Day EIGHT – Quarterfinals part two

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Both defending champions beaten as Sobhy storms into semis

sp_22454A dramatic second night of quarter-final play at Drexel University saw defending champions Laura Massaro and Gregory Gaultier both beaten as Amanda Sobhy kept home hopes alive.

sp_22486Massaro lost out a five-game battle with France’s Camille Serme while Gaultier subsided after a promising start against Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad,

Sobhy recovered from a slow start to avenge her Hong Kong final defeat against Nouran Gohar while former champion Nick Matthew turned in a vintage performance to beat Ali Farag in straight games.

Quarter-Finals (bottom half) :

[6] Camille Serme (Fra) 3-2 [2] Laura Massaro (Eng)                    11/8, 8/11, 11/2, 6/11, 11/6 (55m)
[7] Amanda Sobhy (Usa) 3-1 [4] Nouran Gohar (Egy)                    7/11, 11/6, 11/7, 11/4 (42m)

[4] Nick Matthew (Eng) 3-0 Ali Farag (Egy)                                        11/8, 11/7, 11/8 (57m)
[5] Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy) 3-1 [2] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)     3/11, 11/9, 11/7, 11/5 (67m)

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Serme dethrones Massaro

There will be a new name engraved on the women’s trophy after Camille Serme took out defending champion Laura Massaro in a five-game battle, guaranteeing a first-time women’s champion.

sp_22453The French world No. 7 entered the match having won the two most recent PSA encounters against the two seed and world No. 2—the 2015 British Open final and a 2016 British Open quarterfinal.
A tactical battle ensued that saw two close first games decided 11-8 going both ways, then two wide open games in the third and fourth. In the third, Serme had complete control moving Massaro around the court at will with lobs and drops—including five winners in the front of the court to win 11-2.

sp_22452Massaro duly responded in the fourth 11-7 to force a fifth game. Serme regained control of the short game in the fifth, shooting five winners in the front of the court on her way to a 8-3 lead. Massaro cut down Serme’s lead to 8-6, before a stroke, boast winner and Massaro lobbing the ball out of play sent Serme through to her third consecutive U.S. Open semifinal.

sp_22454“It’s a special one,” said a delighted winner. “You could see at the end of the match how happy I was. It was very tactical today and one of us was playing the right tactic in one game, and the other was playing the right tactic in the next game. I knew the fifth was going to be tough. Laura is a fighter to the end. It doesn’t matter if she’s down on this court.

sp_22463“So happy to win this battle. I tried to volley as much as I could. On this court, the length is so important. It was funny to see in the third game, it was mine, and in the fourth it was hers. The fifth was just a big battle.”

Serme, who was ranked as high as world No. 3 in 2015, will aim to reach her first career U.S. Open final.

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Matthew finds the Wolf in him

England’s Nick Matthew turned in a vintage performance against Ali Farag, beating the up and coming Egyptian in straight games to reach his sixth U.S. Open semi-final in a row.

sp_22461After some disappointing and uncharacteristic early losses, not least last week in San Francisco, Matthew was his usual solid, driving, determined self as he took the game to Farag, pressuring him throughout and punishing the slightly loose shots that Farag would put to the front too often for his own good.

sp_22474Not that it was ever easy, and although Matthew led early in all three games it was never by much, and in each Farag threatened to level. From 5-all in the first Matthew advanced to 8-5 and 10-6, from 4-3 in the second he opened up to 9-4, and in the third he went from 4-3 to 9-6, all three leads being enough despite Farag’s best efforts to come back.

Matthew’s reaction at the end said it all …

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“That’s one out of the pandora’s box of experience,” said Matthew.

sp_22467“Every time I opened up the court he was too good. He has that ability to make you feel a bit like Bambi on ice at times but I dug in. It was three-nil, but mentally it felt much, much tougher than that.

“I had to keep reminding myself just to dig in because I played him twice and lost twice. I went a bit crazy at the end, but I didn’t want to retire with a zero next to my name against anyone so, I was determined to prove a point and show that there’s life in the old dog yet.”

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 Sobhy storms into semis

For the first time in the U.S. Open World Series era, an American will enter the semifinal stage after world No. 6 Amanda Sobhy upset world No. 4 and four seed Nouran Gohar in a four-game semifinal.

sp_22470Two months after Gohar defeated Sobhy in the Hong Kong Open final, the U.S. world No. 6 had her redemption on home soil in front of full house at Drexel.

The nineteen-year-old from Cairo started with the advantage, however, earning a 5-2 lead in the first after Sobhy’s racket spit in two. Sobhy clawed back within one point down 7-8, but Gohar smashed home a serve return winner, forced a tin from Sobhy and clinched the first with a drop winner to go up 11-7.

sp_22473Sobhy’s fortunes turned around in the second, maintaining a slight lead throughout the game before two winners and two strokes saw her string together four points from 7-6 up to win 11-6. A similar late surge from 6-all in the third included five straight winners to put the American 2-1 up 11-6. Sobhy clinched the forty-two-minute match with an emphatic 11-4 fourth game.

sp_22488Sobhy admitted the Hong Kong loss helped drive her to the home win: “I was very determined,” Sobhy said. “There’s nothing like a bit of redemption on your home soil. I did not want to have her beat me twice, especially in the U.S. A huge thank you to my supporters and the crowd here. I have a few coaches here, my parents. It made such a difference and you guys filled me with confidence after that first game so thank you!

“Just really glad to get to the semis. I think that slight racket break threw me off a little bit in the first game. After the first, I relaxed a little bit and I found my confidents and shots, and I started to go for it. I progressed well as the match went on so really pleased with it.”

sp_22487The result marks Sobhy’s fifth career World Series semifinal appearance, and second on U.S. soil.

“I love representing the U.S. and doing big things for the country and everyone here. This is an amazing tournament and the fact that it’s the U.S. Open is so huge. I’m just trying to keep the trophy on home soil. I’m trying!”

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 Gawad dethrones Greg

The final match of the round saw the defending men’s champion also beaten as in-form Egyptian Karim Abdel Gawad recovered from a poor start to ultimately outplay world champion and second sed Gregory Gaultier.

sp_22489The Frenchman started the match exerting the control that had had marked his earlier rounds, with Gawad seemingly unable to make an impression as Gaultier took the first 11-3 and led 6-1 in the second.

But slowly Gawad started to get a grip on the match, started to make Gaultier work harder, and importantly started getting under the Frenchman’s skin.

sp_22485From 3-7 Gawad scored a run of points to lead 9-7, took the game 11-9 and, with the Frenchman’s accuracy and composure diminishing,  Gawad’s game and confidence grew.

Gawad took the lead mid-way through the third to take the lead 11-7, and although Gaultier took a 3-1 lead in the fourth the end came quickly as Gawad dominated the rest of the match.

sp_22490“That’s my best win ever,” said a delighted Gawad. “I saw today that the head to head was 8-0 to him, but my coaches told me that it was the world number two against the world number four, so it had to be closer than that.

“They didn’t have kind words for me after I lost the first, and 11-3 6-1 wasn’t good, but they gave me good advice and I’m glad I could turn it around in the end.”

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