England’s Sarah-Jane Perry, World No.11, stunned a capacity crowd inside New York’s Grand Central Terminal as she downed crowd favourite and 2016 runner-up Amanda Sobhy in a thrilling five-game battle to reach the last eight of the iconic J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions.
The 26-year-old from Birmingham produced one the best performances of her career as she thwarted Sobhy’s all-out attacking style to claim a huge win that sees her into a PSA World Series tournament quarter-final for the first time since the 2015 British Open, on a day that also saw Egyptian World No.3 Raneem El Welily, No.2 Nouran Gohar and defending champion Nour El Sheribi, World No.1, come through in unconvincing fashion.
“I beat Nicol (David) in September which was huge for me and this win today is similar to that,” said Perry, who won 9-11, 14-12, 12-10, 8-11, 11-5 after 67 minutes.
“They were both big matches in amazing locations (Grand Central and the Pyramids of Giza) against very strong opponents. You don’t get to play in better venues than those so it’s great to get that win today.
“I watched her (Sobhy) here last year and saw how much she enjoyed playing in front of a loud supportive crowd, so I just had to put that out of my mind. I had to focus on playing my way, not going short too much, and I stuck to my plan just enough to edge it.
“I changed coach about 14 months ago and have had some good results in the past six months. It’s all about believing in myself, approaching the game slightly differently mentally and going on court believing that I can compete with anyone and I know if I can stick to my game plan, win or lose I’ll be happy.”
Perry will face 2015 winner El Welily for a place in the semi-finals after she edged past Indian Dipika Pallikal Karthik while 8x World Champion David put in a second consecutive performance of total domination to down Annie Au 3-0 to underline her championship credentials and set up a quarter-final encounter with El Sherbini.
David and El Sherbini met here at the same stage last year, when El Sherbini recorded the second of five consecutive wins over David en route to the title, but the Malaysian will likely have her best chance yet to halt that run and install a needed confidence boost with El Sherbini struggling to hit her stride in the event to date – having narrowly beaten Salma Many Ibrahim in four games today.
“I’m pleased with my performance today,” said David.
“You don’t get to experience something like playing in Grand Central Terminal every day and when you train so hard and work all your life, you just want to be in venues like this competing with the best players and enjoying it.
“I’m excited to play Nour here. I’m going to give it my all tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.”
In the Men’s tournament World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy kept his title defence alive by beating younger brother Marwan, World No.6, in straight games to secure his place in the semi-finals where Frenchman Gregory Gaultier awaits after beating Tarek Momen 3-1.
“I think people enjoy watching us but it’s not fun competing against each other and it’s hard for everyone in the family,” said Mohamed.
“But we have to deal with it and I’m very glad to have won today and to be coming back here to compete in another match in this amazing location.
“The crowd here make it very special and they show us some great support so I’m looking forward to the next round.”
The 33-year-old downed his Sheffield opponent in a thrilling 73-minute match, winning 11-6, 7-11, 5-11, 11-7, 11-4 in the second round on Sunday night.
The pair met for the 34th time last month when Matthew scored an impressive straight-games win in the final of the British Grand Prix.
But under the chandeliers of the Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall, Willstrop turned recent history on its head, producing a free-flowing attacking performance that saw him pull out every tantalising trick in his repertoire and recover from going 1-2 down in games to complete the victory, his first over Matthew since the 2007 English Open Final.
“It’s taken me a long time to notch that win against him, so I’m pleased,” said Willstrop.
“Last month I didn’t play well against him and I was more disappointed with the performance than the result.
“I think the squash today was as good as it has ever been between us and we both played some very accurate stuff. I know what I’m capable of and I’ve been trying to work out the way to break him down for a long time. Today I did just enough to come through.
“And the best thing is I get to play here once again because I love being here at this event. To be out there and performing well in a good game of squash, it’s just brilliant.”
After the match Matthew said: “He deserved it – even when I was 2-1 up I didn’t feel like I was on top.
“He was the aggressor and I felt like I was chasing it. He’s a class player and we’ve played some massive matches, so that win was coming some day. He’s too good a player to have a record like that.”
Willstrop will now face tournament surprise package Paul Coll for a place in the semi-finals after the 24-year-old qualifier from New Zealand scored an unexpected win over World No.7 and ex-Harvard student Ali Farag to reach the last eight of a PSA World Series tournament for the first time in his career.
The physical powerhouse, who competes in Crossfit games for pleasure when not in squash action, prevailed 3-1 to extend his unbeaten streak on the PSA World Tour to 10 consecutive matches.
Coll came through qualification to defy the odds and claim the PSA M100 Channel Vas Championship in December – a victory that saw him become the first Kiwi since 1995 to break into the top 20 rankings – and continued to enjoy a purple patch as he nullified the supremely talented Farag 11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 11-7.
