After losing first game 15-17, Perry says ‘I’m more confident in my fitness than I used to be’
By LINDA ELRIANI in Brooklyn
Top seed Nour El Tayeb meets England’s Sarah-Jane Perry, the number two seed, in the final of the 2018 Carol Weymuller Open at Heights Casino in Brooklyn. El Tayeb will be aiming to go one better than her husband, Ali Farag, who lost in the final of the Channel VAS Championships in England.
Semi-finals day at the 2018 Carol Weymuller Open delivered two outstanding battles between players from Egypt and England, two of the strongest squash nations in the world. Everyone was excited to see some more action packed squash and that’s certainly what they got and more!
The first match was between world #3 and #1 seed Nour El Tayeb from Egypt, and the world #9 and 2014 Carol Weymuller Champion, Alison Waters from England. Alison is the only player in the draw this year to have previously won this tournament and she was also a finalist in 2009 and 2016. Nour had reached the quarter-finals four times before in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016, and was keen to make it to her first Weymuller final.
In the head to heads Nour led 3-2 over Alison, but they have had some great five setter matches in the past so maybe we were going to see another epic one here today.
Nour started strongly, looking focused and following her game plan really well. Alison played at a slower pace than she usually does and it gave Nour time to place the ball and slot in her nicks which is what she does best. Nour looked very relaxed and confident and didn’t seem to be missing any opportunities given to her and also took some shots in that Alison wasn’t expecting. Nour went through to win the first game surprisingly easily 11-3.
Alison also started the second game a little too passively and giving Nour too much to use her amazing skills. There were times in the second when Alison worked an opening and would normally slot the ball away and she played it deep again.
Maybe she lost a little bit of confidence from making some errors in the first game and wanted to play herself into the rallies. Alison just seemed a little bit off compared to yesterday where she was incredibly sharp and attacking.
Alison plugged away and in the middle of the game she started look more comfortable and could apply some pressure, which resulted in a couple of mistakes from Nour for the first time in the match. Nour regrouped and managed to win the second game 11-7.
The third started in a similar tone but around 8-5 to Nour, Alison started to take the ball earlier and apply some pace. The points went back and forth and Nour started to look a little nervous for the first time in this match.
In previous matches when things were not going so well on the court Nour would notice what was happening off the court, like someone moving in the crowd. It was a telltale sign that her confidence was not quite as high as it had been in the first two games. Nour certainly put a lot of effort into trying to finish the match off in three, as in one particular rally she dived and also did the splits and still managed to win the point.
Alison evened things up to 8-8 and stuck with her game plan. With an array of great shots, including a perfect forehand lob and a wonderfully held trickle boast, Alison was back in the match winning the third 11-8.
The time in between games really helped Nour the most as when she came back on court she was re-focused and ready to go. Before we knew it Nour had an 8-1 lead. Not the start that you want when you have just won the previous game and want to continue the momentum. Alison gave a big push and still applied some solid pressure here and there and hit some great drives, but Nour was on form and she went through to take her place in the Carol Weymuller Open final for the first time. She won 11-3, 11-7, 8-11, 11-6 in 47 minutes.
A smiling Nour said: “This morning I was studying by watching lots of Alison’s previous matches so I knew how to play her. I think I did play well for the most part. She kept changing her game plan and towards the end of the third, she relaxed and cut down the errors.
“I think in the fourth, I wanted to start well and be as pumped as possible and I feel that every day here I have played better than the day before. I’m excited to be in the final. I look at it as just another match in a tournament and hopefully I’ll play just that little bit better again!”
I went and found Alison after the match and asked how she was feeling she said: “I’m disappointed really, I thought I played some good squash in there, but my shots weren’t really going in until the second game.
“Nour played well and didn’t really give me any cheap errors. You feel like you have won the point, but she dives and you have to win it again! Overall there are some positives to take away. I felt like I played well in patches.
“You can’t play a first game like that and get away with it with Nour. Hong Kong is my next tournament so I have three weeks until then. I’m looking forward to it.”
The second semi-final featured world #8 and recent Netsuite champion, Sarah-Jane Perry, from England and world #15 Salma Hany from Egypt. Salma is the youngest player in the semi-finals today, but this week she has definitely shown that she has a wealth of experience and lots of maturity in her game, even though she is only 22 years old. Sarah-Jane has been continuing her fantastic and consistent form winning the Netsuite Open in San Francisco earlier this month beating the world #2 to retain her title from last year.
