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Farag and Perry down top seeds in San Fran
Categories : Squash news around the world
Sarah-Jane Perry and Ali Farag, the 2018 NetSuite Open winners (Photo credit: Oracle NetSuite Open)
Main story: Perry holds her NetSuite title, Farag beats World No.1 Golan
While the U.S.. Open starts tomorrow, the US tour was launched in San Francisco. Sarah-Jane Perry caused an upset beating Raneem El Welily and kept her title, and Ali Farag came out as the winner of the Egyptian showdown against Mohamed El Shorbagy.
Among the love stories between a tournament and a squash player, there is now this of Sarah-Jane Perry and the NetSuite Open in San Francisco. Runner-up for her first participation in 2015, the Englishwoman had clinched the biggest trophy of her career last year, with victories over Laura Massaro and Nicol David. She did it again this week, while the prize money had almost doubled and therefore the draw was even stronger. After ousting World No.4 Joelle King in the quarters and then Annie Au in the semis, Perry caused a big upset in the final, beating the in-form player of the moment - reigning World champion Raneem El Welily. Impressive since the beginning of the tournament, the Egyptian went down 2-0 before levelling the score against Perry. But the defending champion got the upper hand in the fifth game, leading 10-4 before converting her 4th match ball. "She was making me work so hard," said Perry afterwards. "I had to play as clever as I have ever done before and I was absolutely knackered in that fifth game. But I knew I was playing well and that I didn't have to change much tactically, But even at 10-4 up she was coming back and she hit some fantastic shots to get it back to 10-7 so there was a lot of relief at the end alongside the elation."
Two ways of celebrating for Perry and Farag but the same outcome ... (Photo credits: Oracle NetSuite Open)
The number 1 seed also fell in the final in the men's draw, Ali Farag prevailing over Mohamed El Shorbagy. It was the first time that the World No.2 beat his big rival since the U.S. Open final a year ago. After having lost two very close first games, El Shorbagy reduced the deficit but Farag came out as the victor in the fourth game (11-9), clinching his first title since the Swedish Open in February. "Tonight against Mohamed I had to be on my mettle throughout," said Farag. "He's a great champion and such a determined fighter - which he showed even when I was ahead in the fourth game. Last season I got off to a strong start but I couldn't carry it through until the end of the season. I'm trying to learn from that experience and be more consistent this season and now I'm really looking forward to going to the US Open to defend that title next week. Winning there with Nour last year has been the highlight of my career so hopefully we can do it again this time."
Other squash news in September
--- Egypt retain Women's World Team title In Dalian
The first world squash championship ever to be held in China took place in September, when the city of Dalian hosted the 2018 WSF Women’s World Team Championship. It was also the first time that an event was played entirely on glass courts - two all-glass showcourts as well as four permanently-sited all-glass courts. For the fifth time in the last seven editions, Egypt and England clashed in the final, and the top seeds prevailed, like in 2016 in Paris. Egypt's coach Amr Shabana had to rest world No.1 Nour El Sherbini - who hurt her Achilles in the semis against Hong Kong - but such is the might of his squad that he was still able to field at third string Nouran Gohar, who is ranked six in the world! In the opening match, her opponent Alison Waters, earning her 140th international cap for England, battled back from 0-2 but Gohar put Egypt ahead with a 5-game victory. Raneem El Welily then faced Laura Massaro - both former world number ones - and it was the pair's 31st meeting. El Welily took a two-game lead over Massaro before the English player reduced the deficit. But the fourth game was a short affair, El Welily dropping just three points to close the match in four games. When asked if the approach to this fifth final against England was any different from before, Shabana responded: "I asked them, just before they started to warm up, how many times have you won the world team title? I know England has won it seven times but how many times have you won it? Only four. So I said, you are not exactly favourites here; you are not used to that feeling. You still have a long time before you can say you are dominant - and that's what I wanted them to know. Yes, we're higher-ranked right now, but people tend to think we have always been this!"
The Egyptian dream team - El Welily, Gohar, El Sherbini and El Tayeb - held their title at the World Team Championship in China (Photo credit: wsfwomensteams.com)
England coach David Campion was not dismayed by his team's performance: "To be fair, both Raneem and Gohar played really well for Egypt. When Alison came back I thought she might be able to do it - but it wasn't to be. They both gave everything. Laura's match with Raneem was a quality match. Raneem was superb and when she plays like that she beats everybody. We can't really be too disappointed with the outcome when you see the level of squash they played at today. We'll keep fighting away and hopefully keep as competitive as this going forward!" The four medalists were exactly the same than two years ago: alongside Egypt and England, Hong Kong and France collected their second bronze medal in a row after upsetting the United States and Malaysia in the quarter final stage, respectively. WSF CEO Andrew Shelley concluded: "These WSF Women's World Championships have shown that China is not just growing in squash, but actually leading the way! The first-ever world championship played entirely on glass showcourts - the six CGG courts providing a memorable Dalian staging to complement the superb overall arrangements and hospitality the visiting players and officials experienced. Squash thrives in Asia. Everybody leaves with anticipation for the 2020 staging in Kuala Lumpur - for whom the bar has certainly been set high."
Source: World Squash Federation
--- A busy month on the tour
Besides the NetSuite Open (see above), other major events took place in the last few weeks on the PSA World Tour. Egyptian duo Raneem El Welily and Mohamed Abouelghar were crowned at the J.P. Morgan China Squash Open after they defeated France’s Camille Serme and New Zealand’s Paul Coll, respectively, on finals day at the Peninsula Shanghai, which overlooks the famous Shanghai Bund. El Welily claimed her 18th PSA Tour and her 2nd China Open. “I’m just happy to start the season with a win," she said. "The plan this season is to take it one match at a time, one point at a time and one rally at a time. Hopefully I can play this well again this season, I’ve got to play harder to improve and work on new stuff.” Her compatriot Mohamed Abouelghar capped a superb tournament by lifting the biggest PSA Tour title of his career after beating Paul Coll in straight games. Maybe the Kiwi was a bit tired after a 90-minute gruelling battle against Simon Rosner in the semis, but the Egyptian also had tough matches en route to the final, beating Gregory Gaultier and Saurav Ghosal in 5 games. “If I wanted to have any chance against Paul I had to be patient and not go for shots as often as I would like. I think I was sharp when I went short and I’m happy that it paid off," said Abouelghar.
Declan James and Nele Gilis collected their biggest title in Nantes, while Egypt's Mohamed Abouelghar and Raneem El Welily triumphed in Shanghai (Photo credits: PSA World Tour, Mikphotos.fr)
Since its inception in 2014, the Open International de Squash de Nantes has combined sport and culture, showcasing the best of both squash and the city of Nantes. The 2018 edition took the yearly event to a new level, as a state-of-the-art all-glass showcourt was erected in the beautiful setting of the Théâtre Graslin and each match was opened by a musical performance featuring the soprano Anne-Sophie Duprels. England’s Declan James and Belgium’s Nele Gilis both claimed the biggest trophy of their career after two superb finals, and in front of a packed-out audience. “Along with the Commonwealths earlier in the year with James, this is probably the best moment of my career,” said the 25-year-old from Nottingham after beating former World No.1 and top seed James Willstrop in a 5-game thriller. “I had to dig really deep, James was making me do so much work and was unplayable at times, but I knew that would be the case because of how much class he has got. It all just happened really quickly in the end but it’s a really special moment for me.” Declan James has recently joined the Eye team and is wearing the brand new S-Line 2019K squash shoes, available on My Squash. Willstrop was very gracious in defeat and expressed his appreciation to the organizers. “I’ve seen some amazing tournaments here over the years and this is an incredible place to play squash," he said. "I sat and watched the opening phase and it was absolutely breath-taking. It’s going to spread the word about the sport and present it in a great light. It’s another amazing venue that you can add to the list and shows that a glass court can be set-up anywhere.”
Source: PSA World Tour
--- September World Rankings
The Professional Squash Association released the new world rankings on Monday. While the top 7 remained unchanged - the top 3 still being all-Egyptian with Mohamed El Shorbagy at No.1 - Mohamed Abouelghar has returned to the top 10, at No.9, for the first time since May courtesy of his title win at the China Squash Open last month. Runner-up in Shanghai, Paul Coll moves up to two places to No.8, while Saurav Ghosal climbs to a career-high No.11 ranking. The biggest rise in the top 20 is for Max Lee, moving up five places to No.14 after last month’s HKFC International win, and three-time World Champion Ramy Ashour drops six places to No.15. Raphael Kandra and Declan James both move into the top 20 for the first time. As far as women are concerned, while the top 3 is also 100% Egyptian, France’s Camille Serme has returned to the world’s top four at the expense of Joelle King, after a runner-up finish at the China Open. Winner in Shanghai, Raneem El Welily is closing the gap with world No.1 Nour El Sherbini. This month's headline is that Nicol David, who topped the World Rankings for nine uninterrupted years between 2006-2015, has dropped two places to No.11, bringing an end to her record 177-month unbroken run in the world’s top 10 in the process. As a result, Alison Waters and Annie Au both rise into the top 10.
Source: PSA World Tour
September PSA World rankings (Photo credits: PSA World Tour)
October squash hotspots
--- The FS Investments U.S. Open Squash Championships - which start this Saturday - is the first PSA World Tour Platinum tournament to take place under the new tour structure. While 32 players will be battling in each of the 48-player draw to reach the second round, a few of the round of 16 matches have already been drawn in the men's and some are mouth-watering: Coll v Elias, Cuskelly v Mosaad, Momen v Willstrop, Rösner v Selby and defending champion Farag v Müller. The Egyptian - who had made the headline last year with his wife Nour El Tayeb (see blog of 3rd of November 2017) - is one of the former winners in the field, with world No.1 Mohamed El Shorbagy – 2014 and 2016 champion – and three-time winner Gregory Gaultier, while Ramy Ashour will be the only top 20 player missing the event. Farag’s memorable victory over El Shorbagy last year came shortly after wife Nour El Tayeb won the women’s title – meaning they became the first married couple in sporting history ever to win the same major sports title on the same day. El Tayeb is joined in the women’s draw by the likes of 2017 runner-up Raneem El Welily, World No.1 Nour El Sherbini, 2016 winner Camille Serme, 2015 victor Laura Massaro and three-time winner Nicol David. U.S. interest in the women’s draw comes in the form of Olivia Blatchford, Amanda Sobhy, Haley Mendez and wildcards Reeham Sedky and Olivia Fletcher. Todd Harrity features in the men’s draw along fellow Americans Andrew Douglas and Christopher Gordon, who take the wildcard spots.
Ali Farag and Nour El Tayeb were the heroes of the 2017 The U.S. Open (Photo credit: US Open Squash)
Three other tournaments will be held on the PSA World Tour in October: for the men, the Channel VAS Championships and the Qatar Classic - whose entry lists have been published this week - and the Carol Weymuller Open 2018 (top 2 seeds being Nour El Tayeb and SJ Perry) for the women. One of the other highlights for the sport in October will be the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, where squash will be a showcase sport for the first time between the 7th and the 12th of October. 19 young male and 19 young female Ambassadors, have been nominated by the five regions (Asia, Europe, Pan America, Africa and Oceania) of the World Squash Federation. "These players, all under-18, will be our ambassadors," said WSF President Jacques Fontaine. "This is an exciting opportunity for squash to be a part of an Olympic event for the first time - hopefully a stepping stone towards achieving our dream of a place on the Olympic Games Programme."
Winners: Declan James (England) and Emily Whitlock (England)
Winners: Mohamed Abouelghar (Egypt) and Raneem El Welily (Egypt)
Winners: Ali Farag (Egypt) and Sarah-Jane Perry (England)
Winners: Joshua Masters (Great Britain), Lily Taylor (Great Britain) and Great Britain
Winners: Paderborn and Edgbaston Priory
Winners: Abbas Zeb (Pakistan) and Chan Yiwen (Malaysia)