Home hopes end as Sarah-Jane Perry falls to reigning champion Nouran Gohar
By ELLIE MAWSON – Squash Mad Correspondent
Colombia’s World No.11 Miguel Rodriguez axed Egypt’s World No.5 Marwan ElShorbagy in a brutal five-game battle to reach the semi-finals of the Allam British Open, PSA World Tour Platinum event taking place at Hull’s Allam Sport Centre.
Rodriguez famously clinched the 2018 title when he defeated Marwan’s older brother Mohamed in the final. And the 35-year-old continued to make special memories in Hull as he fought off the No.4 seed to reach the last four.
ElShorbagy came from game ball down to take the lead in a tightly contested first game, before Rodriguez came to the fore with some of the best squash he has played for some time to draw level.
The momentum swung once again in the favour of the Egyptian as he regained control of the match to take a 2-1 lead, before a conduct stroke against ElShorbagy in the fourth caused him to lose his focus as Rodriguez got back on level terms once again.
A 7-5 lead for ElShorbagy in the fifth didn’t sustain as Rodriguez showed exactly why the British Open is his favourite tournament as he converted on his fourth match ball attempt to close out victory in 87 minutes.
“This tournament really motivates me and I’m over the moon,” said Rodriguez. “This is a special court for me and I gave everything again, I had a tough battle two days ago and thank god I had a day off yesterday.
“For me this tournament is special and the equation is happening again, so I’m just going to enjoy the day.”
Rodriguez will face reigning World Champion Ali Farag in the next round after he was put through his paces in a fraught five-game match against compatriot Mostafa Asal before winning 9-11, 11-0, 7-11, 12-10, 11-8 in 79 minutes of drama.
Farag was forced to come from behind twice against the young Egyptian and despite a number of interventions from referee John Massarella directed at Asal, the World No.2 was able to hold his composure and get the job done in five.
World Tour Finals winner Asal came out of the blocks early as Farag once again suffered from a slow start as he did in the previous round against Mohamed Abouelghar.
Asal went 8-3 up and despite a fightback from Farag was able to close out 11-9. The World No.2 did not take kindly to going a game down and put in an imperious display in the second to take it quickly without dropping a single point.
Asal regrouped for the third with decisions beginning to interrupt the flow of the match as referee Massarella gave a stern talking to the young Egyptian and warned him that he would not tolerate his movement, but that did not stop him from regaining the lead.
Farag won a tight fourth game on a tiebreak and finally clinched victory in the fifth, winning 9-11, 11-0, 7-11, 12-10, 11-8 in 79 minutes.
“Mostafa is a top player, a very good squash player, very explosive and has a variety of shots that he can kill you with, just sometimes it doesn’t turn very pretty,” commented Farag after the match.
“I was not proud of myself with how I let it get in my head in the third and if I let more emotion out then I would lose it. That’s why I was trying to stay calm for the whole match. Even now I have so much emotion inside, probably in the room I will be shouting at myself.”
The other men’s semi-final will see Egypt’s Mohamed ElShorbagy and New Zealand’s Paul Coll go head-to-head for a place in the final.
World No.1 ElShorbagy is aiming for his fourth title at the British Open and to keep hold of his No.1 spot and the 30-year-old was pushed all the way in an 11-4, 7-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-7 victory over Bristol-based training partner Youssef Soliman, despite a resilient effort from the 24-year-old.
“I told him after the match this is the first step for him, his first quarter, his first-ever British Open to play in,” said the defending champion. “What a remarkable achievement for him. Today he left it all out there, it was definitely a 50-50 at the end and a little bit of experience here and there got me through.
“[Paul’s] physically very strong. He’s one of the best strikers of the ball in the game. I don’t think he gets a lot of credit for how good he is as a ball striker. He actually hits the ball really, really well.”
Coll claimed a comprehensive 3-0 victory over his close friend, Peru’s Diego Elias, to advance and will be targeting his first British Open final.
“It was very clean and free-flowing squash which is always physically tougher than it looks,” said the World No.4. “We’re great friends off court. It’s hard to put that aside but I think it was a very clean match.
