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Waters Defeats David; Massaro Makes Semis

It was a day of superlative squash and one stunning upset at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions at Grand Central Terminal.

Just as it has been every day and for every session, the stands were filled and the eager fans got their money’s worth, as each match provided its own unique drama.

The most stunning result was the defeat of defending champion Nicol David by world #5 Alison Waters, who came into the match having beaten David only once in 24 previous meetings. That lone defeat was in 2012 at the Carol Weymuller Open which was also the last time that David lost in the quarterfinal stage of a tournament. Waters seems to be riding the momentum that she generated in December when she won the deciding match that gave England the world team championship, followed by her quarterfinal defeat of then defending world champion Laura Massaro at the World Open.

“Nicol clearly wasn’t at her best,” said Waters in her post-match interview, and indeed, many in the crowd were wondering if there was something wrong with the 31-year-old Malaysian, who seemed to be lacking her trademark energy. Waters edged ahead at the start, winning the first game 11-9; David responded by winning the second, 12-10. Waters, who was playing absolutely first rate squash, grabbed the third 11-7. Still, most in the capacity crowd were waiting for David to take her game to the next level or to find a way to win, as she has so many times in the past. Instead, Waters jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the fourth game, getting great depth on the ball and then wrong footing the usually agile David several times with a deceptive two wall boast to win the game 11-9. .

”She seemed very tired at the end,” Waters noted, “and I worked very hard to make that happen. Still, squash is very much a mental game and I was just focusing on playing one point at a time.” Waters never wavered in that focus, winning the deciding game 11-1.

Waters meets 19-year-old Nour El Sherbini in the semifinals after the Egyptian player ousted her countrywoman, 21-year-old Nour El Tayeb, by the barest of margins, 11-9, in the fifth. The two players treated the afternoon crowd to a superb match that showcased their fearless, contrasting styles. El Sherbini’s mother, calling into her daughter at the conclusion of the match from Egypt where it was 2AM affirmed that it was “very high quality.”

The tall and powerful El Sherbini played a classic attacking game, controlling the center of the court by driving her opponent deep and then deftly placing the ball in the front corners when she had an opening. El Tayeb was the retriever, nullifying Sherbini’s power by varying her shots and lifting the ball, occasionally throwing in a split lunge or a floor dive to return seemingly ungettable balls. El Sherbini seemed to dominate the match and yet El Tayeb hung in, winning a fourth game tiebreak after saving two match balls and rebounding in the fifth from  3-7 and 6-9 before succumbing 11-9.

“We have been playing each other since I was 10,” Sherbini said, “and it is always close. I was focused on keeping the ball away from her because she can flick it from anywhere in the court. Winning a match like this gives me confidence going into the next round.”

The second women’s semifinal will feature world no. 3 Laura Massaro against world no. 2 Raneem El Welily. The Englishwoman woman needed five games and 72 minutes to defeat Camille Serme for a place in the final four. The Frenchwoman started the match bouncing on her toes and looking hungry for victory as she quickly shot out to an 11-3, 11-4 lead. “I did not want to lose this match,” said Massaro. “I was a touch flat in the beginning, but I stayed calm and finally started getting good length and hitting my targets.”

After winning the third game 11-7, Massaro fell behind in the fourth, 1-5 and 2-6. “I always feel like I can come back and that helps me dig deep,” she explained. Recovering to 6-7, the 31-year-old suddenly displayed more spring in her step and reeled off the next seven points to force the match into a fifth game decider. Serme seemed to tighten up ever so slightly and the fifth was nip and tuck through 6-5, after which Massaro surged ahead to win the deciding game 11-7.

Massaro’s semifinal opponent, Raneem El Welily, dismissed the young American star, Amanda Sobhy, in four games. “Last year I was little overwhelmed by the ToC – all the people, all the noise- and I lost in the first round,” El Welily commented. “This year, I am much more comfortable here.” Comfortable might be an understatement. El Welily’s 21-year-old opponent played well, yet lost decisively. “I have a lot to do to get to no. 2,” Sobhy said after the match. “Raneem had an answer for everything I threw at her today.” Perhaps not quite everything as Sobhy did win the third game 11-2, after El Welily asked for, and got, a new ball, which the Harvard senior started smacking into the nick for winners. .The 25-year-old Egyptian re-asserted her authority in the fourth by driving Sobhy deep into the court to prevent the Long Island native from having an opportunity to keep hitting those front court nicks.

RESULTS – The J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Grand Central Terminal, NY, NY
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Women’s Quarterfinals

 [2] Laura Massaro (ENG) def. Camille Serme (FRA)  3-11, 4-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-7 [72 mins]

[3] Raneem El Welily (EGY) def. Amanda Sobhy (USA) 11-5, 11-5, 2-11, 11-4 [28 mins]

[4] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) def. Nour El Tayeb (EGY)11-5, 10-12, 11-3, 12-14, 11-9 [65 mins]

Alison Waters (ENG) def. [1] Nicol David (MAS) 11-9, 10-12, 11-7, 11-1 [56 mins]

Schedule of Play
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Grand Central Terminal

5:00 [2] Laura Massaro (ENG) v. Raneem El Welily (EGY)

6:00 Alison Waters v. [4] Nour El Sherbini (EGY)