US SQUASH

World’s Top Two Women to Contest U.S. Open Final; Rösner Tops Defending Champ Farag

Nour El Sherbini (l) and Raneem El Welily

Germany’s Simon Rösner denied world No. 2 Ali Farag the opportunity to defend his FS Investments U.S. Open title, while the U.S. Open is guaranteed a first-time women’s champion in the form of the world’s top two ranked women—Nour El Sherbini or Raneem El Welily—following Friday’s semifinals in Philadelphia.

The first match of the day staged a rematch of the 2016 women’s final between 2016 champion Camille Serme and world No. 1 El Sherbini. Serme, the French world No. 4, got the best of her Egyptian counterpart in both 2016 and in their most recent meeting—two weeks ago at the China Open.

Serme continued her superb form from her quarterfinal victory over Team USA’s Amanda Sobhy straight into the first game, pushing and forcing errors from the world No. 1 as she clawed back from 9-5 down to take the first game 12-10.

El Sherbini regained control after the first game, leveling in the second 11-6, fighting off game balls to take the third 12-10 and eventually pulling away from 5-all in the fourth to clinch her third career U.S. Open final berth 11-8 after sixty-two minutes.

“It’s always tough to play against Camille,” El Sherbini said. “She’s a very fair player and it’s always hard to beat her. She is back to No. 4 in the world and that shows how good and how tough she is. I’m really glad I won today. It was long rallies and all the games were close, so I’m really happy to be through to the final.”

The U.S. Open is one of the only major PSA World Platinum titles that eludes the Alexandria, Egypt-native, who has topped the world’s rankings for more than two and a half years. El Sherbini previously lost out against Nicol David in the 2014 final and Serme in the 2016 final.

“It would mean a lot to win here,” El Sherbini. “The U.S. Open is one of the biggest tournaments and I would really love to put my name on the trophy. It’s the third final for me and hopefully it is going to be the one. Raneem is the most consistent player on Tour right now and I’m sure it will be a good match.”

El Welily prevailed from a tight encounter with the first Welsh semifinalist in U.S. Open history—world No. 12 Tesni Evans. The tenacious Welshwoman forced the best out of Welily, fighting off stretches of game balls in each game, and even surmounting a sizeable lead to take the second game, but ultimately fell short in four games and sixty-four minutes.

“Tesni played really well and all credit to her for pushing me all the way and fighting,” El Welily said. “She has had an impressive week and is going to fight all this season.”

El Welily and El Sherbini’s last six match ups all collided in finals, with El Welily claiming the 2017 World Championship and 2018 El Gouna International, and El Sherbini claiming the 2017 Hong Kong Open, 2018 PSA Saudi Masters, 2018 British Open and 2018 World Series Finals.

“I will try to think of positive for tomorrow,” El Welily said. “It’s definitely more difficult playing against Nour, she is a very good friend and we play against each other a lot. Playing any Egyptian girl is usually more difficult mentally.”

Like El Sherbini, the U.S. Open title has escaped El Welily’s trophy cabinet having fallen short in the final last year against Nour El Tayeb and in 2012 against Nicol David.

“Winning the U.S. Open title is definitely something I would love to do, but it’s not going to be easy.” El Welily said. “No match is easy, so definitely playing the world No. 1 is not going to be any easier.”

Simon Roesner against Ali Farag

The men’s final will pit two-time champion and world No. 1 Mohamed ElShorbagy against Rösner, who stopped defending champion and world No. 2 Ali Farag in his tracks.

After an impressive five-game quarterfinal victory against Gregory Gaultier, Farag appeared to be en route to setting up a 2017 final rematch by winning the first game against the German 11-4. To the surprise of Farag and the crowd, Rösner turned the match on its head, outplaying the Harvard graduate to reach his first career U.S. Open final 4-11, 11-8, 11-3, 11-6 in fifty-four minutes.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Rösner said. “We are good friends. As always it was a very fair and clean match, and it’s always a pleasure to play him. I’m not sure what happened after the first, I think I got my tactics right and got the ball into the corners. I was able to play my attacking squash and I’m very pleased and relieved with my performance. To beat Ali when he is playing such fantastic squash is something very special.”

2018 has proved to be a banner year for the German who surged to the biggest title of his career at the 2018 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in January, which propelled him to a career high-ranking of No. 5 this summer. Off the court, the thirty-year-old got married this summer and is expecting his first child in December.

“It seems like the U.S. is good for me,” Rösner said. “It has a lot to do with how comfortable you are and how the place is treating you. After not making the semis before and now reaching the final it is huge for me. Life is treating me well at the moment, so I just want to continue on that wave and play my best squash in the final tomorrow.”

Rösner has never defeated ElShorbagy in fourteen career matches on the PSA Tour, but will have a fifteenth opportunity on Saturday after ElShorbagy tamed New Zealand’s Paul Coll. Coll, who had powered his way into his first career PSA World Platinum semifinal with an upset over world No. 4 Tarek Momen, started the match on the front foot. Poised with three game balls up 10-7, Coll took a blow to the face that caused a blood injury time out for nearly ten minutes. Coll returned to court and quickly fired off a point to earn the first game 11-7, but that would be the last time the Kiwi would experience positive momentum in the match. The Egyptian returned to court with renewed focus and precision, manipulating Coll around the court on his way to a four-game victory in seventy-eight minutes.

“I’ve reached my fourth U.S. Open final in the last five years,” ElShorbagy said. “I have great memories here, this is the tournament that got me to world No. 1 four years ago and I come back here every year having those great memories. I’m really happy to be back in the final, I lost it here last year and I was disappointed but I lost because my opponent was the better player. I hope I give another good performance tomorrow.”

Saturday’s finals start at 5pm local time. For tickets visit usopensquash.com/tickets.

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