UPDATE:
Barker caps off dramatic Quarter-Finals

Barker caps off dramatic Quarter-Finals

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[note]Women’s WSA $95k Quarter-Finals:
[1] Nicol David (Mas) bt [12] Joelle King (Nzl)  8/11, 11/3, 11/4, 11/0 (45m)
[3] Laura Massaro (Eng) bt [10] Camille Serme (Fra) 11/13, 11/3, 11/9, 11/9 (51m)
[16] Nour El Sherbini (Egy)  bt  [7] Annie Au (Hkg) 9/11, 11/7, 11/6, 9/11, 11/6 (56m)
[5] Raneem El Weleily (Egy) bt [2] Jenny Duncalf (Eng) 12/10, 11/7, 11/5 (27m)

Men’s PSA $150k Quarter-Finals:
[1] James Willstrop
 (Eng) bt [7] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy)  11/4, 11/7, 11/9 (45m)
[4] Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt [5] Amr Shabana (Egy)  11/8, 12/10, 5/11, 1/11, 11/4 (45m)
[3] Nick Matthew (Eng)
bt [8] Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned) 4/11, 11/6, 11/5, 11/5 (60m)
[6] Peter Barker (Eng) bt [2] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 11/8, 2/11, 7/11, 11/9, 11/6 (89m)[/note]

Barker caps off dramatic quarter-final day

It ended up being a late night at the O2 Arena on British Open quarter-finals day, with drama at the beginning and at the end.

The afternoon session saw the first three matches all go the way of Egypt, with Ramy Ashour beating Amr Shabana in an eventful but quick five-setter, and Nour El Sherbini and Raneem El Weleily both springing upsets to guarantee and Egyptian women’s finalist.

James Willstrop and Nick Matthew both stayed on course for another British Open showdown, while Laura Massaro made it a hat-trick of English wins to set up a semi-final with Nicol David.

The last match of the day was the longest and the tensest, as Peter Barker came from 2/1 down to beat second seed Gregory Gaultier and ensure an English men’s finalist.

TALENT AND DIZZY BLONDS….

[4] Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt [5] Amr Shabana (Egy)  11/8, 12/10, 5/11, 1/11, 11/4 (45m)

Our two Egyptians have got so much in common. Their indescribable talent. Their incredible movement. And their dizzy blond moments.

Up. Down. In. Out. Their concentration/focus kept sliding from one side of the scale to the other. And we have a first game where Ramy dominates completely. Then Shabs is up 8/2, 10/6 to let Ramy score the next 6 points, bless him.

Then Legend is really angry at himself, and decides to play out of his skin, “in the zone” as the Artist calls it. And 12minutes later, Shabanas has won the next two games, 11/5, 11/1!!! Actually, there was a funny moment at 9/0, when Shabs made an error, and Ramy shouted YES!!!!, begging the crowd to applaud him.

After that 4th game, Ramy is desperately trying to change his grip, he can’t, finally throws always that racquet, grabs another, searches like a puppy in his bag for… the marker to put the D of Dunlop on the grip. Finds it as the ref calls, 15s. Quickly done, off he goes. Pfewww…..

In that 5th, excellent start for Ramy, 3/0. Shabs won’t have any of it, 3/3. And that’s it. Shabana will make from that point 4 tins, and despite some flying here and there, and amazing rallies, Ramy is scoring ineluctably point after point.

At 9/4, Shabana makes his last tin, absolutely livid, he hits the racquet three times on his left quad. And breaks the racquet. As his camp is shouting to him that he’s got to change his racquet, Shabana ignores them, and goes to receive the match ball serve with that broken racquet, than hangs a bit miserably off his hand. Of course, he tins the return of serve, acknowledging that he was beaten fair and square. As in, saluting Ramy. Well, that’s how I perceived it anyway.

And as I’m finishing this report, Shabs is at the airport, his flight in less than an hour, I’m sure, as when he loses, he calls his wife, “I’m coming home”, and takes the first flight home…

QUARTERS 2 269.JPG “Shabana is a legend, so beating him today makes me very happy.

It’s always like this when we play with Shabana, it’s sort of “in patterns”, so it’s all about finding the right focus in your head, and playing the right shot at the right time. It’s more of a mental battle than a physical one.

There a lot of factors, of elements that come into my head, how to find the motivation, find that zone, find that soothing point. Maybe the other players handle it better than I do, I’m far too emotional maybe.

