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Amanda Sobhy in action against Rachael Grinham in round one

TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS: DAY FIVE - AS IT HAPPENS

We’re in New York’s stunning Grand Central Terminal for day five of the prestigious J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions as men’s quarter-final action gets under way, while the women’s event reaches the second round stage.

World No.1 Gregory Gaultier and 37-year-old veteran Nick Matthew lock horns in what will be their 36th meeting on the PSA World Tour.

Gaultier requires a win to ensure that he will retain his World No.1 spot in next month’s rankings against the threat of the vanquished Mohamed ElShorbagy, while Matthew will look to progress to the last four as he appears at this tournament for the final time, with the Englishman set to retire at the end of this season.

The other men’s match today will see best friends Simon Rösner and Nicolas Mueller go head-to-head after the duo caused huge upsets against defending champion Karim Abdel Gawad and World Championship runner-up Marwan ElShorbagy, respectively, in round two.

US star Amanda Sobhy will have the crowd behind her in the women’s event as she takes on U.S. Open Champion Nour El Tayeb in a difficult second round encounter, while fellow American Oliva Blatchford clashes with last year’s semi-finalist Sarah-Jane Perry.

World No.1 Nour El Sherbini is also in action as she takes on qualifier Mariam Metwally, while compatriot Raneem El Welily will look to shake off an ankle injury as she plays Tesni Evans.

2014 champion Nicol David and Joelle King will go up against each other in what looks set to be an intriguing clash and the winner of their meeting will play either title holder Camille Serme or Australia’s Donna Urquhart in the last eight.

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Here's the Order of Play
(All times are local GMT-5)

Gohar Dispatches 2015 Runner-Up Waters in Three

Nouran Gohar (right) v Alison Waters (left)

Egyptian World No.5 Nouran Gohar booked her place in the last eight of this year’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions after the 20-year-old disposed of 2015 runner-up Alison Waters in straight games.

Gohar had a narrow lead on the pair’s head-to-head record, winning their last three meetings after Waters had prevailed in the first two matches they had played together.

The two-time World Junior Champions trademark ferocity was in full flow as she powered the ball round court to put Waters under a great deal of pressure and she pulled away after a scrappy start to the first game to take the lead.

A strong start from Gohar then laid the foundations for a victory in game two, despite her squandering two game balls and then fighting back from game ball down herself after a resurgence from Waters.

Waters stayed in the majority of the rallies in the third as she played some fine shots at the front of the court to put some points in the board, but Gohar wasn’t to be denied as she closed out the victory in three games to ensure that she will take on the winner of Laura Massaro and Victoria Lust’s match later today.

“I’m happy that I managed to win in three,” said Gohar.

“The second game was very tough and we had a very tough match in Manchester [last month at the World Championships] where she won the second game and it was a 50 minute match, so I was really tired after it.

“We like to play a very fast-paced game, so it’s really tough physically to play against her. Mentally, she’s really experienced so it was was really hard to deal with the situation today.”

Result
[5] Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt [10] Alison Waters (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 13-11, 11-7 (40m)

Perry Overturns Four Match Balls to Defeat Blatchford

Sarah-Jane Perry celebrates her win over Olivia Blatchford (left)

England’s World No.8 Sarah-Jane Perry came back from two games down and overturned four match balls to prevail in an enthralling match against United States No.1 Olivia Blatchford.

An all-out assault from Blatchford saw the World No.13 hit a superb array of winners to go two games up and, after conceding the third game to a resurgent Perry, the New York-born 24-year-old held match balls on four separate occasions to put herself on the cusp of a maiden World Series quarter-final.

She just couldn’t finish off Perry though as the woman from England showcased her tenacity in a battling display and after fighting back on each match ball to go game ball up, she converted and came out on top in the fifth game against a tiring Blatchford to dash the hopes of the New York crowd.

“Any time you come back from 2-0 down you’ve got to be pleased with your persistence and effort level if nothing else,” said Perry.

“Especially here, playing someone of Olivia’s calibre in front of her home crowd. I wouldn’t say it was the best squash I’ve ever played but I just kept fighting and every match ball I just told myself to focus and to play another point.

“She hit an awful lot of winners on the volley against me and that’s something I’ll go away and have a think about because she loves the volley and she was on the volley an awful lot today. Right now I’m just happy to scrape through.”

Blatchford, playing the day before her 25th birthday, was on fire in the opening stages and Perry just couldn’t live with the American as she hit winner after winner and scurried around the court to pick up anything Perry threw at her.


Perry settled in the third as she finally began to hit her targets with more regularity, while the pace of Blatchford’s hitting slowed, which played into Perry’s hands as she took it 11-9, before her never-say-die attitude saw her level the scores after Blatchford failed to capitalise on her match balls in game four.

