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James Willstrop

World Series Finals Semis - As it Happens

Follow us here for reports and reaction from semi-finals day at the season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals staged in the stunning setting of Dubai Opera.

After the groups were finalised yesterday, the tournament now moves into the knockout best-of-three games stage and sees Group A winner Karim Abdel Gawad and former Group B runner-up James Willstrop go head-to-head in a mouthwatering clash.

The other Men's semi-final sees World No.3 Mohamed ElShorbagy – who topped Group B – take on Simon Rösner, whose runner-up finish in Group A saw him become the first German ever to reach the semi-finals of this event.

The Women's tournament also has two cracking semi-final clashes in store as Group A victor Camille Serme aims to keep her 100 per cent record going when she takes on Nour El Sherbini, who finished second in Group B.

Defending champion Laura Massaro finished ahead of El Sherbini in Group B and she lines up against World Junior Champion Nouran Gohar for a place in the final.

You can watch the action on SQUASHTV and Eurosport Player.

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Here's the order of play
(All times are local GMT+4)
22:00 [1] Camille Serme (FRA) v [2] Nour El Sherbini
follow on [1] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v [6] James Willstrop (ENG)
follow on [5] Nouran Gohar (EGY) v [3] Laura Massaro (ENG)
follow on [7] Simon Rösner (GER) v [3] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)

El Sherbini Battles Through Injury to Reach Finals

Nour El Sherbini (right) v Camille Serme (left)

Egyptian World Champion Nour El Sherbini will compete in the title-decider of the PSA World Series Finals for the first time in her career after she triumphed in a dramatic clash with World No.3 Camille Serme in Dubai Opera – despite suffering a hand injury in the third and final game.

El Sherbini qualified second in Group A and was up against she only woman with a 100 per cent record up to this stage in the tournament, with PSA Women’s Player of the year Serme making it a clean sweep against Alison Waters, Nouran Gohar and Raneem El Welily.

And it was Serme who prevailed in a nail-biting opener as she recovered from a blistering start from El Sherbini to overturn three game balls, ultimately taking it 17-15.

It was all El Sherbini in the second game though, and the 21-year-old was on fire as she levelled the scores for the loss of three points and she led 4-3 in the third until she lost her footing and landed awkwardly on her right hand, forcing her to take an injury break to have it strapped up.

Despite looking like a retirement was on the cards, El Sherbini gritted her teeth and battled on and, despite increasing the frequency of her attacking shots, looked to be heading home after Serme built up two match balls.

But El Sherbini refused to give in and kept on fighting to force a tie-break, until a vicious kill at the front of the court saw her go match ball up and she duly converted to become only the second Egyptian woman ever to reach the final of this competition.

“I thought that I was going to retire from the match because I couldn’t hold the racket,” said El Sherbini.

“But I thought that I should go on and try and I think that it’s the reason I won. Because of my hand I was just thinking that I wanted to finish the points, so I attacked on every point and every opportunity.

“I wasn’t thinking of winning, I was just thinking about winning the points. It helped me to win today. I have no idea if it will affect me tomorrow, so we’ll see.

“If she’s not the best player, she’s one of the best and she is so consistent, on form and a fair player. Every time we’ve played it’s been really tough. She’s been fighting from the first match here and always comes back when she’s down.

“It’s a big thing for me to reach the final of the World Series Finals, it’s very special and I’m very glad to be in the final.”

Serme said: “She did really well to come back from 10-8 down, I’ve been doing it in the last two days and today was her time, so I can’t complain.

“The first game was really close and really long, but in the second game she was really sharp and I attacked a bit too early in the rallies. The third game was still close and we gave a good show to the crowd.”

El Sherbini will take on either defending champion Laura Massaro or compatriot Nouran Gohar in the final.

[2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [1] Camille Serme (FRA) 2-1: 15-17, 11-3, 12-10 (60m)

Willstrop Reaches Final of World Series Finals for First Time

James Willstrop (left) v Karim Abdel Gawad (right)

England’s former World No.1 James Willstrop reached the showpiece finale for the first time in his 17-year career after ‘The Marksman’ put in a superb performance to halt World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad.

Both players began the tournament with a defeat in their respective groups, but recovered in time to qualify for the semi-finals, with Gawad topping Group A and Willstrop finishing second behind World No.3 Mohamed ElShorbagy in Group B.

They had met just twice on the PSA World Tour prior to the tournament, and it was Gawad who prevailed in their last meeting as the Egyptian claimed a comfortable 3-0 win over Willstrop in February’s Windy City Open.

But the 33-year-old from Yorkshire was in full flow at Dubai Opera as he showcased a series of impressive shots from his extensive repertoire to prevail 14-12 in the opening game tie-break.

Gawad continued to push the Englishman hard in the third, but Willstrop moved the ball around the court intelligently to force Gawad off the ’T’ and he closed it out 11-6 to claim his place in the final of the season-ending tournament where he will play the winner of ElShorbagy or Germany’s Simon Rösner.

