SP1931

Day seven preview

Quarterfinals part two

With top seeds Nicol David and James Willstrop already in the last four, set to face Joelle King and Gregory Gaultier in Thursday’s semifinals, tonight’s matches are the bottom half of the draw quarterfinals, with both defending champions in action on the all-glass court at Philadelphia’s Drexel University.

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[4] Laura Massaro (Eng) v [5] Madeline Perry (Irl)

First up is defending champion Laura Massaro, the 28-year-old two-time British National champion whose big breakthrough came here last year as she claimed her first WSA World Series title.

She’s been in fine form since, collected the Carol Weymuller last week for her 10th WSA title and has just risen to world number two in the October rankings. Laura is playing in her 3rd consecutive U.S. Open.

At 35 Northern Ireland’s Madeline Perry is the oldest player in the world’s top ten, where she has been a permanent fixture since Dec 2008 and is currently ranked #7.

She’s played 139 WSA events, claiming 9 titles from 24 finals with her last win coming in Singapore in July 2011. This is her 4th U.S. Open, and her best performance came last year when she reached the semifinals.

They’ve met 15 times since a British Open round one match in 2004, and Massaro leads 9-6. Their last meeting was in March’s British Nationals semi where Massaro went on to retain the title, but in six meetings this decade the tally stands at 3-3.

6pm [2] Raneem El Weleily (Egy) v Kasey Brown (Aus)

Battling for the final women’s semifinal place will be Raneem El Weleily, the 23-year-old Egyptian second seed, and Kasey Brown, the unseeded Australian who beat Nicol David on her way to last year’s final.

Losing to Massaro in last week’s Carol Weymuller final saw her swap ranking places with the Englishwoman, but that may be just a temporary blip on the double junior world champion’s inexorable rise.

She has five WSA titles to her name, the two biggest coming this year in the Greenwich and Malaysian Opens. This is her second U.S. Open having lost in five in last year’s first round.

Brown also knows about losing to Massaro, in last year’s U.S. Open final to be precise. Now aged 27, she moved into the world’s top ten in Jan 2010 and slipped out for the first time this month, to #11. She has 11 WSA titles to her name, but her last win came in Jan 2011 in Greenwich, and this is her third U.S. Open.

This will be their fifth meeting, and only one, the second, has gone the Egyptian’s way. In their last match Brown won a long five-setter to reach the 2011 World Open quarterfinal.

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After the women’s semifinals are completed there will be a U.S. Squash Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Bob Callahan.

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7pm [2] Nick Matthew (Eng) v [7] Amr Shabana (Egy)

The first men’s match is a repeat of last year’s U.S. Open final between two players who each have almost too many titles to mention.

Matthew’s achievements include 25 PSA titles, two World Opens, three British Opens, two Commonwealth Gold medals, the World Games title, four British National crowns, and he is the reigning champion in all of those plus the Tournament of Champions, Canary Wharf Classic, British Grand Prix, Swedish Open and North American Open.

Not to be outdone Shabana, a year older at 33, can lay claim to 29 PSA titles which include four World Opens, five Hong Kong titles, is the reigning World Series Finals champion and he spent 33 unbroken months as world number one in the middle of the last decade.

Matthew’s spell as top dog is shorter at 16 total months, but more recent as he sat at the summit for the whole of 2011.

They’re both U.S. Open champions of course - Shabana’s six previous appearances brought two titles, in 2010 and 2011, while Matthew has competed in one fewer and has the 2007 title in his locker.

Tonight will be their 21st meeting, all but one in PSA matches, and the advantage lies with the Englishman at 11-9. Some say you’re only as good as your last match, and in this case it was last year’s final here in Philadelphia (although Matthew does lead 5-2 this decade).

Matthew may not have been at peak fitness towards the end of last year’s final and will no doubt have revenge on his mind, while Shabana looks as lean, fit and eager as he ever has, so stand by for a cracking contest.

8pm [4] Ramy Ashour (Egy) v [6] Peter Barker (Eng)

The final match, a third Egypt v England quarterfinal, will see Ramy Ashour, seeded #4 but currently ranked #5, take on Peter Barker, seeded and ranked #6.

Ashour, just turned 25, was the first player to win two World Junior titles, added the senior World Open title in 2008, and already has 24 PSA titles to his name, currently holding the El Gouna and Australian Open titles.

Barker, 29, has claimed 13 PSA titles and has recently made a habit of reaching major semi-finals but has yet to make the big breakthrough, his last wins being in the KL and Santiago Opens of 2009.

This is Barker’s 5th U.S. Open and his third quarterfinal. Ashour has played one less, but has never failed to reach at least the semifinals, losing to Shabana in his sole final appearance in 2010.

The head to head stands 4-2 in the Egyptian’s favor, their latest two meetings, in 2011, being shared with Barker victorious in last December’s PSA Masters.

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