Raneem El Weleily to meet Nour El Tayeb in Malaysian Open showdown
By ALEX WAN – Squash Mad Malaysia Correspondent reports from KL (August 22, 2014)
Today was a significant day for all Malaysians. The remains of those on board flight MH 17 was finally brought home and there was a nationwide silence at 10 am local time as a sign of respect to lives lost on that fatal flight.
Squash did our part too, observing the very same, right before the second semi-final match. It was emotional and personal, for who could possibly justify plain brutal murder.
To put that tragedy into perspective, yes it made perfect sense to mention it, for local sports queen Nicol David trains in Amsterdam, where the fatal flight took off from.
The Egyptian Raneem El Weleily has beaten David on home soil at the same tournament in the 2012 final. So this was one match many took extra notice. Back then, Nicol David losing on home soil was rather unthinkable, but I believe events have helped eased local minds into accepting defeat.
Nicol David has been playing consistently for the past few rounds, finishing off opponents rather convincingly without dropping a game. Weleily, on the other hand, had dropped games twice.
But with Weleily, what happened a day before doesn’t matter. Today, she was in her A game mode. Today, there were no strings of tins and unforced errors that we are used to with the talented Egyptian’s game.
The first game was point for point until 6-6, after which David pulled away to 10-7 with her disciplined style of squash. In the next game, Weleily was always in front, taking a 2-point lead at 2-0 and 4-2. A few rallies later, she opened up a 4-point lead at 8-4, which David never caught up and the game ended at 11-6.
The third, Weleily once again carved out a 3-point lead, breaking away to 7-4 before David staged her usual comeback to level the scores at 7-all. The next point went in favour of the Egyptian off a stroke and she dropped just another point before sealing off the game at 11-8.
The fourth game was a roller-coaster, never more than two points apart. It was the local squash darling in front all the time, until the end, which El Weleily won 13-11 to deny Nicol David another shot at the Malaysian Open title.
The Egyptian was clearly very happy with herself, adding, “I’m really happy with the way I won today because it was not easy at all. With Nicol, being patient is not enough and I had to make the right shots too which I did.”
The pair have a long history, most notably in the 2010 World Junior Championships final, where Sohby was victorious then.
The rallies were pretty quick in this match. Despite it being a somewhat close 3-0 affair (11-9,11-9, 11-3), it was just 26 minutes long. In the first game, it was the American who drew first blood, always ahead, at 5-3, 8-6. But right after that, Tayeb took four points in a row to get to game ball at 10-8. A stroke decision gave Sohby the next point but that was all she got out of this game, as Tayeb took the game on her second game point.
The second game was a tight affair as well, both players hitting some beautiful lengths and drops. Tayeb inched ahead to a 9-6 lead, but she was looking tired. Sohby did get to within a point at 9-8, but Tayeb held on to close the game 11-9.
In the third, it was all about Tayeb (pictured attacking, right). Everything she hit, especially in the front corners, were so delicate and stuck to the wall. There were no nicks, but they were just so tight that even when Sohby got to it, it would’ve been a loose return. It was helped by a string of consecutive tins from Sohby as well.
At the post match interview, Tayeb said, “I’m in the finals. I’m very happy with the way I played all week. I’m not used to playing so many matches here in Malaysia because I always lose in the first round.”
In the men’s, Max Lee continued with his killing run by taking out second seeded Spaniard Borja Golan in four games. While it is not his biggest scalp, having beaten Karim Darwish at Canary Wharf, the 26-year-old has been playing very well all week.
Lee told SquashMad, “It’s a big win for me. I know he’s very fit and I had to hang in there. In the fourth game, I think he got aggressive with himself and I took my chances.”
His good run in this tournament will be a great confidence booster for Lee, who will next play in the Hong Kong Open against Daryl Selby.
In the last match of the day, it was an all-Egyptian affair and a repeat of the 2012 final, where Tarek Momen upset the books to beat Mohamed El Shorbagy in a 109-minute battle. This was not the case today.
The world number three had troubles with the floor yesterday and it was nothing different today.
In fact, after the first game, there was some serious discussion with the tournament referee about finishing the game in the traditional courts at the National Squash Centre. Thankfully, it didn’t happen, for the sponsors would not have been too happy about it.
Shorbagy finished off his compatriot in straight games. Both players played some wonderful squash despite the court conditions being anything but perfect. It was a joy to watch as both are known to be very quick on the feet, so it was Shorbagy’s superior lengths and holds that won him the match today.
Now, the question is if Shorbagy will risk it again and play tomorrow?
RESULTS: Women’s CIMB Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Nicol David (MAS) 7-11, 11-6, 11-8, 13-11 (52m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Amanda Sobhy (USA) 11-9, 11-9, 11-3 (26m)
Pictures by Kng Zheng Guan.