“I’m 33, I’ve had time out like a few of us have, but I’m not taking it for granted that I’ll be able to get back to where I was when I was 29, it’s not that simple,” said Willstrop.

“So it’s a great feeling when you’ve kept pushing yourself and gone down to No.20 in the world. To be able to do it again and to do it over four days means you’re still there and it’s a big confidence booster.

“Before I qualified I wanted to be here desperately and there’s all sorts of motivations here. Once I got there I was really focused on it. I had other tournaments to play, but this was the big finale and I’ve eyed it up certainly.”

Despite bowing out, Gawad was quick to praise the current World No.6.

“It’s very tough to play someone like James Willstrop, I used to watch him a lot, even before I started playing on Tour,” he said.

“He’s one of the greatest players on Tour and I’ve learned a lot from him.

“It’s the first World Series Finals I’ve ever played in my career and it’s been a great experience. I’m really happy to be here in such an amazing venue.”

[6] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [1] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 2-0: 14-12, 11-6 (43m)

Massaro Fights Back to Beat Gohar

Laura Massaro (right) v Nouran Gohar (left)

Defending champion Laura Massaro overturned two match balls to prevail in dramatic fashion against World Junior Champion Nouran Gohar – reaching the final of the World Series Finals for the third time in succession.

The 33-year-old from Preston squandered four game balls in the first game to hand the lead to Gohar and from there the 19-year-old looked destined to make it an Egyptian double in the final after she saw compatriot Nour El Sherbini seal her final berth earlier on in the night.

However Massaro, one of the most mentally strong players on the PSA World Tour, dug into her energy reserves to take the next four points in a row as she set up a nerve-shredding deciding third game.

A confident start from the World No.4 saw her march ahead to a 9-3 lead in the third and she resisted a late fightback from Gohar to earn her place in the final once more.

Massaro beat World No.2 Raneem El Welily to lift last year’s title and she will face Egyptian opposition once more, with El Sherbini – who finished a place below Massaro in Group B – awaiting her.

“Saving two match balls is brilliant and I’m really proud of myself, but I’m also really annoyed that I let three game balls in the first go,” said Massaro, whose match finished past midnight.

“It’s a tough situation for us both, it’s really late and even though you get up late and do everything you can to recover, your body clock says that you should be in bed and not warming up for a squash match.

“It’s a tough situation and it’s the same for both. Maybe I had a bit of an edge because I’ve been playing this time every day, so that was helpful. Overall, I just need to let it sink in, but I’m really happy to be through for tomorrow.”

[3] Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [5] Nouran Gohar (EGY) 2-1: 12-14, 12-10, 11-7 (47m)

ElShorbagy Rises from the Ashes to Beat Rösner

Mohamed ElShorbagy (right) and Simon Rösner (left)

World No.3 Mohamed ElShorbagy came through a gladiatorial battle with Germany’s Simon Rösner to reach his first PSA World Tour title since November.

The Bristol-based Egyptian was the dominant force on the Men’s Tour last season and captured eight titles, but has suffered a disappointing season by his own standards and he lost his World No.1 spot in April.

He has shown signs of being back to his best though in Dubai, with a 100 per cent record in Group B seeing him beat World No.1 Gregory Gaultier, World No.5 Ali Farag and World No.6 James Willstrop.

However, an inspired Rösner came within a single point of sending the 26-year-old out after he edged the opening game 11-9 and stormed into an 8-4 lead in the second.

ElShorbagy fought tooth and nail to stay in the tournament though and he surged back at Rösner to take seven points in a row, with each winner being greeted with a fist pump and an almighty roar.

Rösner refused to be beaten and hit a number of superb winners build up match balls on two separate occasions, only to see ElShorbagy claw the points back both times before converting on his first match ball to seal a final spot against Willstrop.

“I just fought and didn’t give up,” said ElShorbagy.

“I just kept fighting and fighting. He had the lead, he was 1-0 up and playing amazing squash. In a best of three he plays at an even quicker pace which makes him way more dangerous. I knew it was going to be a tough battle and he played even better than I thought. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play like that.

“This is only my third final this season and my first since November. Two weeks ago, I got my motivation back, something clicked and I told myself that I wasn’t born to lose in the quarter-finals or semis.

“I’m born for these kind of matches and these kind of moments and I don’t accept myself being in another position. There is the golden generation of [Amr] Shabana, Nick [Matthew], Greg [Gaultier], James, [Karim] Darwish and [Thierry Lincou].

“I’ve played against each one in a final before and I will always remember each final I’ve played against the guys because they taught me how to play the game. The only one I haven’t played in a final is James, so it’s such an honour to be in the final with him.”

[3] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [7] Simon Rösner (GER) 2-1: 9-11, 11-8, 14-12 (62m)

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