Veteran rocks Rodriguez in 72-minute battle to reach Dubai semi-finals
By SEAN REUTHE in Dubai
English veteran Nick Matthew is still in with a chance of lifting a trophy at his final professional squash tournament after a stunning victory over British Open champion Miguel Angel Rodriguez saw him qualify for the semi-finals of this year’s ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals.
Sheffield-based Matthew thought his career was over after a disappointing second round loss at the British Open last month, but received a late reprieve after the withdrawal of World No.3 Marwan ElShorbagy, who pulled out due to a hamstring injury, from the tournament in Dubai led to a late call-up.
And the 37-year-old Yorkshireman is now one win away from a third appearance in the World Series Finals title decider after claiming an epic 11-9, 9-11, 12-10 victory over the in-form Colombian to ensure that he qualified from Group A of the men’s event alongside defending champion Mohamed ElShorbagy, who beat fellow Egyptian Tarek Momen.
Matthew said: “I was just summoning every ounce of sweat, experience, willpower, knowhow and a little bit of technique here and there. That was so, so tough, I don’t know how long it was but I’m glad it was best of three.
“The sport’s come a long way in the last 20 years that I’ve been on the tour. I think about when I started, you had perspex courts which wobbled in the wind, so look how far we’ve come. We’ve got equal prize money, Chicago [the 2018-19 PSA World Championships] is up at the half a million [dollar] mark [for both men and women] and beyond.
“It makes me wonder if I’m retiring at the wrong time really because the tour is only going in one direction but my body is only going in one direction too, so I think we’ve met half way.”
Germany’s Simon Rösner is the other player to qualify for the semi-finals of the men’s tournament after he came back from a game down to defeat World No.2 Ali Farag – a result which sees the World No.5 guarantee top spot in Group B.
Rösner’s superior head-to-head record over both Farag and 2016 World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad means that he qualifies top of the group. Gawad ended three-time winner Gregory Gaultier’s semi-final hopes and he will take on Farag next to decide who joins Rösner in the last four.
“It’s more than I could have wished for to be in the semis after two matches by beating two really good players,” said Rösner, who won the Tournament of Champions earlier this year.
“It feels amazing, just like it did last year, but last year there was a difference because I wasn’t sure if I would be in until the very last point that I played against Nick [Matthew] so getting through is amazing.”
World No.1 Nour El Sherbini is the only player so far to have qualified for the semis in the women’s event as she cruised to a quick-fire 2-0 triumph over World No.3 Nour El Tayeb to claim victory in just 15 minutes, making it two wins out of two.
El Sherbini and El Tayeb are the only women to have won multiple World Series titles throughout the 2017-18 season and it was El Tayeb who prevailed the last time the pair met in the quarter-finals of February’s Windy City Open – a tournament El Tayeb went on to win.
El Tayeb made a strong start here yesterday as she eased to a 13-minute win over World No.6 Nouran Gohar but she was on the back foot from the off today as El Sherbini held her compatriot at arm’s length and gave her very little opportunity to show off her impressive shot-making skills, with the 22-year-old storming to an 11-7, 11-5 victory to qualify from Group A.
“I’m so happy to win this match, I think last time I lost to her and she’s doing really well this season,” said El Sherbini, who was runner-up at last year’s event.
“She’s up to No.3 in the world but I’m really glad I managed that I didn’t lose a game, it was really important to win this in two games.
“She can kill any shot from anywhere and no matter how good a shot is she can get it back. I had to be ready for any surprises from her because I don’t know what she’s going to do, so I needed to be ready.”
New Zealand’s Joelle King and World No.5 Nouran Gohar were the other players in action in Group A, with the former winning to set up a semi-final playoff with El Tayeb next.
Group B sees defending champion Laura Massaro lead the way courtesy of a 2-1 victory over England teammate Sarah-Jane Perry.
Preston-based Massaro is eyeing up a hat-trick of World Series Finals titles after winning the previous two iterations of this tournament and she moved to within one win of a semi-final berth after a 2-1 victory over Perry in a feisty match which saw the pair have some heated words at the end of a captivating contest.
“How you can blame me for trying to back in more when I’m crowded to try and create space is just a joke,” said Massaro.
“I’m quite angry to finish the match like that, especially in comparison to how I ended yesterday. At the end of the day I won.”
World Champion Raneem El Welily defeated French World No.5 Camille Serme in the day’s other match to ensure that it’s all to play four in Group B. If Serme beats Massaro and El Welily gets the better of Perry, then it will come down to the percentage of games won to decide who qualifies for the last four.
The final day of group stage action begins at 15:00 (GMT+4) later today and will be shown live on SQUASHTV (Rest of World) and Eurosport Player (Europe only).
ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals, Emirates Golf Club, Dubai, UAE.
Men’s Group A
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 2-1: 11-9, 9-11, 12-10 (72m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 2-1: 11-8, 2-11, 11-9 (39m)
Men’s Group B
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt  Ali Farag (EGY) 2-1: 7-11, 11-9, 11-3 (40m)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 2-1: 9-11, 11-8, 11-4 (41m)
Men’s Group A Day Three (June 7)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
Men’s Group B Day Three
 Simon Rösner (GER) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
Women’s Group A
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 2-0: 11-7, 11-5 (15m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 2-0: 11-8, 14-12 (26m)
Women’s Group B
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 2-1: 15-13, 7-11, 11-8 (48m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 2-1: 8-11, 11-7, 11-5 (34m)
Women’s Group A Day Three (June 7)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v  Joelle King (NZL)
Women’s Group B Day Three
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
Report by SEAN REUTHE (PSA PR and Media Manager). Edited by ALAN THATCHER
Pictures courtesy of PSA