Salma made the semi-final of the Weymuller in 2017 and Sarah-Jane made the semi-final is 2016, so it’ll be exciting to see which player prevails today. Both players had long, taxing five setters yesterday, fighting back from being 2-0 down, so it’ll also be interesting to see how they hold up physically once the match really settles in. We will have to wait and see!
The first game of the second match was the longest game of the whole tournament at 23 minutes long! There were some incredible rallies with wonderful varied pace and brilliant use of the four corners. Both players were vying for the T and trying to control the middle.
Sarah-Jane has such long strides and lunges and sometimes you think that she can’t get a ball back but somehow she reaches out and back comes the ball again. Salma is wonderfully swift and fantastically gutsy so you know you have to do so much to win each point.
The points continued to go back and forth and both players were putting so much effort into trying to get this first game under their belt. Salma was the first to get game ball at 11-10 but couldn’t capitalize on it. The second game ball was Sarah-Jane’s at 12-11 but no such luck! This continued on and both players had their chances to cease the game but couldn’t win that final point.
Finally it got to 15-15 and Salma produced a perfect forehand boast winner and a great backhand drop that Sarah-Jane just got her racket to but clipped the tin giving Salma the first game 17-15. The first game was great in so many ways, combining quality squash, tremendous movement, incredible variation in pace, and copious amounts of heart!
Salma started the second game well, going 4-1 up quite quickly and looking in control. But Sarah-Jane is tough and didn’t want to lose this match. She dug in and gradually started to contain Salma’s array of winners.
The more Sarah-Jane stayed solid and kept the ball in the corners the more errors would appear from Salma and then her confidence seemed to diminish somewhat. Sarah-Jane evened up the points at 8-8 and then with a tin off the return of serve from Salma and cross court onto Sarah-Jane’s racket she went through to the win the second game 11-8.
In the third game it was the reverse of the second with Sarah-Jane getting a nice 4-1 lead, but this time Salma dug in and managed to control the middle and worked at taking the ball early to taking vital time away from Sarah-Jane. Salma evened up the game at 8-8 (just like Sarah-Jane did in the second). Salma didn’t get another point after that as Sarah-Jane surged forward and with the final winning forehand drop shot, a fist pump and a shout, Sarah-Jane took the second 11-8.
The beginning of the fourth it was a replica of the third, with Sarah-Jane taking the 4-1 lead and a gritty Salma refusing to lay down. Salma evened up the score at 4-4 and she squeezed to 8 first. Sarah-Jane plugged away and focused to make sure she didn’t deviate from her game plan and the game eventually evened up at 8-8.
Considering how exciting and fierce the match was, with plenty of lets and strokes thrown in too, Sarah-Jane stayed incredibly calm and collected. This really helped Sarah-Jane to keep her focus, which is obviously vital in an incredibly tight match like this. Two strokes against Salma at the very end cost her the match and Sarah-Jane reached her first Carol Weymuller final. Sarah-Jane won 15-17, 11-8, 11-8, 11-9 in 58 minutes.
A very happy Sarah-Jane said: “I’m pleased that I got through in the end as her shots were so good and I never felt settled. I knew she had a hard match yesterday so I tried to make it hard. I’m definitely more confident in my fitness than I used to be. Every time I play Nour it’s been 3-2! Hopefully this one will be my one!”
A disappointed looking Salma said: “I think we were both nervous in the first game and we were both desperate to win the first game and then I managed to take it. In the second I was 8-5 and I lost a little bit of focus. I’m just really disappointed.
“I think the match had a lot of stopping and the ref was bad for both of us! All credit to her, she played well and fought to the end. I am just a little disappointed as I wanted to make one better than last year. Overall it was a great week here and I’ll keep coming back until I win it!”
Congratulations to both winners who played absolutely amazing squash and we very much look forward to the final tomorrow between Nour El Tayeb and Sarah-Jane Perry at 7.30pm.
Everyone is so excited to see who will be the 2018 Carol Weymuller Champion. Both players will be playing their first final here at the Heights Casino and they will both be hungry to leave with the Champions trophy. I can’t wait to find out!
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Women’s $51,250 Carol Weymuller Open 2018, Heights Casino, Brooklyn, New York, USA.
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 11-3, 11-7, 8-11, 11-6 (47m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Salma Hany (EGY) 15-17, 11-8, 11-8, 11-9 (58m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
Report by Linda Elriani. Edited by Alan Thatcher.
Pictures by KELLEY HOLMGREN