By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
World No.1 Nour El Sherbini has taken a step closer to a maiden title at the women’s CIB PSA Black Ball Squash Open after ending World No.6 Sarah-Jane Perry’s title defence at Cairo’s Black Ball Sporting Club.
El Sherbini is a two-time runner-up at the PSA World Tour Platinum tournament, which is one of the few omissions on the four-time World Champion’s glittering CV. England’s Perry captured her biggest ever title when she felled World No.5 Hania El Hammamy in December’s Black Ball Open final, but she went down in four games to a confident El Sherbini today.
“It was a really tough one,” El Sherbini said. “SJ loves playing here, she plays really well and she’s on top form now, but I was really digging deep in every game and as you can see it was close until the end.
“I’m just taking it step by step, match by match. Every day its different and I’m in the semi-finals now, so I’m just going to focus on the next round and hopefully it goes well. I don’t want to be distracted and hopefully I’ll reach the end.”
El Sherbini will face World No.8 Joelle King in the last four after the Kiwi defeated the other of December’s finalists – El Hammamy – in a hugely impressive 3-0 victory.
King had lost her two previous matches against El Hammamy, who won the Black Ball Open 12 months ago, but this time around the 32-year-old put in a powerful and accurate performance to dismantle the young Egyptian.
“Hania is class, there’s no doubt she’s a class player,” said King.
“I’m ecstatic with that performance and to beat a player like her in three, but the job’s not done, so I don’t want to relax too much and get too excited when I’ve got another match to play. It’s a good feeling but I just feel like it’s not done yet.”
World No.10 Salma Hany will appear in the first Platinum semi-final of her career after she overcame USA’s No.2 Olivia Clyne in straight games.
Clyne advanced to the last eight after her third round opponent – World No.2 Nouran Gohar – was withdrawn from the event due to a breach of PSA’s COVID-19 protocols. But she was unable to make the most of the rest day as Hany put in a clinical display to book her last four spot.
“I’m very happy with my performance today,” said Hany.
“The score doesn’t tell the story. Olivia is one of the closest people to me and to be able to come out there with this aggression and focus the whole match was really hard. She’s an amazing player, I knew how dangerous she is and I’m glad I stuck to my plan and came out with this performance.”
Clyne’s USA team-mate, World No.7 Amanda Sobhy, has booked her place in her first Platinum semi-final since April 2019 after a sensational display saw her oust World No.3 Camille Serme.
The 27-year-old found herself facing nine game balls in a nailbiting third game but came back from the brink to hold a 2-1 lead. Serme recovered to take the fourth but there was no stopping a resilient Sobhy, who held firm to record a 12-14, 11-4, 15-13, 9-11, 11-7 victory in 66 minutes.
“I’ve been training really hard and mentally and physically I’m in a good place, so I was actually really excited to go out there and show what I am capable of,” Sobhy said.
“I have a pretty bad record versus Camille. She’s got me on the physical part, but I’ve been working really hard on it and I knew I could hang in there this time.
“If I was going to lose, I knew it was going to be because she beat me playing better. I didn’t want to lose because I was tired. She played some really good points at the end but I’m so glad I snuck it. It was an awesome match.”
The semi-finals will take place tomorrow (March 17) and play begins at 20:00 (GMT+2). All of the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV and the channels of contracted broadcast partners.
Women’s 2021 CIB PSA Black Ball Squash Open, Black Ball Sporting Club, Cairo, Egypt.
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-1: 11-9, 5-11, 11-7, 11-6 (46m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt  Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 11-9, 11-8 (47m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 3-2: 12-14, 11-4, 15-13, 9-11, 11-7 (66m)
 Salma Hany (EGY) bt Olivia Clyne (USA) 3-0: 11-4, 11-4, 11-2 (22m)
Semi-Finals (March 17):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Joelle King (NZL)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) v  Salma Hany (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA