World champion Raneem El Welily and France’s Camille Serme have earned their places in the semi-finals of this year’s PSA Dubai World Series Finals after Serme registered a sublime 2-0 victory over England’s Laura Massaro on Thursday, while El Welily posted a 2-0 win over Sarah-Jane Perry.
El Welily’s victory sees her qualify top of the women’s Group B – meaning defending champion Massaro is out of the tournament, due to having a lower games won percentage than both El Welily and Serme, who qualifies in second. Perry finished in fourth without a win.
Serme was a semi-finalist at last year’s tournament and was as solid as Massaro was sluggish in their match, with the World No5 finding her targets right from the off. For her part, Massaro was unable to rediscover the accuracy that took her to wins in her first two matches and Serme blitzed to an 11-7, 11-5 victory in 22 minutes.
“I’m very happy with the way I played, I managed to relax and play my shots better than the other days,” said Serme.
“She’s such a fighter, she loves playing here and she never gives up, so until the very last point I didn’t want to give her anything.
“I was a bit upset with myself after losing yesterday, then on the other side I was like ‘you still have a chance, be positive!’ I called my coach and he was telling me what went wrong in my match yesterday but you have to focus on the positive side and refocus the next day.”
El Welily had lost out to Massaro on day one of the tournament but her victory over Serme yesterday ensured that she came into the final day of group stage action needing a win over Perry to have any chance of reaching the knockout semi-finals.
“I am very pleased to be through to the semis. It’s the second time for me in Dubai, I didn’t quite make it last year but I’m definitely happy to be in the semis this year” said El Welily.
“I can’t help but feel bad for Laura, she won her first two matches and didn’t do anything wrong there but she didn’t qualify. It was a tough group just like the other one and I’m just glad to be through against such tough competitors.
“Dubai is definitely a favourite tournament, we all have a great time here, we’re taken good care of and I really enjoy the crowd and the atmosphere, it’s absolutely fantastic to play in front of such a cheerful crowd.”
Meanwhile German No1 Simon Rosner made it three wins out of three in the men’s Group B after he claimed a 2-0 victory over Frenchman Gregory Gaultier to leave the former World No1 without a win for the second year running.
Rosner had already qualified top of his group after wins against World No2 Ali Farag and World No8 Karim Abdel Gawad and he claimed an 11-8, 12-10 victory over 35-year-old Gaultier to maintain his 100 per cent record thus far.
And in the decider for the other qualifier from Group B, Egyptian Farag got the better of compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad to finish second behind Rosner.
Both players had beaten Gaultier earlier on in the group stage and had suffered defeats to Rosner, meaning that it was a winner-take-all battle, with a semi-final berth up for grabs.
And it was 26-year-old Farag who fired on all cylinders to take an 11-5, 11-5 victory in just 21 minutes and he will be rewarded with a semi-final matchup tomorrow against the winner of either World No1 Mohamed ElShorbagy or England’s Nick Matthew.
“It was very tough, not only is he a good friend, he’s such a lethal player,” said Farag, who will appear in the last four of this tournament for the first time.
“Last year I was in the exact same position, I won my first match, lost the second and then it was winner takes all in the third match and I lost to James [Willstrop], who played brilliantly.
“Today I wanted to learn from that and go through to the semis for the first time ever, so I’m quite delighted.”
The semi-finals will be played at 20:00 on Friday, while the finals will commence at 20:00 on Saturday.
Tickets for the World Series Finals can be purchased at dubai.platinumlist.net or at the venue.
At the Emirates Golf Club, Egyptian El Welily took the first game 11-8 in an exciting 12-minute encounter, only for the defending champion to battle back and take the second 9-11, to set up a nail biting final game.
Massaro made sure of the win with an outrageous behind-the-back winner to secure an 8-11 victory. Speaking to Sport360° after her victory the world number seven said: “I’m chuffed to get a win over Raneem as she’s been playing so well this year. To win the match with a shot like that as well, it’s probably the best shot I’ve ever hit in my life, especially as it was on match ball.”
