Reigning champion Perry punishes King to clinch first win over Kiwi rival
By NATHAN CLARKE in San Francisco
English duo Laura Massaro and Sarah-Jane Perry reached the semi-finals of the 2018 Oracle NetSuite Open with stunning victories over Nicol David and Joelle King on a day when the seeds suffered in San Francisco. Annie Au toppled No.3 seed Camille Serme to set up a semi-final showdown with Perry, who gained her first-ever victory over No.2 seed King.
A display of impressive resolve and patience saw Hong Kong’s Au, the World No.11, twice come from behind to score a surprise defeat of World No.5 Serme of France.
The diminutive 29-year-old Au, a Gold Medal winner at the Asian Games this summer, hadn’t beaten Serme since 2011 but continued to display the type of relaxed and composed squash that has propelled her to victories over the likes of World No.1 Nour ElSherbini during the past month as she countered Serme’s physicality with intelligent attacking play and pace variation.
After coming from behind in the fourth game to force the match into a decider, Au profited mid-way through the fifth when the pressure and expectation of winning looked to play on Serme’s mind, leading to a series of error’s from the racket of the Frenchwoman that gifted Au the advantage.
“I’m feeling really happy – its been long time since I beat her,” said Au. “She’s been playing very well over the last few years so I’m very happy with my performance today.
“We had the Asian Games this summer, which is a very important event for Hong Kong, and I think that has helped me start the season in good form. I knew today I had to patient and that there would be a lot of long rallies. But I tried to relax and just go for my shots when there was an opening.
“There was no pressure on me and I could see she was tense so I tried to make the most of it. I’m very excited now to have the chance to play on the glass court here. It’s an amazing location so I’m looking forward to it.”
Au will go up against 2017 tournament champion Sarah-Jane Perry in the semi-finals – in a match that will be played in an all-glass court set up in the shadow of the San Francisco Ferry Building – after the Englishwoman came from a game down to overthrow second seeded Joelle King and keep the defence of her title – the biggest of her career to date – alive.
New Zealand’s World No.4 King was on fire during the opener, leaving Perry searching for a way to counter the momentum, and looked to be en route to doubling her lead before Perry mounted a huge comeback late in the second game, saving multiple game balls to overturn the momentum to level the scores.
As the third game progressed King’s movement began to falter and Perry made the most of the opportunity to power through and complete a 3-1 win.
“I was being very predictable in the first game,” said Perry. “I’ve never beaten her before but I tried to put that out of my mind before the match. I really enjoy playing here in San Francisco. I’ve done amazingly well here and the title last year was the biggest of my career.
“I haven’t looked past this match in the draw, it was a huge match against Joelle. I’d love to do really well again but it’s one match at a time for now and I’m excited for another semi-final.”
The second semi-final will see current World Champion Raneem El Welily, who dispatched England’s Alison Waters in straight games, take on 2013 World Champion Laura Massaro after the World No.7 prevailed in a highly competitive four-game match with eight-time World Champion Nicol David in what was the duo’s 33rd meeting on the PSA World Tour.
Malaysian David enjoyed a comprehensive 3-0 victory when the pair last met at the China Open earlier this month but Massaro gained revenge courtesy of a feisty display that saw her go from one game down to see out a 9-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-7 win.
“The second game in particular was huge today,” said Massaro. “The first three games were all very tight and could have gone either way because the rallies were long and hard and well contested.
“She played so well in China – especially in comparison to how she played last season – and I underestimated her in that match I think. Today I was fully prepared for the physicality she would bring to the match and I’m really pleased with how I stayed focused and came through it.”
Top seed Mohamed ElShorbagy gains revenge over Miguel Rodriguez
In the men’s draw, defending champion and World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy (right) produced a masterclass to beat World No.6 Miguel Angel Rodriguez of Colombia, the man he lost to in the final of the British Open in May, and underline his position as the man to beat this week.
ElShorbagy began his defence with a comfortable defeat of Frenchman Gregoire Marche yesterday and he continued to go from strength-to-strength against the dynamic and dangerous Rodriguez, playing with guile, patience and deadly attacking intent when necessary to come away with an 11-7, 11-7, 11-8 victory.
“Miguel obviously beat me in the final of British Open and completely deserved it,” said ElShorbagy. “I know just how hard he works and his success as recovering from a drop in form to get back to number six in the world shows his strength of character.
“As much as I was disappointed to lose the British, it was great for the sport to have a South American win the event, but today I was happy that it was me who won our first battle of the season
“Every time you go on court the conditions are different. I’ve got the experience to know that and I’m really happy to be back on court and playing here in San Francisco and I’m looking forward to the semi-finals now.”
ElShorbagy will go up against compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad in the last four after he prevailed in a difficult encounter with World No.4 Tarek Momen.
Gawad, the 2016 World Champion, had no answer to Momen’s attacking weapons in the first game but he switched the match on its head in the second before storming home an 7-11, 11-6, 11-6, 13-11 winner.
2018 Oracle NetSuite Open, San Francisco, USA.
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 3-0: 11-3, 11-6, 12-10 (30m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Nicol David (MAS) 3-1: 9-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-7 (49m)
 Annie Au (HKG) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 3-2: 5-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-7, 11-6 (55m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 3-1: 7-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-6 (42m)
Draw – Women’s Semi Finals
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v  Laura Massaro (ENG)
 Annie Au (HKG) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
Men’s Quarter Finals:
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-8 (45m)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-1: 7-11, 11-6, 11-6, 13-11 (74m)
 Simon Rösner (GER) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) – To be played September 30
 Diego Elias (PER) v  Ali Farag (EGY) – To be played September 30
Draw – Men’s Semi-Finals:
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
Rosner or Gaultier v Farag or Elias
Pictures courtesy of PSA