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Raneem El Welily


We're on to day four of the 2017 AJ Bell PSA World Championships as play takes place at Manchester's National Squash Centre for the final time before moving to the Central Convention Complex tomorrow.

April's World Championship runner-up Raneem El Welily takes on England's Victoria Lust for a place in the last eight, where she will take on either Malaysia's eight-time World Champion Nicol David or Hong Kong's Annie Au, who meet for the third tournament in a row.

World No.7 Sarah-Jane Perry is the other player in action on day four against the dangerous World No.9 Joelle King, with World No.3 Camille Serme and US No.1 Olivia Blatchford also due to battle for a place in the last eight.

Defending champion Karim Abdel Gawad heads up the men's event against India's Saurav Ghosal, with World No.3 Ali Farag and World No.5 Marwan ElShorbagy two of the other big names in action.

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Here's the Order of Play
(All times are local GMT)
12:00 [3] Camille Serme (FRA) v [13] Olivia Blatchford (USA)
13:00 [4] Ali Farag (EGY) v Cameron Pilley (AUS)
14:00 [9] Joelle King (NZL) v [7] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
15:00 Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) v [7] Tarek Momen (EGY)
16:00 [6] Nicol David (MAS) v [11] Annie Au (HKG)
17:00 [6] Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v Lucas Serme (FRA)
18:00 [15] Victoria Lust (ENG) v [2] Raneem El Welily (EGY)
19:00 Saurav Ghosal (IND) v [2] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)

Serme Outclasses Blatchford to Book Quarter-Finals Place

Camille Serme (right) v Olivia Blatchford (left)

Words by Alex Mason

France’s World No.3 Camille Serme got day four underway with a straight-games win over America’s Olivia Blatchford, taking it 11-4, 11-3, 11-6 in 26 minutes.

Serme – who has won 13 PSA World Tour titles from 20 finals – looked focused throughout the first game, working out her length and range quickly and punishing Blatchford’s unforced errors.

The 2016 World Championships semi-finalist – who has a degree in journalism – played some exquisite drop shots to build a concrete lead in the second and third games as the 28-year-old from Creteil claimed the match and booked her place in the quarter-finals.

“I know Olivia can be a tough opponent and I didn’t realise she was ranked 12 in the World, so I’m happy to have won quite comfortably,” said Serme.

“Olivia tried to come back in the third game, but I’m happy I found a way to work her out.

“I tried not to waste too much energy today so I can have a good practice session tomorrow and prepare for Friday’s match.

“I’m thinking one match at a time at the moment because I know if you think too far ahead it can cause problems, but I’m looking forward to the quarter-finals now.”

[3] Camille Serme (FRA) bt [13] Olivia Blatchford (USA) 3-0: 11-4, 11-3, 11-6 (26m)

Farag Downs Pilley to Seal Quarters Berth

Egypt’s World No.3 Ali Farag was in spell-binding form as he comfortably dispatched Australia’s World No.21 Cameron Pilley to book a place in the quarter-finals of the PSA World Championships.

The two players had met just once previously on the PSA World Tour – at the Grasshopper Cup earlier in the year – and U.S. Open winner Farag made sure to claim another victory over the Australian.

It was one-way traffic on court in the first-game as Farag – who has not dropped a game so far in the tournament – was in fine form with his movement on court as he quickly nullified Pilley’s attacking prowess to take the first game by an 11-4 margin.

The second and third game followed in a similar fashion, as despite Pilley’s attempt to change tactics he could not compete with the in-form Farag as he strolled to an 11-4, 11-4, 11-4 victory in just over half an hour.

“I couldn’t be happier with the way I played and the result today,” said Farag following his victory.

“I knew it was going to be a very tough match but I thought I dealt with it well. It wasn’t meant to be his day today, he can play much better than he showed but he was a bit unlucky and I was a bit luckier, so I’m just happy with how things turned out today.

“I’m really pleased with my form so far. To reach the quarters without dropping a game is obviously a bonus and you feel fresher in the legs and it gives you confidence moving forwards but I know the next opponent, whoever it’s going to be between Miguel and Tarek – they are both going to be tough opponents.

