By JANE BALL (Squash Mad Reporter) and CONNOR SHEEN (PSA)
England’s Gina Kennedy saw her season get off to a disappointing start as a hamstring injury forced her to retire from her quarter-final against Egypt’s Nour El Tayeb in the South Western Women’s Open in Houston.
The Commonwealth Games champion had looked in ruthless form against Jasmine Hutton in the previous round but was clearly struggling with her movement during the second game of her highly anticipated encounter against El Tayeb.
No.7 seed El Tayeb, who won last week’s Zed Open in Cairo, had edged a competitive first game 11-9 and looked in fine form in the second as she built up an 8-2 lead.
However, it was clear during game two that Kennedy was not moving at her best and she was forced to retire with a hamstring injury.
In the semi-finals El Tayeb will meet USA No.1 Amanda Sobhy, the only non-Egyptian to make the final four in this $110k PSA Gold event taking place at the Houston Squash Club.
Home favourite Sobhy took to the court in the final match of the day against dangerous Egyptian Salma Hany, who had finished runner-up to El Tayeb in the Zed final.
Hany came out firing in the opening game, taking the ball in short with great accuracy to win the first game 11-8. Sobhy responded in perfect fashion in the second game and dominated proceedings, taking the ball early and capitalising on excellent length hitting. It wasn’t long before Sobhy was level at 1-1, winning 11-2.
There was nothing between the pair as the score reached 5-5 in the third game, but that’s when Sobhy stepped up a gear and regained control of the match, mixing up the pace and using great deception to stop and start the movement of Hany.
After sealing the third game 11-7, Sobhy looked to have settled into her clinical rhythm in the fourth game and helped by errors from Hany booked her semi-final place in 42 minutes.
“It’s good to be in the semis, that was a tough match,” said Sobhy. “Salma had a tough one yesterday, but I knew she would come out fighting in the first game. But I adapted after the first and started to feel better with my movement, but it’s never easy and I’m just looking forward to a battle with Nour tomorrow.
“We’ve been playing since we were 15. There’s been ups and downs – she’s beaten me, I’ve beaten her, so we go back and forth but I think we enjoy playing against each other. It’s good that she’s back on tour and I’m really looking forward to playing against her tomorrow.”
World No.1 Nouran Gohar was in her usual clinical zone as she despatched USA No.2 Olivia Fiechter in straight games to move into her first semi-final of the season.
Gohar’s hard-hitting style gave Fiechter no opportunity to control the T and seemed to always be on the defensive side of play. The No.1 seed moved from strength to strength and after 35 minutes booked her place in the last four to set up an all-Egyptian affair with Rowan Elaraby.
Elaraby currently sits at her highest ranking of World No.7 and showed just how dangerous she can be as she defeated a resilient Emily Whitlock 3-0.
The 22-year-old had beaten Whitlock previously on the PSA World Tour, back in 2018, and repeated the result to move into today’s semi-finals.
Elaraby possesses great touch in the front two corners and made full use of that on the all glass court in Houston. Pushing and pulling the Welshwoman into several difficult positions which became tiresome for her.
After storming the first game 11-2, the Egyptian showed no signs of slowing down as her crisp length hitting only got better, which set up more attacking opportunities, which she took full advantage of.
Elaraby took the second and third games 11-7, 11-5 to win the match in 37 minutes. Her opponent in the semi-finals will be compatriot and World No.1 Gohar.
The pair have met four times previously on tour and Elaraby is yet to score a win against ‘The Terminator’ but will be looking to continue her impressive start to the new season regardless.
Semi-final action from the South Western Women’s Open will take place today with both matches being shown live on SQUASHTV from 13:00 (GMT-5).
South Western Women’s Open, Houston Squash Club, Houston, Texas, USA.
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Olivia Fiechter (USA) 3-0: 11-4, 11-6, 11-4 (35m)
 Emily Whitlock (WAL) bt  Rowan Elaraby (EGY) 3-0: 11-2, 11-7, 11-5 (37m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Georgina Kennedy (ENG) 3-0: 11-9, 8-2 retired (16m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Salma Hany (EGY) 3-1: 8-11, 11-2, 11-7, 11-4 (42m)
Semi-finals (September 10):
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v  Rowan Elaraby (EGY)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v  Amanda Sobhy (USA)
Pictures by Collin Poon Kong courtesy of PSA World Tour