By Annanya Johari
Monday was a great day to be an Egyptian squash fan as top-ranked Mohamed ElShorbagy and his brother Marwan ElShorbagy made the semifinals in Chicago’s Windy City Open. However, women’s World No. 1 Nour El Sherbini lost to her Egyptian compatriot Nour El Tayeb in a major upset.
At the end of day 5 of the world’s most lucrative squash tournament, where prize money totals $500,000 this year, five of the eight remaining contenders were Egyptians.
The day opened with one of the two matches not featuring an Egyptian player as Sarah-Jane Perry of England took on Camille Serme of France. Serme had not lost a single game coming into the match and it looked like the streak would continue after she won 12-10 in the first game. Perry, however, was in no mood to let Serme walk all over her and stormed back to win the next three games and advance to the semifinals.
That comeback was great, but it was no match for Nour El Tayeb’s comeback victory over El Sherbini. She appeared set to progress after she won the first two games, but an inspired El Tayeb fought back and took the next two games by the narrowest of margins to level the match. El Sherbini failed to contain El Tayeb’s momentum in the deciding game and went down 7-11 in a match that lasted 77 minutes.
“It was an unbelievable match,” El Tayeb told reporters after the match. “My coach told me not to worry about the first two games because I was playing well, and it could have gone either way,” she added.
El Tayeb will be joined in the semifinals by Joelle King of New Zealand, who beat American hope Amanda Sobhy in four tight games.
Defending champion Raneem El Welily of Egypt will complete the women’s semifinal line-up after she extended her winning streak at the Windy City Open to 18 matches. She is undefeated in Chicago since 2014 and is yet to drop a single game at the tournament this year.
On the men’s side, both the ElShorbagy brothers won their matches in straight games. First up was Marwan ElShorbagy, who beat the German ‘Tree Chopper’ Simon Rosner 11-7, 11-4, 11-8. Rosner had beaten ElShorbagy in their last two matches and was in good form having won the Tournament of Champions in New York earlier this year. But he could not contain his unforced errors on Monday and handed his opponent an easy victory.
The elder ElShorbagy brother had a similar result against Miguel Angel Rodriguez of Colombia, beating him 11-7, 14-12, 11-4.
“It’s great to have my brother in the semifinals as well. A lot of the Egyptians have been playing well this season. I think we’re giving something different to the sport with the way we’re all playing at the moment,” he told reporters. “I’ll be happier when it’s the older ElShorbagy who wins the tournament.”
The third Egyptian in the men’s semifinal is Ali Farag, who took the court right after his wife Nour El Tayeb completed her sensational victory. Farag’s match wasn’t nearly as exciting as his wife’s though, as he needed just 46 minutes to outlast Australia’s Cameron Pilley in straight games.
El Tayeb and Farag aren’t the only married couple in the semifinals as El Welily’s husband Tarek Momen beat Karim Abdel Gawad in the second all-Egyptian quarterfinal of the day.
The players had some long exchanges in the first two games, both of which were tightly contested. The first game was particularly close and had 5 deuces before Momen finally won it 16-14. As the match progressed, Momen increasingly wrestled the control out of Gawad’s hands and finished with a 16-14, 11-8, 11-3 win to make his first semifinal at the Windy City Open.
The semifinals are tonight starting at 5:30 p.m. at the University Club of Chicago, 76 E. Monroe St. The finals are Wednesday starting at 6 p.m. at the same venue.