Annie Au first Hong Kong player to reach World Champs quarter-finals
By SEAN REUTHE in Chicago
World No.12 Annie Au sent former World Champion Laura Massaro out on day three of the 2018-2019 PSA World Championships presented by the Walter Family to become the first ever player from Hong Kong to reach the quarter-finals of the sport’s first $1 million tournament.
World No.7 Massaro, the 2013 World Champion, boasted a four-match winning streak over Au heading into the fixture but, in the Great Hall of Chicago’s Union Station, was never able to get into the match as Au (pictured celebrating her victory) made the most of the cold court conditions, unsettling her opponent with her patented lob and drop game.
The World No.11 claimed an 11-9, 11-8, 11-4 victory in 33 minutes and she will play World No.4 Nour El Tayeb for a place in the semi-finals. El Tayeb defeated surprise package Melissa Alves to reach the last eight.
“I’m feeling really good after today’s performance,” said Au following her win.
“Laura is a really experienced and determined player, so I needed to stay concentrated throughout the whole match. If I lost my concentration, then I knew that she would fight back and give me a hard time.
“It’s the first time for me and also for Hong Kong to get into the quarter-finals of the World Championships, so I’m really thankful to all the coaches and especially to my brother [Leo Au]… who came out to support me.”
Meanwhile, defending champion Raneem El Welily and World No.8 Nouran Gohar will go head-to-head for a third successive tournament after respective wins against English duo Alison Waters and Victoria Lust.
El Welily, the current World No.1, overcame Waters by an 11-8, 11-6, 11-7 scoreline and she will look to build on a three-match unbeaten run against Gohar as she bids to reach the semi-finals for the seventh successive time.
“Playing Alison in a round of 16 is something hard to believe,” said El Welily following her win.
“I’m glad I managed to push myself after those crucial points and take the lead, but it was definitely a close match. I’m very happy to be playing at this great venue and looking forward to my next match.”
James Willstrop loses 105-minute marathon to Miguel Rodriguez
Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez is through to the quarter-finals of the men’s tournament after the World No.7 claimed his first ever win over 2010 runner-up James Willstrop at the eighth attempt.
Rodriguez, the reigning British Open champion, prevailed in a gruelling 105-minute encounter which saw both players display supreme athleticism and skill at times, although there were some heated words between the pair after some traffic issues on the court.
“I didn’t expect this kind of match,” said Bogota-born Rodriguez. “I had to fight mentally to beat him today. I am very physical, but he has so much more experience on tour. It is my first win against him and I am very proud of my performance today.
“The strength, the passion and the training that I put in back home before this tournament all helped me today. Getting through the first three rounds was my main aim and now I’m looking forward to the rest of the tournament.”
Rodriguez will line up against reigning champion Mohamed ElShorbagy as he aims to reach the semi-finals of this tournament for the first time. Rodriguez overcame the World No.1 in the final of the British Open last May, but their last two meetings on the PSA Tour have gone the way of the Egyptian.
ElShorbagy dispatched World No.29 Leo Au in straight games to book his third straight World Championship quarter-final spot.
His younger brother, Marwan, overcame Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly to reach the last eight, and he will take on World No.3 Tarek Momen for a place in the last four.
Momen twice came back from a game down to get the better of World No.9 Mohamed Abouelghar, fighting back from match ball down in the fourth, and he will appear in the quarter-finals for the third time in his career.
“Almost every tournament we are playing now, it’s unlucky for both of us and it can only mean one thing, that we are learning more about each other and the games are getting tougher,” Momen said.
“We’re anticipating everything and he is trying to study me each time and he gets better each time. We had a close 3-2 last time and he held match point today. At some point in the fourth I was 5-2 down, but he had a big gap and led most of the way. I lost last time in the last 16 and I didn’t want to exit the tournament at the same round so I kept going.”
The third round continues today, with play starting at 12:00 (GMT-6). Fixtures will be shown live on SQUASHTV (Rest of World), Eurosport Player (Europe only) and on the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour.
2018-2019 PSA World Championships presented by the Walter Family, Union Station, Chicago, USA.
Men’s Third Round (Top Half):
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Leo Au (HKG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-3, 11-6 (31m)
 Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt  James Willstrop (ENG) 3-2: 12-14, 11-2, 7-11, 11-9, 11-8 (105m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 3-1: 11-4, 11-7, 9-11, 11-7 (58m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt  Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 3-2: 5-11, 11-4, 8-11, 13-11, 11-3 (67m)
Men’s Third Round (Bottom Half, February 26):
 Simon Rösner (GER) v Borja Golan (ESP)
 Saurav Ghosal (IND) v Joel Makin (WAL)
 Paul Coll (NZL) v  Fares Dessouky (EGY)
Mazen Hesham (EGY) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
Men’s Quarter-Finals (Top Half, February 27):
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Miguel Rodriguez (COL)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
Women’s Third Round (Top Half):
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-6, 11-7 (29m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Victoria Lust (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-8, 11-9 (36m)
 Annie Au (HKG) bt  Laura Massaro (ENG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-8, 11-4 (33m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt [L] Melissa Alves (FRA) 3-0: 11-7, 11-3, 11-6 (23m)
Women’s Third Round (Bottom Half, February 26):
 Joelle King (NZL) v  Joey Chan (HKG)
 Nicol David (MAS) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v  Tesni Evans (WAL)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) v  Nour El Sherbini (EGY)
Women’s Quarter-Finals (Top Half, February 27):
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
 Annie Au (HKG) v  Nour El Tayeb (EGY)
Report by SEAN REUTHE (PSA PR and Media Manager. Edited by ALAN THATCHER).
Pictures courtesy of PSA