Blatchford then required an injury break before the decider got under way and it was clear that her movement was affected, with the US player grimacing at times during the game as Perry closed it out to escape elimination.

Result
[7] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt [13] Olivia Blatchford (USA) 3-2: 7-11, 8-11, 11-9, 15-13, 11-7 (66m)

El Sherbini Troubled by Metwally

Nour El Sherbini (left) v Mariam Metwally (right)

World No.1 Nour El Sherbini didn’t have it all her own way against Egyptian qualifier Mariam Metwally but ultimately came through to claim a 3-1 victory.

Metwally, the World No.22, caused an upset in round one against India’s World No.14 Joshna Chinappa and acquitted herself well against El Sherbini as she rattled the 2016 Tournament of Champions winner.

El Sherbini prevailed in a comfortable opening game for the loss of just five points, but the momentum quickly shifted in the second as Metwally, sporting a lot of strapping on her leg, connected with her attacking shots well to unsettle her compatriot and she soon brought parity to proceedings with an 11-8 triumph.

The third game was a scrappier affair as both players gave strokes away, while errors from El Sherbini saw her hand a number of points to Metwally.

The two-time World Champion managed to do just enough to restore her lead courtesy of a tie-break victory and she held her nerve despite severe resistance from Metwally in the fourth to complete an 11-5, 7-11, 12-10, 13-11 in 41 minutes.

“Mariam is a very tricky and skilful player and when she has the ball she can hit it from anywhere in the court,” said El Sherbini.

“We’ve been at the same club for 10 years and on the same club team, so we’ve grown up together. We’re the same age, it’s difficult to play against each other and we know each other’s games.”

“It’s really hard to play against her and I just wanted to find my game more. The important thing today was that I won, so I will regroup and try to focus on the next round.”

Result
[1] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [Q] Mariam Metwally (EGY) 3-1: 11-5, 7-11, 12-10, 13-11 (41m)

Massaro Fights Back Against Lust

Two-time runner-up Laura Massaro made it back-to-back 3-2 victories at this year’s Tournament of Champions after following up an opening round win over fellow Englishwoman Fiona Moverley with victory over another compatriot, Victoria Lust.

As was the case in her match with Moverley, Massaro struggled to play her best squash and was put under the cosh by Lust, who played some sublime squash in the first and third games to take a 2-1 lead against an opponent she had lost to in all four of their previous meetings.

Massaro struggled to pick up Lust’s shots at the front of the court in the opening three games but changed her approach as she began to lift the ball more on the front wall, giving her more time to set herself and moving Lust away from the ’T’.

Massaro then began to dominate the match as Lust failed to match the intensity of her performance earlier on in the match and the Lancastrian pressed home her advantage to take the next two games without reply, earning an 6-11, 11-8, 8-11, 11-6, 11-3 victory, which means she will take on Egypt’s Nouran Gohar for a place in the semi-finals.

“I’ve had two opponents who have played really well on the day and are also making movements up the rankings as well,” said Massaro.

“I haven’t been at my best for these first two matches, maybe I’m just getting my way into the tournament. Like the first round, today I just kept on fighting and kept on trying to find a way.

“I feel like I’m finding more of a rhythm, it’s been a bit longer for me since the last tournament with not playing Saudi [PSA Women’s Masters], so I just feel like I’m finding my way a little bit.

“It’s really amazing to play on this court, so I can’t complain about spending quite a lot of time on it so far. I’m still in the tournament and I get another chance to go again tomorrow.”

Result
[4] Laura Massaro (ENG) bt Victoria Lust (ENG) 3-2: 6-11, 11-8, 8-11, 11-6, 11-3 (52m)

Serme Battles Back to Beat Urquhart

Defending champion Camille Serme recovered from a 2-1 deficit to come through a difficult clash with Australia’s Donna Urquhart in what was the third women’s match out of five today to go the distance.

Serme became the first Frenchwoman ever to win the Tournament of Champions last year as she beat England’s Laura Massaro in the final, but the number three seed was on the brink of an early elimination after conceding a one-game advantage to some superb squash from Urquhart.

The World No.16 outplayed Serme for large parts of the second and third games, building on a 4-0 lead to take the second before hitting seven winners in a fantastic display of attacking squash in the third.

Urquhart looked to be surging to a win in four games when she took a 4-1 lead in the fourth, but Serme’s resilience saw the 28-year-old slowly reel the Australian in and she took 10 of the next 12 points to send the match to a dramatic fifth.

Urquhart got herself back in front at 8-5 as the match neared its climax, but Serme fought back once more to hold two match balls, with an error from Urquhart then deciding the match.

“When you are losing, you start thinking about not playing again and being out of the tournament, so that’s when you fight even more,” said Serme.

“You think that you have nothing left to loose and that’s when you relax a bit. At the end I got a lucky bounce and I just fought as hard as I could.

