All-Egyptian finals set at Drexel
There will be two Egyptian champions crowned tomorrow at the 2017 U.S. Open presented by Macquarie Investment Management at Drexel University in Philadelphia, after semifinal wins for Raneem El Welily, Mohamed Elshorbagy, and married couple Nour El Tayeb and Ali Farag.
In a repeat of the 2015 Women’s Final, El Tayeb reversed the results as she beat England’s two-time champion Laure Massaro in four games while Welily maintained her winning run over New Zealand’s Joelle King, also in four games, to reach a second final.
Farag overcame unseeded compatriot Omar Mosaad, the 2015 finalist, in straight games to reach a first PSA World Series final, where he will meet defending champion Mohamed Elshorbagy who, in a repeat of last year’s men’s final, brought an end to Nick Matthew’s twelfth and final U.S. Open in three close games.
The first semifinal match of the evening was a rematch of the 2015 final between England’s Laura Massaro and Egypt’s Nour El Tayeb. Unlike the 2015 final when she was carrying a shoulder injury, El Tayeb entered this match fully fit.
El Tayeb came out firing in the first game, slotting winners in the front corners and continuing the accurate, attacking play that saw her reach her second U.S. Open semifinal this week. El Tayeb took the first game 11-6 and earned four game balls in the second, but Massaro saved all four to bring the game into extra time. Right on cue, El Tayeb fired off two more clear winners to earn a commanding 2-0 lead.
Massaro started to settle midway through the third game, recovering from 7-2 down to pull away from 9-all and earn the third game 11-9. Like the 2015 final, El Tayeb found herself 2-1 up against Massaro, but this time the Egyptian would go on to dominate a flawless fourth game, forcing five errors from Massaro on her way to claiming the match in four 11-3 after forty-six minutes.
The result sends the world No. 14 to her second career U.S. Open final.
The twenty-four year old shot twenty-nine winners—compared to Massaro’s twelve—although El Tayeb later said that finding her mark in the front of the court wasn’t the initial game plan.
“I wanted to play deep to the back first, but then, I just found the openings, and everything was going in, so I thought, why not, just go for it,” El Tayeb said.
Husband and men’s semifinalist Ali Farag coached El Tayeb throughout the match.
“After l lost the third game, my husband was just cheering me on, telling me ‘you are playing well, it happens, she is the world number 4, former world number 1, she has won everything in the game, she is bound to come back for a least a game.’” El Tayeb said. “
Also, Nour El Sherbini was in my corner, cheering me on, with Salma Hany, that shows the spirit that we have, and I just want to thank them very much for their amazing support and spirit. I’m enjoying it very much at the moment, I’m very happy enjoying squash, and it’s paying off.”
The first men’s semifinal was a repeat of last year’s final, in which Mohaed Elshorbagy came from two games down to beat Nick Matthew. That was a good start to a season that didn’t go as the Egyptian planned, but from day one here he looked to have regained his hunger, the most common observation being that ‘he’ll be hard to beat’.
And so it proved, with Matthew, playing his 12th and last U.S. Open and his 7th consecutive semifinal, unable to get past Elshorbagy this time despite his best efforts.
The Egyptian applied pressure throughout, and took a 10-6 lead in the first. Matthew fought back, as he does, but Elshorbagy found the finish to take the lead 12-10, and quickly went 6-0 up in the second.
Matthew had an early advantage in the third, but Elshorbagy wasn’t to be denied as he worked to get himself back in the lead, moving into what will be an all-Egyptian final as Matthew finished his U.S. Open career with a disappointing volley into the tin for 11-8.
“Mohamed was too sharp tonight ,but I played well this week and more to come this season if I keep up that level of application and intensity,” said Matthew on Twitter.
“I thought it was a bit unlucky that me and Nick were in the same half of the draw this year,” said Elshorbagy.
“I thought we dealt with it well and in front of a crowd like here, quality squash is supposed to be played and I’m really glad that we could both play that kind of squash and I can’t wait to play in my third final here tomorrow.”
When you go into a match 10-0 down to someone much higher ranked than yourself, and find yourself 10-3 down in the first, the omens aren’t looking good, and a quick Raneem El Welily win seemed on the cards.
To her credit, Joelle King fought back, making the first respectable at 11-8 and then carried that momentum into the second as she levelled the match 11-6 and held a small cushion into the middle of the third.
The Egyptian world No 2 rediscovered her tough in the third and fourth though, moving the ball and her opponent effortlessly around the court and finishing with aplomb when the opportunity arose.
The end came quickly as Welily moved into a second U.S. Open final, with an new Egyptian champion guaranteed.
“It feels fantastic,” said El Welily. “I just have to keep up with all of the other players, they are so good. Joelle is in fantastic form, I played her here last year and it was something similar to that match – she was good then and now a year later she’s better, she’s beaten all the top five and is having a great season.
“I just tried to keep pushing and digging as much as I could, she really had me running all over the court and I thought there was no way out but I just kept digging and I think I broke her mentally and that was key.
“Everyone is in top form and Nour El Tayeb is playing her heart out this tournament, she’s playing really well and I’m really happy for her that she is playing to that level again.”
For the first time in U.S. Open history, a husband and wife will both contest the finals. After his wife El Tayeb punched her ticket, Harvard graduate and husband Ali Farag followed her lead with a three-game victory against fellow Egyptian Omar Mosaad.
Farag crucially progressed to his first career World Series final in three games as ElShorbagy awaits in the final, but nearly needed more. After winning the first 11-6, Mosaad lead throughout the second, including a 9-6 lead, at which point Farag fired off three straight drop winners to level the score. After Mosaad fought off one game ball to go into extra time, both players squandered a game ball until Farag closed out the game 14-12.
After earning a 5-2 lead early in the third, errors started to creep into his game with five tins contributing to Farag reclaiming the lead, game and match 11-6 after forty-five minutes.
“So to get a win against him is a great pleasure, but as you said I have the final tomorrow so I’ll just enjoy it for half and hour, then I will focus on the match tomorrow.”
“Omar was playing out of this world two seasons ago, and unfortunately he had to sit out for a while last year so he dropped down to thirty. He’s far from that level, he’s definitely inside the top ten. So today I didn’t feel I was the favorite to win at all.
“We practice together all the time so I see his resilience and I see his hard work all the time. I knew today was going to be very tough so I’m pleased to be through. “
“You know what will be more special? If we both hold the trophy together.”