“I love it so much here and I’ve heard great things about Manchester Central so I’m really looking forward to playing there.”

[4] Ali Farag (EGY) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 3-0: 11-4, 11-4, 11-4 (32m)

King Claims Fifth Win in a Row Over Perry

Joelle King (right) v Sarah-Jane Perry (left)

Words by Fiona Tomas

Kiwi Joelle King kept up her perfect record against Sarah-Jane Perry as she ousted the England No.2 in a thrilling four-game encounter to reach the last eight of the women’s World Championships for the first time since the 2013 instalment.

The New Zealander ended Perry’s hopes of reaching consecutive World Championship quarter-finals, coming through 11-1, 6-11, 14-12, 11-6 in 54 minutes.

King burst out of the blocks from the off and clinched the first game within a startling eight minutes, dictating play and looking like the more aggressive of the two with her attacking style.

It was a story of forced errors for Perry, who gifted several easy points to the New Zealand No.1 on several occasions.

But 27-year-old Perry appeared more settled in the second, establishing a five-point lead.

The Englishwoman brought the game to her 29-year-old opponent, reflected in a fizzing kill at 7-3 before executing the softest of drop shots at 10-5 en route to closing out the game 11-6, matching the pair’s previous eight-minute encounter in game one.

And the momentum stayed with this year’s Oracle NetSuite Open winner in a highly entertaining third, racing into a 6-1 lead as she retrieved King’s shots with greater agility – a telling sign of her growing confidence.

But King – who had won all four previous battles in this tie – would not let up and fought back, adding enough topspin on a perfect slice to pip in front at 8-6. Both players then went on the attack, pushing each other all the way in a crucial moment of the game.

Perry, buoyed by winning a let decision at 9-9, produced a pin perfect drop at 10-9, but King again fought back to level again in a tense 11-11. A breath-taking rally ensued as Perry levelled at 12-12 – stumbling on her way to retrieve a direct rebound from King.

It seemed to have fatigued the 2016 World Championship quarter-finalist, who could not muster enough strength to return King’s serve, with the Kiwi capping off a 22-minute duel at 14-12.

And with the fourth perfectly poised at 6-6, King pulled away to wrap up the win, moving into the last eight where she will do battle with France’s Camille Serme.

“I think we’re the two tallest female players on the Tour, so it’s always tough trying to get the ball past each other,” said King.

“We’re also good friends off court, so it’s always nice just to come and play some good squash, where whoever plays the best squash on the day wins.

“I normally quite a high-intensity style of play and I think you could see today that I was quite tense in my movement. One of the things that [Coach] Hadrian [Stiff] has been working on a lot is to make me more relaxed but still stay aggressive.”

[9] Joelle King (NZL) bt [7] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-1: 11-1, 6-11, 14-12, 11-6 (54m)

Rodriguez Comes Through Titanic Clash with Momen

Miguel Angel Rodriguez

Words by Alex Mason

Colombia’s World No.25 Miguel Angel Rodriguez advanced to the quarter-finals of the AJ Bell PSA World Championships for the second time in his career after he claimed a surprise 3-1 victory over Egypt’s Tarek Momen.

The ‘Colombian Cannonball’ – who beat World No.11 Mohamed Abouelghar in round one – made history at this tournament back in 2015 as he became the first South American ever to reach the quarter-finals of the World Championships.

And the 31-year-old equalled that finish with an 11-5, 8-11, 9-11, 11-4, 11-1 victory over Momen, the 2015 World Championship semi-finalist, to seal his place in the closing stages of the event.

The pair had previously enjoyed some tense encounters and, with the head-to-head record locked at 2-2, their latest meeting did not disappoint, with blistering rallies starting from the outset and both players working relentlessly to keep the ball alive.

Rodriguez – who has 26 PSA World Tour titles from 36 finals – was rarely troubled throughout the first game as he caught Momen off guard time and time again with clever boasts and accurate width on his strokes.

However, the valiant Egyptian managed to execute some accurate drop shots and dominated proceedings throughout the second and third games to overturn the Colombian’s lead.

But it was Rodriguez who mustered enough strength to fight back, levelling in the fourth and then dropping just a solitary point in game five to have the final word after an intense 69-minute battle.

