Aussie takes out top seed in 91-minute battle
By NATHAN CLARKE in Hong Kong
World Champion Gregory Gaultier and World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy both crashed out of the 2016 Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open during a whirlwind day of second round action that saw all but one of the men’s seeded players sent packing.
In a repeat of last year’s title decider ElShorbagy – who claimed the trophy in both 2014 and 2015 – went up against hard-hitting Cameron Pilley but it was the 33-year-old Australian who enthralled the crowd, saving match ball in the fourth game before sealing an impressive victory 11-9, 8-11, 9-11, 14-12, 11-9 after a punishing 91 minutes of action.
It was a repeat of his victory over Elshorbagy in the PSA World Series Finals in Dubai.
“I have a decent record again Mohamed so I know how to play him,” said Pilley, who stunned World Champion Gaultier and then World No.2 Nick Matthew to reach the Hong Kong Open final last year.
ElShorbagy was just too good on that occasion, but today he proved it was no fluke as he made the Hong Kong Squash Centre his home once again to take the match to ElShorbagy and match his ferocious pace from the off.
After trading the first two games it was ElShorbagy who extended a 2-1 advantage to then hold match-ball in the fourth game. Pilley showed great patience and precision to counter and level the match and then managed to withstand a late onslaught to take a tense and nervy fifth game 11-9 to secure a huge upset victory.
Pilley said: “There are days, like the final last year, where players can just completely outplay you anyway but I got my revenge at the World Series Finals back in May and I feel like I’m going well at this tournament.
“I knew I had to make sure I was sharp from the first point and that I stuck to my game plan today.
“I didn’t want him coming on and blasting me off court so I had to stick in there and make it known that I was in for the long haul. Getting that mental side right is huge, and I’ve managed to do that pretty well over the past year.
“I had a great run here last year and when you have a run like that you try and replicate the same things you did the year before – so I’ve been trying to eat the same things, get on the same schedule and get those same feeling and vibes. Hopefully I can get back into that routine and leave it all out there tomorrow.”
Pilley will now face World No.8 Karim Abdel Gawad, the only remaining seed in the competition, for a place in the semi-finals while 21-year-old Fares Dessouky pulled off a huge upset against World Champion Gregory Gaultier, coming from 2-1 down to knock the 32-year-old out of a PSA World Series event at the second round stage for the first time since 2009.
Dessouki (left) played a relentless attacking game from the off as he tested Gaultier’s traditionally impeccable movement and it was a tactic that paid off, as sumptuous winner after sumptuous winner delivered the victory after 83-minutes.
“To beat Greg feels amazing,” said Dessouky. “Most of the times we have played he has beaten me 3-0, but last time, in El Gouna, it was much closer so I knew I could get to him. I trained really hard in the summer for these kind of tough battles and I think I played one of my best matches today.
“The pressure was all on his shoulders so I used that as an advantage. I have worked hard on trying to kill the ball more and improve my short game and it worked. It’s great to be in the quarters so I’ll try and recover as best I can and come back for another big match.”
Dessouki will now take on local favourite Max Lee after the World No.18 played with precision and confidence to outmanoeuvre World No.9 Ali Farag and reach the last eight of his home event for the first time in his career.
“I’m so happy,” said Lee. “I was getting very excited towards the end of the fourth game because I wanted to win here in front of my home crowd – to be in the quarters is great.”
In the women’s draw Egyptian Nour El Tayeb stole the headlines as she kept alive hopes of reaching a second consecutive Hong Kong Open final by defeating best friend and number three seed Raneem El Welily – the former World No.1.
The 23-year-old reached the title-decider on her last appearance in Hong Kong in 2014 and she produced a performance of note to upset the seedings and beat El Welily 3-1 in a replica of their last meeting during the 2015 U.S. Open, when a thrilling encounter saw El Tayeb triumph in five-games albeit at the expense of a shoulder injury that ruled her out for the rest of the season.
“I can’t really believe that I have won,” said El Tayeb. “It just feels great to be playing pain-free and winning again.
“When I was 8-2 up in the fourth I couldn’t really believe I was winning. After the injury and being out for so long, it felt strange to be playing well.
“I think I was maybe putting too much pressure on myself after the surgery so yesterday, after my win against Donna (Urquhart) Ali sat with me and gave me a few words to help me deal with the pressure. Today I went out relaxed and didn’t feel nervous at all.
“I knew to play smart and at my best I have to be relaxed. That was easy today because she’s my best friend and was bridesmaid at my wedding, so I knew I was going to enjoy the match no matter what.”
El Tayeb will now face American danger Amanda Sobhy for a place in the last four while defending champion Nicol David survived a second consecutive scare, this time against New Zealand’s Joelle King, to come through in five games.
World No.2 and 2015 runner-up Laura Massaro also kept her hopes of improving on her finish last year with a 3-1 win over Emily Whitlock.
“I think I finished the match well but I was a little tentative at times,” said Massaro.
“I feel like mentally I’m still not really firing on all cylinders but I’m progressing each round. I was better than yesterday and if I can move forward again for tomorrow then I should be in a good position for that match.”
2016 Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open.
Men’s Second Round Results:
Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt  Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) 3-2: 11-9, 8-11, 9-11, 14-12, 11-9 (91m)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Mazen Hesham (EGY) 3-1: 11-5, 11-6, 10-12, 11-7 (53m)
James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-1: 5-11, 12-10, 11-3, 11-7 (59m)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt [WC] Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-9, 11-4 (45m)
Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-2: 9-11, 13-15, 11-8, 11-8, 11-8 (81m)
Simon Rösner (GER) bt  Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 3-1: 11-6, 11-8, 10-12, 11-4 (64m)
Max Lee (HKG) bt  Ali Farag (EGY) 3-1: 11-8, 7-11, 13-11, 11-9 (55m)
Fares Dessouky (EGY) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 3-2: 6-11, 15-13, 9-11, 11-6, 12-10 (83m)
Men’s Quarter-final Draw:
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
James Willstrop (ENG) v Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Simon Rösner (GER)
Max Lee (HKG) v Fares Dessouky (EGY)
Women’s Second Round Results:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Annie Au (HKG) 3-1: 18-16, 11-5, 6-11, 11-7 (45m)
 Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt  Joshna Chinappa (IND) 3-0: 11-8, 12-10, 11-4 (24m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-1: 11-3, 11-6, 9-11, 11-7 (41m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 3-1: 11-9, 7-11, 11-7, 11-5 (37m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 3-2: 11-7, 7-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-5 (62m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt [WC] Ho Tze-Lok (HKG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-5, 11-4 (25m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-6, 11-7 (40m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Emily Whitlock (ENG) 3-1: 11-7, 9-11, 11-5, 11-2 (39m)
Women’s Quarter-final Draw:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) v  Nour El Tayeb (EGY)
 Nicol David (MAS) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v  Laura Massaro (ENG)
Pictures courtesy of PSA