‘I think I’m playing the best squash of my carer right now’
By ELLIE MAWSON in Chicago
New Zealand’s World No.9 Joelle King will compete in the final of a PSA World Series event for the first time in her 13-year career after she knocked World Champion and three-time tournament winner Raneem El Welily out of the 2018 Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family & EquiTrust Life Insurance Company in a five-game thriller today.
Former World No.4 King suffered a career-threatening injury in 2015 just months after reaching her first ever World Series tournament semi-final, here at the 2014 Windy City Open. But she crowned her steady rise back up through the rankings with a formidable display against El Welily, coming from a game behind to take out the 2015, 2016 and 2017 title-holder 7-11, 11-7, 11-7, 7-11, 12-10.
El Welily – who was targeting her fourth Windy City crown – looked determined in the first game as she hit with fierce accuracy to take the opener. However, King came back strongly to reach the lucrative final – with this year’s event offering a record high prize fund of $250,000 in both the men’s and women’s draws.
“I’m just over the moon that I was able to hold my nerve in the end in what was another brutal battle,” said King following her huge win.
“I definitely think I’m playing the best squash of my whole career right now. I think the injury helped me go away and figure out a few things that were missing in my game and I’ve never really looked back.
“The exciting thing is that I still feel like there is a lot more to come in my game. I think I’m just enjoying my squash which is the main thing and I think it shows and I’m really excited to be in the final.”
The World No.9 will now face World No.3 Nour El Tayeb of Egypt after she defeated England’s Sarah-Jane Perry in another thrilling 3-2 encounter, a massive match lasting 73 minutes.
El Tayeb took the first two games, but Perry battled back to win the third 11-3. Birmingham-born Perry held four game-balls in the fourth, with El Tayeb fighting back each time before the 27-year-old Englishwoman eventually claimed it 16-14 on a tie-break.
The Oracle NetSuite winner looked to have turned things around as she went 4-1 up in the fifth, before, Cairo-born El Tayeb – who came from 2-0 down against both Tesni Evans and Nour El Sherbini in the previous rounds – once again proved her resilient nature to claim an 11-6, 11-9, 3-11, 14-16, 11-7 victory in 73 minutes.
“After I won the first two games, I started to feel nervous,” said El Tayeb. “I was thinking ‘am I going to be in another final? This is huge’ and I let go of thinking about the actual points and the squash.
“In the fourth, I started to play well again so I’m happy I won of course.”
In the men’s event, Egyptian brothers Mohamed and Marwan ElShorbagy will lock horns in the finale in what will be their first meeting since they clashed in the final of the 2017 PSA World Championships in Manchester last December, when it was Mohamed who claimed victory on the day.
The pair saw off the challenge of compatriots Ali Farag and Tarek Momen to earn their spot in the final. “I’m so happy to reach another final in Chicago and if I could get my first ever World Series title here it would mean a lot,” said Marwan after reaching his second successive Windy City Open final.
“To play in another major final with my brother is amazing. We played in the World Championship final and to play against each other again, this time in Chicago, is fantastic.”
This match will be the seventh final of the 2017-18 season for Mohamed – who will return to World No.1 on March 1 – and he will be aiming to collect title number six so far this campaign.
“It’s great to be in another final, it will be my third final in Chicago,” said Mohamed following his win over compatriot Momen.
“I’m very happy to be playing my brother. He beat me here last year, so I will be looking for revenge.
“I’m really happy with the way he has been playing this season and I’m really proud of him. He has been playing really well and playing with consistency and he is showing the whole world what he can do and what he can achieve.
“The way he played today was unbelievable to take Ali 3-0. We learn from each other but tomorrow he is going to go for me and I know he feels that this is his time to take his first World Series event – and it’s up to me to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
PSA $500,000 Windy City Open 2018 presented by the Walter Family & EquiTrust Life Insurance Company, Cathedral Hall, University Club of Chicago, Illinois, USA.
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Ali Farag (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 13-11, 11-7 (48m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-5 (45m)
Men’s Final (February 28):
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-2: 11-6, 11-9, 3-11, 14-16, 11-7 (73m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 3-2: 7-11, 11-7, 11-7, 7-11, 12-10 (60m)
Women’s Final (February 28):
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v  Joelle King (NZL)
Pictures courtesy of PSA