Home favourite falls just short in effort to end England’s Drysdale Cup hoodoo
By MICHAEL CATLING – Squash Mad Reporter
George Parker’s quest to become the first English winner of the Drysdale Cup since 2002 is over, after Jordan’s Ahmad Al-Saraj won a tense semi-final in four games at the British Junior Open.
Despite amassing four game balls during a dramatic fourth game, George failed to capitalise and was duly punished as Ahmad secured an 11-6, 3-11, 11-8, 15-13 victory in 73 minutes with his first match ball.
It was heartbreaking ending for the unseeded 17-year-old from Leicester (pictured above), after he received a standing ovation following his sensational victory over Richie Fallows in the quarter-finals.
Instead, 18-year-old Ahmad will contest the Boys’ Under 19 final with Diego Elias on Monday, after the 3/4 seed produced a sensational performance to thrash top seed Karim El Hammany in straight games.
The 17-year-old, who has yet to drop a game all week, made a mockery of the seedings as he romped to an 11-7, 11-1, 11-6 success over the World Junior champion in 44 minutes.
But while there was ecstasy for Ahmed and tears of joy for Diego (pictured left), George was left to rue spurning several golden opportunities in key moments during the final game.
Despite enjoying the support of a partisan crowd at the Abbeydale Sports Club in Sheffield, George struggled in the early exchanges as Ahmad secured the all-important first game.
After a brief interlude, though, the teenager returned reinvigorated and quickly levelled the arrears by taking the second game 11-3.
The momentum shift was brief, if not misleading however, as Ahmed seemed to conserve his energy before increasing the intensity in the third game.
And despite the crowd attempting to rouse George into action again, the English youngster’s title dreams were left hanging by a thread as Ahmad (pictured right) moved one game away from the final.
George, who is coached by Robert Owen, battled back valiantly in the fourth game but failed to take advantage of four game balls to the incredulity of the spectators.
With the scores tied at 13-13, a tinned backhand volley and an untimely stroke decision culminated in George hurling his racket at the front wall in disgust, while Ahmad was left celebrating a third final in seven months.
In the earlier semi-final, Diego showed exactly why Geoff Hunt has likened him to Paikstan legend Jansher Khan, after producing a masterclass of shot-making to advance into his second-successive British Open final at the expense of Karim.
Diego, who won the Under 17 title in 2013, was barely troubled by the higher-ranked Egyptian throughout the 42 minute encounter and won a hugely one-sided second game to lead 2-0.
And while Karim prolonged the inevitable with an impressive array of winners in the third, Diego deservedly secured victory at the first time of asking to the delight of his father and coach, Jose Manuel Elias.
Would love to be playing under 19 now to know how good Diego is!! Looking at his pics…he has that eye of the tiger look! I like that!!
— Mohamed ElShorbagy (@MoElshorbagy) January 5, 2014
Meanwhile in the Girls’ Under 19 category, the top two seeds Mariam Metwally and Yathreb Adel will reignite their long-standing junior rivalry in Monday’s final, after battling past fellow Egyptians Salma Hany and Nouran Gohar respectively.
Mariam survived a second game tie-break before finally edging past Salma 11-9, 13-11, 11-7 in 34 minutes, while Yathreb recovered after dropping her first game of the tournament to prevail 11-5, 11-5, 9-11, 11-9 in just over an hour.
Despite progressing past Yathreb in the semi-finals of the World Junior Championship in July, Mariam has endured varying degrees of success against her older compatriot with her only previous British Junior Open final appearance ending in a 3-0 defeat to Yathreb in the 2010 Girls Under 15 event.
However the number one seed will have been buoyed after watching the second seed struggle past Nouran in the longest girls match this week.
For long periods, it looked like the world number 31 would ease to victory after racing into a 2-0 lead. But with the scores tied at nine-apiece in the third game, a blood stoppage for Nouran proved a timely interruption (albeit a painful one) as the 16-year-old won the next two points to threaten a comeback.
However, Yathreb (pictured left) regained her composure to record the reverse scoreline in the fourth and advance into her six British Junior Open final.
Semi-Final – Boys’ Results
[3/4] Diego Elias (Per) 3-0  Karim El Hammamy (Egy) 11-7, 11-1, 11-6 (42m)
[5/8] Ahmad Al-Saraj (Jor) 3-1 George Parker (Eng) 11-6, 3-11, 11-8, 15-13 (73m)
Semi-Final – Girls’ Results
 Mariam Ibrahim Metwally (Egy) 3-0 [3/4] Salma Hany Ibrahim (Egy) 11-9, 13-11, 11-7 (34m)
 Yathreb Adel (Egy) 3-1 [3/4] Nouran Ahmed Gohar (Egy) 11-5, 11-5, 9-11, 11-9 (58m + 20m blood)
Pictures by Steve Cubbins (SquashSite)