Willstrop and Matthew make it England v Egypt in men’s semi-finals
By NATHAN CLARKE
The 2015 Delaware Investments U.S. Open champions Laura Massaro and Gregory Gaultier saw the defence of their titles come to a premature end as they both bowed out of the 2016 iteration of the PSA World Series tournament taking place in Philadelphia during a dramatic day of quarter-final action that also saw home favourite and US number one Amanda Sobhy storm into the last four.
Gaultier, who also lifted the trophy in 2013 and 2006, came into the tournament in red hot form having won the NetSuite Open last week but he fell to a 3-1 defeat to Hong Kong Open runner-up Karim Abdel Gawad in a match that saw the Frenchman implode from a commanding lead.
The 33-year-old was in total control as he took the opening game for the loss of just three points before opening up a 6-1 lead in the second.
However, after becoming irritated with a series of calls by the referees, his game began to break down as he lost concentration and Gawad made him pay, storming through to seal the match 3-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-5.
“I think that’s my best win ever in my career so far,” said Gawad. “Greg is the No.2 in the World – it says it all – and one of the most experienced players on Tour. Before today he’d beaten me 8-0 on the head to head record so it’s my first win against him and that means a lot.
“At 11-3 and 6-1 down I knew I had to change something and really just try and get some points. I pushed and pushed to get as many points as possible and I’m really happy to get the win.”
Gawad will now face England’s Nick Matthew for a place in the final after the 36-year-old three-time World Champion produced a masterclass performance to defeat Egyptian World No.6 Ali Farag.
Matthew had lost out in his only two previous meetings with the talented 24-year-old but, after struggling against Simon Rösner in the second round, cut a completely different animal on court as he played with great variation in height and pace to deliver a stand-out performance and come through 11-8, 11-7, 11-8 to prove there is still life in the old ‘wolf’.
“I had to pull that out of the pandora’s box of experience,” said Matthew. “I had to keep reminding myself just to dig in because I played him twice and lost twice – so I was determined to prove a point and show that there’s life in the old dog yet.
“He has that ability to make you feel a bit like Bambi on ice at times but I dug in. It was 3-0, but mentally it felt much, much tougher than that.”
The men’s semi-finals are just like old times, with England versus Egypt in both matches thanks to the resurgent James Willstrop winning through to meet top seed Mohamed Elshorbagy and both players taking advantage of a rest day to reflect on their World Championship clash in Seattle, when Willstrop showed us that he was still capable of hitting the heights.
Matthew’s compatriot and 2015 Women’s champion Massaro, meanwhile, was on the receiving end of a sublime performance from Frenchwoman Camille Serme that saw her emerge victorious 11-8, 8-11, 11-2, 6-11, 11-6 after a topsy turvy five-game encounter.
Serme beat Massaro to win the 2015 British Open, the biggest triumph of her career, and she played with unwavering confidence to seal a victory that sees her overturn a period of poor form during the past few months.
“To beat Laura, the defending champion, is a great win for me right now and it feels amazing,” said Serme.
“It was a very tactical battle today. She’s such a fighter, it doesn’t matter if she’s down, she never gives up, so I’m so happy to win that battle.
“I’ve worked hard lately at trying to change my mindset in all areas – in the gym, in practice – not just in matches, to try and push me even harder. I’ve got things to focus on mentally every day and little notes and reminders to help me.
“Today I was trying to keep that positivity throughout the match. I knew what the tactic was and that I had to be in front and make her work, and I think in the fifth the mental element was the key.”
Serme will take on home favourite Amanda Sobhy after the Boston-based US number one downed 19-year-old Egyptian Nouran Gohar to gain revenge for her defeat to the World No.4 in the final of August’s Hong Kong Open.
It was the hard-hitting World Junior Champion who came through in Hong Kong – the first PSA World Series tournament of the season – to claim the honours and inflict a second major tournament final defeat on Sobhy, but the 23-year-old ensured that result wouldn’t be repeated as she produced a performance of high quality attacking abandon to outgun Gohar at her own game.
“I was very determined to overturn that result from Hong Kong – there’s nothing like getting a of redemption so I was focused on making sure she didn’t beat me twice, especially not on home soil,” said Sobhy.
‘I’m feeling great right now – it was such a tough match so to come out and get the win and reach the semi-finals of the US Open is amazing and I owe the crowd so much thanks.
“This is such a prestigious and great tournament and it’s fantastic to play here. The support of the fans gives you that extra push and they really picked me up and I hope they can continue and make it even louder for tomorrow’s semi-finals. Hopefully I can do my best to try and keep the trophy on home soil.”
The 2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open semi-final action continues from 5:00pm local time at Drexel University’s Daskalakis Athletic Centre on Friday October 14 with tickets for the PSA World Series tournament available to purchase by visiting www.usopensquash.com
Delaware Investments US Open 2016, Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA.
PSA M150 Men’s Quarter-finals (Bottom Half).
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Ali Farag (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-7, 11-8 (57m)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 3-1: 3-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-5 (67m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v James Willstrop (ENG)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
PSA W150 Women’s Quarter-finals:
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 3-1: 7-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-4 (42m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Laura Massaro (ENG) 3-2: 11-8, 8-11, 11-2, 6-11, 11-6 (55m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com)