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Laura Massaro survives Chicago semi-final scare

Lee Hortonhttps://squashmad.com
Former Sun, Mirror, People and Sunday Express sports executive. Knows a bit about newspapers and the art of talking a good game. Brighter than some but a way to go to match others.

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French ace Serme takes top seed to brink but it’s Massaro and El Weleily in Windy City Open final

Massaro and Serme

LAURA MASSARO battled through her longest match for more than six years to overcome French number one Camille Serme in a gripping Women’s METROsquash Windy City Open semi-final in Chicago, USA.

Serme, the world number six, caused a huge shock by ousting world number four Alison Waters in Saturday’s quarter-finals but despite overturning an early deficit to lead 2-1, Massaro stormed back to triumph 11-9, 12-14, 9-11, 11-6, 11-6 in 90 minutes – her longest match since the women’s game went point-a-rally (PAR) in 2008.

The world number two will now face second seed Raneem El Weleily in Monday’s climax after the world number three from Egypt despatched New Zealander Joelle King in straight games – in the earlier last four clash which took one third of the time.

“I was really pleased to come through the match,” said an exhausted Massaro in her post-match interview. “Camille’s playing really well and physically she always makes it hard.

“It was particularly tough given my win over Annie yesterday. I had been mentally preparing for that match and then when I won I remembered I actually have to re-group and focus on the semi-final now.

“I found that quite hard to do. It’s also the reason I am proud of my performance and glad I was able to bounce back well and play a good semi-final,” added Massaro, now in the 28th Tour final of her career and her second of the year

Serme, the number seven seed, saved two game balls in the opening game before Massaro finally capitalised at the third time of asking to take an early lead.

Roles were reversed in a tense second game, however, as the higher-ranked English player was forced to rescue five game balls, before Serme finally levelled the scores in a gruelling tie-break. 

With the scores locked at one-apiece and eight-all in the third, underdog Serme – ranked four places behind Massaro – reeled off the next three points to move within one game of her first WSA Tour final since November. 

Massaro, who has not won the WSA Tour since prevailing at the British Open in May last year, returned reinvigorated in the fourth and regained the upper hand to force a fifth game decider.

Massaro continued in the ascendancy during the early stages of the fifth and exploited Serme’s tiredness to race into a 5-1 lead. The England number one remained in control thereafter to clinch victory and advance into his second Tour final this year. 

By contrast, El Weleily reached the 18th Tour final of her career – and her first of the year – in just 30 minutes, defeating fourth seed King 12-10, 11-8, 11-7.

The Cairo-based 25-year-old went into the match boasting a 5-0 career head-to-head record over the Kiwi and despite facing a game ball in the opening game, El Weleily capitalised on a tinned drop before taking the opening game tie-break. 

Thereafter, El Weleily dominated proceedings and although King stayed within touching distance, the Egyptian was barely troubled as she raced through the next two games to seal victory in just 30 minutes.

The final will mark Massaro and El Welily’s 17th Tour meeting. Massaro boasts a 10-6 lead, but it was the Egyptian who was victorious in their most recent clash, in a 78-minute Malaysian Open semi-final last September.

Semi-final Results:

[1] Laura Massaro (ENG) 3-2 [7] Camille Serme (FRA) 11-9, 12-14, 9-11, 11-6, 11-6 (90m)
[2] Raneem El Welily (EGY) 3-0 [4] Joelle King (NZL) 12-10, 11-8, 11-7 (30m)

Picture by Marian Kraus Photography

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