First women’s event in Saudi
By SEAN REUTHE
World No.1 Nour El Sherbini moved into round two of the inaugural Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters after the Egyptian saw off France’s Coline Aumard on day one of the historic World Series tournament taking place at The Green Halls in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi PSA Women’s Masters is the first professional women’s squash tournament ever to take place in Saudi Arabia and offers up $165,000 in prize money in addition to vital points for the PSA Women’s World Series Standings, where players battle for a top eight place which will guarantee them a coveted spot in June’s PSA World Series Finals.
And El Sherbini, making her first PSA World Tour appearance since losing to compatriot Raneem El Welily in last month’s PSA Women’s World Championship final, made a winning start to the tournament after dispatching World No.30 Aumard by an 11-2, 11-7, 11-7 scoreline to seal her second round berth.
“It’s such an amazing opportunity for us to be in Saudi,” said El Sherbini. “It’s only my second visit here, the last time I came I was five or six.
“I just hope we can keep coming back, especially as we have a lot of Egyptian supporters in the crowd, which makes it special for us.”
El Sherbini will take on fellow Egyptian Hania El Hammamy for a place in the quarter-finals after the World No.24 caused the biggest upset of the day courtesy of a 3-0 win over World No.16 Donna Urquhart.
“I cannot believe I’m through, this is my first time ever in the second round of a World Series tournament,” El Hammamy said.
“Lately, I’ve changed my game, I felt I had to. I used to be a bit passive in my squash, so I have been working on hitting at a faster pace, hitting harder and taking more opportunities one the volley, while attacking more than I used to.”
World No.5 Nouran Gohar was also a victor on the opening day of action after a 3-0 victory over 2007 World Champion Rachael Grinham, claiming an 11-5, 11-9, 11-8 triumph.
Up next for Gohar is a meeting with England’s Victoria Lust, who launched a superb comeback from two games behind against Egyptian World No.34 Nadine Shahin.
“She is so fit, she gets everything back and it’s so hard to beat her,” said Gohar.
“When I was younger, I used to watch her on TV during the Heliopolis Open and I fell in love with her game then.
“Beating Rachael, who is such an experienced player, is very difficult. She is such a tricky player. The only way I could beat her was to impose my game, play fast and hit hard, but I had to make sure I was playing extremely accurately otherwise she would have just played one of her lobs and made me look completely ridiculous.”
The first match of the day saw Hong Kong’s Annie Au recover from a game down to defeat England’s former World No.2 Jenny Duncalf and her second round opponent will be New Zealand’s Joelle King, who defeated World No.21 Fiona Moverley in straight games.
There were also wins for England’s Alison Waters and India’s Dipika Pallikal Karthik after they saw off Heba El Torky and Salma Hany, respectively.
First round action from the Saudi PSA Women’s Masters continues tomorrow (January 8), when the likes of World Champion Raneem El Welily, World No.3 Camille Serme and eight-time World Champion Nicol David begin their tournaments.
2018 Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters:
First Round (Top Half):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Coline Aumard (FRA) 3-0: 11-2, 11-7, 11-7 (22m)
Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Donna Urquhart (AUS) 3-0: 11-7, 11-8, 11-7 (25m)
Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) bt  Salma Hany (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 12-10, 11-2 (23m)
 Alison Waters (ENG) bt Heba El Torky (EGY) 3-0: 11-5, 11-5, 11-6 (24m)
 Annie Au (HKG) bt Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 3-1: 8-11, 11-2, 11-5, 11-2 (32m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt Fiona Moverley (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-9, 11-6 (25m)
 Victoria Lust (ENG) bt Nadine Shahin (EGY) 3-2: 4-11, 12-14, 11-8, 11-7, 11-8 (62m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt Rachael Grinham (AUS) 3-0: 11-5, 11-9, 11-8 (27m)
Draw – First Round (Bottom Half): To Be Played January 8th
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v Nele Gilis (BEL)
Mariam Metwally (EGY) v  Olivia Blatchford (USA)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) v Millie Tomlinson (ENG)
Joey Chan (HKG) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
 Nicol David (MAS) v Mayar Hany (EGY)
Samantha Cornett (CAN) v  Joshna Chinappa (IND)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v Liu Tsz-Ling (HKG)
[WC] Nada Abo Alnaja (KSA) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
Draw – Second Round (Top Half): To Be Played January 9th
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v Hania El Hammamy (EGY)
Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) v  Alison Waters (ENG)
 Annie Au (HKG) v  Joelle King (NZL)
 Victoria Lust (ENG) v  Nouran Gohar EGY)
Picture by PATRICK LAUSON