England’s Sarah-Jane Perry, World No.11, triumphed in a remarkable rollercoaster encounter with 2015 tournament winner Raneem El Welily, World No.3, in New York today (Jan 17) to reach the semi-finals of the iconic 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament Champions and secure her first ever appearance in the last four of a PSA World Series tournament.
Perry halted home favourite Amanda Sobhy, 2016 runner-up, in an epic five-game thriller yesterday but showed no signs of fatigue as she raced to a 2-0 game lead over El Welily.
But the wheels looked to have come off the track as the Egyptian levelled up at 2-2 before taking a 4-1 lead in the decider.
A sublime run of nine consecutive points however swung the match back in favour of Birmingham-based Perry as she completed the 11-7, 12-10, 10-12, 5-11, 11-5 win to set up a seismic clash with compatriot Laura Massaro, guaranteeing an English finalist.
“That’s my first win over Raneem, to reach my first ever World Series semi-final, and I get to play here again inside Grand Central Terminal tomorrow – so I’m very pleased and very proud,” said Perry.
“I’ve been working hard on and off court for the past year and I’ve got more confidence and belief in myself. And having that self-belief is imperative at this level because I was 2-0 up and all of a sudden she was back and I was down in the fifth – so I had to really work hard to make sure I got back on track.
“I didn’t realise I won 9 points in a row. I was just focusing on each point, getting my discipline back, and refusing to stop believing and I’m excited about the semi-finals tomorrow.
“I’ve played Laura many times and it’s a massive match. I’m just going to focus on trying to play how I want to play and do my best.”
Perry will take on Massaro, World No.5, after the 33-year-old from Preston dominated last eight opponent Omneya Abdel Kawy, World No.9, winning 11-4, 12-10, 11-6, while World No.1 Nour El Sherbini kept her title defence alive with a narrow victory over 8x World Champion Nicol David in a thrilling 64 minute battle.
El Sherbini will now meet Camille Serme, World No.4, after the Frenchwoman knocked out World No.2 Nouran Gohar in a hugely impressive 3-1 win that was inspired by a newly adopted training technique – yoga.
“Nouran beat me twice last year in very tough five game battles so I knew it would be hard today,’ said Serme, who beat El Sherbini 3-1 in the U.S. Open final last October.
“But I had no pressure on me. She’s No.2 in the World and I felt like the pressure was on her – I just focused on what I needed to do, which is exactly what I done at the U.S. Open as well, so I’m very, very happy.
“I’m trying to get into the same state of mind as I was in Philadelphia. I started Yoga recently and anytime I feel nervous I use the respiration techniques to try and let it go – and it seems to be helping!”
In the men’s draw it was another No.11, James Willstrop, who backed up his headline grabbing defeat of perennial rival Nick Matthew – his first win in 20 attempts over his old adversary – with an accomplished 3-1 win over New Zealand’s Paul Coll to reach his first World Series tournament semi-final since the 2013 Kuwait Cup.
33-year-old Willstrop, the 2011 tournament winner, utilised his exquisite court-craft and ball placement to counter the unrelenting physicality of the 24-year-old, ending Coll’s 10-match winning streak, and set up an intriguing battle with Egyptian World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad.
“I’m very happy to get through today because he’s flying at the moment and arguably one of the in-form players out there – to break that run I had to play very well,” said Willstrop.
“I had to make sure I didn’t lose sight of the end goal. He makes the court so small with his physicality and speed that you have to keep putting the work in, move him around as much as possible and try to break him down
“You have to put the ball in good areas against guys like Nick and Paul because they’re such wonderful athletes. I’ve done that well in the past two rounds and I’m excited at the chance to be out on that stage against tomorrow and I’m keen to soak it up.
“But there’s no reason that I can’t look to progress further. I feel alright and if I’m beating players like Paul then I’m set to go and hopefully I can produce it again. It’s my favourite event – the venue speaks for itself – and there’s nothing like being here. I’ve had some great moments here and hopefully I’ll have a few more still to come.”
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)