Sarah-Jane Perry keeps cool to beat Camille Serme
By ELLIE MAWSON in Chicago
World No.3 Nour El Tayeb staged a huge comeback from 2-0 down to knock World No.1 Nour El Sherbini out of the 2018 Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family and EquiTrust Life Insurance Company in an all-Egyptian quarter-final battle staged under the chandeliers of the University Club of Chicago’s Cathedral Hall.
Top seed El Sherbini took the advantage in the opening two games after, clawing back game balls in both to take a commanding lead over her compatriot.
However, U.S. Open winner El Tayeb refused to be beaten and she showed the same resilience displayed in her round two encounter with Welshwoman Tesni Evans – where she saved four match-balls to come back and win 3-2 – as she claimed the next three games to book herself a semi-final berth at this year’s event – which offers a record high prize fund of $250,000 in both the men’s and women’s draws.
“Nour is an unbelievable player and we have had a lot of battles this season,” said 24-year-old El Tayeb following her win.
“My coach and husband Ali [Farag] told me to dig in and told me not to worry about the first two games because I was playing well. Being 2-0 down against Nour El Sherbini is probably the hardest thing in the world on a squash court but I just thought I am playing so well and so I just let loose but it was close all the way.”
Joining El Tayeb in the next round to make it a family affair is husband Farag, who dispatched Australia’s Cameron Pilley in straight-games to reach the semi-finals for the second consecutive year.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better day,” said Farag after his victory. “Both of us won our matches and hopefully the tournament is not over for either of us, but we have very tough competitors tomorrow. The Tour is very deep now, and everyone is playing so well but we hope to keep going forward.”
Farag and El Tayeb will be joined at the last four stage by another married couple after Tarek Momen and defending three-time champion Raneem El Welily also made their way through with wins over compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad and England’s Alison Waters, respectively.
“I’m so glad that I’m having a great week here,” said Momen. “It is my first semi-final at the Windy City Open.
“Karim and I spend a lot of time together and we have had a lot of tough battles in the past with a lot of them going in his favour, so I’m really glad that I came through tonight in three.
“Raneem and I just try to enjoy ourselves on court – everyone is focused on their task and we are both trying to reach as far as possible in this tournament. We just try to support each other the best way we can.”
World champion El Welily, who recorded her 18th successive win in Chicago, added: “Obviously Tarek was playing before me, so I was warming up during his match and it’s fantastic that he won today. He’s been playing well and it’s a big win for him and I’m happy that we’re both in the semi-finals – it doesn’t happen that often.”
Completing the family theme in Chicago are brothers Marwan and Mohamed ElShorbagy as they defeated Tournament of Champions winner Simon Rösner and ‘Colombian Cannonball’ Miguel Angel Rodriguez, respectively, to complete an all-Egyptian last four in the men’s draw.
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Joelle King and England’s Sarah-Jane Perry complete the women’s line-up after they overcame American Amanda Sobhy and Camille Serme of France, respectively.
World No.5 Serme took the opener, despite Perry holding a game ball, as she punished Perry’s cross courts with her deadly backhand volley drop.
However, Perry made sure to cut out her mistakes in the second, putting her game plan into full effect to nullify Serme’s attacking prowess, with the Frenchwoman hitting five unforced errors.
The error count continued to rise for Serme in the third while Perry remained disciplined to punish the back corners of the French player and followed it up with immaculate backhand drops to claim a solid 10-12, 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 victory.
“She is quicker than me so there’s no point trying to play someone at their own game,” said 27-year-old Perry. “I just tried to focus on my game and a couple of tweaks to try and get her off her favourite positions which is in the middle on the volley – she put so many away.
“She has beaten me a lot more than I have beaten her in the past. She’s a fantastic player and you don’t get as high in the rankings and win the titles she has without being a fighter and a great player. Even though I had a lead in the fourth, I just kept telling myself to keep being positive and not let her back in and I’m just really happy to finish it off.
“I’ve been working a lot with my coach on getting in the right positions on court after I have hit certain shots. I’m really pleased I managed to keep my focus and stay positive especially after the first game when I had a game ball so I’m proud of how I dealt with that.
“I didn’t have the best start to the season at the World Series events, but I seem to have just got better as this event has gone on so hopefully I will be even better tomorrow.”
PSA $500,000 Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family & EquiTrust Life Insurance Company 2018, Cathedral Hall, University Club of Chicago, Illinois, USA.
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Simon Rösner (GER) 3-0: 11-7, 11-4, 11-8 (43m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 3-0: 11-9, 11-1, 15-13 (46m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-0: 16-14, 11-8, 11-3 (53m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 3-0: 11-7, 14-12, 11-4 (39m)
Men’s Semi-Finals (To be played February 27):
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 3-1: 10-12, 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 (52m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-2: 10-12, 11-13, 11-9, 11-9, 11-7 (77m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt  Amanda Sobhy (USA) 3-1: 11-8, 11-7, 13-15, 11-6 (44m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-3, 11-8 (32m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
 Joelle King (NZL) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA