Friday, December 1, 2023

Worlds sensation as Nour El Sherbini beats Nicol David

Massive final in prospect after England’s Laura Massaro stops all-Egyptian showdown

STANDING TALL: Nour El Sherbini powers home in the fifth
STANDING TALL: Nour El Sherbini powers home in the fifth

Young Egyptian Nour El Sherbini claimed the biggest result of her career as she overcame Nicol David to reach the final of the Women’s World Championship.

Making the result even more astonishing was the fact that this historic triumph took place in David’s Malaysian home town of Penang.

El Sherbini won 4-11, 11-9, 11-6, 2-11, book her place in the final against England’s number two seed, Laura Massaro.

The 18-year-old El Sherbini fought back after a disastrous fourth game to beat David 11-9 in a pulsating fifth game.

Already the youngest player to reach a World Open semi-final, she must now fancy her chances of another shock win against the second seed.

Both players are tall, powerful, athletic competitors. It’s too early to say, but many observers are asking if this match-up could herald a new era for the women’s game after a decade of dominance by the Malaysian David. 

For El Sherbini, it signifies a return to top form after a long spell out dealing with injuries and exhaustion as her young body struggled to cope with the demands of junior and international competition. 

She had served warning of such an upset having produced brilliant form all week, beating higher ranked players such as Kasey Brown, Alison Waters and Joelle King.

But few would have predicted such a scoreline as Nicol was in typical sublime fashion, taking the first game 11-4 in style.

But Sherbini took the second 11-9 and alarm bells went off as the seven-time world champion lost the third 6-11.

The Penangite, egged on by a 2,000 strong crowd, rallied to take the fourth and force a decider.

But the 18-year-old Egyptian, already the youngest ever semi-finalist, held her nerve from 9-6 and 10-9 up to seal a historic win.

She will be only the second ever Egyptian, since Omneya Abdel Kawy in 2010, to make the final of the world meet.

“I’m just so happy I never thought I could have won this match,” said a jubilant Sherbini.

“I always lose to Nicol 3-0 and it was never easy getting points off her. But I thought since I had nothing to lose, I just went out to enjoy my game.

“I feel so sorry for her…and bad too for beating Nicol in front of her home crowd. But I think the pressure was on her.

“I’m also the second player from my country to make the final after Omneya so I’m really happy and I hope Egypt will be proud of me too,” added Sherbini.

Nicol, meanwhile, admitted Sherbini deserved the win.

“It’s never easy losing in front of the fans here but the it was a bit of an up and down game for me and I just lacked the focus,” said Nicol bravely.

“I just wasn’t as sharp in the end but I did my best and gave it everything I could but it just wasn’t my day. Fair play to Sherbini, she really deserved to win so all the best to her in the final.”

Laura Massaro shows great control and composure
Laura Massaro shows great control and composure

Massaro, the 30-year-old from Preston, stopped an all-Egyptian final by beating number three seed Raneem El Welily 11-9, 11-7, 6-11, 11-7.

“Against Raneem it was more tough mentally because I didn’t know whether she was going to hit a nick or the tin,” said Massaro.

“But I felt that I was better physically and it definitely feels great to be in the final once more.”

For the record, Massaro has won the only other meeting against Sherbini, in the 2012 Malaysian Open quarter-finals.

The WSA Player Of The Year for 2013 Tweeted after the match: Seriously…. World open final???? Cannot believe that after yesterday’s battle. One more to go now.”

She also Tweeted a picture of herself doing a warm-down on an exercise bike while celebrating with an energy drink.

She will clearly need all that energy to halt the resurgent El Sherbini. 

Results Penang CIMB Women’s World Squash Championship,  semi-finals:

Nour El Sherbini (Egypt) beat (1) Nicol David (Malaysia) 4-11, 11-9, 11-6, 2-11, 11-9.(61 mins)
(2) Laura Massaro (England) beat (3) Raneem El Welili (Egypt) 11-9, 11-7, 6-11, 11-7 (48 mins) 

Picture from Lynn Khoo

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