French ace’s first time in World Series last four
By NATHAN CLARKE and BETH RASIN in New York
French No.2 Mathieu Castagnet overcame former World No.5 Borja Golan in a lengthy battle in the quarter-final of the 2016 Men’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York’s Grand Central Terminal – reaching the last four of a PSA World Series event for the first time in his career.
Castagnet put in a fine performance throughout the 72-minute encounter and showcased his jaw-dropping retrieval skills and electrifying speed on court as he rose to an 11-9, 13-11, 11-4 victory to set up a meeting with World No.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy in the last four.
“I can’t believe it,” a delighted Castagnet said after the match. “I was so nervous for the entire match, even when I was up 9-1 in the third I wasn’t completely confident that I would win. Borja has already been to a few World Series semis, and I never have.
“I don’t think I’m going to sleep tonight. I might need another day off to make sure that I am in good shape for the semis! Tomorrow I will spend all day finding a solution to ElShhorbagy’s game,” Castagnet said with a wide smile. “I’m going to try to sleep and think of something else so I can prepare for my match. It’s not finished yet – I need to prepare for the next round and try to reach the final by beating the World No.1.”
Defending champion Elshorbagy continued his attempts to retain the crown he won a year ago with a superb triumph against compatriot Omar Mosaad.
The man from Alexandria, playing the day before his 25th birthday, conceded the first game to the older Egyptian after a high quality start to the match saw ‘The Hammer of Thor’ Mosaad edge ahead to take the lead.
The 17-time PSA World Tour title winner responded by injecting an influx of pace into proceedings and a barrage of attacking artistry at the front of the court, in addition to fatigue creeping into Mosaad’s legs, saw him overturn the one-game deficit to claim a 9-11, 11-8, 11-5, 12-10 victory in 76 minutes.
“Omar is a great guy and a great player,” said Elshorbagy.
“We’re great friends on and off court as well. I think that it showed he has matured and he has had such great results lately. The way that he has been backing up tournament after tournament shows that he is a world class player right now.
“It was such a great match and Im just happy that we were able to play such a great match in front of a great crowd. I can’t wait already to be back here and playing in front of everyone again.”
In women’s action, 2014 ToC champion and second seed Nicol David was on and off the court in 21 minutes with an 11-2, 11-5, 11-7 victory over Hong Kong’s Annie Au. “There is always a nice buzz here at the ToC which is energizing,” said the eight-time world champion. “And the crowds are incredibly knowledgeable, so it is really fun to play here.
Fun was also the order of the day for David’s semi-final opponent, Omneya Abdel Kawy. The 30-year-old Egyptian eliminated India’s Joshna Chinnappa in straight games, although Chinnapa drew close at 8-9 in the third before succumbing 9-11. “I didn’t play all that much in December,” said Kawy,”so I was really hungry to play when I arrived in NYC, and I really enjoyed being on court today.”
Kawy found it helpful to be coached by three-time ToC champion and countryman Amr Shabana, who is a hero to most Egyptian players. “It gives me confidence when he is coaching me,” said Kawy. “He has all the experience and he knows when you need technical advice and when you need some motivation. And he’s Amr Shabana watching me play, so I feel I must win.”
Rising English star Emily Whitlock extended Camille Serme to four games in their quarter-final pairing, winning the third 11-8 before Serme closed at the match 13-11 in the fourth.
Bolstered by an enhanced confidence as a result of winning the British Open last year, Serme says that winning that prestigious tittle made her realize that there was no reason she couldn’t win more of the sport’s major titles.
Serme will need to defeat 20-year-old Nour El Sherbini, who defeated qualifier Mariam Metwally 3-0, in their semi-final on Wednesday, January 13, before she can lay claim to a ToC championship.
J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Grand Central Terminal, New York, USA.
Men’s Quarter-Finals (Top Half):
(1) Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) bt  Omar Mosaad (EGY) 3-1: 9-11, 11-8, 11-5, 12-10 (76m)
 Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 11-9, 13-11, 11-4 (72m)
Men’s Quarter-Finals (Bottom Half):
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
 Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
Women’s Second Round (Bottom Half):
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Emily Whitlock (ENG) 3-1: 11-6, 11-5, 8-11, 13-11 (52m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [Q] Mariam Metwally (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-8, 11-5 (27m)
 Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt  Joshna Chinappa (IND) 3-0: 11-9, 11-3, 11-9 (25m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt  Annie Au (HKG) 3-0: 11-2, 11-5, 11-9 (27m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) v  Alison Waters (ENG)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v  Laura Massaro (ENG)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Nour El Sherbini (EGY)
 Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) v  Nicol David (MAS)
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com) courtesy of the PSA