English veteran wins 91-minute semi-final as Camille Serme downs Amanda Sobhy
By NATHAN CLARKE in Philadelphia
England’s three-time world champion Nick Matthew and world No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy will renew their rivalry in the final of the 2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open after securing their place in the title-decider courtesy of two outstanding performances during semi-finals night at Philadelphia’s Drexel University.
After producing the performance of the tournament so far to outclass World No.6 Ali Farag in the quarters, Matthew, the 36-year-old from Sheffield, displayed the type of tenacious, never-say-die attitude that has epitomised his career as he came through a nail-biting five-game battle with Karim Abdel Gawad – the World No.4 who won the Al Ahram Open last month.
In a highly competitive match that lasted 91 minutes and went all the way to a fifth game tiebreak, it was Matthew who came through 11-4, 7-11, 16-14, 3-11, 12-10 to set up a 19th meeting, and a seventh title-decider, with ElShorbagy.
“I’ve lost here in the semis the last few years so I was really motivated to try and make the final – I don’t know how many more times I’ll be able to play at the US Open so I wanted to do my best and leave it all on there,” said Matthew.
“I was digging in and on the back foot a lot. He nullified a lot of my strengths – I’m proud of how I managed to problem solve and come through. I tried to start the fifth as well as possible and that put me in a good position.
“Mohamed is a great fighter,” added Matthew. “He’s already surpassed the likes of Ramy (Ashour), Greg (Gaultier) and myself, in terms of being World No.1 and top of the rankings, and he’s insatiable, so I know I’m going to have to be at my best tomorrow.
“But I’m just thrilled to be here, in the US Open final, so I will come back tomorrow and do my best and play hard and fair.”
ElShorbagy denied the possibility of an all-English finale as he halted the run of a resurgent James Willstrop – the 33-year-old Englishman who downed Omar Mosaad in the first round in a return to his best form – to secure a 3-0 win that belied the quality and competitiveness of the encounter that saw them engage in rally after rally of the highest quality.
ElShorbagy came close to exiting the event at the first hurdle, scraping through against Cesar Salazar 3-2 having faced two match balls, but has gone from strength to strength since then and put in the best performance of his season to date as he dealt with everything Willstrop threw at him in a display of defensive excellence.
“Playing the first round I thought I was already going back home,” said ElShorbagy. “Next minute I’m into the US Open final. When you experience moments like this you feel very, very lucky. I’m so happy to be back into the final here and I’m really looking forward to the final now.
“Today I had to play my best squash and really bring out my A-game. He’s been playing so well this week. How he’s got back to the form he is in after his injury shows the great champion he is and it has been inspirational to watch.
“But I’m here to compete and challenge for titles. I hate losing and gave it everything today to get into the final.”
In the Women’s draw France’s Camille Serme, the 27-year-old from Créteil, secured her first appearance in a major final since winning the iconic British Open in 2015 courtesy of a sublime performance that saw her defeat home favourite and World No.6 Amanda Sobhy.
Serme (right) came through a mentally challenging five-game battle with England’s Laura Massaro, the 2015 US Open champion, in the quarter-finals of the PSA World Series tournament and showed the characteristics of a true champion to back up from that performance and put together another display packed with pinpoint accuracy and tactical precision to thwart the aggressive attacking play of Sobhy 11-6, 11-9, 10-12, 11-5.
“I’m so happy, I can’t believe it,” said Serme, who showed great mental strength to recover from losing match ball in the third game to take the match in four.
“When you have lost a match ball it isn’t easy to re-group and stay focused – I’m so glad I could do it.
“The tactic was to get in front of her and not let her play her shots. She hits the ball so hard and today she was using her lob to make it difficult for me but I wanted to make it more physical, and make the rallies long, to try and tire her out. I’m just so, so happy to make it to the final.”
Serme will now face World No.1 Nour El Sherbini in the title decider after the 20-year-old overcome Raneem El Welily 3-1 to book a place in the final and earn revenge for her defeat to the former World No.1 in the final of last month’s Al Ahram Open.
It was El Welily – the 27-year-old who downed Nicol David in the match of the tournament so far to reach the semi-finals – who started the stronger, using her limitless attacking talents to take the opening game 11-8 in relatively straightforward manner. But El Sherbini stormed back to take three games in a row to run out an 8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-3 winner.
“It was a really hard match from the start,” said El Sherbini, the 2014 US Open runner-up. “Raneem beat me a few weeks ago in Al Ahram and she has been playing well the whole week and is in top form, so I didn’t expect that I would win today.
“But I’m really happy with my performance. I’m getting better every match and I’m happy to be back in the final of the US Open once again. Hopefully this time I can take the title.”
The 2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open finals get underway at 5:00pm local time at Drexel University’s Daskalakis Athletic Centre on Saturday October 15 with tickets for the PSA World Series tournament available to purchase by visiting www.usopensquash.com
Delaware Investments US Open 2016, Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA
PSA M150 Men’s Semi-finals:
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-5, 13-11 (56m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-2: 11-4, 7-11, 16-14, 3-11, 12-10 (91m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
PSA W150 Women’s Semi-finals:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 3-1: 8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-3 (37m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Amanda Sobhy (USA) 3-1: 11-6, 11-9, 10-12, 11-5 (42m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com)