Thursday, July 25, 2024

British Open Squash: Paul Coll on a Birmingham roll as hat-trick looms

Birmingham — Paul Coll admitted he had to draw deep on his big game experience to get past Marwan ElShorbagy and make his third consecutive British Open semi-final.

After dropping the opening game 11-8 to his old rival Coll gradually took control to grind out a 2-1 lead that appeared to have ElShorbagy dead and buried but the Egyptian refused to leave the stage early at The Rep Birmingham and mounted a determined fight back.

Yet, Coll would not be denied and ultimately used his superb backhand drop to apply a slow lingering death to ElShorbagy, who had called for physio after feeling unwell at the end of the third stanza, 11-1 in the fifth after 70-minutes.

Afterwards, with barely a bead of sweat on his brow, despite a few hot words from coach Rob Owen, Coll was his usual pragmatic self as he looked forward to a semi-final with close friend Diego Elias. “Sure I am looking forward to playing the new No.1!” he joked. “Diego is a good friend of mine and I know how tough it will be and of course it is always a challenge when you play the No.1 in the world.

“In terms of tonight you just have to deal with the match as it goes and I have built up a fair bit of experience, not just in the British Open, but with all the big matches I have played over the last few years and it is about making that count.

“It’s never easy against Marwan and I am just pleased to make it through as the result is what really matters and now it is about resetting and making sure I am good to go for Diego.”

Early on, El Shorbagy’s continued renaissance under Rod Martin’s astute tutelage was there for all to see as his work, calm, considered and more accurate than Coll’s, helped him edge the opening stanza 11-8 after 14-minutes.

Courtside it was fascinating to observe the respective corners, with Martin in the Egyptian enclave and Rob Owen in ‘Kiwi’ corner working on their men, with perhaps the Englishman’s urgings the more urgent – but there was nothing in it.

Yet a strangely flaky start from ‘The Jackal,’ the game’s ultimate match-player, saw that early advantage disappear and Shorbagy was exposed to death by drop shot as Coll hit six winners from brutally crafted caresses which meant the Shorbagy boast was becoming a suicide note.

Paul Coll gets his coaching orders from Rob Owen

Is there a better shot than the Coll straight backhand drop? I doubt it.

The match then levelled on a cheap stroke 11-8.

Logic dictated that ElShorbagy had to avoid going short in the third to avoid the same fate but there was only one problem with that.

Could he take the heat of going toe to toe in the fitness stakes with the game’s ultimate exponent of the brutal art of attrition.

At 6-7 Coll in the third, we had the answer. The Kiwi crucified ElShorbagy on the axis of the front forehand and backhand rear corners and after three diagonals the Egyptian was bent over and threw in the towel to give game to Coll 11-6.

With the World No.6 asking for PSA physio Derek Ryan’s services the portents were not positive for ElShorbagy jnr.

Only Coll will know if these developments distracted him as he was soon 4-1 down, yet the reprieve appeared temporary as the Kiwi soon began his remorseless grind but with the Egyptian apparently fraying, from somewhere deep in his soul ElShorbagy found a second wind to reach 9-6.

Then the unthinkable happened and Coll put a backhand drop in the tin to give his opponent game ball and even more unbelievably repeated the error to make it 2-2 at the hour mark.

The fifth started with Coll forcing the pace again and an ElShorbagy stroke against and vicious Coll crosscourt forehand handed the Kiwi a 3-0 lead as ElShorbagy became increasingly verbal.

From there the end was a romp away and at 9-1 Coll afforded himself a sideways glance at his stricken foe to confirm the job was done. Indeed it was. 11-1 after 70 minutes.

Later today we await to see if the best of buddies will become the feistiest of foes when a place in the British Open final awaits.

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