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World Series Finals: Shabana makes sixth semi-final

Amr Shabana gets in front of Peter Barker. Picture by JORDAN MANSFIELD

Shabana Makes Sixth World Series Finals Semi

5 January 2012

RESULTS: ATCO PSA World Series Finals, London, England

2nd pool round:
Group 1
[3] Karim Darwish (EGY) bt [6] Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) 11-4, 8-11, 11-5 (36m)
[1] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [7] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) 11-7, 11-6 (31m)
Group 2
[4] Amr Shabana (EGY) bt [8] Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) 11-5, 11-4 (24m)
[2] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [5] Peter Barker (ENG) 14-12, 11-6 (44m)

A swift straight games victory over Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema in tonight’s 2nd pool round of the ATCO PSA World Series Squash Finals in London has guaranteed Egypt’s Amr Shabana a place in the semi-finals of the flagship PSA World Tour event at The Queen’s Club for the sixth year in a row.

The $110,000 championship features the eight players who earned the most points from the nine PSA World Serieschampionships in 2011. Left-hander Shabana, the four-time world champion from Cairo, despatched the Dutch champion 11-5, 11-4 in just 24 minutes.

After making his debut in the championship in 2004, Shabana reached the last four for the first time two years later – and in 2008 finished as runner-up. The 32-year-old – the veteran of the Queen’s field -made the final for the second time last year.

His second win in a row at Queen’s ensures his place in Saturday’s semi-finals – but first he will face Group 2 rival Gregory Gaultier tomorrow to decide the Group winner.

Frenchman Gaultier notched up his second pool win after beating Londoner Peter Barker 14-12, 11-6 in 44 minutes.

“It wasn’t an easy game but was a crucial win for me,” said the world No3 from Aix-en-Provence later. “This will give me a boost and confidence going forward.”

Gaultier, whose remaining pool match with Shabana will be a repeat of the 2008 final, boasts a remarkable World Series Finals record, having reached the climax in all three previous appearances, with title successes in 2008 and 2009.

But it was in Group 1 that James Willstrop kept home hopes alive with an impressive win over 20-year-old World Series Finals debutant Mohamed El Shorbagy.

The experienced Yorkshireman, who became England’s second successive world number one at the beginning of this month, contained the exuberant and often brilliant play of the young Egyptian in 31 minutes, winning 11-7, 11-6.

“It’s great to keep this good streak going and continue where I left off,” said Willstrop after ensuring his place in the semi-finals.

The 28-year-old from Leeds was marking his 17th successive Tour match win in a run which included successive World Series event title triumphs in Hong Kong, Kuwait and India.

Does the fact that he is now number one in the world give him extra confidence, or added pressure, asked MC Natalie Pinkham, the Sky Sports Formula 1 presenter?

“There’s no added pressure being world No1 – just excitement, enjoyment and motivation towards the next game,” replied Willstrop.

El Shorbagy and fellow countryman Karim Darwish will compete for the other semi-final slot from Group 1 in Friday’s final pool round.

In tonight’s opening match, Darwish earned his first win of the event when he beat Malaysian Mohd Azlan Iskandar 11-4, 8-11, 11-5.

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