Nicol David fights back from game ball down against Victoria Lust
By SEAN REUTHE in San Francisco
Former World No.1s Mohamed ElShorbagy and James Willstrop will meet for the 21st time on the PSA World Tour after they both claimed wins to reach the semi-finals of the 2017 Oracle NetSuite Open, PSA M100 tournament held in San Francisco.
Spectators at the Oracle NetSuite Challenge Court on Justin Herman Plaza witnessed ElShorbagy advance to the last four of this tournament for the first time after he overcame England’s World No.12 Daryl Selby by an 11-5, 13-11, 11-6 scoreline.
“At the beginning of the match I struggled a little bit,” said ElShorbagy. “We both played a really high quality match in a good spirit like always, it was a good battle. It’s my first year here and I’m absolutely loving it.
“The goal for me this season is to get my World No.1 spot back. I didn’t play very well last season and I want to prove to myself that I can still get the wins when I play well.”
Willstrop, the 2016 runner-up, advanced to the semi-finals of the Oracle NetSuite Open for the second successive year courtesy of a 3-0 triumph against Australia’s World No.15 Ryan Cuskelly.
The match was much closer than the scoreline would suggest, with Cuskelly pushing Willstrop hard and not giving ‘The Marksman’ any room to breath as he narrowly went down 11-9, 12-10, 11-9 in 59 minutes.
Willstrop currently leads the head-to-head record against ElShorbagy 11-9, although the Egyptian has won the last four meetings between the two.
“You’ve got to try not to forget that, even though you’re down on points, you’ve still hopefully put him through some work and played the rallies well,” said Willstrop, who came from behind to win both the second and third games against Cuskelly.
“There’s pressure that might accumulate but I try not think about it because the more you think about the scoreline the worse it will be. You have to concentrate and forget about the scoreboard.”
The other men’s quarter-final matches will take place tomorrow (September 28) as Karim Abdel Gawad, Nick Matthew, Tarek Momen and Diego Elias aim to join ElShorbagy and Willstrop in the semi-finals.
In the women’s event, which features $50k in prize money, England’s top two players Laura Massaro and Sarah-Jane Perry will go head-to-head in a repeat of March’s British Open final after they managed respective wins over Egypt’s Salma Hany Ibrahim and Australia’s Donna Urquhart.
Preston-based Massaro, the defending champion and World No.4, had lost out to Ibrahim the last time they met on the PSA World Tour two years ago but she eased to victory in the first game before a resurgent Ibrahim levelled in the second.
But the lacklustre Ibrahim of the opening game reared her head again in the third as Massaro marched into a 10-1 lead – ultimately seeing it out 11-4 – and the Englishwoman used that momentum to come out on top in a high quality fourth game to seal her place in a second consecutive Oracle NetSuite Open semi-final fixture by an 11-5, 12-14, 11-4, 11-7 scoreline.
“I had to keep myself really upbeat and had to have a lot of positive body language,” said Massaro.
“I had to be really alert, had to keep my body language up and had to be 100 per cent respectful of a player with that talent and I’m really happy to get off with a win.
“It’s a lively court, we’ve played on it a few times in other cities. For me personally, it’s just about trying to stay positive at the front of the court. It’s not natural for me to want to do that but once I’ve hit on a court that’s as cold as this I want to be positive when I go short and I think I had that balance towards the end.”
Birmingham-based Perry, meanwhile, surged into the semi-finals after beating Urquhart in straight games at the Bay Club in San Francisco.
The World No.6 was dominant for the majority the match and didn’t drop a single point in the second game as she powered to an 11-9, 11-0, 11-9 victory to earn her place in the last four.
“Donna’s such a tough opponent, last time we played it was really close and we’ve had some epic matches so I know how dangerous she is,” said 2015 runner-up Perry.
“I’m feeling good and it will be great to play on the glass court, I’ve got good memories from two years ago. I love playing on the glass court, it’ll be pretty awesome.”
The other women’s semi-final will see Malaysian eight-time World Champion Nicol David line up against India’s Dipika Pallikal Karthik. David came back from a match ball down to avoid a shock defeat to England’s Victoria Lust, while Pallikal Karthik overcame United States No.2 Olivia Blatchford.
The Oracle NetSuite Open continues tomorrow (September 28) on SQUASHTV (rest of world) and Eurosport Player (Europe only).
2017 Oracle NetSuite Open, San Francisco, USA.
Men’s Quarter-Finals (Top Half):
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Daryl Selby (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 13-11, 11-6 (50m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 3-0: 11-9, 12-10, 11-9 (59m)
Bottom Half (To Be Played September 28):
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Diego Elias (PER)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
Semi-Final (Top Half, To Be Played September 29(:
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  James Willstrop (ENG)
Women’s Quarter-Finals (Top Half):
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY) 3-1: 11-5, 12-14, 11-4, 11-7 (47m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Donna Urquhart (AUS) 3-0: 11-9, 11-0, 11-9 (25m)
Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) bt  Olivia Blatchford (USA) 3-0: 13-11, 11-6, 11-9 (35m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt  Victoria Lust (ENG) 3-2: 11-5, 7-11, 11-6, 9-11, 12-10 (76m)
Semi-Final (Top Half, To Be Played September 28):
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
Semi-Final (Bottom Half, To Be Played September 29):
Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) v  Nicol David (MAS)
Pictures courtesy of PSA