The semi-finals of the 2017 U.S. Open Presented by Macquarie Investment Management take place tonight (October 13), with the world’s best players vying for a place in the title decider of the first World Series tournament of the 2017/18 season – LIVE on SQUASHTV and Eurosport Player.
A number of shock results have stunned spectators in Philadelphia’s Drexel University over the past week and the semi-final fixtures promise to be just as unpredictable.
Mohamed ElShorbagy v Nick Matthew
Defending champion Mohamed ElShorbagy locks horns with 2007 winner Nick Matthew for the 22nd time on the PSA World Tour – with their clash a repeat of last year’s final.
Despite suffering a hamstring injury in the opening game of the showpiece finale 12 months ago, a determined Matthew pushed through the pain barrier to go two games up, only to see the injury catch up with him as the match wore on, forcing the Englishman to retire from the match midway through the fifth game after ElShorbagy had levelled the scores.
A gruelling 91-minute semi-final clash with World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad in the semi-finals took its toll on Matthew during last year’s event but ‘The Wolf’ has been relatively untroubled this time around, claiming 3-0 wins over Zahed Mohamed, Gregoire Marche and compatriot Daryl Selby to reach the last four.
ElShorbagy, meanwhile, is aiming to lift a third successive PSA World Tour title to go with the Oracle NetSuite Open crown he won a fortnight ago and the PSA Dubai World Series Finals title, which he picked up at the end of last season.
A period of mixed form and a loss of motivation saw ElShorbagy lose his World No.1 spot and fail to perform to his best at the majority of the big tournaments last season but, after a summer of training with two-time World Champion David Palmer, the Bristol-based Egyptian looks to be full of hunger at the start of the new campaign.
His win over Gawad in the final of the Oracle NetSuite Open saw him dominate the World No.2 and he has showed no signs of slowing down in Philadelphia as he powered past Cameron Pilley, Mohamed Abouelghar and the dangerous Simon Rösner.
And now the ‘Beast of Alexandria’ will turn his attentions to Matthew as he aims to avenge his defeat to the veteran 37-year-old at this stage of March’s Allam British Open.
ElShorbagy has won seven of their last nine meetings on the PSA World Tour but Matthew will be eager to reach the final of his last ever U.S. Open. Squash fans are set for an absolute cracker.
Last Three Meetings
2017 Allam British Open Final: Nick Matthew 3-1 Mohamed ElShorbagy
2016 Qatar Classic Semi-Final: Mohamed ElShorbagy 3-2 Nick Matthew
2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open Final: Mohamed ElShorbagy 3-2 Nick Matthew
Ali Farag v Omar Mosaad
Is Omar Mosaad back to his best? That’s the question that is on the lips of squash fans everywhere as ‘The Hammer of Thor’ gets set to take part in his first World Series semi-final since 2015.
A superb 2015/16 season saw the 29-year-old from Cairo reach the PSA Men’s World Championship final and break into the world’s top three, becoming a fan’s favourite along the way.
But a torrid 2016/17 campaign saw the tall Egyptian’s form desert him completely as he stopped being a contender at the sport’s biggest tournaments and fell from World No.3 to No.31 in the world – his lowest World Ranking in a decade.
While Mosaad was falling in the rankings, the man he will be sharing a court with tonight – compatriot Ali Farag – was making a name for himself on the PSA World Tour and the affable 25-year-old is now one of the sport’s most dangerous players.
A fine start to the season saw Farag reach the final of the J.P. Morgan China Squash Open, with only a gruelling 3-2 defeat to three-time World Champion Ramy Ashour preventing him from lifting his 10th Tour title.
The Harvard-graduate has been on the right side of two five-game battles in Philadelphia – beating fellow Egyptians in Mazen Hesham and Fares Dessouky and will need to be at his best to stop a resurgent Mosaad.
After an opening round win over Chris Simpson, Mosaad defied the odds to defeat in-form duo Paul Coll and Diego Elias and he will now aim to make it three upsets in a row in what will be his first ever meeting with Farag on the PSA World Tour.