“Playing against Egyptians is always tough because they are very dangerous and always on the top of their game,” said Rodriguez.

“It’s been a tough season, probably the worst in my career, but this is definitely my best tournament of the year.

“I’ve done great things in the second part of the year, I’ve been fixing problems and it’s working so it’s good to be playing at this level again.

“Everyone has the technique and the physical aspect of squash but mentally I think I’m getting there again.

“Two years ago I had my best season, so I’m trying just to enjoy my game as I’ve achieved a lot of dreams already and I’m happy to represent my country and represent South America.”

Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt [7] Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-2: 11-5, 8-11, 9-11, 11-4, 11-1 (69m)

David Downs Au to Keep Ninth Worlds Title Dream Alive

Nicol David (left) v Annie Au (right)

Worlds by Fiona Tomas

Legendary Malaysian Nicol David kept her attempts to lift a ninth World Championship crown alive as she was made to work hard by Hong Kong’s Annie Au en route to a 3-1 victory.

David, who topped the World Rankings for an unprecedented nine-year reign between 2006-2015, sealed an 11-7, 11-3, 10-12, 11-6 win in 33 minutes.

History dictated this tie would favour David – the Malaysian star had triumphed in all but one of the previous 19 meetings between the pair.

Au, meanwhile, was hoping to emulate the form which had last seen her victorious against David at this year’s U.S. Open, when the 28-year-old triumphed in an epic five-game thriller to end a 17-match losing streak to the 34-year-old.

It was David who looked the brighter of the duo from the start, controlling the opening exchanges through a series of clinical drives to claim the opening game, before starting the second in the same manner she had finished the first.

The 34-year-old won a crucial point at 9-3, sending Au all over the court as both players tried to outdo each other, before wrapping up proceedings 11-3 with a close range shot which tickled the front wall.

It appeared that Au, who was bidding to progress beyond the last-16 for the first time in her career, would be unable to break David’s stride in the third, as the tournament’s sixth seed mounted an 8-3 lead en route to what looked like it was going to be a comprehensive victory.

Au dug deep though and reacted superbly to fight back from five match balls down, capitalising on a loss of concentration from David to take the match to an unexpected fourth game.

That was the only real blemish on David’s performance though as a series of unforced errors from Au saw David wrap up victory in the fourth as she bids to progress past the last eight for the first time since she last won the competition in 2014, and she was quick to pay tribute to Au’s credible performance.

“I knew she [Au] would fight for some of the game – I know she is gifted in the court,” said the Malaysian.

“I am really pleased with the way I played today and in the fourth game, I knew I just had to keep the pressure on.

“Going into the fourth game, she was just finding a bit more time on the shots but I knew that I had to put the pressure on and stick to what I do and I’m really pleased to get through 3-1.”

[6] Nicol David (MAS) bt [11] Annie Au (HKG) 3-1: 11-7, 11-3, 10-12, 11-6 (33m)

ElShorbagy Dismisses Serme to Reach Quarters

Marwan ElShorbagy (right) v Lucas Serme (left)

Words by Alex Mason

World No.5 Marwan ElShorbagy removed France’s Lucas Serme in the third round of the 2017 Men's AJ Bell PSA World Championships, taking the match 12-10, 11-5, 11-8 in 46 minutes.

The duo were meeting for only the second time on the PSA World Tour, with Serme winning 3-1 in the opening round of March’s Canary Wharf Classic.

The pair jockeyed for position throughout the match, waiting for the right opportunity to unleash fury, but Serme struggled to find his length after a tightly-contested opening game saw ElShorbagy take the lead, before the main from Egypt doubled his advantage in the second.

Unforced errors continued to get the better of Serme in the final game and ElShorbagy took full advantage, moving on to win the match comfortably in straight games to secure his maiden World Championship quarter-finals berth, where he will meet either India’s Saurav Ghosal or defending champion Karim Abdel Gawad.

“Lucas is a great player and he’s been playing very well recently,” said ElShorbagy.

“Earlier in the year he beat me in Canary Wharf, so I expected a really tough match. I think if he keeps improving he will be in the top twenty very soon.

