reigning champion Hania El Hammamy is the sole Egyptian left in this PSA World Tour Gold tournament.
It will be Sobhy’s most significant semi-final appearance since the 2019 El Gouna International – and her first at this tournament – and comes off the back of a 7-11, 11-7, 4-11, 11-9, 11-9 victory which saw her avenge younger sister Sabrina’s defeat to El Sherbini in the previous round.
It was a real attacking shootout between the two former world junior champions, with Sobhy twice coming back from a game down before showing nerves of steel in the decider to end a three-match losing streak to El Sherbini, who has missed out on a place in the final of this tournament for the first time in her career.
“Nobody beats two Sobhys in a row,” Sobhy said following the match. “I am in shock a little bit and I don’t think it has sunk in. It is all a blur but I still can’t believe I just beat the World No.1.
“I know the tournament isn’t over yet, it’s not even close to being over, but I haven’t had a good win in so long, so this just feels really nice. I’m so pleased with that.
“I think I kind of blacked out the last few points, but I am just so glad that I crossed that line. To beat Nour El Sherbini, who has been the in-form player, is huge. But I have tomorrow to think about, I will enjoy this for the next hour or so, and then it’s time to prepare for tomorrow.”
Sobhy will take on defending champion El Hammamy in the semi-finals eight months after losing to the Egyptian in the quarter-finals of last season’s Black Ball Open.
El Hammamy, the World No.5, recovered from a game down to beat Wales’ Tesni Evans, winning 10-12, 11-7, 11-5, 11-6 in 49 minutes.
“There is a little bit of pressure on me this tournament,” El Hammamy said. “They are definitely tough matches and I am really happy to get through to the semi-finals. Tesni is a tough opponent, very talented and very tricky. I really had to stick to my game plan, try to not to run too much and I think in the first game, I was up and then I lost my focus and then she outplayed me.”
The World No.2 also bowed out of the tournament as Nouran Gohar fell to New Zealand’s Joelle King in straight games.
The 23-year-old was troubled by a foot injury when she was forced to withdraw from last season’s Black Ball Open back in March and struggled with her movement once again against King as the Kiwi wrapped up an 11-9, 11-5, 11-9 victory in 39 minutes.
King said: “She’s been World No.1 and is World No.2, so I knew it was going to be tough and that she would give it everything she had.
“I just tried to push the pace and make it as physical as I could to try and push her mentally. I think I played really well, there were a few points here or there [that weren’t as good], but I’ve got to be happy with that.”
King will take on England’s Sarah-Jane Perry for a place in the final, with Perry recovering from an inauspicious start to get the better of World No.4 Camille Serme.
It was a dreadful beginning to the match from Perry as she looked well off the pace and was outclassed by her French opponent, putting just a solitary point on the board as Serme took the opening game.
But it was as if a different player had walked onto court in the second game as the World No.6 put in a powerful and accurate performance to dismantle Serme, duly fighting back to win 1-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-5 to reach the Black Ball Open semis for a second time in a row.
“If I had a pound for every time I told myself “you can do it” today, I’d be quite rich,” Perry said.
“I’ve worked really hard in this block and I’m probably the fittest I’ve ever been, so I backed myself physically to compete with her at that higher pace. I’m feeling good and I’m really pleased that I can take on someone that physical and hold it together, so that was a real thumbs up for me.”
The Black Ball Open semi-finals begin at 19:00 (GMT+2) on Friday December 11. Play will be shown live on SQUASHTV and the channels of contracted broadcasters.
Women’s 2020 CIB Black Ball Squash Open, Black Ball Club, Cairo, Egypt.
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-2: 7-11, 11-7, 4-11, 11-9, 11-9 (54m)
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Tesni Evans (WAL) 3-1: 10-12, 11-7, 11-5, 11-6 (49m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 3-1: 1-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-5 (40m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-5, 11-9 (39m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) v  Hania El Hammamy (EGY)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v  Joelle King (NZL)
Pictures courtesy of PSA