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Sabrina Sobhy (left) congratulates Joelle King after their match.

Home Hope Over at Squash On Fire Open

Hopes of a home winner at Washington DC’s Squash On Fire Open were doused in today’s semi finals, after the USA’s last remaining representative, Sabrina Sobhy, lost to No.2 seed Joelle King.

Sobhy had captured the imagination of the crowd by beating Tze Lok Ho, No.4 seed Olivia Fiechter and Rachel Arnold with a combination of speed and accuracy to reach her first Bronze semi final.

Today, however, against the experienced King, proved one match too far for the 25-year-old, who was the last remaining unseeded player in either draw.

World No.6 King dominated early proceedings with her typical accuracy, settling more quickly than Sobhy and finding her rhythm on the way to an 11-5 win in the first game and an 11-4 win in the second.

To the crowd’s delight, Sobhy was able to find a foothold in the match as an improved performance in the third game was rewarded with an 11-9 win.

King, though, quickly refocused and stormed out in the last game to quickly wrap up the match with an 11-3 win.

After the match, King said: “I’m definitely pleased with that performance. Sabrina and I have had some tough, tough battles over the years. So I’m just happy with the way I was able to close out the match.

“I think, in the third game, I became a bit rattled, she came back at me and tried to find a way to get back into the match, which she did. But I was really pleased with the way I finished the fourth.”

Nour El Sherbini

King will face World No.1 Nour El Sherbini in the final after the top seed survived a spirited challenge from an improving Nour El Tayeb.

El Tayeb, who was playing in only her second tournament since the 2020 Egyptian Open after giving birth last summer, lost to El Sherbini 3-0 when the pair played last December. Today, though, the former World No.3 looked considerably sharper.

After El Sherbini took the first game 11-7, the No.3 seed fired back with an excellent range of shots to take the second game 11-5. 

With the scoreline level, the third game was always likely to be crucial psychologically, and both players pushed themselves to the limits to secure the advantage.

In a game that ebbed and flowed, El Sherbini took a 5-2 lead, only to be pegged back to 7-7. Both players then traded points and with the scores at 10-10, the game was anyone’s to win.

As she so often does at crucial moments, it was El Sherbini who kept her cool, taking the third game 12-10 before finishing the match with an 11-8 win in the fourth game.

Afterwards, El Sherbini paid tribute to her compatriot Tayeb’s improving form: “It's amazing to see Nour play like this again. It's the second tournament for her, and the second time in two months we've played each other and this time she improved on the last time we played.

“I'm really happy to see her play and I'm really happy that we're having these kind of battles again and I hope she keeps going and we can play more matches like this.”

Joel Makin

In the men’s draw, Joel Makin and Mohamed ElShorbagy will compete for their first title of the year after overcoming Youssef Soliman and Iker Pajares Bernabeu, respectively.

No.2 seed Makin’s match against the No.4 seed was an at times fractious affair, with both players competing fiercely over every inch of space.

Makin initially looked to be cruising into the final after taking the first two games 11-8 and 11-5. However, a more focused Soliman struck back in the third, eventually winning the 26-minute slog 14-12 after going match ball down at 11-10.

The Golden Tiger, however, promptly shut down any hopes of a comeback when he came roaring out in the fourth game, taking the first seven points on his way to an 11-6 win, to finally bring 80 minutes of intense squash to an end.

Makin said after the match: “We had a few [exchanges] during the match about understanding each other's lines properly. It's a good side of the game, that, understanding where each other are coming from.”

Makin’s final opponent, top seed ElShorbagy, may go into his final feeling bittersweet, after what was looking to be an entertaining match was curtailed by an injury to Pajares Bernabeu.

The No.7 seed had severely tested ElShorbagy in the first game, going toe-to-toe with The Beast in a narrow 13-11 defeat, before an injury suffered during the second forced him to withdraw.

After the Spaniard was applauded off by the crowd, ElShorbagy said: “That’s only the second time my career my opponent has retired, even though I have been on tour for so many years. I definitely don’t want to go through like that.

“I told him after the match that he was a beast. He showed his character and showed how tough he is. I think he has a lot of potential to do really well in the future.”

The finals of the Squash On Fire Open begin tomorrow at 13:30. You can catch all the action live on SQUASHTV.

You can also keep up with the live scores from the event here.

Results – Men’s Semi Final: Squash On Fire Open
[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [7] Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) 3-0: 13-11, 11-6 retired (35m)
[2] Joel Makin (WAL) bt [4] Youssef Soliman (EGY) 3-1: 11-8, 11-5, 12-14, 11-6 (80m)

Results – Women’s Semi Final: Squash On Fire Open
[1] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [3] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 3-1: 11-7, 5-11, 12-10, 11-8 (42m)
[2] Joelle King (NZL) bt Sabrina Sobhy (USA) 3-1: 11-5, 11-4, 9-11, 11-3 (35m)

Draw – Men’s Final: To Be Played February 20th
[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v [2] Joel Makin (WAL)

Draw – Women’s Final: To Be Played February 20th
[1] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v [2] Joelle King (NZL)

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