QUARTERS 2 157.JPG  In the 3rd and 4th, it was surreal, in front of my eyes, and knowing that there was nothing I could do. When he is in the place, he can beat anybody in 20m.

He had the momentum, he was in the zone, and I was trying to sort out all the crazy things I have in my head, I’m not quite sane you know… And I knew he was in that zone, I know when he gets there, his body language, his footwork. My aim was trying to or get him out of there, or raise my game to his level. And in the 5th, I manage to raise my game, and it’s worked.

The grip is crucial for me, there are some little gaps in the grip, and I feel comfortable when my fingers are in those gaps. And who ever said that a good player can win with any racquet is an idiot! It’s not possible. You change racquet, you change your footwork, and you lose some shots. I had terrible trouble getting used to new racquets, and I have a terrible reputation with racquet companies!!!!

I have no pressure, there are two favourites in this tournament, James and Nick, I’ll be playing either James or Shorbagy tomorrow, depending. James is a very intellectual player, very intelligent game, we haven’t played for a while, Shorbagy is more of an attacker. But to be honest, I’m not thinking that way forward, I just try and stay healthy…”

Ramy Ashour

FLAT TO START WITH BUT…

[1] James Willstrop (Eng) bt [7] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy)  11/4, 11/7, 11/9 (45m)

QUARTERS 4 028.JPG Let’s be frank here. Unless James got injured during the match, Baggy was NEVER going to win this quarter. The calm of the Egyptian camp – no jumping up at all, not even a tiny one – said it all. Mohamed, having had two exams, one Monday morning and one yesterday morning, had fulfilled his moral contract by reaching the quarters.

The first was all about James. Mohamed tried and match the patience and accuracy of the world number one, but at that game, James is – wait for it – the best in the world! And flat as he was, Mohamed just couldn’t match him. Far from it.

The second was more about adrenalin and pride really, James still nicely ahead, 6/3, 8/4, but if Baggy was making a lot of work (rallies over 50 strokes), it was the Englishman that was adding the point on the scoreboard. Sprinkle on that a few errors here and there, and you have a two love lead for James.

QUARTERS 4 093.JPG If Borja and Daryl went Egyptian on us this week against Ramy, in the third, Mohamed went for a Cameron Pilley-like, and just hit the ball to try and break the front wall! He didn’t succeed, but he really put James under pressure, even getting the lead, 8/7 bless him!

It was maybe exhibition stuff, but James was not enjoying it a bit, and probably didn’t look forward to a 4th game, with a semi-final prospect on the following day against the Artist. So, James went up a notch, hitting more accurate, tighter, and found those back corners, to really open the court for himself. He finally prevailed, 11/9. But that was an excellent pride-push from Baggy. He will be very proud of himself.

QUARTERS 4 064.JPG “I’m pleased with the way I played. He gave it a big push at the end, and not often players do that from 2/0 and 5/7 down! He kept cranking the pace up, got forward, with nothing to lose, and it was tough all the way.

The temperature is getting warmer, we were hitting lines, played longer rallies, and it was a quality match. I had to put it together to win 3/0.

I am one of the top players in the world, so, of course, I have the belief I can win the British Open, but to be honest, I’m not trying to put any kind of pressure of myself. From tomorrow, there will be four players to compete, and I’m just trying to enjoy the moment, the atmosphere, it’s not going to last forever…

Tomorrow, Ramy, two very different style of play, that normally makes a very exciting match, we all know about Ramy’s talent and racquets skills, I’m really looking forward to tomorrow….”

James Willstrop

QUARTERS 4 112.JPG “I would like to say that I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved this week, managing my exams and reaching the quarters of the British Open.

I think I still played well, but James was too tight and accurate. In the second, we had like two massive rallies, they destroyed me. I was expecting that already from Adrian, who didn’t push me in that direction, but James did, and it was the only tactic to adopt really.

From that point on, I knew I couldn’t win, but there was a crowd watching, so I wanted to make sure they enjoyed the match, and went for some exhibition stuff!! I think that in the 3rd, I went for two or three ridiculous shots, that got in, and maybe made James lose a bit of concentration. And I was really proud to get a lead in that game!

I’m happy I got an 11/9 in the score line. Ah, and I would like to apologise to James for making a comment about him not moving at the end of the first. It was not true, it was just my frustration talking.

To finish, I would like to wish James the best of luck, and also to thank all the people that have worked very hard to put on this event, in particular, Tim Garner and his team.”

