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Ali Farag

Tournament of Champions: Day Six - As It Happens

We're on to day six here in New York's stunning Grand Central Terminal with a number of crackers in store at the 2018 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions

Three-time winner Ramy Ashour takes on World No.3 Ali Farag in a blockbuster clash, with their last meeting see a five-game thriller go the way of Ashour in September's China Open.

Australia's Ryan Cuskelly – fresh from a stunning win over World Champion Mohamed ElShorbagy in round two – takes on Egypt's Tarek Momen in the other men's quarter-final match.

In the women's event, defending champion Camille Serme clashes with 2014 champion Nicol David. Serme ended a 16-match losing streak to David in November's Hong Kong Open and will be favourite to take the win today, but David could spring a surprise after a superb showing against the dangerous New Zealander Joelle King yesterday.

Meanwhile, Raneem El Welily is in action against U.S. Open champion Nour El Tayeb for the second tournament in a row and El Tayeb will look to improve on their last meeting, which saw her go down in three games in just 18 minutes.

The other two women's matches see World No.1 Nour El Sherbini take on England's Sarah-Jane Perry, while last year's runner-up Laura Massaro clashes with World No.5 Nouran Gohar.

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Here's the Order of Play
(All times are local GMT-5)
13:30 1] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v [7] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
14:15 [5] Nouran Gohar (EGY) v [4] Laura Massaro (ENG)
17:00 [3] Camille Serme (FRA) v [6] Nicol David (MAS)
17:45 [3] Ali Farag (EGY) v Ramy Ashour (EGY)
19:30 [8] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v [2] Raneem El Welily (EGY)
20:15 [7] Tarek Momen (EGY) v Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)

Solid El Sherbini Dispatches Perry

Nour El Sherbini

World No.1 Nour El Sherbini progressed to her third successive World Series semi-final after a solid display from the 22-year-old saw her dismantle England’s Sarah-Jane Perry inside Grand Central Terminal.

Perry had ended a run of four straight defeats to El Sherbini when she beat the Egyptian over a best-of-three games format in the group stage of June’s PSA World Series Finals but, 24 hours after coming through a brutal five-game clash with United States No.1 Olivia Blatchford, she struggled to get in front of El Sherbini this time around.

The two-time World Champion made Perry do a lot of hard movements as she dragged her away from the ’T’ and into the back corners, pulling away from the mid-way point of both of the opening two games to establish a 2-0 lead.

El Sherbini picked off an increasingly frustrated Perrry with some fine winners, catching the World No.8 out with a number of well-placed boasts, and she completed an 11-7, 11-7, 11-5 victory in 33 minutes to ensure she will play either England’s Laura Massaro or fellow Egyptian Nouran Gohar in the last four.

“I’m extremely happy to be through 3-0 today,” said El Sherbini.

“SJ has been playing very well from the start of the season and she’s been beating a lot of the top players. Yesterday she came back from 2-0 down and was playing very well. I’m really pleased with my performance and glad I stuck to the game plan from the start until the end.

“I think I’m more comfortable today and more confident. Yesterday [against qualifier Mariam Metwally] was really tough and wasn’t one of my best days, but I’m really that today I came back to my game and my tactics.

“I was more confident and that’s a good thing to take away today.”

[1] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [7] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-5 (33m)

Massaro Masterclass Dispatches Gohar

Laura Massaro

Last year’s runner-up Laura Massaro shrugged off underwhelming performances in her previous two matches at this year’s Tournament of Champions to put in a sublime display against Egypt’s World No.5 Nouran Gohar.

Massaro was far from at her best against compatriots Fiona Moverley and Victoria Lust in her first and second round fixtures, coming from behind to beat both players in battling displays that showcased her mental resilience and grit, if not her skills with the racket.

But it was a different story for the experienced 34-year-old today in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall as she absorbed Gohar’s famed power-hitting before springing forward to attack.

A confident 11-6 victory in game one was followed by an assured performance in the second, where Massaro refocused after squandering a 4-0 lead to take it by an 11-8 scoreline.

