Battling Brits in US Open semi-finals
By ELLIE MAWSON
After 2016 champion Camille Serme and eight-time World Champion Nicol David crashed out of the 2017 U.S. Open Presented by Macquarie Investment Management in the second round, the shocks continued to flow inside Philadelphia’s Drexel University as World No.1 Nour El Sherbini saw her title hopes dashed by compatriot Nour El Tayeb at the quarter-final stage.
The 24-year-old El Tayeb reached the final of the PSA World Series tournament in 2015 only for injury to strike and rule her out for over six months but she proved that she is back to her very best form as she put in an astute and polished performance that saw her outmanoeuvre El Sherbini to come through 13-11, 5-11, 11-5, 11-7.
The pair have a long standing rivalry, having played each other eight times on the PSA World Tour – with El Sherbini claiming the last victory at the 2016 Al Ahram Squash Open.
El Sherbini looked to be the front runner in the latest battle as she raced into a 6-2 lead before making a handful of crucial errors to allow 24-year-old El Tayeb into the contest as she fought back after El Sherbini squandered two game balls to win 13-11 in the first.
World No.1 El Sherbini responded in typical style as she went up through the gears to take the next game 11-5. However, it was not long before the momentum swung back in El Tayeb’s favour as the elder Egyptian took a 2-1 lead and left El Sherbini.
The World No.14 – who had overcome fellow Egyptians Kanzy Emad El Defrawy and Salma Hany Ibrahim in the previous rounds – continued to crank up the pressure on her compatriot to seal the fourth 11-7 and pull of a massive win to knock out last year’s runner-up.
“Nour has been the in-form player over the past 18 months so this is definitely one of the best wins of my career,” said El Tayeb.
“I’m very happy to be through to the semi-finals. I reached the final here two years ago but got injured and I’ll never forget that event. It took a year to come back from that injury and another year to recover that physical and mental strength to compete.
“So to win today gives me a lot of confidence and belief that I can play at this level and hopefully I can keep it up for two more matches.”
El Tayeb will go up against England’s Laura Massaro for a place in the final after the 2016 tournament champion came through in four games against Hong Kong’s Annie Au.
Au had overcome eight-time World Champion Nicol David in the previous round in the biggest win of her career and there looked like there could have been another giant killing on the cards. Au started confidently, pushing Massaro into the back-left corner to frustrate the Englishwoman and take the first game 11-9.
Massaro, who saw off compatriots Millie Tomlinson and Emily Whitlock in the previous rounds, soon regrouped to come back firing on all cylinders as she took the second 11-6 before also closing out the third 11-8 to take the lead.
The fourth saw Massaro maintain her resilient attitude to win 11-7 and continue her quest for a third U.S. Open title.
“I think it was just about keeping my intensity up,” said Massaro. “Annie is probably the most accurate player on Tour. If you put the ball in the middle of the court on the racket – it’s dead and it’s really frustrating to play against because you literally put one shot in a bad place and it’s the end of the rally.
“Then you can get really down on yourself and hit a bit of an emotional wall. And then she’s even worse, so it’s about keeping my body language up and keeping my momentum up and keeping my game plan.
“I feel like when I play Annie I just have to run and I feel like I don’t get to play my game. I just have to do what I do best, which is to fight and scrap and try and get the ball back on the front wall one more time and that’s credit to Annie and the level of squash that she is playing right now.
“At this level, you are talking top ten in the world, you can’t play and expect to win in one half of the court so I just needed to be more positive and play the whole court and that’s when I’m at my best so I think I got it right for the majority of the match tonight.”
Massaro’s compatriot Nick Matthew, the 2007 U.S. Open champion, prevailed in an all-English battle with Daryl Selby.
The 37-year-old Matthew, appearing in his last ever U.S. Open, showed the kind of mental grit and resilience that has epitomised his career as he grinded his way through a bruising 26-minute 15-13 opening game to sap energy from Selby and break the World No.16’s spirit, setting up the platform for a 3-0 win that takes him into the semi-finals without dropping a game.
“Tonight that first game was crucial,” said Matthew. “I knew that it was a hard first game and that the work was in his legs so I tried to push on in the second. Psychologically I’m happy with how I finished it off in three, especially after winning the first.
“And I’m pleased to be back in the semi-finals again. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve reached the semi-finals of an event without dropping a game so there’s no excuses for me not to be fresh and ready for the semi-finals.
“I’ll be ready to take my opponent on physically and I look forward to the battle to come on Friday.”
Matthew will face Mohamed ElShorbagy, the man he lost to in last year’s final, in the last four after the Egyptian downed Simon Rösner of Germany 3-0.
Speaking after the match ElShorbagy said: “In the second game I was down 8-6 and I needed to give it a big push to try and be 2-0 up.
“There is a huge difference between 1-1 and being 2-0 up, so I’m really happy to be able to get the win in three.
“I thought we played a really high-quality match in the first two games and I’m really happy to get through.”
US Open Presented by Macquarie Investment Management 2017, Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA.
Men’s Quarter-finals (Top Half):
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Simon Rösner (GER) 3-0: 12-10, 12-10, 11-5 (45m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Daryl Selby (ENG) 3-0: 15-13, 11-2, 11-8 (50m)
Quarter-finals (Bottom half):
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Fares Dessouky (EGY)
Diego Elias (PER) v Omar Mosaad (EGY)
Women’s Quarter-finals (Top Half):
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-1: 13-11, 5-11, 11-5, 11-7 (47m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Annie Au (HKG) 3-1: 9-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-7 (38m)
Quarter-finals (Bottom half):
 Joelle King (NZL) v  Alison Waters (ENG)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA