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US OPEN: Egyptians in all four quarter-finals

Nick Matthew and Adrian Grant take a tumble. Pictures by STEVE CUBBINS courtesy of

Egyptians Set Up Historic US Open Quarter-Finals

9 October 2012

RESULTS: PSA World Series Delaware Investments US Open, Philadelphia, USA

2nd round:
[1] James Willstrop (ENG) bt Daryl Selby (ENG) 9-11, 11-4, 12-10, 11-5 (81m)
[8] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 10-12, 11-8, 12-10, 10-12, 11-4 (92m)
[5] Karim Darwish (EGY) bt Christopher Gordon (USA) 11-4, 11-3, 11-8 (38m)
[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 11-7, 11-4, 11-7 (54m)
[4] Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt Tarek Momen (EGY) 13-11, 11-7, 11-8 (35m)
[6] Peter Barker (ENG) bt Tom Richards (ENG) 11-5, 11-7, 11-8 (51m)
[7] Amr Shabana (EGY) bt Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) 9-11, 11-7, 11-1, 11-5 (64m)
[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Adrian Grant (ENG) 11-2, 11-5, 15-13 (68m)

Eighth seed Mohamed El Shorbagy survived a 92-minute marathon in the second round of the Delaware Investments US Open to ensure that there will be Egyptian interest in all four quarter-finals of the PSA World Series squash event atDrexel University in Philadelphia for the first time in the Tour event’s 27-year history.

The 21-year-old world No8 from Alexandria faced a ferocious challenge from Cameron Pilley, the world No17 from Australia. After an evenly-contested first four games – three of which went to tie-breaks – El Shorbagy was dominant in the decider to become the first player to reach the last eight.

“It’s always tough between me and Cameron, so I’m really happy to have won this time,” said El Shorbagy after his 10-12, 11-8, 12-10, 10-12, 11-4 victory.

The youngest seed now faces favourite James Willstrop. The world number one from England took on fellow countrymanDaryl Selby with a 10-0 PSA head-to-head record in his favour.

But underdog Selby came close to producing a major upset. The world No11 from Essex took a 23-minute first game, and had a 9-4 lead in the third, but felt the force of the world’s top player thereafter.

“That was probably one of Daryl’s best performances,” said an impressed and relieved Willstrop. “I had to bring out my A game to get through that.”

Karim Darwish will represent Egyptian interest in the other quarter-final in the top half of the draw. The No4 seed from Cairo despatched US hope Christopher Gordon, the wildcard entrant who produced the highlight of the first round by ousting higher-ranked Egyptian Hisham Mohd Ashour.

Chris Gordon’s run is ended by Karim Darwish

Despite a spirited finish from the New York-born 26-year-old, Darwish was always well in control of his match against the home favourite. “You have to focus 100% on every match,” explained the former world number one. “It’s important to save energy in the early rounds if you can.”

Gordon was delighted with his performance in Philadelphia: “I feel a bit tired after that,” admitted the world No72.

“I commentated on a lot of Karim’s matches last season so I know how efficient he can be at blitzing people in the early rounds. It was so tough, his length is just immaculate and I just tried to keep it going as much as I could.

“It’s been a fantastic week, I’m so glad to have had this amazing opportunity to play these guys when I’m fresh rather than after slogging through qualifying. The support from US Squash and the crowd has been fantastic. I hope they all enjoyed it as much as I did.”

Darwish moves on to meet Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, the third seed who won a scrappy encounter with SpaniardBorja Golan.

Egypt’s defending champion Amr Shabana moved closer to his fourth appearance in the final after surviving a shaky opening to his match against Laurens Jan Anjema. The Dutchman overpowered the resurgent former world number one and world champion to take the first game.

But left-hander Shabana’s silky skills and smooth shot-making started to tell as he took the next three games to win 9-11, 11-7, 11-1, 11-5 in 64 minutes.

“I had a game plan and I stuck to it,” revealed the title-holder from Cairo afterwards. “He’s physically very strong and it was tough in the beginning, but I’m happy with how I played in the end.”

Shabana will now meet No2 seed Nick Matthew in a repeat of last year’s final. The 32-year-old from Sheffield survived one of three all-English second round clashes, beating Adrian Grant 11-2, 11-5, 15-13 in 68 minutes.

Matthew took advantage of an out of sorts opponent to take the first two games – but Londoner Grant was unlucky not to take one of his three game balls before Matthew edged the third.

“He seems to come alive when he’s 2/0 down,” smiled the relieved winner. “I had a lead in the third and let it go, that’s something we’ll have to work on.”

2009 runner-up Ramy Ashour produced the fourth Egyptian quarter-finalist after coming through a “fast and furious” three games against compatriot Tarek Momen.

Ramy Ashour takes the long way round against Tarek Momen

“It’s always like that between us,” admitted Ashour, the No4 seed, after his 13-11, 11-7, 11-8 win. “It has been ever since we started playing as juniors. He’s a flying machine, you just have to try to control him.”

Ashour will face Peter Barker, an 11-5, 11-7, 11-8 winner over his regular training partner Tom Richards.

“I was happy with my form tonight,” said Barker, the sixth seed. “Tom maybe wasn’t at his best but I’ll take that and hope to have a good game with Ramy in the quarters.”

