The Houston Open reaches the quarter finals stage today with play getting under way at 17:00 (GMT-6) at the Houston Squash Club.
World No.1 Ali Farag takes on Youssef Soliman in the first match, while Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez takes on No.3 seed Mostafa Asal at 18:00 in what promises to be a mouthwatering fixture.
Marwan ElShorbagy takes on Mazen Hesham in the penultimate match of the night, before Frenchman Gregoire Marche and Englishman Nathan Lake square off a place in their first PSA World Tour Gold semi final.
We'll also have reports and reaction from all the matches below.
Order of Play
All times are local (GMT-6)
Farag Cruises Into Semis
Ali Farag (left) takes on Youssef Soliman (right)
World No.1 Ali Farag booked his place in the semi finals of the Houston Open after a commanding victory over fellow Egyptian Youssef Soliman.
Farag had an unblemished record over Soliman coming into the match with three wins in their previous three meetings on the PSA Tour and he put on a masterclass of a performance today in Texas to win 11-4, 11-6, 11-9 in 37 minutes.
The No.1 seed got off to a flying start, controlling the court and playing a range of angles to put Soliman under pressure throughout the fixture. Farag is rewarded with a last four encounter against either World No.5 Mostafa Asal or Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez next.
"I regard Youssef extremely highly and I knew I had a very very tough time!"— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) January 7, 2022
AliFarag</a> knew it would be tricky, but he got the better of <a href="https://twitter.com/y_soliman97?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">y_soliman97 in three to book his spot in the last four at the #HoustonOpen! pic.twitter.com/qlntUAFSDQ
“I regard Youssef extremely highly,” said Farag.
“I knew I would have a very tough time. Often we stand here and talk about our opponents out of respect, but this time I’m talking about him out of fear. I know how good he is, how much better he can be, and I knew today was going to be tough.
“I had to have my tactics spot on. Even though the scores might not look that close, he’s always on the verge of turning it around, so I had to be on my mettle every single point. Whenever I lost it, I was really angry at myself, especially at 10-7.
“Thankfully I was able to close it down and I’m extremely happy to be through in three.
“This tournament has a lot of meaning… it’s the first tournament of the year and you want to make a statement and show you are playing well. It’s a Gold event and how much more do we need for this to be meaningful? We feel very welcome here, everyone takes very good care of us and the crowd are very into it.
“I regard this like any other tournament, I’m here to win it hopefully but I’ll take it match by match and see how it goes.”
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt Youssef Soliman (EGY) 3-0: 11-4, 11-6, 11-9 (37m)
Asal Axes Rodriguez
Mostafa Asal takes on Miguel Rodriguez
Egypt’s Mostafa Asal put in an impressive performance against World No.10 Miguel Rodriguez to advance to the last eight, where he will take on World No.1 Ali Farag in a mouthwatering encounter.
Asal had won their only previous match, at the CIB Black Ball Squash Open in 2020, and he was sublime as he dominated proceedings at the Houston Squash Club.
Rodriguez couldn’t keep his powerful opponent off the ’T’ as Asal made the court incredibly big for Rodriguez and forced him into the corners time and time again.
Following his 11-5, 11-3, 11-8 win over the Colombia, Asal will now aim to reverse a one-sided head-to-head record against Farag, with the reigning World Champion winning nine of 10 matches against Asal.
Their last encounter saw Farag prevail after an epic 97-minute battle at the CIB Squash Open Black Ball last month.
“Miguel is a very tough opponent,” Asal said.
“He has been amazing so far, he won the British Open and it’s very tough to play against him. It’s a pleasure for me to step on court with these guys, they are legends. In two, three or four years I’m going to miss them, it’s going to be all about the memories, and I love to play against him.
“Even if I lose or win, it’s a pleasure to step on court with him.
“Houston is amazing for me, I have been here once but Jahanzeb is doing some great work for squash. What he is doing for squash in Houston is unbelievable. This building makes up half of the courts in Houston, they are growing squash by building courts, so thanks to Jahanzeb and all of the sponsors.
