Nour topples world champion Raneem El Welily as Ali ends Ramy Ashour’s run
By SEAN REUTHE in New York
Egyptian couple Nour El Tayeb and Ali Farag both advanced into the semi-finals of the 2018 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions after claiming huge wins over world champion Raneem El Welily and three-time winner Ramy Ashour on day six of the PSA World Series tournament taking place under the chandeliers of Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall in New York.
El Tayeb and Farag made history in October’s U.S. Open as they became the first married couple in sporting history ever to win the same major sports title on the same day and they both remain on course to challenge for honours in New York.
World No.7 El Tayeb, who beat El Welily in the U.S. Open title decider, went a game down to the reigning World Champion but battled back in a high-quality 43-minute affair, which she took in a 6-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8 scoreline.
“If someone would have told me that we [El Tayeb and Farag] would both come out as winners, I wouldn’t have believed it,” El Tayeb said.
“Raneem is not just the maverick of squash, she’s one of my idols. I learn a lot from here on and off the court, she’s the most graceful, most talented Egyptian female squash player.
“I got so nervous in Ali’s match, it took me a while to get this match going and against someone like Raneem, I can’t afford to start late. I saw how Ali studied his game and was preparing for the match and I tried to do that like him. I hope he’s happy with my performance today and hopefully we can keep it up tomorrow.”
Farag, meanwhile, ended Ashour’s 12-match unbeaten run at Grand Central Terminal to reach the semi-finals of this tournament for the first time in his career, inflicting a first Tournament of Champions defeat upon Ashour since 2010.
The duo last met in the final of the China Open in August, when it was Ashour who came out on top in a thrilling five-game encounter that saw the pair put on a free-flowing squash masterclass.
But this time around it was Farag (right) who triumphed 11-7, 12-10, 7-11, 11-5 in a scrappy match that failed to live up to the huge expectation surrounding it.
“Describing Ramy as tricky is an understatement,” said Farag. “On his day he’s the best player on Tour and everyone knows that.
“I just tried to forgot about who I was playing. At times, I look at him as the squash God and because of that I sometimes forget to play my own game, so today the most important thing was to focus on my own game plan that was devised by my team and I think it went well.”
Farag will line up against countryman Tarek Momen in the last four after the World No.7 halted the giant-killing run of Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly.
Cuskelly caused one of the shocks of the tournament when he ended World Champion Mohamed ElShorbagy’s 21-match unbeaten run in the previous round, but it was a different story against Momen as he struggled to find the impeccable length he was hitting against the World No.2 in round two, while Momen hit an incredible 23 winners en route to a 3-0 victory.
“I’m very glad to get through tonight in three games because it was the last session and you don’t get enough recovery time from now on,” said Momen, the husband of El Welily.
“I’m very happy with the way I played. Ryan is a very dangerous player. He took out the number two seed and the World Champion, it was an impressive win and I knew I had to have all my horses ready.”
The other men’s semi-final will see French World No.1 Gregory Gaultier and Germany’s Simon Rösner go head-to-head after the previous day’s wins over England’s Nick Matthew and Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller, respectively, while Gaultier’s compatriot, Camille Serme (right), moved into the last four of the women’s event with a 3-1 win over 2014 winner Nicol David.
Serme, who recovered from 2-1 down to beat Australia’s Donna Urquhart in the previous round, had never beaten David in 16 attempts until a momentous victory over the eight-time World Champion during November’s Hong Kong Open.
David had the better of the early stages as the Malaysian opened up a one-game lead, but Serme fought back, edging a tie-break to take the second before winning a further two games without reply to seal a 2-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-5 triumph in 50 minutes that will see her take on El Tayeb for a place in the final.
“Nicol was so strong in the first game, I wasn’t ready,” said Serme. “The match from yesterday was still in my legs and in my head as well. It was such a big fight today, mentally I had to push very far and I’m just happy I came back.”
The other women’s semi-final fixture will see World No.1 Nour El Sherbini and last year’s runner-up Laura Massaro lock horns after wins over World No.8 Sarah-Jane Perry and World No.5 Nouran Gohar.
Both produced impressive performances to triumph in straight games, hopefully meaning there will be plenty of energy in the tank to deliver a high quality semi-final.
Semi-final action begins tomorrow from 17:00 local time (GMT-5) and will be shown live on SQUASHTV (Rest of World), Eurosport Player (Europe only) and mainstream broadcasters around the world, including BT Sport, beIN Sports, Fox Sports Australia and Astro.
2018 Men’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Grand Central Terminal, New York, USA.
Men’s Quarter-Finals (Bottom Half):
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt Ramy Ashour (EGY) 3-1: 11-7, 12-10, 7-11, 11-5 (67m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 (39m)
Men’s Semi-Finals (To Be Played January 24):
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Simon Rösner (GER)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-5 (33m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 11-8 (39m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Nicol David (MAS) 3-1: 2-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-5 (50m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 3-1: 6-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8 (43m)
Women’s Semi-Finals (To Be Played January 24):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Laura Massaro (ENG)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Nour El Tayeb (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA