Friday, June 21, 2024

British Open Squash 2023: Diego Elias sets up Victor Crouin showdown

The British Open took the traditional route as Marwan ElShorbagy reached a fourth career quarter-final. Now, the Egyptian will face the hardest route if he is to reach a first semi-final in his 11th visit at the sport’s oldest event, a day which ended in the men’s event with a game to remember.

The PSA electronic scoring went down at the end of ElShorbagy’s opening game against compatriot Youssef Soliman on Wednesday at Birmingham Rep. 

Referee John Massarella reverted to a marking sheet and ElShorbagy, whose older brother was beaten 24 hours earlier, made life easy with a rapier-like performance, winning 11-8, 11-6, 11-8 against an out-of-touch opponent. 

World No.6 ElShorbagy’s weight of shot and racket speed proved too good against an error-prone Egyptian – a far cry from his run to the recent Optasia final in Wimbledon.

The 29-year-old ElShorbagy, after a one-way 45-minute run out, now has over 48 hours before he returns to face defending champion Paul Coll on Friday night.

ElShorbagy may have ‘Jnr’ written on his back after his surname, but there’s no denying that he looks every bit a major contender when in rhythm. So, could this be the year when he finally lands a major senior title after losing to Mohamed at the 2017 world championships in Manchester? 

Should he beat Coll, who was in pedestrian mode in casting aside Saurav Ghosal, he is in line to meet Diego Elias in the semi-finals, a player he has lost out to in two finals Stateside earlier this year, including the Tournament of Champions.

ElShorbagy will be hoping that the new British Open venue will play into his hands, given that the Kiwi landed the last two titles in Hull before this year’s move south.

Then again, he trains nearby with coach Rob Owen and won last summer’s Commonwealth singles and doubles title.

“I think I am the only person that was gutted it [the British Open] was leaving Hull,” said Coll.

Read More: How world reacted to Diego Elias reaching squash World No.1 

“Some great memories there the last two years, but Birmingham is like a second home here.

“It is really nice to play here, I feel at home here in Birmingham. I had a great week, been here for two weeks. I feel good, feeling comfortable, lots of energy so I am excited to keep this going!”

So is Elias, playing his first match since realising he will be World No.1 on Monday.

He was pitted against Nathan Lake, who had beaten in-form Nick Wall in the previous round and who took the game to the Peruvian from the off.

He tried to smother Elias with a high tempo, accurate game, which he did pockets of in each of their three games. The South American crossed the line in each, 11-8, 11-8, 11-7.

“It’s a dream come true (becoming World No.1) but right now I’m playing the British Open and there’s no time to think about that,” he said. “I’m here to try and win the title so I’ll think about that on Monday.”

In a thrill-fest denouement to the final match on Wednesday night, Victor Crouin beat Swiss stalwart Nic Mueller 22-20 in a magnetic fourth-game over 35 minutes. Crouin will next play Elias, who will be vying for his first semi-final berth at either a British or Worlds.

The Frenchman held multiple match balls – nine – as he bid to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.

But Mueller rolled back the years, as his wont when on this form, as he thrice turned to the crowd with a smile after producing game-saving winners of his own, and having two balls to take it to a decider.

He was also twice lucky with deep nick winners, while the touch and four-corner scampering came to the fore in a thoroughly entertaining game which swung deliciously at every turn.

The Frenchman eventually found his range and won 5-11, 11-9, 11-6, 22-20. Those who were left at the Birmingham Rep were on their feet when Crouin found the winner as Mueller fell short after a herculean effort.

British Open QFs:

MEN: Farag v Momen | Hesham v Gawad | Coll v Ma ElShorbagy | Crouin v Elias
WOMEN: Gohar v Perry | Elaraby v King | El Hammamy v Sobhy | Kennedy v El Sherbini

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