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October 15th — Quarterfinals Part One

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Top Seeds Through to Semifinals

Down to the quarterfinals in Philadelphia and, after a day's rest, the players in the top half of the men's and women's draws—offering equal prize money for the first time ever in a World Series event—took to the all-glass court tonight in Drexel University's John A. Daskalakis Athletic Center.

All four matches finished in three straight games, with Joelle King and Karim Darwish setting up semi-final meetings with top seeds Nicol David and Gregory Gaultier.

Women's Quarterfinals:

[5] Joelle King (NZL) bt  [4] Alison Waters (ENG)   12-10, 11-2, 11-3 (37m)
[1] Nicol David (MAS) bt [8] Madeline Perry (IRL)  11-6, 11-6, 11-4 (34m)

Men's Quarterfinals:

[1] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)  13-11, 11-8, 11-6 (47m)
[4] Karim Darwish (EGY) bt [5] Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY)  11-9, 11-9, 11-6 (47m)

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SH581

King Crushes Waters

SH579Joelle King stormed through to a second successive U.S. Open semifinal with a crushing defeat of England's fourth seed Alison Waters in the first match of the night.

There was no sign of the domination to come in the first game as Waters, volleying well as she does, took a 6-2 lead. But King worked her way back, taking five points in a row from 5-8 down to reach game ball as a let given to Waters was turned into a no let on video review.

SH580Waters saved those game balls, but a stroke followed by another let that King appealed and got turned into a no let, and the Kiwi was ahead.

That was the end of the match as a contest, as King dominated the next two games, dropping just five points. As well as King played—virtually error free, precise and powerful—Waters was strangely passive and was unable to put her opponent under any real pressure while the scoreboard ticked over relentlessly against her.

"Quite often when you sneak a game like I did the first, you can get on a roll like I did tonight," said King. "Alison probably wasn't at her best but I'm pleased with how I played and really happy to be in the semifinals again. It's been a long break so it's good to be back plying tournaments again, and this is such a great one to do well in."

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David Comfortably Through

SH588After a relatively barren period in terms of major titles, Nicol David looked to be well back on track with two tournament wins in a row, and tonight she was very impressive in a straight-game defeat of Madeline Perry.

The Irishwoman reckong she's been playing the best squash of her life in the last year, and although she was never outplayed last night, only intermittently could she knock the top seed out of her stride.

SH593David was moving fluidly and hitting smoothly throughout the match, made less than a handful of unforced errors but made many more fleet-footed recoveries in the rallies where Perry did have her under pressure.

David led 4-0 in the first, Perry got back to 5-all but David eased away again to take it 11-6. From 3-all in the second David pulled clear to 10-3, Perry eventually succumbing 11-6 again. David was dominant in the third and the inevitable end came 11-4 after 34 minutes.

"I knew I had to be on from the start," said David, " Madeline is so strong from the middle, and she had me on the run a lot of times so I had to work hard to stay in front."

Perry was happy enough with her performance, if not the result: "I thought I played pretty well there, but it's pretty warm on there and she was getting everything back. I thought I'd won some of the rallies three times over, but when she's playing like that there's not a lot you can do!"

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Gaultier Wins French Affair

SH600In the first of two 'local derbies' in the men's quarterfinals, Gregory Gaultier overcame his young compatriot Mathieu Castagnet in straight games, but it was never easy for the top seed and world No. 2.

Castagnet got off to a flyer, playing at a high pace, and he led 6-0 with Gaultier contributing a couple of careless errors. The top seed didn't look perturbed though, and he calmly worked his way back into the game , levelling at 8-all and taking the lead 9-8 with another crisp volley.

SH596Castagnet wasn't done though, firing in a volley winner of his own, then after a stroke brought up game ball to Gaultier, the youngster took two in a row for a chance of his own. Gaultier had to push, but push he did to take the game 13-11 .

Conventional wisdom would have it that the senior player would then assert himself, and to some extent Gaultier did just that, opening up to 6-2 in the second. Castagnet continued to play well though and, keeping Gaultier honest, he closed up the gap to 8-6 but still, Gaultier took it 11-8. Again in the third Gaultier always led, but never comfortably. A couple of dives from Castagnet kept the crowd entertained, but Gautlier still had enough of a grip on the match, and he closed it out 11-6 after 47 minutes.

