Serme, who was also the first Frenchwoman ever to win the historic British Open back in 2014, wrote her name into the squash history books once again at the 2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open.
Serme bowed out of her last tournament, September’s Al Ahram Open, with a whimper in the first round as she struggled for form but has turned her season around, producing a series of spellbinding performances to defeat World No. 2 Laura Massaro, World No. 6 Amanda Sobhy and World Champion El Sherbini to secure the win – in what was only her third ever PSA World Series tournament final.
After sharing the opening two games it was Serme who came through a crucial third game, coming from 0-4 down to take it in a tense tie-break courtesy of some sublime dropshot winners, and she continued to play with pinpoint precision and accuracy to come through in four games and seal an unexpected triumph.
“I cannot believe it,” said Serme. “Two weeks ago I lost in the first round of the Al Ahram Open and was so far away from this. If someone had told me then I’d win the US Open I’d have laughed – so to now be the champion is crazy. I’m so, so happy!
“Yesterday was a tough match but today was a completely different test. She’s not No.1 for nothing, it’s crazy because I felt like I was behind all the time. I just kept pushing and telling myself that I can do it.
“I had to trust in myself and be attacking. I knew I had the right tactics so i just had to keep believing. It’s one of the biggest victories of my career without a doubt.”
World No. 1 Elshorbagy, who added the 2016 title to his 2014 triumph, was crowned champion after the 36-year-old Englishman was forced to retire in the fifth game of their title decider inside Philadelphia’s Drexel University.
It marked the third time that Matthew has been forced to retire during major encounters with ElShorbagy inside the past 18 months – with injury also thwarting the Yorkshireman during the 2015 El Gouna International and 2016 Windy City Open – bringing to an end what, for 50 minutes, was shaping up to be one of the best matches of the season.
After coming through a gruelling five-game semi-final it was Matthew who started brighter and managed to control the play to open up a 2-0 lead after two punishing games but a hamstring injury suffered during a lengthy exchange in the first game came back to bite as the Wolf began to break down, resulting with a handshake midway through the fifth game.
“I have great memories here, two years when I won it got me to the top of the rankings and whenever I’m back I just feel really happy to be here,” said ElShorbagy.
“It gives me a lot of confidence and I’m really happy that I’ve found my best squash this week. It’s been a while since I played the way I love to play and I’m really happy I’ve got it back again.
“I grew up watching Nick playing and he comes from a golden generation. For me, he’s the greatest out of all of them. He’s raised the bar for everyone and I’ve watched that and learned from that, and every time I was coming close to that bar, he would push it even further.
“He’s the greatest champion I’ve ever seen in my life, the greatest athlete I’ve ever seen in my life and the amount I have learned from him is unbelievable.”
After the match Matthew said: “This week was about more than squash for me.
“I haven’t won the tournament but I’ve won my squash back – on and off court I’ve found a method to enjoy the game again and play with a smile on my face.
“Ultimately my body just let me down at the end. My mind was in the game and I was enjoying it. I love being on this stage and I was a winner this week regardless of tonight.”
England’s three-time world champion Nick Matthew and World No.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy will renew their rivalry in the final of the 2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open after securing their place in the title-decider courtesy of two outstanding performances during semi-finals night at Philadelphia’s Drexel University.
After producing the performance of the tournament so far to outclass World No.6 Ali Farag in the quarters Matthew, the 36-year-old from Sheffield, displayed the type of tenacious never-say-die attitude that has epitomised his career as he came through a nail-biting five-game battle with Karim Abdel Gawad – the World No.4 who won the Al Ahram Open last month.
In a highly competitive battle that went all the way to a fifth game tie-break it was Matthew who came through 11-4, 7-11, 16-14, 3-11, 12-10 to set up a 19th meeting, and a 7th title-decider, with ElShorbagy.
“I’ve lost here in the semis the last few years so I was really motivated to try and make the final – I don’t know how many more times I’ll be able to play at the US Open so I wanted to do my best and leave it all on there,” said Matthew.
“I was digging in and on the back foot a lot. He nullified a lot of my strengths – I’m proud of how I managed to problem solve and come through. I tried to start the fifth as well as possible and that put me in a good position.