Success at the tournament means Massaro would become the first player to win the competition three times. However, she insists it’s too early to be thinking about taking the title back home.
“It would be a great thing to add to my CV,” she said. “It’s not going to be easy though, I’ve got to just get out the group to start with.”
Players have to adapt to a new, best-of-three style for the competition, which means there’s little margin for error.
In the day’s first fixture Frenchwoman Camille Serme came from behind to defeat England’s Sarah-Jane Perry 8-11, 12-10, 12-10.
Speaking afterwards Serme said: “Every match is hard this year I’m just happy because we had a fighting game played in a good spirit.
“When you’re one love down it’s more stressful you don’t want to give points away but you still have the urge to attack. I don’t know how I managed to win this one after
being one love down to be honest.”
In the men’s section, in Group B, German Simon Rosner took just 28 minutes to secure victory over Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad.
“I think I got off to a good start and that’ll give me confidence for the rest of the week,” said Rosner.
The best-of-three style adds a lot of intensity to the game so I like it.”
In the day’s other men’s group B game, Ali Farag from Egypt defeated France’s Gregory Gaultier 11-9, 11-8.
Tickets are available by visiting www.platinumlist.net.
Nick Matthew (ENG) bt.  Tarek Momen (EGY) 11-8, 11-9
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt.  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 11-5, 11-4
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt.  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 11-8, 9-11, 11-7
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt.  Joelle King (NZL) 12-10, 11-7
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt.  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 11-9, 11-8
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt.  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 8-11, 11-9, 11-8
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt.  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 12-10, 11-6
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt.  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 8-11, 12-10, 12-10
The world’s best squash players swapped their rackets for clubs as they gathered at Emirates Golf Club ahead of the PSA World Series Finals, which gets underway on Tuesday.
Both the male and female players are competing in the final tournament of the season for a prize fund of AED587,680, the highest in the history of the competition.
Defending men’s champion Mohamed ElShorbagy is the overwhelming favourite heading into the season finale after four wins from seven tournaments this season.
The 27-year-old has clinched victories in Hong Kong, Chicago and El Gouna as well as finishing runner-up at the US Open and British Open.
In what will be his third appearance in Dubai, the Egyptian is confident of retaining his title after another dazzling campaign.
“Last year I wasn’t in great shape and I had a lot of things going on off the court which affected my performance. This year I’ve made it to most of the finals and I feel I’m playing well,” said ElShorbagy..
“In Dubai you have to beat the best players in the world every day, you can’t win this tournament with luck, so you need to be focused.
“Last year I won despite not being on form, whereas this year I am playing well so I have a good chance.
“The competition is very high here though so really anyone who is on their game has a chance of victory.”
The Beast from Alexandria is currently fasting during the holy month of Ramadan but says a change to his regular routine won’t affect his overall performance.
“Luckily I’m playing late so I’ll sleep at 4am, wake up around 3pm, eat a snack at 7pm, play my match and have a meal after, it won’t be an issue,” he said.
Another player looking to retain her crown is ladies champion Laura Massaro. The 34-year-old may not have enjoyed a glittering season by her standards, but five semi-finals in seven tournament is still a formidable return.
The world No6 said: “There’s always pressure being the defending champion and my season hasn’t quite been as good as last year but at the same time this is an end-of-season event we’ve all qualified for, so you can’t let the pressure overshadow the enjoyment of being part of such an event.”
The Preston native had sealed her second British Open title last campaign and reached the final of the Tournament of Champions, but has failed to qualify beyond the last four of a tournament since June 10, 2017.
“I could go through every woman in the finals and tell you why they’d be really hard to play so it’s hard to pick out a particular individual,” she said.
“It’s unique in the way that I didn’t even look at the groups because I knew it would be a tough tournament anyway, no matter who I’m playing.”
Four matches will be played in each afternoon session during the group stage from June 5-9. The group stage matches will begin from 3:00pm.
Tickets for the World Series Finals at Emirates Golf Course are available at www.platinumlist.net.