WCO SEMIS PREVIEW: STUNNING NIGHT OF ACTION IN STORE IN CHICAGO

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Ali Farag and Simon Rosner in the Quarterfinals of the 2017 Windy City Open. (Image: Steve Line/Squashpics)

Courtesy of PSA

After a stunning week of upsets, drama, twists and turns, the 2017 Windy City Open presented by Guggenheim Partners and EquiTrust Life Insurance Company reaches the semi-final stage at the University Club of Chicago.

Some unexpected semi-finalists will do battle for a coveted final berth in the Men’s event, while the in-form Camille Serme looks to maintain her unbeaten run in the Women’s draw, which features a strong Egyptian contingent.

Men’s

Marwan ElShorbagy v Ali Farag

An outpouring of emotion from Marwan (left) and Mohamed (right) ElShorbagy

 

It was an emotional evening for World No.6 Marwan ElShorbagy last night as he halted his older brother Mohamed’s title defence to claim his first ever win against his sibling on the PSA World Tour.

In the duo’s seven Tour encounters leading up to yesterday’s fixture, Marwan had never taken more than a game against the World No.1 and looked to be heading to an eighth straight defeat after taking just a single point in the opening game.

But the 23-year-old – three years his brother’s junior – composed himself to take a 2-1 lead and, despite conceding the fourth to let Mohamed back into the match, he stood firm to close out a dramatic win in the fifth – leading to emotional scenes from both brothers.

Marwan has saved some of the best performances of his career for Chicago and reached his first ever World Series semi-final at this tournament back in 2015.

Standing between him and a place in a maiden World Series final will be fellow Egyptian Ali Farag, who sits one place below Marwan in the World Rankings.

Farag, the 24-year-old Harvard-graduate, is set to appear in the first World Series semi-final of his career, having secured hard-fought victories over Miguel Angel Rodriguez, Diego Elias and Simon Rösner – the latter of whom conquered three-time World Champion Ramy Ashour in a memorable second round victory.

After reaching finals at the Al Ahram Open – in front of the iconic Great Pyramid of Giza – and January’s Motor City Open, Farag has been on the cusp of the world’s top five throughout the season and a win tonight would see him take a big step towards fulfilling that milestone.

Incredibly, the pair are facing off for the first time since 2011, when they met as teenagers during the Egyptian People Tournament, with Farag winning that encounter 3-1.

The fixture will also have ramifications for the PSA Men’s Road to Dubai Standings, with the winner set to receive a huge points increase as they bid to claim a top eight place on the standings.

Only the top eight players on the PSA Road to Dubai Standings will qualify for a place at the lucrative, season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals and, with the winner of this match guaranteeing a minimum of 65 points compared to the 40 the loser will receive, the fixture will go some way to determining who will claim a coveted place amongst the top eight.

Marwan currently sits in joint seventh on the Road to Dubai Standings, 10 points ahead of ninth place Cuskelly, with Farag further back in joint 13th.

A win for Marwan will put further distance between himself and Cuskelly, while Farag will be aiming for a big win in order to bring himself in contention for a top eight berth.

Gregory Gaultier v Borja Golan

Borja Golan (left) celebrates during his win over Karim Abdel Gawad (right)

 

In a tournament which has seen a host of upsets stun squash fans across the globe, Spain’s former World No.5 Borja Golan came up with arguably the most spectacular scalp of them all, recovering from a game down to beat World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad in their quarter-final fixture.

Golan, now ranked at World No.21, has suffered with a herniated disc throughout the season and hadn’t won a Tour match for six months before this week.

In contrast, Gawad’s stunning form had seen him add the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions crown to his PSA Men’s World Championship and Delaware Investments U.S. Open titles last month, and the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’ was bearing down on Mohamed ElShorbagy’s World No.1 spot.

But a superb display from Golan saw him tear up the form book, with the 34-year-old putting together a tactically astute performance to cause the shock of the tournament and send Gawad to his first World Series defeat in 11 matches.

Golan’s win marks the first time since the 2014 Hong Kong Open that he has reached this stage of a World Series tournament, but he has a tough fixture with World No.3 Gregory Gautier to negotiate if he is to secure a surprise final berth.

Gaultier, who ended Gawad’s 19-match unbeaten run in the Swedish Open final earlier this month, missed out on last year’s Windy City Open due to injury, but the ‘French General’ has made up for lost time with a number of commanding performances.

After opening his tournament by marching past English duo Joe Lee and Daryl Selby in the first two rounds, the 34-year-old made it an English hat-trick with a routine win over the in-form James Willstrop, moving to within one win of a second successive World Series final.

