Quarter-final action at the 2017 AJ Bell PSA World Championships comes to an end today, with a number of the world's leading stars battling for coveted semi-final places at the sport's biggest tournament.
Defending champion Karim Abdel Gawad faces World No.5 Marwan ElShorbagy in what promises to be an unpredictable encounter, while World No.3 Ali Farag will hope to follow the lead of wife Nour El Tayeb – who reached her first World Championship semi-final yesterday – as he clashes with Colombia's World No.4 Miguel Angel Rodriguez.
The women's event sees French World No.3 Camille Serme pitted against a resurgent Joelle King, with April's World Championship runner-up Raneem El Welily also in action against Malaysia's eight-time World Champion Nicol David – in a repeat of the 2014 final in which David prevailed.
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Here's the Order of Play
(All times are local GMT)
14:30  Camille Serme (FRA) v  Joelle King (NZL)
follow on  Ali Farag (EGY) v Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
19:00  Nicol David (MAS) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
follow on  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
Serme Stays on Course for Glory After Beating King
Camille Serme (left) v Joelle King (right)
Words by Fiona Tomas
World No.3 Camille Serme remains on course to become the first French woman to lift a PSA World Championship trophy as she marched into her second successive Worlds semi-final with a comprehensive victory over New Zealand's Joelle King.
The 13-time PSA title winner eased to an 11-4, 11-6, 11-4, victory in 29 minutes to set up a semi-final meeting with either eight-time winner Nicol David or April’s World Championship runner-up Raneem El Welily.
Serme established her attacking game plan on the match almost immediately, racing into a 5-1 lead in the opening stages as she tip-toed her way around the Kiwi who, at 5 ft 7, is one of the tallest women on the PSA World Tour.
The tournament’s third seed was the more prolific of the two when it came to stretching her opponent and she capitalised by taking the game ball at the first time of asking.
King, vying to reach her maiden World Championship semi-final, was hoping for a repeat of her match-winning performance over Serme at this year’s US Open, which ended in a five-game battle.
The 2010 Commonwealth gold medallist began to test her opponent in the second, exploiting all areas of the court. But despite hitting a couple of tins, the Frenchwoman did not stutter, mounting a 9-6 lead as she closed out the game.
And Serme would not relent in the third, visibly eager for the same rendition of her Malaysian Open 2011 encounter, when she ousted King in straight games. After quickly establishing a five-point advantage, she took the match in her usual clinical fashion, hitting an irretrievable cross-court kill to secure her last-four berth.
While making the last four is not new territory for Serme, tomorrow will be her third World Championship semi-final appearance, the 28-year-old is adamant that she won’t get ahead of herself.
“I’m not thinking about winning it yet – I was just so focused on that one. I knew it was going to be a tough battle. Although it was 3-0, it was a hard match,” Serme said.
“Mentally and physically, the rallies were pretty quick and the pace was fast. I’m just relieved after this win.
“Last time we played at the US Open, I was really nervous and today that was the plan – to focus on what to do on court. It was clearer what I had to do than last time. I was happy to just focus and forget it’s a World Championship.
“Most of the time I just have my coach with me, but this time I have my fitness coach, my boyfriend and the physio as well – it means a lot. My boyfriend’s a kayaker, but he loves squash – he watches all the tournaments in the world and he’s pretty into it.
“It’s reassuring that I’ve already been a semi-finalist before, but I’ve never reached the final, so I want more.”
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 3-0: 11-4, 11-6, 11-4 (29m)
Farag has the Edge over Rodriguez in Pulsating Quarter-Final Battle
Words by Alex Mason
A masterclass of intelligent, physical squash and an exhibition of impressive persistence from Ali Farag saw the 25-year-old Egyptian crack the Colombian resistance of Miguel Rodriguez in a high quality four-game affair.
It took Farag, the current World No.3, 53 minutes to see off the challenge of the World No.25, winning it 5-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-4 to reach his first ever World Championship semi-final.
31-year-old Rodriguez rattled Farag in the first game and offered him absolutely nothing, denting the 2017 US Open champion’s confidence and bossing the centre of the court to a game ahead.
Unbelievable quality squash between— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) December 15, 2017
AliFarag</a> & <a href="https://twitter.com/MiguelSquash?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">MiguelSquash#AJBellWorldChamps pic.twitter.com/HrzxOxjnwt
However, after absorbing Farag’s pressure for as long as possible, Rodriguez then faced a huge charge from his opponent, who profited from any loose mistakes as the Egyptian showcased an exemplary mix of aggressive drives and tight drop shots to secure victory after taking three successive games.
After the match, Farag praised the Colombian’s determination: “Miguel started off firing in the first, he was much more aggressive than I am in the back corners, consistently in front of me and dominating the centre of the court throughout the entire first game.
