First win over Raneem puts Kiwi in final
By LINDA ELRIANI in Brooklyn
Joelle King, the No.5 seed from New Zealand, battled past former champion Raneem El Welily, the number two seed, to reach the final of the 2017 Carol Weymuller Open at Heights Casino.
Her opponent in the final will be top seed Nour El Sherbini, who enjoyed a less stressful and demanding challenge against fellow Egyptian Salma Hany Ibrahim, winning in straight games in less than half an hour.
Everyone was excited to see some more action packed squash on semi-finals day and that’s certainly what they got and more!
The first battle was an all-Egyptian affair between Nour El Sherbini, world #1, world champion and current Carol Weymuller champion, and compatriot Salma Hany Ibrahim, who is currently world #19, but is sure to rise up the ranking after her successes in this tournament.
Nour has had the most amazing last couple of years, winning the World Championship in 2015 and 2016 and has had the #1 spot since May 2016. Salma has enjoyed her most successful Weymuller to date and clearly feels very at home here in Brooklyn and at the Heights Casino.
The match started well with both players trying to outmanoeuvre one another, but it was Nour who hit her lengths and short shots just that bit more consistently and accurately. Salma made a few amazing winners, but just couldn’t stop herself from going in short too often and consequently made some unnecessary errors. Nour won the first game 11-5.
In the second, Salma started out more patient and really tried to stay with Nour, but about half way through the game she start going too short too soon again and setting up Nour to do some amazing counter drops. Nour took the second 11-6.
Nour continued her domination and her game seemed to be getting better and better as the third game went on. Salma just didn’t manage to get Nour off the T and put her under a significant amount of pressure. Nour didn’t let up and went through after 26 minutes to take the third 11-4 to give her a place in the final for the third year in a row.
A smiling Nour said: “I’m feeling good and playing much better, feeling my shots and attacking more. Yesterday I wasn’t attacking. Tomorrow in the final, it will be tough one with whoever wins. Whether it’s Raneem or Joelle it’ll be tough. I’m looking forward to another Weymuller final.”
The second semi final match featured Raneem El Welily world #3 from Egypt, who won the Carol Weymuller back in 2011, and her opponent, Joelle King, the world #10 from New Zealand.
The match started out very well for Joelle, who was a finalist here in 2015. She was continuing her great form from yesterday and not giving Raneem much to play with. Both players won some points from hard, low shots, but it was difficult to hit winners when both players are so incredibly athletic and cover the court with such ease. Raneem felt the pressure from Joelle and she made an uncharacteristically large amount of errors. Joelle won the first 11-6.
The second was completely different and this time it was Raneem who was on fire. Joelle lost her previous momentum a little with a serve out and some errors on the drop. Raneem seemed to come back on court with a different purpose and was both focused and fierce. It’s always amazing what a two-minute break in between games can do to totally change up the rhythm and control of a match. It was a role reversal with Raneem doing to Joelle in the second what Joelle did to Raneem in the first. Raneem won the second 11-3.
With the momentum flip-flopping it was going to be interesting to see who could get their game over the other player in the third. It was Joelle who took the bull by the horns and very soon had a nice 7-2 lead, but just as we started to think that Joelle was going to run through to take the third in relative comfort, Raneem ramped up the pace and started to attack more and regain not only the T but also some points.
There were some truly fantastic rallies with some unbelievable shots and retrieving that had the crowd gasping! Joelle got to 10-7 game ball but Raneem was not going down without a fight and rallies were long and incredibly exciting. Raneem squeezed back to 9-10 but Joelle managed to sneak in a backhand kill to take the third 11-9.
For at least the second or third time this Weymuller I was struck by the amazing sportsmanship of these players. They both called their own balls down at least a couple of times and when a match is so closely contested it’s not always easy to do that. Again, what amazing role models they are to us all.
In the fourth Joelle started well and got a 3-1 lead, but yet again Raneem dug in and managed to impose her game and she hit truly wonderful shots. After a series of fantastic rallies and incredibly high quality squash from both players Raneem got the lead at 7-5. Again the momentum flipped and Joelle took the ball earlier than ever and squeezed back to 9-7. It was then Raneem’s turn to bring on the heat and she won three points in a row to get game ball at 10-9. Raneem got a second game ball at 11-10 but Joelle counter punched with a perfect backhand drop.
The points went to and fro and it felt like the whole crowd were on the edge of their seats. Joelle had match ball at 12-11 and after a long, hard-fought rally Raneem hit a straight drive from the front and Joelle pounced into it hoping for a stroke and therefore the match, but it was only a let and it made the crowd laugh when Joelle pulled a cheeky disappointed smile.
A risky but amazing backhand drop from Raneem but then an incredibly tricky and well-held boast from Joelle took her to her second match ball. The rally was again very intense and long and both players got a little in each other’s way, but managed to continue playing and somehow Raneem seemed to misread Joelle’s forehand drive and went the wrong way! This gave Joelle that final winning point that she has been waiting for, for many, many years!
Joelle went through to get her first ever win against her long term rival in 55 intense minutes.
We knew this match was going to be tough match and one of a high calibre, but we didn’t realize just how tough and amazing it would be. What a treat our Casino crowd got to see this incredibly intense and exciting match.
A very happy and tired Joelle said: “Finally! I’ve never beaten Raneem ever, not even since the juniors. I think the head to head is 11-0! Through juniors she was the player that we all idolized.
“It was one of those matches where I didn’t know what the score was really. I just tried to play every point the best I could. In the fourth I just tried to take the ball as early as possible and I think from 10-10 we both played some great squash. Tomorrow is just another day, just going to try and recover and play my game and to be ready from the first point.”
Congratulations to both winners who played absolutely amazing squash and we very much look forward to the final tomorrow between Nour El Sherbini and Joelle King at 7.30pm. Joelle is looking to do one better than her final is 2015 and Nour can make history by winning three Carol Weymullers in a row. Can’t wait to find out!
PSA W50 Women’s Carol Weymuller Open 2017, Heights Casino, Brooklyn, New York, USA.
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Joelle King (NZL)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY) 11-5, 11-6, 11-4 (26m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 11-6, 3-11, 11-9, 14-12 (55m)
Picture s from Squash Mad archive