Nour El Sherbini took out another seed yesterday in her third consecutive five-game match of the Allam British Open Squash Championships, defeating No7 Annie Au of Hong Kong in a display of maturity surpassing her years.
The sixteen-year-old put in a measured display throughout the match, although both players were guilty of some sloppy length as the pressure heightened. It was the youngster from Alexandria who kept her nerve in the final stages of the fifth to keep her in the running for the British Open title, an accolade she can add to the British Junior Open she won earlier this year.
Sherbini will face her Egyptian compatriot Raneem El Weleily, after the 23-year-old put in a consummate performance to dispatch an out-of-sorts Jenny Duncalf. A tight opener came to a head as Weleily made two errors to gift the world No2 with game ball. However, the home favourite was unable to convert the game, and the No5 seed saved two game balls before continuing on to take the first.
Things went from bad to worse for the Englishwoman as a now confident Weleily collected points quickly, volleying well from the middle and leaving her opponent unable to answer. At game ball, a brief resurgence from Duncalf saw her claim five points in a row, but the margain was too great and the Egyptian ended the game 11-7.
The third was a similar story as confident play from Weleily forced errors and loose balls from Duncalf. Just six minutes after the restart, the world No5 had built up a run of points and saw out match-point on the first attempt.
“It’s never an easy match,” said Weleily following her win. “Jenny is a player I look up to, and it’s always a challenge to play her. I think I kept my momentum from early in the game, and I’m really glad to win here. I’m so proud of Sherbini getting the semis too. I look forward to playing her tomorrow!”
Duncalf’s British Open exit leaves Laura Massaro as the lone English hope for glory this week. The world No4 faced Camille Serme of France, whose quick start to the match, paired with some impressive attacking volleys, forced a tiebreak as Massaro was unable to finish off the game ball advantage. The young Frenchwoman held her nerve to close out the opening game, as the O2 audience was left to contemplate the possibility of losing the remaining local interest at the quarter final stage.
Massaro was clearly aware of the fact too and responded well, as her improved width allowed for more precise attacking efforts. Serme was on the back-foot and made a string of errors under pressure to let the home-hope level the score at one-game-all.
The following games were similarly poised, as neither player was able to hold significant advantage over the other. The lightning-quick Serme utilised her speed well to cope with the building pressure from Massaro, and the scores remained level until the business-end of both games. Massaro had the extra game plan on this occasion, and closed out the entertaining four-game tie to salvage hopes for a local British Open winner.
Afterwards, the Brit paid tribute to the crowd for their part in her win. She said: “I’d like to say thanks to the crowd for all their support at this great venue. Sometimes the expectations as a home player can leave you feeling a bit flat, but it’s important to keep the adrenaline going and the crowd really helped.
“It was really hard work today. I thought I was unlucky not to win the first game, but I’ve always been told that the third game is a crucial one to win in any match, so that was an important one for me.”
King had dispatched reigning British Open Champion Rachael Grinham in an hour long thriller, and seemed in a confident mood going into the quarter final clash. The New Zealand international dominated the pace of the rallies, allowing David no time to settle. Her drives were perfectly weighted and the front court play was timed intricately as she held the Malaysian hostage on court for the opening game. As David got into her stride, both players pushed higher up the court and a late surge from the top seed closed the gap as King sought to finish off the game. As the difference shortened, she showed no sign of panic and in a fast-paced 8-minute game, closed out the win.
A break and a regroup was all David needed however, and King looked physically less of a force in the second. Her movement to the front had slowed just enough to give her opponent the rule of the court, and the six-time World Open Champion dominated the following three games, picking off loose shots. A valiant effort by King in the first game was turned on it’s head, as she managed only nominal points in the subsequent two games, before suffering an overwhelming 11-0 whitewash in the final game to mark the end of her excellent World Series event.
David, who was forced to five games last time she faced King, spoke of her opponent after the match. “She tried to put pace on everything and it seems to catch me out early on,” she explained. “She gets confidence quickly and runs with it. As long as I stay positive and hang in I was okay, but it was the second game before I could settle into a rhythm.
“The semi finals are going to be great here at the British Open. I’m really pleased to be here.”
 Nicol David (MAS) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 8-11, 11-3, 11-3, 11-0 (45m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 11-13, 11-3, 11-9, 11-9 (51m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Annie Au (HKG) 9-11, 11-7, 11-6, 9-11, 11-6 (56m)
 Raneem El Weleily (EGY) bt  Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 12-10, 11-7, 11-5 (27m)
Semi final draw:
1.00pm  Raneem El Weleily (EGY) vs Nour El Sherbini (EGY)
2.00pm  Nicol David (MAS) vs  Laura Massaro (ENG)