“It’s great to see myself in Grand Central on a big poster, but I try not to look at it everyday and try to focus on each match. I knew today could be tricky, Donna is in really good form and I feel sorry for her because we are really good friends and she put on a great match.

“She made me struggle a lot and I’m happy to be through.”

Result
[3] Camille Serme (FRA) bt Donna Urquhart (AUS) 3-2: 11-5, 6-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-8 (53m)

David Prevails In Four Game Battle With King

Nicol David avenged her first career defeat to New Zealand's Joelle King at the China Open in August by coming out on top in a high quality four game encounter in the second round of the 2018 Tournament of Champions.

The match began with neither player hitting their full stride, but matching each other evenly all the way. It was David who got the first scent of a lead to go up 10-9 with game ball in hand before a gut wrenching boast from King saw David at full stretch aiming to retrieve the ball, which King was certain was down. An inconclusive look from the video referee saw the appeal go against King and the opening game go the way of David.

But to the Kiwi's credit, rather than letting the dubious end to the opening game play on her mind, she came out in the second and took took complete control, playing with more positivity and aggression to take time away from David and nullify the Malaysian's speed and court coverage.

Twisting and turning David at every opportunity the New Zealander put together a passage of play that included some of the most wonderfully crafted exchanges of the week, leading to 10 winners and an 11-2 game scoreline, but momentum swung back in the favour of David in the third as she settled into a better rhythm and took the centre of the court away from King.

With the intensity of the rallies increasing, David was able to put more and more work into the legs of the World No.9 and was rewarded when errors began to creep into King's game. And while she was able to keep within touching distance of David, ultimately the tank ran dry and it was David who booked a place in the last eight to play the defending champion Camille Serme.

“I really am glad to win today,” said David.

“Each game was very close. I knew from the last time we played, when I lost to her in China, that she keeps fighting and never gives up. I had to make sure that I stayed really solid and kept mentally strong. I'm happy that I kept it all together and came through with the 3-1 win.

“I still train really hard and try to get better and better all the time. I'm very pleased with the performance I put in today and it's great to be in the quarters and to be up against the defending champion Camille. There's nothing to lose so I'm just going to go out there and enjoy it.”

Result:
[6] Nicol David (MAS) bt [9] Joelle King (NZL) 3-1: 11-9, 2-11, 11-7, 11-9 (53m)

Rösner Halts Mueller’s Run

Germany's Simon Rösner put an end to the giant-killing run of his best friend Nicolas Mueller to knock the Swiss number one out of the Tournament of Champions at the quarter-final stage.

Mueller put in a masterclass performance to record a huge win over former World No.1 Karim Abdel Gawad and reach the last eight inside Grand Central Terminal for the first time in his career, but he failed to replicate those levels against a hungry Rösner, who was himself gunning to secure a first semi-final berth and put to an end four years of consecutive quarter-final heartache.

The pair, who train together in Paderborn, Germany, delighted the crowd as they pushed each other into all four corners – putting together rally after rally of entertaining all-court squash that was interspersed with delicate and deftly struck winners of all kinds.

Rösner took the first two games by controlling the centre of the court, with Mueller searching for a way to get in front. In the third 28-year-old Mueller managed to find an opening and held firm to come through a thrilling tie-break to extend the match into a fourth but the exertion began to tell as he tired through the mid stages of the fourth, allowing Rösner to gain the ascendency and see out the match and secure just his second ever World Series semi-final appearance.

“Nicki and I train together a lot and being such close friends made it really edgy out there,” said Rösner.

“We both know what we need to do when we go out there but at the same time we know each other's games so well that it becomes very hard to finish off the rallies. I know when he's going to go straight and he knows when I'm going to play certain shots, so I'm just relieved to get through it.

“I am a little disappointed I couldn't close it out in three, but I'm happy that I got it back in the fourth.

“I had been waiting for a big quarter-final win for a long time and managed to get one in Qatar to reach my first World Series semi-finals. To be in a second semi of the season here in New York – for the first time in this great venue – is very special.”

Result:
Simon Rösner (GER) bt Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-1: 11-7, 11-7, 13-15, 11-6 (59m)

El Welily Overcomes Evans In Five

World Champion Raneem El Welily scraped through to the quarterfinals of the women's ToC with victory over Welsh-woman Tesni Evans in a five-game thriller inside Grand Central Terminal that saw both players receive a standing ovation from the crowd after almost 60 minutes of super squash.

El Welily suffered nasty looking ankle roll during her first round win over Jenny Duncalf and was clearly still feeling the effects of that injury during the early exchanges, moving with a hesitation in her step while Evans grasped at the opportunity to profit and take a comfortable opening game lead.

The Egyptian though managed to find her footing in the second, moving with greater ease and finding the sort of fluid shot making that stands her out as the most dangerous player on the women's Tour – levelling the match in the process.

