Joel and Joelle cause upsets to reach Cairo semi-finals
By SEAN REUTHE – Squash Mad Correspondent
JOEL MAKIN and Joelle King produced two stunning victories to reach the semi-finals of the CIB PSA World Tour Finals at Cairo’s Mall of Arabia for the first time. Makin beat world No.5 Paul Coll in straight games, while King achieved a similar result to send world No.1 Nouran Gohar out of the tournament.
King’s only win in their last four meetings came at this event back in 2018 at Dubai’s Emirates Golf Club and the best-of-three games format looks to play in her favour against the hard-hitting Gohar.
It was a straight shootout between the two to join Group A winner Nour El Sherbini in the semi-finals. And King, a day after her 32nd birthday, recovered from four game balls down in the opening game to take the lead, before an impressive showing in the second saw her complete the win to book her place in the last four.
“I just tried to think that I was in the middle of a practice match with one of the guys back in Bristol and just relax,” said King.
“I felt like I was playing some good squash in patches but not for long enough. Nouran is such an amazing player and mentally tough, so I knew I had to do something more. I just tried to play each point as it came and I was lucky to scrape the first.
“I was pleased with the mental side and I need to trust the work that I’ve done. I felt like it’s there and I didn’t quite get it out in Manchester, I just wanted to see how well I could play really and I’m pretty happy with that.”
King’s semi-final opponent will be No.5 seed Hania El Hammamy, meaning there will be a guaranteed first-time finalist in the women’s event.
El Hammamy finished top of Group B, a point clear of World No.3 Nour El Tayeb despite a 2-1 defeat to her fellow Egyptian tonight. That win kept El Tayeb’s hopes of semi-final qualification alive and she faced an anxious wait in the hope that US No.1 Amanda Sobhy, who was bottom of Group B, could upset France’s Camille Serme.
“I knew she had less to lose than I did, but I think after the first game and after I lost, I knew there was a big chance that I would be out of the tournament, I think I cared less and that’s when I played better,” El Tayeb said.
“It was hard until the end, even though Hania knew she was in the semis, she gave me a hard time. All credit to her, she has been doing amazing and giving everyone a very tough match and winning matches. I’m pleased I got in the win in the end and I don’t think I have ever wanted Amanda [Sobhy] to win more.”
Sobhy hadn’t beaten Serme in seven encounters, with her last win against the World No.3 coming back in 2014. But the American duly delivered her best performance of the tournament so far to put her first points on the board, meaning Serme misses out on a place in the last four.
In the men’s event, Welshman Joel Makin will appear in the semi-finals here for the first time after upsetting World No.5 Paul Coll to end a five-match losing streak to the Kiwi.
After winning their first ever meeting at the 2016 Australian Open, Makin has found it difficult to live with Coll but played some immaculate squash to complete an 11-3, 11-5 victory in 34 minutes.
“The difference was tonight that I made sure I hit my spots,” said Makin, who rose to a career-best World No.9 ranking today.
“I just got the length through to the back of the court and I knew what I needed to do tactically. I knew I had to switch and get it past him and I did that exactly how I wanted to. My quality going short was much better and that’s more of the squash I want to play.”
He will take on Group A winner Karim Abdel Gawad in tomorrow’s semi-finals after the former World No.1 got the better of Germany’s Simon Rösner by a 2-0 margin.
Gawad finished level on eight points with World No.2 Ali Farag at the summit of Group A, but finished top as a result of his superior head-to-head record over the top seed at this event having beaten him in the previous group match.
“It feels great reaching a semi-final here, especially after a slow start against Diego [Elias in match one],” said Gawad.
“I’m trying to enjoy the tournament as much as I can and I have a very good record here in Cairo, but that doesn’t mean I’ll win all the tournaments. I just try to enjoy the crowd and I like to play on this court, especially in Cairo, so I’m just trying to enjoy the tournament and not worry about anything else.”
The other men’s match took place in Group B, with Tarek Momen getting the better of group winner Marwan ElShorbagy 2-0 to leapfrog Coll into third place.
The semi-finals of the CIB PSA World Tour Finals take place tomorrow and play begins at 18:30 (GMT+2). All four fixtures from the Mall of Arabia will be broadcast on SQUASHTV, ON Sport (Egypt), and multiple mainstream broadcast channels around the world.
CIB PSA World Tour Finals, Mall of Arabia, Cairo, Day Four.
Men’s Group A:
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt  Simon Rösner (GER) 2-0: 13-11, 11-8 (41m)
Men’s Group B:
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 2-0: 11-8, 11-3 (14m)
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt  Paul Coll (NZL) 2-0: 11-3, 11-5 (34m)
Women’s Group A:
 Joelle King (NZL) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 2-0: 12-10, 11-7 (28m)
Women’s Group B:
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 2-1: 8-11, 11-3, 11-7 (40m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 2-0: 11-9, 11-5 (25m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v  Joel Makin (WAL)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Nour El Tayeb (EGY)
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) v  Joelle King (NZL)
Pictures and graphics courtesy of PSA