“Mohamed is a great fighter,” added Matthew. “He’s already surpassed the likes of Ramy (Ashour), Greg (Gaultier) and myself, in terms of being World No.1 and top of the rankings, and he’s insatiable so I know I’m going to have to be at my best tomorrow.
“But I’m just thrilled to be here, in the US Open final, so I will come back tomorrow and do my best and play hard and fair.”
ElShorbagy meanwhile denied the possibility of an all-English finale as he halted the run of a resurgent James Willstrop – the 33-year-old Englishman who downed Omar Mosaad in the first round in a return to his best form – to secure a 3-0 win that belied the quality and competitiveness of the encounter that saw them engaged in rally after rally of the highest quality.
ElShorbagy came close to exiting the event at the first hurdle, scraping through against Cesar Salazar 3-2 having faced two match balls, but has gone from strength to strength since then and put in the best performance of his season to date as he dealt with everything Willstrop threw at him in a display of defensive excellence.
“Playing the first round I thought I was already going back home,” said ElShorbagy. “Next minute I’m into the US Open final. When you experience moments like this you feel very, very lucky. I’m so happy to be back into the final here and I’m really looking forward to the final now.
Really happy with my performance last night against James Willstrop to beat him 3/0. Will be up… https://t.co/wYT5QyFmSc— Mohamed Elshorbagy (@MoElshorbagy) October 15, 2016
“Today I had to play my best squash and really bring out my A-game – he’s been playing so well this week. How he’s got back to the form he is in after his injury shows the great champion he is and it has been inspiration to watch.
“But I’m here to compete and challenge for titles. I hate losing and gave it everything today to get into the final.”
In the Women’s draw France’s Camille Serme, the 27-year-old from Créteil, secured her first appearance in a major final since winning the iconic British Open in 2015 courtesy of a sublime performance saw her defeat home favourite and World No.6 Amanda Sobhy.
Serme came through a mentally challenging five-game battle with England’s Laura Massaro, the 2015 US Open champion, in the quarter-finals of the PSA World Series tournament and showed the characteristics of a true champion to back up from that performance and put together another display packed with pinpoint accuracy and tactical precision to thwart the aggressive attacking play of Sobhy 11-6, 11-9, 10-12, 11-5.
“I’m so happy, I can’t believe it,” said Serme, who showed great mental strength to recovered from losing match ball in the third game to take the match in four. When you lost a match ball it isn’t easy to re-group and stay focused – I’m so glad I could do it.
“The tactic was to get in front of her and not let he play her shots. She hits the ball so hard and today she was using her lob to make it difficult for me but I wanted to make it more physical, and make the rallies long, to try and tire her out.
“I’m just so, so happy to make it to the final.”
Serme will now face World No.1 Nour El Sherbini in the title decider after the 20-year-old overcome Raneem El Welily 3-1 to book a place in the final and earn revenge for her defeat to the former World No.1 in the final of last month’s Al Ahram Open.
It was El Welily – the 27-year-old who downed Nicol David in the match of the tournament so far to reach the semi-finals – who started the stronger, using her limitless attacking talents to take the opening game 11-8 in relatively straight forward manner but El Sherbini stormed back to take three games in a row to run out an 8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-3 winner.
“It was a really hard match from the start,” said El Sherbini, the 2014 US Open runner-up.
“Raneem beat me a few weeks ago in Al Ahram and she has been playing well the whole week and is in top form – so I didn’t expect that I would win today.
“But I’m really happy with my performance. I’m getting better every match and I’m happy to be back in the final of the US Open once again. Hopefully this time I can take the title.”
The 2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open finals get underway at 5:00pm local time at Drexel University’s Daskalakis Athletic Centre on Saturday October 15 with tickets for the PSA World Series tournament available to purchase by visiting www.usopensquash.com
Result – Men’s 2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open: Semi-finals
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-5, 13-11 (56m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-2: 11-4, 7-11, 16-14, 3-11, 12-10 (91m)
Draw – Men’s 2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open: Finals
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
Result – Women’s 2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open: Semi-finals
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 3-1: 8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-3 (37m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Amanda Sobhy (USA) 3-1: 11-6, 11-9, 10-12, 11-5 (42m)
Draw – Women’s 2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open: Final
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Camille Serme (FRA)