Quarter-final line-up:
[1] James Willstrop (ENG) v [8] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY)
[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [5] Karim Darwish (EGY)
[4] Ramy Ashour (EGY) v [6] Peter Barker (ENG)
[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) v [7] Amr Shabana (EGY)

Women’s Round One:

[Q] Joelle King (Nzl) bt [7] Nour El Sherbini (Egy) 12-10, 11-6, 11-5 (39m)
[1] Nicol David (Mas) bt [Q] Camille Serme (Fra) 11-6, 11-8, 11-8 (42m)
[3] Jenny Duncalf (Eng) bt Rachael Grinham (Aus) 11-5, 11-8, 11-4 (33m)
[Q] Alison Waters (Eng) bt [8] Natalie Grinham (Ned) 10-12, 11-5, 11-8, 5-11, 11-7 (53m)

Kasey Brown (Aus) bt [6] Annie Au (Hkg) 12-10, 11-8, 11-9 (46m)
[5] Madeline Perry (Irl) bt [Q] Donna Urquhart (Aus) 11-5,11-4, 7-11, 11-2 (39m)
[4] Laura Massaro (Eng) bt Kristen Lange (Usa) 11-0, 11-3, 11-4 (19m)
[2] Raneem El Weleily (Egy) bt Low Wee Wern (Mas) 11-8, 5-11, 11-8, 11-5 (38m)

King and Kasy turrn the tables in first round

Kiwi qualifier Joelle King turned the seedings on their head in the first match of the 2012 Delaware Investments U.S. Open at Drexel University in Philadelphia as she beat seventh seed Nour El Sherbini in straight games. Ahead in all three games – although she had to save two game balls to pinch the first – King denied Sherbini the volleys that she thrives on, keeping the ball generally to the back and taking her opportunities well.

“I’ve always lost to Nour before, when I was the one seeded to win, so it feels pretty to to beat her now when she’s the seeded player,” said a delighted King after her 12-10, 11-6, 11-5 win.

“I don’t feel I played my best squash, but I had a bit of a game plan and I was pleased to be able to stick to it, I played some solid length and stopped her attacking like she can. It’s nice to be on first, off in three, so I can relax and watch the rest of the matches now.”

That was followed by another straight-games win as top seed Nicol David took three close games against French qualifier Camille Serme, 11-6, 11-8, 11-8.

“It’s strange to think Camille had to qualify,” said David, “she’s such a good player and she was hitting some really good backhand volley drops. I knew I would have to be focused and try to play my game, so I’m pleased I managed to win in three, I’m looking forward now to getting onto the glass court for the quarter-finals.

Third seed Jenny Duncalf eased home against Rachael Grinham, jumping out to leads of 4-0, 4-1 and 7-1 in games which she finished off 11-5, 11-8, 11-4 to move through to a meeting with King.

“Rachael is sometimes called a ‘veteran’, and I’ve played her lots of times but she’s still capable of playing brilliantly and surprising anyone,” said Duncalf, “so I’m pleased to be able to get off in three.

“Joelle’s always been a strong player and she played well last week and here this morning, so it should be a tough match tomorrow, I’m glad it’s on the glass court though.”

Alison Waters made it an English double as she came through a second successive five-game match, this time getting the better of Natalie Grinham 10-12, 11-5, 11-8, 5-11, 11-7 (53m).

“I think I was a bit lucky to win that,” admitted Waters, who now plays Nicol David who she beat last week in New York. “It was a bit up and down and at the start of the fifth I just told myself to give it one more push, and thankfully it worked. ”

A second upset came when Kasey Brown overcame sixth seed Annie Au 12-10, 11-8, 11-9.

“It was kind of a blessing in disguise not being the seeded player for once,” admitted the Australian, who reached the final here last year.

“She beat me in Malaysia, but Rod [Martin, coach] and I came up with a new game plan against her, attacking more, and it worked but all three games were close.

This tournament means a lot to me, with Delaware Investments sponsoring me this year, so I’m keen to do well for them, it’s great to see them backing squash in Philly.”

Madeline Perry wasn’t in the mood for an upset though, as she beat qualifier Donna Urquhart 11-5,11-4, 7-11, 11-2. “I went back home after the Weymuller for a few days for my sister’s wedding,” shared Perry, “and I’ve come back feeling like a new woman!”

Neither was defending champion and new world number two Laura Massaro in the mood to mess about in her match against wildcard entry Kristen Lange. Massaro won 11-0, 11-3, 11-4 in 19 minutes and Lange was impressed:

“Wow, she was just awesome! At first I just didn’t have any idea what to do, but after the butterflies had settled down I told myself that this was just squash, so play it. I managed to settle down and it was much better after that, but she was still just too good for me.

“It was a great experience though, and it should serve me well in the buildup to the world teams over the next four months.”

Completing the quarterfinal lineup, second seed Raneem El Weleily overcame Low Wee Wern 11-8, 5-11, 11-8, 11-5, and was satisfied with her performance – in the end:

“When I was playing well it was good, but I wasn’t doing that often enough. My head just wasn’t in the game in the second, and I had to really push myself to get my good form back. She played well in the third, I was a bit lucky to take that, then there were a couple of long rallies at the start of the fourth that got me back into playing well again.”

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