Saturday, May 25, 2024

Joelle King halts home hope Sabrina Sobhy in U.S. Open after massive 19-17 opening game

‘She knows things about me that I didn’t know I do on court’ – Kiwi King talks about working with Laura Massaro

New Zealand’s King advanced to the semi-finals of the U.S. Open as she ended home hopes by beating USA’s last remaining player in the draw, Sabrina Sobhy.

King triumphed in three close games at the Arlen Specter Center in Philadelphia with the first an incredible contest that the tall Kiwi managed to snatch 19-17, before going on to win the next two 11-9, 11-8 to complete victory in 51 minutes.

In the semi-finals of this PSA Platinum event she will meet world champion Nour El Sherbini, who appeared to shake off any injury fears to beat fellow Egyptian Salma Hany 11-7, 11-5, 11-5 in just 27 minutes.

King was first to advance as she played intelligent, solid squash to edge past Sobhy, who had stunned world No.2 Hania El Hammamy in the last 16.

The New Zealander’s crisp length hitting was established early in the match and she managed to keep in front of Sobhy for large portions of the game. Sobhy was doing a great job of picking off the heavy attacks from King and the score seesawed before the American earned the first game ball. King’s determination was intense and she impressively saved five game balls in the tiebreak to sneak the game 19-17.

The pressure from King continued to come in the back corners in the second game and she was now starting to step forward on the volley and take the ball short.

Sobhy battled again and again and kept fighting her way back on the scoreboard. King managed to hold her off to take a crucial 2-0 lead, winning 11-9. With the noise from home crowd diminishing, King took the third game 11-8 to move into her first U.S. Open semi-final since 2017.

King said: “Sabrina is an incredible player. I’ve always known she’s had it in her with what she has produced this week, and I’m just extremely proud that I hung on top in that first game and I think that was probably the difference today.

“When I was her age, and I had a big win at a tournament, I know all those feelings that you have. So I tried to come out mentally strong today. To be honest, I tried to make it a bit of a mental game and tried a few tactics, but I think when you have a big win in a tournament, there’s excitement and you’ve taken out the No.2 seed. I was aware of all her dangers, but I tried to stay mentally tough.”

King revealed that England’s former world champion Laura Massaro has been a massive influence on her career, saying: “Laura is amazing. The day she announced her retirement, I pounced on her and said ‘I want us to work together’.

“And it’s kind of funny, like Mohamed (ElShorbagy) and Greg (Gaultier), we’ve battled against each other for a long time and now she’s in my corner, which is really helpful because I think these players study you. So she knows me so well. She knows things about me that I didn’t even know I do on the court, you know?

“She always finishes with something quite inspirational. And at 34 I need inspiration. I’ve been on the tour for a long time. Sometimes you can get a bit stale. But I’m loving playing and enjoying competing against the new players.

“When I was her (Sabrina’s) age, and I had had a big win at a tournament, I know all those feelings that you have. So I tried to come out mentally strong today.

“To be honest, I tried to make it a bit of a mental game and a few tactics but I think when you have a big win in a tournament, there’s of course excitement and you’ve taken out the number two seed etc. And so yeah, I was aware of all her dangers, but I tried to stay mentally tough.”

Regarding the forthcoming New Zealand Open and Nations Cup event, she added: “I’m so excited that all the players are coming to New Zealand and we’re going to be on home turf.

“Obviously it’s quite brutal in Egypt you know, even if you had a good shot, they [the crowd] don’t really give you much. We’re playing well and stuff like that. But then once you’re on there, all you’re focused on is that white ball.”

Nour El Sherbini powers past Salma Hany to reach the semi-finals

Six-time world champion Nour El Sherbini looked to be in some discomfort in her round three match against Tesni Evans just two days ago but showed no signs of that ankle injury as she confidently moved into the last eight by beating compatriot Salma Hany in the final match of the night’s action.

Hany’s game plan saw her look to test the movement of El Sherbini early on, but the ‘Warrior Princess’ was equal to the test. Her line and length game was superb and she hit her targets at the front of the court to claim an eighth successive win over World No.13 Hany.

El Sherbini will lock horns with New Zealand’s No.5 seed King as she looks to reach a fourth U.S. Open final.

Regarding her ankle, El Sherbini said: “It’s not bad, it’s not good, but it’s manageable.

“We’re playing very late. I don’t know why we’re playing the last match, I’ve had to warm up three times. I wanted to make it as short as possible and play my game. The court is very dead and it’s difficult to play long rallies, which is good for me.”

In August, El Sherbini announced that former men’s world No.1 and world champion Gregory Gaultier was joining her coaching team and opened up about the support she has received from him.

El Sherbini added: “He’s very passionate about squash and he’s always using his hands (to gesticulate). I’m a relaxed character, so we meet in the middle, but I think it’s good for me to be active and get hyped more.

“It’s a pleasure working with him – he’s been at the top and I’ve learned a lot from him. Having him on my team has given me a huge advantage and I hope we have a good team until the end of the season.”

The semi-finals of the U.S. Open take place today (October 14). All of the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV from 18:00 local time (GMT-4) as well as on the channels of PSA’s broadcast partners.

Men’s quarter-finals – The Beast is back to his best to beat world number one Paul Coll: report

PSA Platinum 2022 U.S. Open, presented by Truist, Arlen Specter National Center, Philadelphia, USA.

Men’s Quarter-Finals (Bottom Half):
[4] Diego Elias (PER) bt [7] Joel Makin (WAL) 3-0: 11-9, 11-6, 11-6 (52m)
[5] Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) bt [2] Paul Coll (NZL) 3-2: 5-11, 11-7, 11-8, 3-11, 11-7 (90m)

Women’s Quarter-Finals (Bottom Half):
[5] Joelle King (NZL) bt Sabrina Sobhy (USA) 3-0: 19-17, 11-9,
[2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [8] Salma Hany (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 11-5, 11-5 (27m)

Men’s Semi-Finals (October 14):
[1] Ali Farag (EGY) v Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
[4] Diego Elias (PER) v [5] Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG)

Women’s Semi-Finals (October 14):
[1] Nouran Gohar (EGY) v Nour El Tayeb (EGY)
[5] Joelle King (NZL) v [2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY)

Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour 


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