“I’ve been studying [Farag] with my coaches and my father. Ali has an unbelievable record against me, never before has a player had this kind of record against me, not even in juniors. I think in eight or nine times I have only one win against him, but I’m looking forward to it.
“I’m going to give it 150 per cent, I’m playing with the World No.1 and the World Champion, so I’m going to give it my all and I hope to get the win tomorrow.”
 Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt  Miguel Rodriguez (COL) 3-0: 11-5, 11-3, 11-8 (40m)
Hesham Ends Losing Streak to ElShorbagy
Mazen Hesham in action
World No.13 Mazen Hesham has ended reached his first PSA World Tour semi final since 2017 after a brilliant performance saw him overturn a 2-1 deficit against No.4 seed Marwan ElShorbagy to reach the last four.
Hesham, whose last PSA Tour title came at the 2015 Houston Open, hadn’t beaten ElShorbagy in any of their five previous PSA meetings, but the Egyptian shot-maker made an electric start as he hit his targets and powered to a commanding first-game victory.
However, he wasn’t able to sustain it as ElShorbagy felt his way into the fixture, and the World No.7 attacked extremely well in the second and third games to take the lead of the match.
Hesham did what he does best though and unleashed some scintillating winners in the fourth game to unsettle ElShorbagy and send the match into a decider, where he kept his focus to seal a landmark win for the 27-year-old.
“These are the ones that stick with you forever,” said Hesham.
“I always feel that it’s my second home here, as if it’s just a 15 minute walk from my house. I think I should have done much better today, but my shins hurt me again. I’m not sure what’s happening, I kept saying to myself that it’s not going to come easy to me.
“I’ve fought so many things during my career and I’m still fighting every day. Something is always happening with my body as soon as I come close to winning. I’ve come a long way with my mental toughness and I’ve been working on myself.
“I think I’m doing better and if my body lets me play a little bit I think I will do much better than this.”
Hesham will play either Frenchman Gregoire Marche or England’s Nathan Lake in the last four.
 Mazen Hesham (EGY) bt  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-2: 11-4, 5-11, 4-11, 11-3, 11-7 (54m)
Marche Comes Back From The Brink To Make Semis
Gregoire Marche followed in the footsteps of Mazen Hesham in reaching a maiden Gold level semi-final, with the Frenchman having to battle back from two games down to win in five against England’s Nathan Lake.
The Englishman took charge from the off, and quickly found himself a game to the good, before carrying that momentum on into the second as well, doubling his advantage to lead by two games.
However, Marche fought back, and took the third to find a way back into the contest, before then also taking the fourth to push the match into a deciding game. The pair were tied at 6-6 in the fifth, with both playing tight squash, not wanting to let their opponent get away.
It was eventually the Frenchman that took the victory, finding some great line and length in the closing exchanges to get the better of the Englishman, securing a maiden PSA World Tour Gold semi-final appearance.
“Actually, I can’t believe it for now. I think I thought a bit too much about this semi-final,” Marche said.
“I wasn’t moving well in the first two games, I was struggling to see the ball, and all credit to Nathan, he played almost perfectly, controlling every rally, pulling out some amazing shots, so obviously, I just want to see congratulations to him, he deserved to win today. I played with my head today, to play point-by-point and see how it goes, find a little bit of rhythm and find my length.
“It was not the best squash of my career, of course, but I have been working a lot mentally over the last few years and reaching the semis of a Gold event, for me. Of course, the draw was different and helped me a little bit but it is never easy to play these players, they all know how to put the ball away. Every day is a new day and I am just glad I managed to win this one 3-2.
“We played two or three weeks ago and I managed to win 3-0 but I know tomorrow is going to be a new day, as I said, and I will have to play way better than today. He put in a great performance today, and I love playing Mazen because it’s always fun. Of course, it is going be his own crowd here, but I hope I will have some support. It is a semi-final anyway, so I will do my recovery and get ready for tomorrow!”
 Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Nathan Lake (ENG) 3-2: 8-11, 5-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-6 (70m)