Repeat of World final
By SEAN REUTHE
World No.1 Nour El Sherbini and World Champion Raneem El Welily will go head-to-head in a repeat of last month’s Women’s AJ Bell PSA World Championship final after the duo prevailed on semi-finals day to reach the title-decider of the inaugural Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters, World Series tournament held in Riyadh.
The pair are set to face off in a third PSA World Tour final in a row after they achieved respective wins over compatriots Nouran Gohar and Nour El Tayeb in what was the first time ever that four Egyptian women had reached the semi-finals of a World Series event.
El Sherbini, who beat El Welily to win November’s Hong Kong Open before losing out to her fellow Egyptian in last month’s World Championship final (right), recovered from a game down to claim a seventh successive victory over World No.5 Gohar, taking it 14-16, 11-8, 11-8, 11-5 in 55 minutes to reach a fourth consecutive PSA World Tour final.
“It was a very tough match, the court was hot and bouncy, which suited Nouran’s game more than mine, I thought,” said El Sherbini.
“The first three games could have gone either way, but I’m glad I came back after losing the first game, where I just didn’t manage to follow my game plan.
“I am very proud that there were four Egyptians in the semis and to put my name besides those of Raneem, Nouran and Nour. I hope that people back home are proud of us.”
The 22-year-old will look to improve on an 8-6 deficit on her head-to-head record against El Welily after the World No.2 overcame El Tayeb in a comfortable 3-0 victory.
El Tayeb had battled back from two games down against World No.3 Camille Serme to progress from the second round, before ending a nine-match losing streak to eight-time World Champion Nicol David in the last eight.
But El Welily prevailed, taking a scrappy opener before holding her nerve in a crucial second-game tie-break en route to completing an 11-7, 15-13, 11-5 triumph, which sees her make it three finals from three World Series tournaments this season.
“I’m very happy I managed to win in three as the last two times we played it went to five,” El Welily said.
“I am proud to be part of this groundbreaking event here in Saudi and also extremely proud of the achievement of the Egyptian women in this tournament.
“Tomorrow I’m playing Nour again. We have been playing a lot this season, every time it’s been close and exciting, so hopefully tomorrow will be the same. We are sharing a room as well here, so tomorrow is going to be a long day for us.”
The Saudi PSA Women’s Masters is the first professional women’s squash tournament ever to take place in Saudi Arabia and both El Sherbini and El Welily will do battle tomorrow at 19:30 local time (GMT+3) as they bid to become the inaugural champion of the event.
In addition to the $25,000 winner’s prize, the pair will also be aiming to win maximum points for the PSA Women’s World Series Standings. El Welily is the current leader, but a win for El Sherbini will see her leapfrog her compatriot to all but guarantee herself a top-eight place, which brings with it qualification for June’s PSA World Series Finals.
2018 Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 3-1: 14-16, 11-8, 11-8, 11-5 (55m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 15-13, 11-5 (27m)
Final: To Be Played January 12th
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
Pictures by PATRICK LAUSON