Asal leads Egyptian Quartet into El Gouna International semis
Day six of the El Gouna International saw all four matches go the way of Egyptian players as Mostafa Asal, Ali Farag, Nour El Sherbini and Hania El Hammamy booked their places in the semi-finals of the PSA World Tour Platinum event.
World No.4 Asal held off what would have been a stunning comeback from Peru’s Diego Elias to reach the semi-finals of this tournament for the first time. ‘The Raging Bull’ powered into a two-game lead after a sublime start to the match where he hit winners at will.
Elias was able to mount a comeback of sorts in the second, and he kept focused to carry that momentum into the third and fourth games to level the scores against the backdrop of a partizan crowd, which cheered Asal to the rafters. However, the fifth game was all about Asal, who kept the World No.5 at bay and romped home to complete an 11-4, 11-8, 9-11, 9-11, 11-2 victory in 85 minutes.
“I’m really proud of myself today, it was tough but well controlled by [referee] John Masserella, he hasn’t refereed me in a while, so it was kind of a new experience for me,” said Asal.
“Diego and I are cat and mouse, we are battling, we had four or five battles last season and he’s a great player. I have always watched him at the British Junior Open when he was Under 19 and I saw him winning all these titles. There’s more to come from me and him for sure.”
Asal will play reigning men’s World Champion Farag, celebrated his return to World No.1 following the release of today’s PSA Men’s World Rankings with a 7-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-7 victory over long-term foe Marwan ElShorbagy.
Farag has found it difficult to beat ElShorbagy in the past, winning just five of their previous 13 matches coming into today’s encounter. However, he continued on from his win over the World No.9 at the CIB PSA World Championships two weeks ago – a win which brought a four-match losing streak to an end – as he came back from a game down to seal his place in the last four.
“It’s always tricky when you play the same person so quickly, and you know how smart Marwan is,” said Farag.
“I was trying to not overcook my shots, but I ended up being too passive. So I told myself to be more aggressive, even if I wasn’t going to win the point straight away, I can be more proactive, but the third was the crucial one. I think I was 8-4 down, but I’m very proud of the way I fought back. “
In the women’s event, El Sherbini and El Hammamy will meet for the second year running at the El Gouna International following respective wins over Malaysia’s Sivasangari Subramaniam and New Zealand’s Joelle King.
Defending champion El Sherbini won that match by a 3-2 margin, but did lose to El Hammamy the last time they played, with the World No.3 toppling the reigning World Champion at March’s Windy City Open. El Sherbini will now look to avenge that defeat following her comfortable 11-5, 11-5, 11-3 win over Subramaniam, who was appearing in her first Platinum quarter-final.
“It’s difficult playing someone for the first time, but I think I was prepared,” said El Sherbini.
“I started a bit slowly, but there’s a difference from the first match. I can see how I’m improving and every match is different from the one before. These are the kind of matches to get me back in the mood and stay in the right rhythm.”
Meanwhile, El Hammamy came through a feisty encounter with World No.5 Joelle King, winning 11-4, 13-11, 11-2. There was no love lost between the pair, with King accusing El Hammamy of receiving coaching in between points. That just served to fire the Egyptian up as she attacked with vigour to earn her place in the last four of this event for the second time.
“Nour is a six-time World Champion, she just won the tournament last week,” said El Hammamy.
“If we speak about confidence, she is on a high right now, but it’s always a pleasure playing her and an honour to share a court with her. I’m definitely looking forward to tomorrow’s match.”