The third followed a similar vein initially as Gohar found it difficult to knock the former World No.1 off her stride and two tins from the Egyptian towards the end of the game sealed her fate, with Massaro set to face World No.1 Nour El Sherbini in the semi-finals.

“Although I was never really close to losing either of my first two rounds, I felt lucky to still be in the draw,” Massaro said.

“Nouran is an unbelievable competitor, you can see the force she hits the ball with, so I knew I had to be better today. That’s no disrespect to my first two opponents, but I’ve not been good against Nouran before and then been slightly embarrassed after.

“I wanted to put on a good show today and to be proud of myself when I finished the match.

“I love this court, I’ve had some good results over the years and I’ve had really good support this week with some friends being here. I can’t ask for better support between games with Nick [men’s World No.6] Matthew there, it just brought a bit of calmness to me.

“It feels like I’m a bit more at home now, I’m really glad with my performance, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

[4] Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [5] Nouran Gohar (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 11-8 (39m)

Serme Fights Back to Beat David

Camille Serme

Defending champion Camille Serme recovered from a game down to seal her place in the semi-finals courtesy of a 3-1 victory over 2014 winner Nicol David.

Serme, who recovered from 2-1 down to beat Australia’s Donna Urquhart in the previous round, had never beaten the eight-time World Champion in 16 attempts until a momentous victory over David during November’s Hong Kong Open.

It looked like David, who impressed during a second round win over New Zealander Joelle King, was on course for a comfortable victory after dropping just two games throughout a one-sided first game, in which the Malaysian dictated the pace and hit attacking winners with gusto.

Serme was too passive in the opener but gradually began to connect with her volleys in the second as she built up three game balls, before two tins and a stroke against her saw David take it to a tie-break.

But Serme maintained her composure to see out the game and draw level, and she pushed David into the back corners to prevent her from attacking, before unleashing some pinpoint winners at the front of the court to take the third.

And her proficient attacking continued into the fourth as David was unable to restore her grip on the game, with the woman from Créteil completing the win by an 2-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-5 margin to ensure she will take on either World Champion Raneem El Welily or U.S. Open winner Nour El Tayeb.

“Nicol was so strong in the first game, I wasn’t ready,” said Serme.

“The match from yesterday was still in my legs and in my head as well. It was such a big fight today, mentally I had to push very far and I’m just happy I came back.

“I had to push and make the rallies as long as I could, I knew that physically I could maybe take the advantage. I think that the second game was crucial, it was hard physically, and I think she got a bit tired after that one.

“I still had to attack and play my offensive game as well.”

[3] Camille Serme (FRA) bt [6] Nicol David (MAS) 3-1: 2-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-5 (50m)

Farag Foils Ashour In Four

Ali Farag

World No.3 Ali Farag will compete in the semi-finals of the Tournament of Champions for the first time in his career after defeating three-time tournament winner Ramy Ashour in the last eight stage, ending the Egyptian maverick's 12-match winning streak inside Grand Central Terminal.

The duo last met in the final of the China Open in August when it was Ashour who came out on top in a thrilling five-game encounter that saw the pair put on a free-flowing squash masterclass. But this time around it was Farag who triumphed 11-7, 12-10, 7-11, 11-5 in a match that failed to live up to the huge expectation surrounding it.

Through the opening game neither man managed to hit their full stride and as a result the squash felt fractured, hinting at what could have been but failing to reach the levels the capacity crowd were awaiting. As the match progressed, Farag showed impressive patience and focus to play a disciplined, controlled game and prevent Ashour from utilising his abundant arsenal of attacking skills.

Down 2-0, Ashour mounted a comeback in the third game, coming through 11-7 following a period of scrappy play that saw the referee and video official responsible for more points than the players with congestions issues and interference calls dominating the play.

A series of uncharacteristic errors from Farag in the mid stages of the fourth looked to be handing Ashour a lifeline to level, but an awkward movement at 7-5 looked to trouble Ashour, and from then on he faded fast to grant Farag passage into the last four.

“Describing Ramy as tricky is an understatement,” said Farag. “On his day he's the best player on Tour and everyone knows that.