SH599"He started really fast and took me a bit by surprise," admitted Gaultier. "It was maybe a bit faster than he usually plays, so I knew I had to make the game tough even if I lost it. Once I got a few points, I was confident I could win the game, but I had to work hard.

"He didn't slow down at all in the second. He played just as well as he had in the first, so I had to really dig in to stay in front.

"We've played together for so long it's really hard to play in a match like this, but you just have to forget about that and find a solution to win."

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Darwish Bosses all-Egyptian Battle

SH604Fourth seed Karim Darwish came through to a semifinal meeting with Gaultier with an impressive straight-game win against his young compatriot Mohamed Elshorbagy, ranked just one place below and seeded five here.

Darwish took early control, leading 5-2, 7-5 and 9-6 and, despite Shorbagy's best efforts, took the lead 11-9. There were a few collisions, and as the second began there were a few more—first Shorbagy and then Darwish bumping into the back of their opponent. A few words from the referee and things settled down, but there was clearly no love lost between the pair of them.

SH605Meanwhile, Shorbagy had built a lead of 6-1, then 8-3 and 9-4. Darwish got one point back, then Shorbagy proceeded to self-destruct with five unforced tins in a row. Darwish took the game 11-9 with a dropshot for an unlikely two-game lead.

He wasn't going to let the opportunity slip, and the senior partner bossed the third game, taking a 5-1 lead, then extending it to 7-3. Shorbagy would work hard to win a point, then another unforced error and Darwish was clear again. At 10-6 a delicate crosscourt dropshot finished it off, and he was through to the semis.

"I was really focused for this match," said Darwish. "I really wanted to win this one, and it's such a great feeling to be in the semifinal of the U.S. Open. There were a few collisions in the second I wasn't too happy about it, but I told myself I had to win, and I'm happy I could do it.

"Greg's one of the in form players, so it should be a good match against him on Thursday."

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Previews

Waters v King (3-1)

SH550SH549Tonight's opening match, between players ranked number 4 and 5 in the world, promises to be a close one. Waters, 29, is the reigning British National champion, has nine WSA titles to her name, and was U.S. Open runner-up in 2009. King, the New Zealand champion at 25, has won six times on the WSA tour and was a semifinalist here last year.

They've met four times since 2010 with Waters holding a 3-1 advantage, including a narrow 3-0 win in this year's KL Open semifinal.

David v Perry (21-1)

SH552SH548Defending champion Nicol David is looking for a third straight WSA title, having won in the Malaysian and Carol Weymuller Opens to end what was, by her standards, a bit of a title drought. World number one since 2006, and seven-time world champion, the 30-year-old Malaysian has won it all, 68 WSA titles being only part of the story.

Madeline Perry has, at 36 years of age and 11 WSA titles to her name, experience on her side. The Northern Irishwoman also has the memory of beating David—in the British Open semifinal of 2009—but that sole win is in the middle of twenty-one wins for David, nine of those coming after the loss in Manchester.

Gaultier v Castagnet (1-0)

SH556SH554An all-French lineup for the men's first match, with top seed Gregory Gaultier, 30, taking on his national teammate Mathieu Castagnet, four years his junior at 26. Gaultier has been world No. 1, albeit briefly, has played in three World Open finals and won the European title seven times as well as taking twenty-four PSA titles. Castagnet's highest-ever ranking is his current No. 29, and he has won just once on the PSA tour.

No doubt they've met many time domestically but, in PSA events, last month's Netsuite Open round one encounter stands as their only clash, Gaultier taking that one.

Darwish v Elshorbagy (8-2)

SH557SH555Karim Darwish, 32, has also been world number one, has been in the World Open final, and has won twenty-three PSA titles. By comparison Mohamed Elshorbagy, at 22 and with just five wins in PSA events, is a novice, but he too has been in the final of the top event and has two world junior titles to his name to Darwish's one.

Again, PSA matches will only be part of the story, but Darwish leads 8-2 in those—all fairly recent of course. Shorbagy took the win on his way to the World final in Qatar last year; Darwish avenged that in their one meeting since in this year's KL Open.