Throughout the third the duo both eased up through the gears, combining to create a period of spell binding play that was packed full of shot making artistry. It was El Welily to stood firm to take what appeared to be a commanding 2-1 game lead but Evans again responded in kind, finding some of her very best attacking play to take the fourth and set up a grand stand finish.

And the fifth continued to set the standard for entertaining squash as they traded points through as series of thrilling exchanges that went all the way to a decisive tie-break finish, when Evans's resistance eventually broke down and El Welily breathed a huge sigh of relief on making in through to the last eight.

“Tesni played fantastic today and I think I was a little flat at the beginning,” said El Welily.

“It was mentally hard for me today. It felt like I was playing a final, which it isn't, but at least I get to live for another day in this tournament. It definitely wasn't easy at the beginning with my ankle – I just tried to adjust to it.

“The physios put in a lot of work and really helped me to recover for today and I'll need to do a lot of work again to be ready for the match tomorrow.”

Result:
[2] Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt [15] Tesni Evans (WAL) 3-2: 8-11, 11-3, 15-13, 7-11, 12-10 (67m)

Gaultier Downs Matthew In Titanic Grand Central Clash

A titanic 90-minute, four-game encounter that will go down as one of the greatest matches ever seen at the Tournament of Champions saw World No.1 Gregory Gaultier defeat long time rival Nick Matthew to secure a place in the semi-finals of the 2018 iteration of the tournament and inflict defat upon the Englishman in what was his last ever appearance under the chandeliers inside Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall.

A nervy start from Gaultier, who needed to win to maintain his position as World No.1 in the February rankings, in the opening game allowed Matthew to open up an early 5-0 lead but any illusions that things would be straight forward for the 37-year-old were quickly dispelled as 35-year-old Gaultier gradually settled into the match, exerting pressure on Matthew and asking questions of his defensive abilities.

Probing back and forth, the pair engaged in rally after rally of physically and mentally testing squash that saw them move the ball, and each other, into all four corners of the court in a sumptuous display of purism. The opener alone extended beyond the 30 minute mark with neither man willing to give an inch in what was the 36th meeting between the two on the PSA World Tour.

It was Matthew who struck first blood courtesy of a 14-12 first game tie-break but the advantage was short lived as Gaultier came back strong in the second, opening up a commanding lead which allowed him to nullify the early scoreboard deficit.

With the pair continuing to set the standard to which all other matches this season will aspire to, momentum swung back in Matthew's favour through the mid stages of the third. A series of errors from the racket of Gaultier looked to have rattled the Frenchman and he looked to be living up to his reputation for self-combustion as he began muttering to himself in between points and carrying a defeatist slump in the shoulders.

But, contrary to the Gaultier of old, 'The General' managed to recover his composure and came back string, saving game ball and forcing the third into a tie-break where, against the run of play, he managed to sneak the game from under the nose of Matthew and get ahead for the first time.

And that's where he stayed as, with the match edging towards the 90-minute mark, Matthew began to tire towards the end of the fourth, allowing Gaultier to finalise the win that takes him through to play Germany's Simon Rösner for a place in the title-decider – with Gaultier hoping to go one better than his runner-up finish here twelve months ago.

“We've been playing each other for 20 years, since we were kids, and he definitely made it tough today,” said Gaultier.

“He was dominating the centre of the court with his accuracy and made it very hard for me, it was hurting me on there. I just tried to dig in and retrieve as much as I could to keep the rallied going and try and make him work as hard as possible on there.

“We both gave everything. Of course we are rivals but we are friends as well and have a huge respect for each other. Playing here in this atmosphere is amazing and we both emptied the tank – hopefully I can recover well for my next round match now.”

After the match Matthew said: “It's such a special venue here – and Greg is a very special opponent. We fight and hurt each other on the court – but we are friends away from the court. Today he just came out on top even though I think it was the best I have played all season, which shows there's more to come from me over the next few months.”

Result:
[1] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [6] Nick Matthew (ENG) 3-1: 12-14, 11-6, 12-10, 11-7 (92m)

El Tayeb Eliminates Sobhy

Hopes of home success were squashed in the final match of the day as Amanda Sobhy’s return from injury came to an end at the hands of Nour El Tayeb, the Egyptian who herself returned from long term injury last season.

El Tayeb, winner of the U.S. Open in October, was just too strong and too accurate for Sobhy. The America though can take heart from coming through two competitive matches unscathed as she looks to regain her match fitness and ability in the race to make up for lost ground over the past ten months.

“It feels great to be at the quarter-finals,” said El Tayeb afterwards.

“And it’s great for us all to have Amanda back. Her personality has been missed on and off court.”

Result:
[8] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt [12] Amanda Sobhy (USA) 3-0: 11-5, 11-6, 11-8 (24m)

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