“I know exactly what he’s got in his weaponry, he’s got every shot in the book. His holes just slowly eat away at you and I didn’t really want to go further than three. I was a lot happier with my movement, my shots to the front were a lot quicker. A good improvement on yesterday, I was very happy with it.”
In the women’s draw, defending champion Nouran Gohar battled past English No.1 Sarah-Jane Perry.
The Egyptian was dominant in the opening two games to take a comfortable lead, before World No.6 Perry, who reached the final back in 2017, saved three match balls before converting her own game ball in the third as she looked to mount a comeback against the Egyptian.
Opportunities to draw level in the fourth went begging for Perry as she squandered two game balls and Gohar finished strongly to was able to take the win in four games.
“I knew even if I was 2-0 up and won the second game 11-2 that wasn’t a reason to win the whole match,” said Gohar. “I was pretty happy with the way I dealt with the fourth game even though for the whole game I was down. I went for my shots and maybe she plays good shots, but I can as well. I’m happy with the mental side of it more than anything else.”
Gohar will face compatriot Hania El Hammamy in the semi-finals after she came from 2-1 down against New Zealand’s World No.8 Joelle King to advance and reach the last four at the event for the first time in her career.
“It’s definitely a relief, I lost before to Joelle in three,” said El Hammamy. “Today I knew it was going to be a tough game. She had a very tough match yesterday, but she’s a very strong player and I knew I shouldn’t take that for granted. I’m so happy I was able to get through this and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.
“I think playing against Nouran is definitely a challenge for me. Going on court with her I have to be carrying a whole different plan, she’s one of the strongest, maybe the strongest, on the women’s tour. She hits the ball really hard. That kind of player needs to have a different kind of game plan.”
The other semi-final will see World No.1 Nour El Sherbini and USA’s World No.5 Amanda Sobhy battle it out after they claimed wins over Egypt’s Nadine Shahin and Rowan Elaraby earlier in the day.
The two recently faced each other at the PSA World Championships in Chicago and Sobhy admitted that she was keen to redeem herself after that performance, which saw her beaten in 25 minutes on El Sherbini’s way to her fifth World Championship title.
“I’m looking forward to playing Nour again,” said Sobhy, who reached the last four after being 2-0 up before Elaraby was forced to retire from their match due to injury.
“She gave me quite a lesson at the World Champs, so I’ll be trying to redeem myself tomorrow if I do play her.
“The British Open is second tier to World Championships, it’s such a prestigious event. I’ve never made it to the semis of the British before and I’m pleased to be able to get to the semis and to continue the form I’ve been in.”
El Sherbini was in dominant form to comfortably dispatch compatriot Shahin as she looks to get her hands back on the British Open trophy, which she last won in 2018.
“I’m really happy with my performance and trying to be confident with my body this week,” said El Sherbini. “I’m playing another semi-final, so until now it’s going good.
“It’s our fourth meeting this season and we’ve been playing in big stages in Platinum events now, so I think [the way she’s playing in] every tournament she’s really in good form this season. She’s playing her best squash ever. Every time is a good and tough match. I’ll try to forget all the past matches and just think of tomorrow’s match.”
2021 Allam British Open, Allam Sport Centre, University of Hull, England.
Men’s Quarter Finals:
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Mostafa Asal (EGY) 3-2: 9-11, 11-0, 7-11, 12-10, 11-8 (79m)
Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-2: 11-13, 11-6, 9-11, 11-4, 13-11 (87m)
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt  Diego Elias (PER) 3-0: 13-11, 11-9, 13-11 (65m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Youssef Soliman (EGY) 3-2: 11-4, 7-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-7 (66m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v Miguel Rodriguez (COL)
 Paul Coll (NZL) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
Women’s Quarter Finals:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Nadine Shahin (EGY) 3-0: 11-5, 11-2, 11-4 (19m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt Rowan Elaraby (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 12-10 retired (24m)
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 3-2: 6-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-4, 11-4 (65m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-1: 11-9, 11-2, 11-13, 13-11 (46m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Amanda Sobhy (USA)
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA