It was a great night for Egypt on semifinal evening of the Delaware Investments U.S. Open in Philadelphia as Nour El Sherbini, Mohamed Elshorbagy and Amr Shabana joined Nicol David in the finals of the World Series events.
Elshorbagy surprised even himself as he beat defending champion Gregory Gaultier in straight games, and Shabana’s four-game win over second seed Nick Matthew means that Elshorbagy will become world number one in November regardless of the outcome of the final.
Fri 17th Oct, Day NINE – Semifinals Nour El Sherbini (EGY) d  Camille Serme (FRA) 7-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-8 (54m)
 Nicol David (MAS) d  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 11-3, 15-13, 6-11, 11-7 (49m)
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) d  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 11-6, 11-9, 11-4 (48m)
 Amr Shabana (EGY) d  Nick Matthew (ENG) 11-5, 11-9, 10-12, 11-7 (63m)DRAWS
Playing her first major tournament after a five-month injury layoff, Egyptian teenager Nour El Sherbini (right) stormed into the final of the Delaware Investments U.S. Open with a second consecutive stunning upset at Drexel University.
Having already beaten second seed Laura Massaro in a repeat of their World Open final earlier in the year, Sherbini came from a game down to beat France’s fourth seed, Camille Serme.
Sherbini made the better start in each of the four games, but after quickly falling 4-0 down in the first, Serme started to get into the match, levelled at 5-all and ended the game going away for an 11-7 win.
The Egyptian shrugged that off to lead throughout the next two games, and although Serme managed to pull back to 8-all in the second and 6-all in the third, she could never quite get her nose in front, with Sherbini just having the slight edge in the ability to hit winning shots.
It didn’t look as though there was any coming back in the fourth though, as Sherbini stormed off to an 8-1 advantage. Serme wasn’t done, however, and she patiently built the rallies, worked for opportunuties and finished off several loose returns with precise volleys to the front.
Sherbini’s only point in the next eight was from a Serme error and, at 8-9, it was in the balance again. But a deep cross-court brought up matchball for the Egyptian, and after a short exchange of volleys in the middle of the court, Sherbini hammered the ball away for a place in the final.
“I can’t feel anything right now,” said a delighted winner. “I can’t believe I’m in the final of the U.S. Open!
“In the first she was playing so well, killing everything, and I didn’t have a solution. I relaxed, started to play my own game and thankfully it worked, but I was so tired when she was coming back at the end, I was just hitting the ball and what happened would happen!”
The world No. 1, Nicol David (right), will have the opportunity to become the first male or female player to win the U.S. Open three years in a row in the tournament’s sixty year history, Saturday, after defeating third-seeded Raneem El Welily in four games.
The Egyptian world No. 3 proved to be David’s most difficult match of the tournament thus far, becoming the first player to take a game off the two-time defending champion in David’s longest match of the tournament with a duration of forty-nine minutes.
The match didn’t show signs of a close contest in the first game, however, with David winning 11-3 in just seven minutes thanks in part to El Welily sending six balls into the tin.
It was David who had a string of unforced errors early in the second game to concede a 7-2 lead to El Welily, at which point David piled on the pressure with two winners, three El Welily tins and a stroke to level at 8-8. Some of the longest rallies of the match ensued with David earning two game balls at 10-8, which she then squandered with a tin and El Welily firing a volley winner. El Weilily then held game point following a stroke, but David drew level once more with a winning drop.
El Welily then shot a wining drop of her own for a second game ball, but sent another into the tin after leaving the score at 12-12. A David tin provided El Welily with a third game ball, after which David sent El Welily the wrong way smashing a low winning drive. A seventh tin in the second game meant a third game ball for David, which the Malaysian followed with a powerful drive out of El Welily’s reach sealing the seventeen-minute game 15-13.
An uncharacteristic start for David saw four unforced errors as well as four impressive El Welily winning shots handing El Welily an 8-1 lead in the third, which she held up to force a fourth game, 11-6.
El Welily lost momentum once again in the fourth, allowing David to pull away 11-7 to reach her third consecutive U.S. Open final.
“It feels great,” David said of her win. “She started off not in the game, but I knew she would just keep coming back and hitting some amazing shots. I just really had to dig deep and come back to my own game and really stick to it. I’m so pleased to win that one 3-1.”
David admitted the importance of fighting off three games balls in the second game.
“I think it makes a huge difference between when you’re one all or two love up so I used that to my advantage. She came out and played better squash in the third, so I had to come back in the fourth and really switched on and played much better and won it.”
David remained coy when asked about facing young Egyptian phenom Nour El Sherbini, who shocked David in five-games on home soil in the semifinals of the Women’s World Championship in their last meeting.
“I’m so pleased to get through to the finals, so I’m just going to let that sink in a bit before regrouping and getting ready for tomorrow’s match.”
