Friday, March 1, 2024

Laura Massaro reaches World semi-finals

Laura Massaro on the attack against Omneya Abdel Kawy
Laura Massaro on the attack against Omneya Abdel Kawy

Nicol David in tears as the Egyptian steamroller hits town
By ALEX WAN – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor


England’s Laura Massaro powered past Omneya Abdel Kawy to reach the semi-finals of the Naza PSA Women’s World Championship. Not only is she carrying a nation’s hopes on her shoulders, she is the only non-Egyptian left in the tournament after victories for Raneem El Welily, Nour El Sherbini and Nouran Gohar.

The marauding Egyptian group has been like a steamroller, flattening most of the opposition here at the National Squash Centre at Bukit Jalil.

Nicol David, the eight-times world champion playing on the court named after her here on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, was left in tears at court-side after losing to the 20-year-old El Sherbini. El Welily was too strong for American No.1 Amanda Sobhy, while the 18-year-old Gohar produced a performance of outstanding quality to overcome Camille Serme, the French number one.

El Sherbini’s victory over David ended the hopes of a home victory for the spectators who flocked to the Nicol David Arena.

David started brightly, playing positive squash, and she stormed into a 10-7 lead in the opening game. Despite letting El Sherbini back in to triumph on the tie-break, she battled to victory in the second game to level proceedings.

But El Sherbini displayed her full range of attacking artistry in the next two games as she hit some sensational crosscourt nicks to break Malaysian hearts, claiming a 14-12, 4-11, 11-3, 11-7 victory to send her through to the semi-final and extend her winning streak over the eight-time World Champion to five matches.

A look of panic crosses Nicol David’s face as Nour El Sherbini lines up backhand volley
A look of panic crosses Nicol David’s face as Nour El Sherbini lines up a backhand volley

“This is the fifth time I’ve played Nicol this season and I think that this was the best match we have played against each other,” said El Sherbini.

“I always think match by match and I try not to look forward, I just want to focus on the next match. Of course, I definitely want to win the tournament and everyone wants this, but I’m just going step by step.

“We Egyptians are in good form this season and we’re all getting good results, Raneem [El Welily], Nouran [Gohar], Omneya [Abdel Kawy], all of us. This is the only title we have never won in Egypt so hopefully it’s going to be an Egyptian winner.”

Up next for El Sherbini is an exciting fixture with 18-year-old World Junior Champion Gohar in a repeat of last month’s Allam British Open final in which El Sherbini triumphed.

Gohar came out on top against World No.4 Serme in a thrilling five-game spectacle and took a two-game lead, only to see it crumble as a resilient Serme fought back.

After going 7-4 down in the fifth, Gohar looked as if she was heading out of the tournament but she gave it one last push to secure an 11-7, 12-10, 7-11, 5-11, 11-8 victory in a brutal 75-minute clash, which has sent her through to her maiden World Championship semi-final.

“I can’t believe I won the match,” said Gohar. “When I was 2-0 up I was playing very well, but she came back very strongly. She was playing like she wasn’t tired, like we had just started the match.

“I thought she was in total control in the last game, but my parents and coaches gave me an extra boost to push. I’m really glad I didn’t give up, pushed for the win and I’m really happy to win.”

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World No.1 Massaro is the only non-Egyptian left in the tournament after she beat Abdel Kawy to progress.

Massaro cantered to the opening game and, a second game defeat aside, looked in strong form as she swatted aside her opponent courtesy of an 11-3, 10-12, 11-8, 11-7 scoreline to set up a semi-final showdown with El Welily after the World No.3 saw off Sobhy.

“Omneya is a quality opponent so I knew to expect a good level of her today,” said Massaro.

“I felt like it was a high pace, we were both trying to get in front of the other one and keep it off each other’s volley. I think both of our strengths are on the volley so I was trying to keep her away from the middle, particularly on that backhand volley drop where she likes to be so much. It was tough on there but I’m glad I managed to sneak it in four in the end.” 

PSA W185 Naza Women’s World Championship, Bukit Jalil, Malaysia.

[1] Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [6] Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) 3-1: 11-3, 10-12, 11-8, 11-7 (46m)
[3] Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt [7] Amanda Sobhy (USA) 3-1: 11-5, 5-11, 12-10, 11-7 (42m)
[8] Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt [4] Camille Serme (FRA) 3-2: 11-7, 12-10, 7-11, 5-11, 11-8 (75m)
[5] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [2] Nicol David (MAS) 3-1: 14-12, 4-11, 11-3, 11-7 (47m)

Semi-Finals: (To be played April 29th)
[1] Laura Massaro (ENG) v [3] Raneem El Welily (EGY)
[8] Nouran Gohar (EGY) v [5] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 

Pictures by Vincent Thian/Decisive Moment Images


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