Mohamed El Shorbagy

Matthew weathers Dutch storm

[3] Nick Matthew (Eng) bt [8] Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned) 4/11, 11/6, 11/5, 11/5 (60m)

“He came out like a steam train in the first game and was just too good,” said Nick Matthew after his 4/11, 11/6, 11/5, 11/5 win over Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema.

“I just had to not panic, weather the storm and keep the balance between matching his aggression while staying composed.” The defending champion did that to perfection, and he “got on top towards the end of the thir and fourth games” to move into the semi-finals.

“It’s a bit the same as when I played against James in El Gouna…. I start the game playing 110, 120% of my ability, and the opponent is at what, 90%. But after that, I drop to 70, 80%, and he stays at 80, 90….

I think I played the right game in the first, but now, I’ve got to work on making sure I can make this last a bit longer. It’s not a physical thing necessarily, more a mental one.

I really enjoyed the moment, the quarters of the British Open, the noise, the atmosphere, I dwell on that. But it’s a bit of a mixed feeling right now, happy that I live that moment, that I raised my game, but at the same time, disappointed I fizzled out a little bit in the end.

Yes, he is world number 1, 2, for a reason, but I’ve got to stop paying him compliments! Really, I’m now looking forward to my summer training, I have a few things I want to work on, and I’m going to use this as a trampoline to jump even higher.

Back to the drawing board.”

Laurens Jan Anjema

“He came out like a steam train!!! I didn’t feel I did much running, he just came up to play that great occasion that is a quarter of a British Open. Sometimes, you just have to raise your hand and say too good.

The only thing I could do was to stay composed really, weather the storm as LJ was on fire! I was trying to find the right balance between matching his aggression, but at the same time, not getting away with excitement. At the end of the 2nd and 3rd, I managed to come back in the match…”

Nick Matthew

“LJ is exactly the type of player that can cause troubles to physical players like Nick. And until he is a bit jaded, there is not much you can do. You have to wear him up, step up the court, and keep on sending him back, sending him back. At the end, Nick was able to put him at the wrong end of too many rallies, and his drop shots finally took their toll on him.”

David Pearson

PETER THE KING OF THE O2

What a mental and tactical battle this was guys. To start with, if Nick was a bit nervous, Peter was not. He got into his natural rhythm, mid pace, great accuracy, great length, and as he likes it too, he made it loooooong, 20m.

Greg made a few errors there, 4 for 2 to Pete, but it was more the speed, or actually, the lack of it that was worrying the French camp. Soon coached by both Mathieu Benoît and Stéphane Galifi, Greg came back blasting, more offensive on the ball, more positive, mixing better length and acceleration, dominating Peter completely for a game and a half, 11/2, 9/3. And even if Greg takes the third 11/7, I could see that Peter was starting to get Greg’s measure, and that we could have a match on our hands.

And that, we did. Well, partly because Greg must have felt a bit tired from all the work that Peter made him do, partly because he probably relaxed a bit after wining those games, but most importantly, because he started discussing and questioning most of the referees calls. And that, we know, only worked for McEnroe about 200 years ago, it didn’t work for Peter when he used to open his mouth, and it certainly didn’t work for Greg either tonight.

Wasting energy in a battle he was not going to win – although a little warning could have been welcome when Pete threw his racquet in frustration at the start of the 4th, or when he pushed Greg really too hard at 8/8 later in that same game – Greg gradually let the referees come between him and the British Open title. It’s not the first time it happened, that his loss of focus because of bad calls/alleged bad calls alter the outcome of a match for him. Nobody but him can sort out that mental issue I feel.

Having taken a bit of a tense 4th, Peter had the momentum, the hunger, and the crowd behind him. Greg lost his length completely in the beginning of the decider, went for Russian roulette shots, and against Peter, well, it’s probably not the best of tactics.

Now perfectly in control, the Englishman never let Greg back in the game again, and he takes the match on his first match ball. Tonight, as so often on a squash court, victory was in the mind….

“Greg is an unbelievable player, such a competitor, I pulled out everything tonight. I said before the match that I would not come off court until I gave it everything. And that’s what I did. It’s moments like that where the hard work, the training, the rehabilitation, it all makes it worth while.

In the third, I was at the wrong end of too many long rallies, so I tried and made it more competitive in the centre, because when he’s got the control there, he is unstoppable.

I feel great obviously, it was an up and down game, who ever got in front and dominated the T would win the point. And that’s why the length was so crucial.