“Thankfully, in my corner I had the former World No. 1 [Karim Darwish], my coach, who knows what to say at the right times.
“I said to him ‘I’m a bit nervous, what should I do?’ and they [Darwish and wife, Nour El Tayeb], told me you don’t have to go for attacking shots at the front of the court, just be aggressive at the back of the court.
“It was toe-to-toe throughout the second game and after I won that one, I gained a lot of confidence.
“All credit to Miguel, he didn’t make it easy until the very last minute, but I’m very happy to be in the semi-finals for the first time along with my wife, so hopefully we both keep proceeding.”
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 3-1: 5-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-6 (52m)
El Welily through to last four as David bows out in Quarter-Finals
Raneem El Welily
Words by Gareth Evans
Raneem El Welily became the third Egyptian woman to book a place in this year’s semi-finals after beating eight-time World Champion Nicol David 3-1 – avenging her defeat to the Malaysian in the 2014 final.
El Welily, who reached the final of this tournament back in April, squandered four championship balls in her 2014 defeat to David but the Egyptian shot-maker made no such mistake this time around.
With four ranking places separating the two former No. 1s, 28-year-old El Welily – currently ranked second only to compatriot Nour El Sherbini – established an early advantage with some tight play in the first game to go 10-4 up. And although her Malaysian opponent, 34, rallied to save four game points, El Welily eventually prevailed 11-8.
The second game followed a similar pattern to the first – albeit in reverse, as World No. 6 David took the pace off the ball to race into a 10-5 lead. El Welily then clawed back three points, before hitting out of court to leave the tie evenly poised.
Strong rally between— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) December 15, 2017
NicolDavid</a> & <a href="https://twitter.com/RaneemElWelily?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">RaneemElWelily
It's a close one between these two on court!#AJBellWorldChamps pic.twitter.com/HE5RnwjUtF
David’s improved play clearly made an impression on El Welily, who, in the course of the third game, slowed the ball exquisitely to give herself four game balls. And the Egyptian rounded off an excellent response with a boast and nick on the left wall that saw her go 2-1 ahead.
The fourth game, at nine minutes, was of identical length to the second and third. And although David saved one match ball with a boast from the back, she could not keep in play El Welily’s drop that put the World No. 2 into the last four – where she will face French No. 1 Camille Serme in a repeat of last year’s semi.
“I am really happy to be through,” said El Welily, who finished as runner-up to El Sherbini in April.
“Nicol will always put up a fight, especially in the World Championship, it’s her favourite tournament!
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and I had to regroup and push back after she took the second game.
“I’m now looking forward to playing Camille again. She’s obviously on top form.”
Turning to the sell-out crowd at Manchester Central, she added a word of personal gratitude: “Walking on to the court today, I thought the atmosphere was unbelievable.”
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Nicol David (MAL): 3-1 11-8, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6 (41m)
Egypt’s World No.5 Marwan ElShorbagy booked his first ever semi-final place at the PSA World Championships as he dispatched defending World Champion and former World No.1 Karim Abdel Gawad.
ElShorbagy – who will now join his older brother, Mohamed, in tomorrow’s semi-finals – saw out a comfortable straight-games victory, as he took full advantage of what appeared to be an injury-stricken Gawad.
The defending World Champion – who was sporting heavy strapping on his leg by the end of the match – was blown away by ElShorbagy in the opening moments as the World No.6 claimed a two-game advantage utilising his pinpoint accuracy to full effect.
Incredible reactions from
maelshorbagy</a>!! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AJBellWorldChamps?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AJBellWorldChamps</a> <a href="https://t.co/PPbgN7WdA9">pic.twitter.com/PPbgN7WdA9</a></p>— PSA World Tour (PSAWorldTour) December 15, 2017
Following the second game, Gawad took a three-minute injury break before returning to court. However, the defending champion showed he was not going down without a fight as he levelled the scores at 6-6 in the third to force his way through the pain barrier.
However, the younger ElShorbagy brother managed to keep his composure and took full advantage to see out the win by an 11-8, 11-5, 11-9 margin.
The Egyptian – who has only dropped one game all tournament – will now face compatriot Ali Farag tomorrow in the semi-finals.
“I’m so happy, I can’t even describe how I’m feeling right now,” said ElShorbagy.
“It’s my first semi-final at the World Championships and obviously it is the biggest tournament of the year. This is what we train for and I am happy with my performance today.
“Of course, I saw Karim had an injury break and I hope whatever it is, I hope it’s not too serious.
“I just had to keep my focus. I think I lost my concentration a little bit in the third game and he came back very well but I’m just happy and I need to focus on my game because I have a big match tomorrow coming up.
“Recovery is really important right now and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s match against Ali.”
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-5, 11-9 (42m)