Monday, February 26, 2024

Marwan ElShorbagy battles past Declan James to reach Nantes semi-finals

16-year-old Egyptian Fayrouz Aboelkheir continues her dream run
By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)

Top seed Marwan ElShorbagy made a winning debut on the glass court at Hangar 24 in Nantes as he beat England’s Declan James to reach the semi-finals of the French Open.

World No.9 ElShorbagy had to dig deep to overcome 2018 Open International de Nantes de Squash champion James 11-8, 11-9 in a tight two-game battle.

The Egyptian won in five when the pair met in last week’s QTerminals Qatar Classic. This contest in Nantes was a high-quality affair, with both players finding their lengths and hitting some incredible winners.

ElShorbagy, who won his second round tie on a club court at Maison du Squash, squeezed home and said: “I played Dec last week in Qatar and it was very close, I’m really happy to get through.

“I think he’s back playing at his best, which is good to see. He’s had a few seasons where it’s not gone well so I’m happy to see him back. I really enjoy watching him play.

“Playing in a venue like this and with a crowd like this, it’s just amazing. I’ve been playing PSA for the past 10 years and I’ve never played in a venue like this.

“It’s my first time here and I just have to thank all the sponsors and people who got this event on and I’ll be back for sure.”

Saurav Ghosal rushes forward to the ball against Iker Pajares

ElShorbagy will face Indian No.1 Saurav Ghosal in the semi-finals on Friday night after the tournament’s No.3 seed overcame Spaniard Iker Pajares Bernabeu after an incredible second game.

Ghosal powered through the first 11-4 before a 25-minute second game saw 30 points played. Ghosal saved several game balls before going on to win it 16-14 to advance to the last four.

Ghosal said: “I think I got a good start today, I was quite solid but In the second game credit to Iker. He put me under pressure and I made some wrong shot choices and that makes you think twice because of the balls he gets back. I just wanted to focus on each point and play each point to the best of my ability.

“I’ve been working a lot with David Palmer. I’ve been trying to use my speed to attack, but you still need structure at the back and to pick your moments.

“I think I improved today from yesterday and that’s the aim, to try to improve every day I step on court.”

Fayrouz Aboelkheir at full stretch on her way to the semi-finals

Egypt’s 16-year-old Fayrouz Aboelkheir continued her dream run as she made it into her first PSA World Tour semi-final thanks to an 8-11, 12-10, 11-5 victory over compatriot Nour Aboulmakarim.

Aboulmakarim won a fast opening game 11-8 in just eight minutes, showcasing her incredible finishing abilities.

She pulled ahead from the middle of the second game and set herself up with three match balls. Back came Aboelkheir, who turned her aggressive play up a notch and, thanks to some errors from Aboulmakarim, won the tiebreak to draw level.

Aboelkheir managed to keep her focus in the crucial third game as her opponent’s  concentration faded. The 16-year-old stayed in front to move into the biggest semi-final of her career to date.

What a win for 16-year old Fayrouz Aboelkheir

“In the second game when she was 10-7 up I just said to myself that I had nothing to lose,” Aboelkheir said.

“I tried to organise the way I was playing at the front and all credit to Nour, we’ve been training together back in Egypt and I knew it would not be easy. Thanks to the crowd and my team back in Egypt.”

In Friday’s semi-finals Aboelkheir will face World No.11 Tinne Gilis, the women’s No.2 seed, after the Belgian overcame Canada’s Nicole Bunyan 11-6, 11-7 in 19 minutes.

Gilis dominated large parts of each game and said: “Every match is different. Nicole has been playing well lately so I had to start well. She took every opportunity I gave her so I’m glad I found a way to win.

Tinne Gilis volleys against Nicole Bunyan

“I wouldn’t say I’m completely comfortable on this court yet but hopefully I will as the week goes on. But I love Nantes and the crowd are amazing.

“I would love to be in the top 10. I’m going to take it step by step but the season is long so I’m going to work hard for it and hopefully I can achieve it this season.”

The quarter finals continue at Hangar 24 today (Thursday, September 15), with British interest in the bottom half of both draws. England’s George Parker meets home hero Auguste Dussourd and Wales’ Tesni Evans will be taking on Nardine Garas  (Egypt).

France’s rising star Victor Crouin meets the dangerous Leonel Cardenas from Mexico and women’s top seed Nele Gilis tackles Egypt’s Salma Eltayeb. Action starts at 19:30 local time (GMT+2), with all four matches streamed live on SQUASHTV.

Open de France de Squash, Hangar 24, Nantes, France.

Men’s Quarter Finals (Top Half):
[1] Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Declan James (ENG) 2-0: 11-8, 11-9 (41m)
[3] Saurav Ghosal (IND) bt [6] Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) 2-0: 11-4, 16-14 (42m)

Men’s Quarter Finals (Bottom Half, Thursday, September 15):
[4] Victor Crouin (FRA) v Leonel Cardenas (MEX)
[8] George Parker (ENG) v Auguste Dussourd (FRA)

Men’s Semi-Final (Top Half, Friday, September 16):
[1] Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v [3] Saurav Ghosal (IND)

Women’s Quarter Finals (Top Half):
[2] Tinne Gilis (BEL) bt [7] Nicole Bunyan (CAN) 2-0: 11-6, 11-7 (19m)
Fayrouz Aboelkheir (EGY) bt Nour Aboulmakarim (EGY) 2-1: 8-11, 12-10, 11-5 (33m)

Women’s Quarter Finals (Bottom Half, Thursday, September 15):
[3] Tesni Evans (WAL) v Nardine Garas (EGY)
Salma Eltayeb (EGY) v [1] Nele Gilis (BEL)

Women’s Semi-Final (Top Half, Friday, September 16):
[2] Tinne Gilis (BEL) v Fayrouz Aboelkheir (EGY)

Pictures courtesy of Lauranne Rochais, Nathalie Goossens, and PSA World Tour


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