I had to physically wrestle him off the T, because he was killing me. Maybe it was not a quality match, but I was playing in front of my homecrowd, and I did what I had to do.”

Peter Barker 

Egyptian Women’s finalist assured

[16] Nour El Sherbini (Egy)  bt  [7] Annie Au (kg) 9/11, 11/7, 11/6, 9/11, 11/6 (56m)
[5] Raneem El Weleily (Egy) bt [2] Jenny Duncalf (Eng) 12/10, 11/7, 11/5 (27m)

QUARTERS 1 220.JPG An Egyptian finalist was guaranteed when first Nour El Sherbini and then Raneem El Weleily, both former world junior champions from Egypt, score upset wins in the afternoow women’s semi-final matches.

El Sherbini got the better of Hong Kong’s seventh-seeded Annie Au in an up and down five game match where both players enjoyed spells of dominance. It was a match of short rallies, lots of winners and swings of fortune but it was the reigning British Junior Open champion who prevailed, to the delight of her entourage.

QUARTERS 1 322.JPG “My game is all about dropping from everywhere, but Annie does that too and she was trying to slow it down every rally while I was trying to speed it up! I was trying to play the ball deep to set up the opportunities, but it was so difficult trying to pick up the pace again at the start of every rally.

I lost to her last time we played, so I was very focused for this match and knew I had to play my best. I’m so happy to beat her this time and be in the semis of a great tournament like the British Open.”

Nour El Sherbini (youngest ever British Open semi-finalist)

QUARTERS 3 137.JPG El Weleily beat England’s second seeded Jenny Duncalf in straight games. Once she had taken four point in a row to win a tight first game 12/10, she romped ahead in the next two games with world number two Duncalf unable to cope with the barrage of winners coming her way, although the Englishwoman helped her opponent along the way with some crucial unforced errors when seemingly in control of rallies.

A 10/3 lead in the second was enough despite a late fightback from Duncalf for an 11/7 finish, and a run of five points in a row closed out the match in the third 11/5.

QUARTERS 3 158.JPG “It’s never an easy match against Jenny, but I managed to get a few shots in early and maintained the momentum.

“She wasn’t giving me many chances to play my shots at the front, so I was trying to be more patient and play to the back more, but I put a few shots in and I kept doing them even when I probably shouldn’t have, I hit five or so tins in the first and was lucky to win that one really, but she made a few mistakes which helped. I had to improve on that in the next games and I did.

“I’m so proud of Nour El Sherbini, and really happy that I’ll be playing her in an all-Egyptian semi-final of the British Open!”

Raneem El Weleily 

Massaro storms into semis

Having had three game balls to take the first only to lose it 11/13, Laura Massaro came back out firing to take the second game of her match with Camille Serme 11/3, and then got the better of two tight games winning them both 11/9 to move into the semi-finals.

“That was hard work,” she admitted, “I felt I was unlucky to lose the first, so I had to keep pumping myself up for the rest of the match, it’s easy to get flat and you just can’t afford to do that on this court.

“If I get to play Nicol tomorrow, we all know the fantastic five years she’s had, but I managed to beat her twice last year, so hopefully I can make it three. And if it’s Joelle, it will mean that she’ll be playing very well, so it will very hard as well…”

“I don’t have the detachement right now to say if it was a good match or not, if I did something wrong tactically or not. Philippe tells me I crosscourted far too much, I can’t see that right now.

What I know is that I had my chances today, but I just couldn’t take that step that would take me a bit further. Now, Laura didn’t get to number 3 in the world by chance, but I’m not tired, and I really wanted to play that semi…”

Camille Serme

David draws the Kiwi sting

Just as LJ Anjema had in the previous match, Joelle King came out of the blocks with a vengeance to take the first game off the world champion.

But, just as Nick Matthew had, Nicol David too weathered the storm, and without any panic or undue fuss, slowly but surely drew the sting from her opponent, and in David’s case so clinical was the process that come the fourth game it looked as though King could play all night without getting another point, ad David ran out the 8/11, 11/3, 11/4, 11/0 winner.

“I was expecting her to come out with a good start,” said David, “she was bound to be fired up after her win over Rachael yesterday.

“I was struggling to get my shots together at the start, but as the match went on I found my rhythm and the shots came with that. She was probably feeling the effects of that five-setter too, so I was able to take advantage of that.

“It’s sure to be a pretty exciting match against Laura in the semis tomorrow, the crowd will be on her side but hopefully I’ll have some support too!”