The first men’s semifinal saw another young Egyptian take out a higher seed to progress to a first U.S. Open final. This time it was Mohamed Elshobagy, deposing defending champion and top seed Gregory Gaultier in three straight games.
It was a repeat of their Hong Kong Open final a few weeks ago, but tonight was no five-game seesaw match. Tonight Shorbagy took a grip on the match from the middle of the first game and Gaultier simply couldn’t prize Shorbagy’s racquet from his oft-declared goal of winning this tournament to become world number one.
The Frenchman led 4-3 in an attritional opening game, but Shorbagy controlled the second half, taking the lead 11-4 after sixteen minutes. The second game took sixteen minutes too, Shorbagy this time recovering from a 0-3 start to lead 10-7. Gaultier stuck in and forced two errors from his opponent, but when Shorbagy fired in a short winner to take the game 11-9, the writing was on the wall.
“I’m very happy with how I played and with my performance today, I couldn’t have imagined that the match would be over in three games; Greg and I usually have long tough battles.
“I’ll be fresh for the final now, and I’ll be going for it for sure. In a few tournaments I’ve had really tough quarters or semis and had nothing left, but I came here this week not to have one hard match, but to win it.
“I’ve had great support—when I knew had a chance of becoming world number one I called my mother and told her I needed her here with me. I hope I can win the title and the world number one position with her help.”
The four-time world champion outplayed his English counterpart in four games and sixty-three minutes. With his win and Mohamed Elshorbagy dismissing world No. 1 Gregory Gaultier in the first semifinal, Elshorbagy has guaranteed his ascent to world No. 1 in November.
Shabana, the former world No. 1, said he is happy to now target the best player in the world in Saturday’s final.
“Congratulations to Mo. It takes a lot of hard work to get to No. 1,” Shabana said. “I think he’s had the best results this year, so he deserves to be No. 1. Now that the pressure’s off, it’s a good time to beat the number one player in the world.”
Shabana continued his good form from last night’s quarterfinals with five winning shots to start the semis tonight, including sending Matthew the wrong way with a deft drop shot on game ball, while Matthew was slow to get started and committed five unforced errors.
Matthew’s momentum shifted in the second game, with Shabana committing four unforced errors to give the defending World Champion a 6-1 lead. But an awkward drive from Shabana into Matthew spurred a comeback with four Matthew errors, a Shabana stroke, and two Shabana winners earning game ball for the Egyptian at 10-8. A successful yes let to no let review brought Matthew within reach at 10-9, but a long rally culminating in three Shabana drops, all of which Matthew replied to with drops of his own—including the third into the tin—meant a 2-0 advantage to Shabana.
A moment of contention, in which Matthew was handed a conduct stroke for continued verbal dissent—after a conduct warning—seemed to pave the way for a three-game Shabana win with a 5-1 advantage. The lead extended to 8-2 when Matthew called his own ball out before Shabana hit a trickle boast winner. Three Matthew winners, a Matthew stroke and two Shabana errors saw Matthew level at 8-8, after which a stroke and Shabana tin gave Matthew game ball at 10-9. A tin of his own followed by Shabana failing to retrieve in the corner and a winning drop saw Matthew claim the game 12-10.
Six Shabana winners and a low-driven nick gave Shabana match ball at 10-5 in the fourth game, and a Matthew tin three points later condemned the Englishman to defeat, 11-7.
“He’s not that much younger than me!” Shabana said when emcee Gilly Lane mentioned his evergreen age. “It’s a match; I won it. It’s good for the crowd to see all types of squash. I think me and Nick let out our demons tonight. This is squash; it stays on court. It’s a squash match at the end. We’re not here to have fun, it’s a competition.”
Shabana downplayed his success at an older age having reached his second PSA final in two weeks after his NetSuite final appearance.
“I just try to take it day by day. I feel I have some fight left in me. It’s a great game, I don’t want to leave it just yet.”
First up are two players who both survived five-game quarterfinals last night. Camille Serme and Nour El Sherbini have met five times with the Frenchwoman leading 3-2, but it was the young Egyptian who won last time out.
Nicol David, aiming for a hat-trick of U.S. Open titles, meets Raneem El Welily, who beat David on her home turf last time out in the Malaysian Open, but David leads 13-3 overall in their WSA meetings.
Gregory Gaultier and Mohamed Elshorbagy met last month in the final of the Hong Kong Open. Then it was the Egyptian who prevailed in a five-game thriller, and although defending champion Gaultier leads 9-2 overall, he has lost out twice in a row to the fast-rising Shorbagy.
In the final match of the evening, Nick Matthew and Amr Shabana are no strangers—their 2011 final here was just one of twenty-nine PSA meetings. The Englishman leads 17-12 but Shabana won their last encounter, in last January’s ToC.
To add extra interest, Gaultier, Elshorbagy and Gaultier all know that taking the title here will also make them world number one in November.