Friday, May 24, 2024

British Open Squash 2023: Diego Elias sets up Ali Farag final showdown

Birmingham — Relief was palpable for Diego Elias on Saturday night. The mind whirling after being installed as World No.1 and the euphoria back home in Peru, it hasn’t been easy this week. Now, he’s into his first British Open final, having upended Paul Coll’s bid for a hat-trick.

Coll’s coach, Rob Owen, was no doubt in the mood for a celebratory evening after landing a 1-2-3 in the Grand National. But, buoyed on by a stable of greats in Elias’ corner, including Jonathon Power and Greg Gaultier, the Peruvian was a class above in winning 11-4, 11-3, 2-11, 11-1.

Elias, coached by Wael El Hindi, had no first night semi-final nerves following his opening two-game horror show in the last eight. The Peruvian was fluid, switching well and finishing astutely on the backhand. Coll had no answer as Elias carved a 9-2 lead before the Kiwi added some late mileage late on, perhaps keeping it in the bank if this went the distance. Elias even dropped his racket at one point but still won on a volley drop.

In the second, Elias continued his backhand side success, his dexterity of shot standing out. He was simply winning every big, lengthy rally. From 4-2, Elias opened up a 9-2 lead before Coll again found some winners at the back end. The best of the lot drew continued gasps from the 825 inside the Rep. 

Roles were reversed in the third as Coll refused to buckle and knuckled down to a 11-2 third. Coll took an injury time out after a cut lip from Elias’ accidental elbow, while the break didn’t hinder the soon-to-be crowned World No.1. It proved to be Coll’s undoing; he couldn’t recover after seemingly being in the ascendancy in those early salvos in the fourth.

Ali Farag

Meanwhile, Ramadan is certainly not hampering Ali Farag in his quest for a first British Open title. He moved into a fourth final in a row, a feat last matched by Jansher Khan in 1995, courtesy of a 3-1 victory over Mazen Hesham.

Hesham surrendered over a game’s worth of points with an array of errors as the springy Egyptian accumulated a two-game cushion. Farag was in bed at 5am on Saturday morning, bedding down for a seven-hour sleep and up ahead of another semi-final berth in a major event.

Barring a turnaround in the third game The Rep crowd had dearly craved for, it was back to the old routine for Farag in the fourth as Hesham ran out of puff.

Two players gunning for a first British title is now in the offing on Sunday. 

“This week has been amazing,” Elias said afterwards. “Getting to World No.1 and now in the final of the British Open. I can’t believe it. I don’t want to think too much about it because I have the final tomorrow, but I am just happy, happy to have all my team here with me.”

It is a stable which was cock-a-hoop when they went to congratulate Elias on stage. He is one match from crossing a major hurdle.

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