Gaultier has the distinction of being the last non-Egyptian winner of a World Series tournament, with his victory at the U.S. Open in October 2015 being the only time in the last 11 World Series events that the title hasn’t been won by an Egyptian.

The Frenchman has also had the better of Golan in seven of their eight meetings on the PSA World Tour, with Golan’s solitary win coming in the quarter-finals of the Qatar Classic in 2013 – and ‘El Toro’ will need to match last night’s performance if he is to halt Gaultier’s charge.

Three of the Best

2015 Qatar Classic First Round: Gregory Gaultier 3-0 Borja Golan

2013 World Series Finals Pool Stage: Gregory Gaultier 2-0 Borja Golan

2013 Qatar Classic Quarter-Final: Gregory Gaultier 1-3 Borja Golan

Women’s

Nour El Sherbini v Camille Serme

Camille Serme (right) and Nour El Sherbini (left) go head-to-head during the 2016 U.S. Open final

 

The Women’s event will see the world’s top four females battle for honours in Chicago, with World No.1 Nour El Sherbini taking on World No.2 Camille Serme in a blockbuster semi-final showdown.

Serme has been the in-form player on the Women’s Tour this season and her wins at the U.S. Open and Tournament of Champions have elevated her to the summit of the PSA Women’s Road to Dubai Standings.

Triumphs over Heba El Torky, Tesni Evans and Alison Waters have seen the 27-year-old advance to a third successive World Series semi-final as she eyes up a fourth World Series crown.

El Sherbini, meanwhile, sits in third and she will be eager to close the gap on Serme with a win in their semi-final clash.

The 21-year-old Egyptian earned her place in the last four after claiming a sixth successive win over Malaysia’s eight-time World Champion Nicol David, adding to wins against compatriot Nadine Shahin and Victoria Lust.

Since claiming the World Championship crown and World No.1 spot in last year in April and May, respectively, El Sherbini has been unable to add to her tally of two World Series titles, losing out to Serme in both the U.S. Open and Tournament of Champions.

Victory over the Frenchwoman here would see her extend her lead at the top of the World Rankings should she go on to win the title, but she will need to draw on her considerable repertoire of shots to bring Serme’s unbeaten start to 2017 – a run that stretches to 12 matches – to an end.

Three of the Best

2016 U.S. Open Final: Nour El Sherbini 1-3 Camille Serme

2016 Tournament of Champions Quarter-Final: Nour El Sherbini 3-2 Camille Serme

2015 British Open Quarter-Final: Nour El Sherbini 2-3 Camille Serme

Raneem El Welily v Nouran Gohar

There will be an Egyptian finalist guaranteed in both the Men’s and Women’s events after World No.3 Raneem El Welily and World No.4 Nouran Gohar both prevailed in their last eight clashes to set up a mouthwatering semi-final fixture.

El Welily – who is aiming to lift a third consecutive Windy City Open title – came through in 30 minutes against United States No.1 Amanda Sobhy in the quarter-finals, beating the home favourite 3-1.

Sobhy has been struggling with a partially torn fascia in recent weeks and was unable to move at 100 per cent as a devastating display from El Welily saw her recover from a third game defeat to close out the win in four.

Gohar was equally impressive in her quarter-final match, seeing off 2014 winner Laura Massaro in straight games.

The hard-hitting 19-year-old – who captured her first World Series title in August’s Hong Kong Open – had only beaten the experienced Englishwoman twice in 10 attempts coming into the match, but was in fine fettle as she dominated the ’T’ throughout to firmly establish her title credentials.

The pair last met in the final of November’s Wadi Degla Open, with El Welily taking the title. Both players have plenty of respect for each other, with Gohar even going so far as to refer to El Welily as being like a ‘big sister’ to her.

But they will put friendship to one side tonight in what promises to be a thrilling clash.

Three of the Best

2016 Wadi Degla Open Final: Raneem El Welily 3-1 Nouran Gohar

2016 British Open Quarter-Final: Raneem El Welily 1-3 Nouran Gohar

2016 Windy City Open Quarter-Final: Raneem El Welily 3-0 Nouran Gohar

Order of Play – 2017 Windy City Open presented by Guggenheim Partners and EquiTrust Life Insurance Company: Semi-Finals
(All times are local GMT-6)
17:00 [1] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v [4] Camille Serme (FRA)
follow on [5] Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v [6] Ali Farag (EGY)
follow on [3] Raneem El Welily (EGY) v [2] Nouran Gohar (EGY)
follow onGC [3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Borja Golan (ESP)

Find out where you can watch the semi-finals live!