“I’m very happy – I’m was worried that I’d get knocked out in qualification here so to reach the quarter-finals is very pleasing,” said Coll.
“I know Ali from juniors and know he’s a quality player who’s very talented with the racket, so I told myself just to focus on countering what he does and take it from there.
“I’ve been training hard, like I always do, and it has started to pay off recently. I just try to play the way I like to play. I love the physical side of the game and I’m just embracing that and it’s working for me at the minute.
“Winning in December gave me a tonne of belief that I can compete with these guys up at the very top and to be backing that up again this week is a huge confidence boost.”
World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad won a five-game war of attrition with Australian Cameron Pilley to keep his tournament alive and set up a meeting with Germany’s Simon Rösner while in the Women’s event 2016 runner-up and local New York crowd favourite Amanda Sobhy got her 2017 campaign off to an emphatic winning start by demolishing Australia’s Donna Urquhart 3-0 in just 24 minutes.
Sobhy put in a performance packed with typical aggressive shot making as she out-gunned and out-thought Urquhart to send out a strong signal to the opposition as she looks to improve on last year’s result.
Results – Men’s Second Round (Bottom Half): 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Nick Matthew (ENG) 3-2: 11-6, 7-11, 5-11, 11-7, 11-4 (73m)
[Q] Paul Coll (NZL) bt  Ali Farag (EGY) 3-1: 11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 11-7 (60m)
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt [Q] Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 (41m)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 3-2: 8-11, 11-4, 11-6, 8-11, 11-9 (82m)
Regarding the 'streak', had to end one day. Ridiculous really to have that record v a player as good as James! Time to regroup & come again https://t.co/XaN7RewRvk— Nick Matthew OBE (@nickmatthew) January 15, 2017
Draw – Men’s Quarter-finals (To be played Jan 16)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
Tarek Momen (EGY) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
Results – Women’s First Round (Bottom Half): 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [Q] Olivia Blatchford (USA) 3-0: 11-3, 11-6, 11-4 (30m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt [WC] Natalie Grinham (NED) 3-0: 11-4, 11-9, 11-7 (27m)
 Victoria Lust (ENG) bt [Q] Nele Gilis (BEL) 3-1: 13-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-9 (58m)
 Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt [Q] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-8, 11-9 (41m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt Donna Urquhart (AUS) 3-0: 11-3, 11-8, 11-3 (24m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt Mariam Metwally (EGY) 3-2: 11-6, 8-11, 12-10, 8-11, 11-8 (64m)
Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) bt  Emily Whitlock (ENG) 3-1: 13-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-3 (39m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt [Q] Hollie Naughton (CAN) 3-0: 11-7, 11-3, 11-6 (23m)
Draw – Second Round
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v [Q] Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY)
 Annie Au (HKG) v  Nicol David (MAS)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Joshna Chinappa (IND)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v  Joelle King (NZL)
 Victoria Lust (ENG) v  Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
Tickets are now on sale for squash’s 2017 PSA Dubai World Series Finals, the first-ever sporting event staged at the Dubai Opera, a 2000-seat multi-format venue which forms the centerpiece of The Opera District in Downtown Dubai.
Taking place from 6-10 June, sports fans will be able to purchase tickets for the season-ending event directly from www.dubaiopera.com or from the Dubai Opera Box Office from Wednesday, January 11.
Commenting on the announcement, Jasper Hope, Chief Executive of Dubai Opera said: “Squash is one of the most exciting and enjoyable participant and spectator sports in the world and the intimate atmosphere of Dubai Opera is the perfect location for a live audience to be able to enjoy the World Series Finals.
“Dubai Opera’s stage has already played host to some of the greatest artists and productions from around the world and for our first ever sporting event we are very excited to be able to welcome the world’s squash elite for the culmination of their season.”
The PSA Dubai World Series Finals tournament is the pinnacle of the international squash season and sees the world’s top eight male and female ranked players on the ‘PSA Road To Dubai’s standings compete to determine who will lift the final title of the 2016/17 season.
Points are accumulated at every PSA World Series tournament which take place in nine locations around the world before reaching the Finals in Dubai.
The event seeks to build on the excitement generated by the inaugural PSA Dubai World Series Finals held in Burj Park, Downtown Dubai in June 2016. As part of a two-year agreement, the 2018 tournament will also be held at Dubai Opera from June 5-9.
The next tournament on the Road to Dubai standings is the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, taking place in New York’s iconic Grand Central Terminal from January 12-19. For further information on both the PSA World Series and the PSA World Tour, please visit: www.worldseriesfinals.com.