Nour El Tayeb v Laura Massaro
The women’s event has also had its fair share of shock results, with World No.14 Nour El Tayeb’s superb victory over World Champion Nour El Sherbini in the previous round blowing the draw wide open.
El Tayeb will take on World No.4 Laura Massaro for a place in the final, with the two actually meeting in the title decider of the 2015 instalment.
Despite going down in a narrow 3-2 defeat, El Tayeb was rewarded with a move into the world’s top five the following month but a shoulder injury sustained during her match with Massaro proved to have a debilitating effect on her progress as she was forced out of action for six months, dropping out of the top 10 in the process.
However, this week the 24-year-old – who is married to Farag – put in polished performance to defeat El Sherbini in four games, adding to her wins over Kanzy Emad El Defrawy and Salma Hany Ibrahim to move to within one win of a second successive Tour final after she won the HKFC International last month.
She will be up against one of most fierce competitors on the PSA World Tour in Massaro, who is set to appear in her fifth U.S. Open semi-final.
Massaro’s last appearance in the United States saw her fall to fellow Englishwoman Sarah-Jane Perry at last month’s Oracle NetSuite Open and she will be eager to make amends as she prepares to meet with El Tayeb for the fifth time on the Tour.
The head-to-head record between the two currently sits at 3-2 to Massaro, with both of El Tayeb’s victories coming back in August 2014.
Massaro has had a comfortable route through to the semi-finals having dropped just one game – against Hong Kong’s Annie Au – en route and she will be the favourite heading into tonight’s encounter.
Last Two Meetings
2015 Delaware Investments US Open Final: Laura Massaro 3-2 Nour El Tayeb
2014 Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open Semi-Final: Nour El Tayeb 3-1: Laura Massaro
Joelle King v Raneem El Welily
Another player to have found a rich vein of form is New Zealand’s Joelle King who, after beginning the season with a semi-final and a runner-up finish at the China Open and Macau Open, respectively, has reached her first World Series semi-final since 2014.
King was once ranked as high as World No.4 three years ago but a ruptured achilles put her out of action for a year and she has struggled to remain in the top 10 on a consistent basis since then.
However, King looks to have recaptured the form that took her towards the summit of the World Rankings after claiming a huge win over defending champion Camille Serme in round two.
A disciplined performance from the 29-year-old Kiwi saw her take the match in five games – with a tight 13-11 victory in the decider – to add World No.2 Serme to a list of scalps this season that also includes Massaro and eight-time World Champion Nicol David, both of whom she beat in China.
Her semi-final opponent, World No.3 Raneem El Welily, very nearly failed to make it past the first round after she was forced into a nervy five-game battle with Canadian qualifier Hollie Naughton.
It was a Jekyll and Hyde performance from El Welily, as is so often the case with the 28-year-old, as she failed to get into the match in the early stages and slumped to a two-game deficit.
But the talented shot-maker finally began to hit the kind of winners that she is capable of playing in the next three games as she came roaring back to take the victory and she followed that up with wins over Tesni Evans and World No.5 Nouran Gohar to reach the last four.
El Welily, the 2012 U.S. Open runner-up, has won all eight meetings between her and King on the PSA World Tour but, with King showing some of her best form in years and El Welily’s tendency to switch off at crucial moments in matches, it’s all to play for in Philadelphia.
Last Three Meetings
2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open Second Round: Raneem El Welily 3-1 Joelle King
2014 Naza PSA Women’s World Championship Second Round: Raneem El Welily 3-0 Joelle King
2014 MetroSquash Windy City Open Semi-Final: Raneem El Welily 3-0 Joelle King
Order of Play – 2017 U.S. Open Presented by Macquarie Investment Management: Semi-Finals
(All times are local GMT-4)
17:00  Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v  Laura Massaro (ENG)
follow on  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
follow on  Joelle King (NZL) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
follow on  Ali Farag (EGY) v Omar Mosaad (EGY)