“This is my first time reaching the quarter-finals in the World Championships, so this achievement pleases me.

“I made a few mistakes today and I need to work on that with my coach so that I’m mentally prepared for my next game.

“It’s exciting for me because there’s no pressure and I’m just here to enjoy it.”

[6] Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-0: 12-10, 11-5, 11-8 (46m)

El Welily Beats Lust to End English Hopes in Women’s Draw

Raneem El Welily (right) v Victoria Lust (left)

Words by Fiona Tomas

World No.2 Raneem El Welily ended England’s hopes in the women’s draw as she booked a quarter-final berth after triumphing 3-1 over England No.5 Victoria Lust.

El Welily, the 2016 runner-up, eased to an 11-5, 15-13, 11-13, 11-5 victory in 42 minutes, setting up a last-eight showdown with Nicol David in a repeat of the 2014 World Championship final, where David recovered from four championship balls to lift her eighth Worlds title.

It took just seven minutes for the tournament’s second seed to dispatch her English opponent in the opening game, frustrating Luton-born Lust with several cleverly crafted low shots on the backhand side in particular.

But Lust showed greater resolve in the second as she grew more acclimatised to the match and pushed El Welily to a tie-break. However, she squandered several match balls to allow the Egyptian shot-making sensation back into the game, and El Welily made no mistake to double her lead.

Lust again squandered three game balls at 10-8 and 10-9 and 11-10 in the third but, when El Welily slipped in the corner, the English seed pounced to set the match alive at 2-1.

But El Welily upped the tempo when the pair returned to the court for the fourth, racing into a 5-0 lead with her several of her trademark volleys and she proved too strong for Lust, whose championship came to an end when she tinned the final point.

“Vicky has improved a lot since I last played her, but I think it was a good, fair match,” said El Welily, who had outperformed Lust in a 3-0 victory at this year’s Carol Weymuller Open.

“I enjoyed it and am happy to be through to the quarters.

“I don’t think Nicol and I have played each other in a while. Nicol is a legend of squash and it will be an exciting match.  

“It’s never going to be easy but I hope it’s a match people will enjoy.” 

[2] Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt [15] Victoria Lust (ENG) 3-1: 11-5, 15-13, 11-13, 11-5 (42m)

Gawad Comes From Behind to Defeat Ghosal

Photo taken by Hamish Irvine/PSA

Defending World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad was forced to come from one game down against India’s Saurav Ghosal as he claimed just his second quarter-final berth at the PSA World Championships.

India’s World No.16 – who recently won the Indian Squash Circuit CCI International title – took a tense first game, which lasted 25-minutes, on a tie-break 14-12 as he produced some stylish squash to take the 1-0 advantage.

However, the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’ fought back in typical style as he levelled the scores in the second game, hitting his full stride to take it by an 11-5 margin at Manchester’s National Squash Centre.

The Egyptian – who overcame Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller and Scotland’s Alan Clyne in the previous rounds – then continued to capitalise on Ghosal’s loose shots as he stormed into a 4-0 lead in the third, before seeing the match out by a 12-14, 11-5, 11-6, 11-7 scoreline in just under an hour.

The 2016 World Champion will now take on compatriot Marwan ElShorbagy in the quarter-finals to be played on December 15 at Manchester Central Convention Complex.

“I think we were trying to play like ElShorbagy and Ramy yesterday in the first game but we couldn’t beat the record set,” said Gawad.

“Especially after a very long first game, both of us were very tired and I think the motive was with him a little more because he won the first game and I was really disappointed to lose the first game.

“I was 4-0 down in the second game and against a player like Saurav you cannot afford to give away cheap points. He is very quick on court and very talented and I like playing him.

“Today was a tough day and I had to fight until the end, even when I was 10-6 in the fourth I knew he could come back easily with his awesome winners so I knew I had to push until the end.

“Last year I had no pressure and I played my best squash for the whole month and I won it last year. This year, I came here with a little bit of pressure as I’m defending the title but I just try to play like it is the first match of the tournament.”

[2] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 3-1: 12-14, 11-5, 11-6, 11-7 (59m)

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