Saturday, February 4, 2023

From the Pyramids to the chandeliers of Chicago and New York, Camille Serme takes centre stage in squash’s great dramas

Camilel Serme celebrates her victory over Hania El Hammamy

‘Women’s squash is the best it has ever been,’ says Serme
By SEAN REUTHE – Squash Mad Correspondent

The University Club of Chicago’s stunning Cathedral Hall played host to one of the matches of the season as World No.3 Camille Serme overcame Egypt’s Hania El Hammamy in a thrilling 81-minute encounter to reach the quarter-finals of the Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family.

El Hammamy had completed an incredible comeback from two games down when the pair met in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza in the quarter-finals of November’s CIB PSA Women’s World Championship, leaving Serme devastated. But in Chicago, the French star avenged that loss to take a nailbiting 11-7, 10-12, 7-11, 14-12, 11-9 victory. 

This match was an even better quality than that last clash, with a fast-pace right from the off, one that lasted right the way through to the end of the match, some 80 minutes later. It was the 19-year-old that started the stronger, but several errors in the middle part of the first game allowed Serme to cruise into the 1-0 lead.

El Hammamy fought back, with several roars accompanying winning shots. It got her going, and she was able to carry the momentum, taking the second on a tie-break 12-10. The Egyptian then took the third as well, after playing some clever, tactical squash during the middle part of the game to break away.

She held the lead in the fourth game as well, and at one point it looked like she had broken down ‘La Panthere’, but the French No.1  fought back. She saved a match ball to send the clash into a deciding game, taking the fourth 14-12.

The tempo was maintained into the fifth, despite the pair having been on court for more than an hour. El Hammamy showed some great touch at the front of the court to come back from 8-6 into a tie at 9-9, but Serme was able to close the match out by winning the next two points, letting out a scream of emotion, as she booked her place in the last eight.

“I knew it was going to be a battle,” said Serme. “She is top 10 now, but she can beat anyone in the top 10, so I knew it was going to be hard. I was focused on what to do on court, what the right tactics were and trying to play the best that I could. At the end it could have gone either way.

“I tried to forget about the Pyramids, but I tried to remember what I did wrong and what she did well, to try and avoid her playing her best. It has always been amazing, the standard of women’s squash, but now it is the best it has ever been. The top 20, top 30, everyone is so good.”

Serme came into this tournament off the back of beating World Champion Nour El Sherbini to win the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York last month, and she will go head-to-head with Egyptian once again after El Sherbini defeated Australia’s Donna Lobban in straight games.

El Sherbini is appearing at only her third tournament of the season due to a persistent knee injury and she struggled with her movement early, cutting a frustrated figure as Lobban took early control. The World No.4 showcased her immaculate racket skills though in the next three games as she closed out an 5-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-8 triumph.

“I am happy to be through, and maybe I was not like I am usually, but I am very happy to be through to the quarters,” four-time World Champion El Sherbini said.

“Having my coach and Raneem [El Welily] there, their support helped me a lot, and having them there tonight helped me through to win. They [Serme and El Hammamy] had a very tough match, a long one. I am sure she is going to be ready tomorrow as if it was the first match of the tournament.”

World No.21 Rowan Elaraby is into her first ever Windy City Open quarter-final after she defeated England’s Lucy Turmel, and her last eight opponent will be World No.7 Sarah-Jane Perry, who ground out a 3-2 win after a scrappy match against Egypt’s Yathreb Adel.

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Only three matches took place in the men’s event, with World No.14 Mazen Hesham pulling out of his fixture with World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy due to a hip flexor injury.

ElShorbagy receives a walkover and a bye into the last eight, where he will come up against New Zealand’s World No.5 Paul Coll, who got the better of World No.24 Declan James by an 11-6, 8-11, 11-4, 11-6 margin.

“The first couple of games the ball was really flying around and I was struggling to find my range to the front. I was a bit late on the ball and I was a bit passive,” Coll said.

“He has that big forehand that he winds off and that was pinging off the front wall so it made it very tough for me. I am very happy to get off there in four and I felt very good in those last two games.

World No.4 Karim Abdel Gawad and World No.7 Simon Rösner also booked their quarter-final berths courtesy of wins over France’s Mathieu Castagnet and England’s Adrian Waller, respectively.

Gawad beat Castagnet 11-8, 11-6, 11-8, while Rösner got the better of Waller by an 11-8, 11-4, 11-9 scoreline. The pair met at the same stage of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions last month, with Gawad winning in five.

“I’ve been on tour for 12 years and never played him [Castagnet],” said Gawad afterwards. “All credit to him, he’s got great spirit on court and off court too. Castagnet makes you run the whole match, he moves you around the court and it’s difficult to find winners. Without seeing it, I was expecting it [his heart rate] to be close to 200bpm, if not above, but I’m really happy to get through in three.”

All eight quarter-finals will take place tomorrow (Monday March 2) and play will get under way at 12:00 (GMT-6). Action will be shown live on SQUASHTV (rest of world), Eurosport Player (Europe only) and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour.

2020 Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family, Cathedral Hall, University of Chicago, USA.

Men’s Third Round (Bottom Half): 
[4] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 3-0: 11-8, 11-6, 11-8 (43m)
[7] Simon Rösner (GER) bt Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-4, 11-9 (39m)
[5] Paul Coll (NZL) bt Declan James (ENG) 3-1: 11-6, 8-11, 11-4, 11-6 (63m)
[2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Mazen Hesham (EGY) w/o

Men’s Quarter-Finals (today, March 2): 
[1] Ali Farag (EGY) v [6] Diego Elias (PER)
Borja Golan (ESP) v [3] Tarek Momen (EGY)
[4] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v [7] Simon Rösner (GER)
[5] Paul Coll (NZL) v [2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)

Women’s Third Round (Bottom Half): 
Rowan Elaraby (EGY) bt Lucy Turmel (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-1 (29m)
[8] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt [14] Yathreb Adel (EGY) 3-2: 7-11, 11-7, 5-11, 11-5, 11-9 (84m)
[5] Camille Serme (FRA) bt [9] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 3-2: 11-7, 10-12, 7-11, 14-12, 11-9 (81m)
[2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Donna Lobban (AUS) 3-1: 5-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-8 (33m)

Women’s Quarter-Finals (today): 
[1] Raneem El Welily (EGY) v [15] Olivia Blatchford Clyne (USA)
[7] Amanda Sobhy (USA) v [3] Nouran Gohar (EGY)
Rowan Elaraby (EGY) v [8] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
[5] Camille Serme (FRA) v [2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 

Pictures courtesy of Steve Line, University Club of Chicago and PSA  


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