Sunday, February 5, 2023

ToC Squash 2023: Rodriguez roars into semis as Gohar survives El Tayeb epic

Miguel Rodriguez continued his dazzling run at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions by reaching his first semi-final at New York’s Grand Central Station for eight years.

The world No.14 from Colombia took down another of the top eight seeds, defeating No.7 seed Mazen Hesham in a fast-paced and thrilling match under the chandeliers.

The match was always going to be an entertaining one, with both players renowned for their fast and attacking styles. It was their first meeting since 2018, and Rodriguez took first blood, winning seven straight points at the back of the opening game to take it 11-6.

Hesham battled back to level the match, but the 37-year-old Colombian had too much in both the third and fourth games. In each, he was able to pull away at the right times, taking both 11-8 to book his spot in a first Platinum semi-final since the 2021 Allam British Open.

“That end for me was emotional. It’s very special. I made my first semi-final here in 2015, when I beat Gregory [Gaultier]. Getting that result after eight years, its something very special for a professional player,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez’s semi-final opponent will be World No.6 Marwan ElShorbagy, after the Egyptian produced a clinical performance. He dropped just ten points in a straight-games demolition of Frenchman Victor Crouin to move through to the last four.

In the women’s draw, world No.1 Nouran Gohar survived an epic five-game semi-final duel with compatriot Nour El Tayeb to take another step towards defending her title.

The pair had met 16 times previously on Tour, with Gohar having won 11 of those battles, including their last six meetings. It was El Tayeb who started the stronger in the opening game, moving the ball nicely to take Gohar away from the middle of the court and open up attacking opportunities. Despite Gohar saving one game ball, the World No.6 was able to take it 13-11.

Gohar fought back in true ‘Terminator’ fashion, dropping just two points in the second game after composing her powerful brand of squash. That form continued into the third game, as the World No.1 moved ahead.

El Tayeb battled back and found her front court accuracy again to take the fourth, and the pair were level at 6-6 in the fifth, with a five point shootout ahead. It was Gohar who finished the stronger of the two Egyptians, winning the fifth game 11-6 to secure an amazing win after 75 minutes.

Gohar said: “I don’t know where to start, she’s a player and a character and coming back and playing like this is unbelievable. I have so much respect for her. It seemed like I was annoyed but I really enjoyed this battle. We have been battling it out for the last seven years and I hope the crowd enjoyed that one.

“I was trying not to be too emotional out there, but I was nervous. It’s a 3-2 cracker in 70 minutes so it was tough obviously and there are certain matches where you just have to hang in there. When they [other players] play against me they always seem to play their best so I have to adapt, defend and absorb a bit so it was a very hard one today.”

Gohar will now take on New Zealand’s Joelle King in the last four on Wednesday evening, after the World No.4 showed scintillating form to defeat the up-and-coming Jana Shiha in straight games, winning 11-7, 11-8, 11-9 in just under half an hour.

The action continues on Tuesday January 24, with the quarter-finals coming to a conclusion at the glass court at Grand Central Terminal.

Men’s quarter-finals results (top half):
[5] Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Victor Crouin (FRA) 3-0: 11-5, 11-1, 11-4 (26m)
Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt [7] Mazen Hesham (EGY) 3-1: 11-6, 4-11, 11-8, 11-8 (59m)

Men’s quarter-finals draw (bottom half) – to be played Tuesday January 24:
[4] Diego Elias (PER) v [6] Tarek Momen (EGY)
[8] Fares Dessouky (EGY) v [1] Paul Coll (NZL)

Men’s semi-finals draw (top half) – to be played Wednesday January 25:
[5] Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v Miguel Rodriguez (COL)

Women’s quarter-finals results (top half):
[1] Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt [6] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 3-2: 11-13, 11-2, 11-6, 6-11, 11-6 (75m)
[4] Joelle King (NZL) bt Jana Shiha (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 11-8, 11-9 (28m)

Women’s quarter-final draw (bottom half) – to be played Tuesday January 24:
[3] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) v Georgina Kennedy (ENG)
[5] Amanda Sobhy (USA) v [2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY)

Women’s semi-final draw (top half) – to be played Wednesday January 25:
[1] Nouran Gohar (EGY) v [4] Joelle King (NZL)

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