By Mike Dale and Sean Reuthe (PSA) in Hong Kong
Hania El Hammamy and bitter rival Nouran Gohar will lock horns once again in the semi-finals of the Everbright Securities International Hong Kong Open on Saturday.
In Friday’s quarter-finals, world no.3 El Hammamy ended a three-match losing run against fellow Egyptian Nour El Tayeb that stretched back to October 2020. Prior to that, she had only beaten the world no.6 in two of their previous 10 encounters.
Elsewhere in Friday’s draw, the higher seeds all progressed into the semis with relative ease – world no.2 Paul Coll’s victory over Marwan ElShorbagy and El Hammamy’s 6-11, 11-3, 11-6, 11-8 triumph were the only matches that went beyond three games.
In the early stages, it looked like El Tayeb was on course to extend her winning run after an aggressive start to the match from the 29-year-old saw her take the opening game. But El Hammamy came out firing and played some measured squash over the course of the next three games at the Hong Kong Park Sports Centre, which is hosting matches from this point onwards.
“Playing against Nour is very tough, both mentally and physically,” said El Hammamy. “The last two meetings went in her favour and I wanted to focus on the things that I did wrong in the last two matches.
“She’s an amazing player coming back from being a mother, she’s had an incredible journey and it’s very difficult to do what she’s doing. I don’t want to be in her position as I know how tough it is. I have a lot of respect for her and I’m definitely glad to be through today.”
El Hammamy’s next opponent is world no.1 Gohar, with whom she has clashed on many occasions in the recent past – most notoriously at this year’s British Open and CIB World Tour Finals.
Gohar, the 2016 Hong Kong Open champion, came through a testing encounter with world no.40 Satomi Watanabe on Friday requiring tie-breaks in the opening two games. But she was in the zone during a one-sided third to finally dispatch the surprise quarter-finalist.
A win for Gohar over El Hammamy in Saturday’s semi-final will see her equal the women’s record of reaching 12 PSA finals in a single year, which is currently shared by Sarah Fitz-Gerald and Michelle Martin.
“It was a great match, it’s the first time that I’ve played Satomi,” said Gohar. “I know how it feels to cause an upset and then come back in the next match. She played really well and had nothing to lose. I had to adapt to the conditions, especially coming up against a new player as well, so it was a bit tricky for me, but I’m glad with the way I dealt with it.”
2017 champion Nour El Sherbini and 2018 winner Joelle King will face off in the other semi-final. They beat Belgium’s Nele Gilis and England’s Sarah-Jane Perry, respectively to ensure that all four of the top seeds will feature in the last four.
The men’s semi-finals will also see the top four seeds look to book their final berths, with Coll, Diego Elias, Mohamed ElShorbagy and Mostafa Asal all advancing.
Coll reached the Hong Kong Open semis for the first time after he defeated world no.6 Marwan ElShorbagy to set up a last-four battle with world no.4 Asal. It will be Coll and Asal’s first meeting this season, with Coll looking to avenge defeats to the Egyptian in the finals of the CIB PSA World Tour Finals and El Gouna International towards the back end of the 2021-22 campaign.
“He [Asal] seems to be playing well,” said Coll. “I didn’t see any of his match, but he won in 30 minutes, and he’s always a tricky customer. He’s full of energy and you know exactly what he’s going to get. It’s going to be a tough battle.”
Meanwhile, in-form world no.3 Mohamed ElShorbagy moved to within one win of a fifth Hong Kong Open final after he dispatched world no.9 Mazen Hesham in straight games to make it 11 wins in a row on the PSA World Tour.
The 31-year-old, who is aiming to win three titles on the bounce, was tested in the opening game by Hesham, but was in cruise control over the course of the next two as his opponent dropped off considerably. Elias will be ElShorbagy’s semi-final opponent after the Peruvian defeated no.8 seed Youssef Soliman in straight games.
“We [he and Elias] are very close off the court,” ElShorbagy said. “He’s probably the closest to me off the court out of all the players. On court we always keep it professional, and results-wise from the beginning of this season we’ve both been first and second in the World Tour Finals Rankings, so on current form we’re the best two players right now.”
The Hong Kong Open semi-finals begin at 16:00 (GMT+8) on Saturday.
Results – Men’s Quarter-Finals: Diego Elias (PER) bt  Youssef Soliman (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 12-10, 11-5 (52m)  Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) bt  Mazen Hesham (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-4, 11-5 (29m)  Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt  Victor Crouin (FRA) 3-0: 11-3, 11-3, 11-3 (33m)  Paul Coll (NZL) bt  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-1: 11-9, 8-11, 11-6, 11-9 (64m)
Draw – Men’s Semi-Finals (3 December): Diego Elias (PER) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG)  Mostafa Asal (EGY) v  Paul Coll (NZL)
Results – Women’s Quarter-Finals: Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt Satomi Watanabe (JPN) 3-0: 14-12, 12-10, 11-6 (37m)  Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 3-1: 6-11, 11-3, 11-6, 11-8 (45m)  Joelle King (NZL) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-0: 11-4, 11-7, 11-8 (31m)  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Nele Gilis (BEL) 3-0: 11-4, 11-8, 13-11 (42m)
Draw – Women’s Semi-Finals (3 December): Nouran Gohar (EGY) v  Hania El Hammamy (EGY)  Joelle King (NZL) v  Nour El Sherbini (EGY)