“I just tried to forgot about who I'm playing. At time I look at him as the squash god and because of that I sometimes forget to play my own game – so today the most important thing was to focus on my own game plan that was devised by my team and I think it went well.

“I know how dangerous he is so I had to be on my mettle at all times. It was edgy at times and we couldn't really get into a rhythm. I was trying to keep it in the back corners because no one can compete with him in the front corners.

“There was a lot of stop and start and it wasn't easy. I had to bring in a new ball in the fourth just to liven things up again but I'm just very happy that I got the win.”

[3] Ali Farag (EGY) bt Ramy Ashour (EGY) 3-1: 11-7, 12-10, 7-11, 11-5 (67m)

El Tayeb Sends World Champ El Welily Out

Nour El Tayeb

Egypt’s World No.7 Nour El Tayeb joined husband Ali Farag in the semi-finals after a superb display of attacking squash from the 24-year-old saw her overcome World Champion Raneem El Welily.

It was their fourth meeting on the PSA World Tour this season, with El Tayeb beating her compatriot in October’s U.S. Open final, but El Welily got her revenge with wins in the Hong Kong Open the following month and an 18-minute semi-final victory at the Saudi PSA Women’s Masters a fortnight ago.

El Welily was in the ascendancy right from the off as the 29-year-old played a consistent game and showed no ill effects from the ankle injury she picked up against England’s Jenny Duncalf in round one.

After going a game down, El Tayeb began to come back into the match more and hit a fine array of winners in a high-quality second game to draw level, taking it 11-9.

Both players sent each other scurrying into all four corners of the court with regularity, with captivated spectators in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall showing their appreciation.

After edging the third game, also by an 11-9 scoreline, El Tayeb started to dominate as El Welily went off the boil at the start of the fourth and the younger Egyptian withstood a late resurgence from the reigning World Champion to take a huge victory into the semi-finals.

“If someone would have told me that we [El Tayeb and Farag] would both come out as winners, I wouldn’t have believed it,” El Tayeb said.

“Raneem is not just the maverick of squash, she’s one of my idols. I learn a lot from her on and off the court, she’s the most graceful, most talented Egyptian female squash player.

“I got so nervous in Ali’s match, it took me a while to get this match going and against someone like Raneem, I can’t afford to start late. I saw how Ali studied his game and was preparing for the match and I tried to do that like him.

“I hope he’s happy with my performance today and hopefully we can keep it up tomorrow.”

[8] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt [2] Raneem El Welily (EGY) 3-1: 6-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8 (43m)

Momen Vanquishes Giant-Killer Cuskelly

Tarek Momen (right) v Ryan Cuskelly (left)

Egypt’s World No.7 Tarek Momen overcame giant-killer Ryan Cuskelly to reach the third World Series semi-final of his career and claim his 200th win on the PSA World Tour.

Cuskelly caused one of the shocks of the tournament when he ended World Champion Mohamed ElShorbagy’s 21-match unbeaten run but it was a different story against Momen as he struggled to find the impeccable length he was hitting against the World No.2 in round two.

For his part, Momen was hugely impressive as he hit winner after winner to limit Cuskelly’s chances of launching a comeback, with 17 winners across the first two games meaning that ‘The Viper’ was virtually unplayable at times.

The 29-year-old, who saw wife Raneem El Welily bow out of the tournament to Nour El Tayeb shortly before he took to court, had a slight blip at the beginning of the fourth as Cuskelly found his range and put a succession of points on the board.

But the momentum shifted back in Momen’s favour and he fought back from 6-4 down, taking seven of the next eight points to seal the win, finishing with an incredible 23 winners played to ensure he will play fellow countryman Ali Farag for a place in the final.

“I’m very glad to get through tonight in three games because it was the last session and you don’t get enough recovery from now on,” said Momen.

“I’m very happy with the way I played. Ryan is a very dangerous player, he took out the number two seed and the World Champion, it was an impressive win and I knew I had to have all my horses ready.

“I’ve been coming here for 11 years and this is my first ever final at the ToC, which is great. I’m looking forward to playing Ali tomorrow, we’re good friends and we haven’t played much on Tour, so I’m very much looking forward to it.”

[7] Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 (39m)

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