After three days of high octane squash, the semi-finalists in the PSA Dubai World Series Finals have been decided as the last day of the group matches reached a thrilling climax at Dubai Opera on Thursday night.
Following Thursday’s matches only four players were certain of their fate, with Group B winners Laura Massaro and Mohamed Elshorbagy through to the semis, while Gregory Gaultier and Nicol David had crashed out of contention.
Nouran Gohar was first through from Group A with a 2-0 win over England’s Alison Waters. Gohar finished second in the group behind Camille Serme, who also kept her title hopes alive with a nail-biting 2-1 win over Raneem El Welily.
In the Men’s Group A Karim Abdel Gawad defeated Marwan Elshorbagy to move into the semis- crushing any hopes of the ElShorbagy brothers making an historic appearance in the finals.
Gawad finished ahead of Simon Rosner in Group A whose 2-0 win over Nick Matthew sees him become the first German to make the semi-finals in the prestigious year ending competition.
In the evening session England’s World No.7 Sarah-Jane Perry had a tense and ultimately disappointing wait to see if she had qualified for the semi-finals after she inflicted a third defeat on two-time winner Nicol David. David had the better of her in the first game, before Perry stormed back to take the match 6-11, 11-4, 11-8.
Perry began the tournament with an impressive victory over World Champion Nour El Sherbini and, before losing to compatriot Laura Massaro in her second match. After defeating David, Perry needed Massaro to dispatch El Sherbini to grab a semi-final berth.
Massaro had a 100 per cent record going into the match and took the opener in comfortable fashion, and looked to be about to make it an English double from Group B when she went match ball up. But El Sherbini had other ideas and moved through to the semi-finals after she recovered from the opening game onslaught to win 2-1, wresting the second semi-final berth in from Sarah-Jane Perry.
Massaro will now lock horns with World Junior Champion Nouran Gohar for a place in a third successive final.
“I wanted to qualify so badly and last time I played Laura I was 2-0 up [before losing],” said El Sherbini, who will face Camille Serme for a place in the final.
“Camille is at the top of the game now, she’s playing the best at the moment and is one of the most consistent players. She’s had a lot of good results this season and we always have tough matches. I’m just going to relax, but I’m ready for whatever happens.”
In the next match Former World No.1 James Willstrop overcame a blistering start from World No.5 Ali Farag to reach the semi-finals of the World Series Finals for the first time since he made it to the final of the 2012 edition.
James Willstrop (black) in action against Ali Farag.
Willstrop and Farag were in a straight shootout for a semi-final berth after a win and a defeat each so far and it was Farag who started the stronger as the World No.5 took an 11-4 win in game one. Willstrop weathered the Egyptian’s storm though in the second game and edged it by a two-point margin.
There was no let-up in the third game, with one sensational rally in particular seeing Farag fall onto the floor, pick himself up and play a winner two shots later to send the gathered crowd into raptures.
But Willstrop stayed in front to close out the victory, 4-11, 11-9, 11-6, and will now face World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad for a place in the final.
The final match of the evening and of the group stages was a dead rubber between Gregory Gaultier and Mohamed ElShorbagy. Gaultier had already bowed out of the competition, while Mohamed had already secured his semi-finals berth.
ElShorbagy dispatched a disappointed Gaultier 12-10, 11-7 in just 17 minutes and will now face Group A’s runner-up Simon Rösner while Gaultier sees a season in which he has won seven Tour titles and became the oldest World No.1 of all time come to an end.
“Me and Rösner have played so many times together and I’m sure it’s going to be another exciting battle,” said ElShorbagy.
Tickets to the evening sessions, semi-finals and finals can be purchased at https://dubaiopera.etixdubai.com/shows/show.aspx?sh=PSAUMB