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British Open: Semi-Finals - As It Happens

It’s sure to be another day of enthralling squash as the semi-finals take place at Hull’s Airco Arena.

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Here's the Order of Play

First up it’s World No.1 Nour El Sherbini against defending British Open champion Laura Massaro.

This fixture is a repeat of last year’s semi-final when Massaro was forced to come back from 2-0 down to secure her place in the final, where she eventually went on to lift the title.

El Sherbini has claimed five titles this season, including World Series wins at the Hong Kong Open, Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters and Tournament of Champions.

Massaro, on the other hand, has endured a frustrating season, not reaching the final of a tournament this season. But the Englishwoman will be hoping to go one step closer in retaining her title against the Egyptian today.

France’s Camille Serme and Egypt’s Raneem El Welily follow-on in their big clash.

The head-to-head is heavily weighted in the Egyptians favour with her taking 12 wins over Serme compared to the Frenchwoman’s three victories.

El Welily has enjoyed a successful season claiming her maiden PSA World Championship crown and taking the El Gouna International title last time out.

Meanwhile, Serme hasn’t quite hit the heights that she has become accustomed to, but she will be keen to peak in time for this highly-anticipated clash as she looks to secure British Open title number two.

In the first men’s semi-final of the day the ‘Beast of Alexandria’ Mohamed ElShorbagy and the ‘French General’ Gregory Gaultier clash for a place in the final.

ElShorbagy has been the player to beat on the Men’s Tour this season after he racked up an impressive seven titles so far this season. Gaultier, meanwhile, has found his season disrupted by injury and has been unable to make a final this season. However the General looks like a man in form at this year’s British Open as he targets a title defence.

The head-to-head is locked in at 11-11 between the players so this is sure to be a fiery clash on court.

Both Raphael Kandra and Miguel Angel Rodriguez will be targeting their first ever British Open final when they meet for today's semi-final.

German qualifier Kandra has been the surprise package of this season's tournament and has become a 'giant killer' knocking out France's Mathieu Castagnet in round one, England's three-time World Champion Nick Matthew in round two and then World No.3 Marwan ElShorbagy in yesterday's quarter-final.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, has also produced his fair share of upsets. The Colombian Cannonball took out three-time World Champion Ramy Ashour in round one, Egypt's former World No.3 Omar Mosaad in round two and then World No.2 and U.S. Open winner Ali Farag yesterday.

The two have only met once previously on the PSA World Tour with Rodriguez taking that encounter back in 2016 in round one of the British Open.

El Sherbini Moves Past Massaro to Reach Final

Egypt’s World No.1 Nour El Sherbini completed an impressive 3-2 win against defending champion Laura Massaro to reach the final of the British Open for the second time in three years.

The encounter was a repeat of last year’s semi-final when Massaro came from 2-0 down to defeat El Sherbini and book her place in the final, however, this time it was El Sherbini’s time to turn things around as she overhauled a 2-1 deficit to defeat the Englishwoman.

34-year-old Massaro – who dispatched World No.3 El Tayeb in the last round – got off to a strong start to take the first game, before El Sherbini forced her way back into the contest with an 11-4 victory in the second.

A third game looked as though it was going in the favour of the Egyptian as she built up a 9-6 lead, however, out of nowhere Massaro showed her mental resilience to turn the game in her favour and take a surprise 2-1 lead.

From then on, El Sherbini began to take the match in her stride as she looked the more comfortable player on court and punished Massaro to take the match 11-13, 11-4, 11-13, 11-7, 11-5 in 70 minutes.

“I’m really happy to win this match,” said the 22-year-old Egyptian following her win.

“It’s always really tough to play Laura in Hull, she was playing so good here but I’m really happy that I managed to get back and win the fourth and happy to be in another final.

“I think when you’re not playing the way you want to play you have to keep fighting for every point, I lost the third when I was leading 9-6 but I just kept going and tried to relax a bit.

“I just wanted to start the fourth well and take an early lead and I did that.

“The British Open is one of the biggest tournaments we have on the Tour, it’s an honour to win it once and hopefully I can go on to do it again.”

[1] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [7] Laura Massaro (ENG) 3-2: 11-13, 11-4, 11-13, 11-7, 11-5 (70m)

El Welily Beats Serme to Reach First British Open Final

Egyptian World Champion Raneem El Welily secured her place in her first ever British Open final after she defeated 2015 champion France’s Camille Serme.

The World No.2 has claimed most of the big titles on the PSA World Tour but the prestigious ‘Wimbledon of Squash’ is one of the few missing from her expansive collection, however, El Welily took one step closer to getting her hands on the iconic trophy.

Going into the encounter, the head-to-head record was strongly in the favour of the Egyptian as she had 12 wins over Serme compared to the Frenchwoman’s three wins and El Welily looked full of confidence as she started strongly to take the first game.

However, Serme hit back in the second to level the scores, as she started to play some of her best squash, before the third game saw the French No.1 come back from an 8-5 deficit to hold two game balls before El Welily hit four points in quick succession to take the pivotal game.

There was no stopping an in-form El Welily then – who survived a scare in round two against England’s Victoria Lust from 2-0 down – as she completed an 11-7, 4-11, 12-10, 11-6 victory.

El Welily will now face compatriot and top seed Nour El Sherbini the final.

“The third was absolutely crucial,” said 29-year-old El Welily.

“Camille was playing really well, and I think I was 8-5 up in the third and she managed to score five points in a row and that was an amazing performance from her but I think my mental status had gone a little bit down at that point so I had to fight really hard to regroup and I was lucky to win the third because it was crucial.

“The women’s game is very strong, you can tell from the results and the crowd – the crowd has been fantastic and their supporting good squash no matter who is playing and we have to give them credit for that and we always appreciate good crowds.

“It’s very special and I’m very happy to be in my first final at the British Open. I haven’t been very lucky in previous years but a little bit gutted to be missing Ramadan back home but at least I’m in the final and that will make up for it.”

[2] Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt [6] Camille Serme (FRA) 3-1: 11-7, 4-11, 12-10, 11-6 (43m)

ElShorbagy Edges Past Gaultier in Thriller

Top seed Mohamed ElShorbagy came through an epic five-game battle with defending champion Gregory Gaultier – which brought the packed-out crowd inside Hull’s Airco Arena on numerous occasions – to book his place in the final of the British Open.

The head-to-head record between the two great players was locked at 11-11 with the Egyptian taking two wins over his French opponent this season as Gaultier has struggled with various injuries over the course of the year. However, the two players made sure to make up for lost time as they played out another thrilling battle.

World No.1 ElShorbagy started the stronger player, however, Gaultier fired himself and the crowd up as he showcased his style and flair on court to come from 7-2 down to take the first game.

A series of brutal rallies followed in the second as the intensity level upped and 27-year-old ElShorbagy was able to level, while the physical demand of the match looked to have got the better of 35-year-old Gaultier with the Frenchman going 2-1 down.

Despite looking out on his feet on court, Gaultier found some energy in his reserve to take the fourth, 11-3, and force the game into an epic conclusion which ElShorbagy was able to dig out to win 8-11, 11-6, 11-6, 3-11, 11-5 in 71 minutes that led to the crowd rising to their feet to applaud both players off court.

“The first thing I told him after that match was that I absolutely missed him throughout the whole season,” said ElShorbagy.

“There are players that can beat you on the day, great players, but there are players who have the consistency to keep it going the whole season. The reason I told him I missed him is because this is the kind of consistency. I miss playing against someone who does that, because he has been injured most of the year, but we are the best two players in the world.

“I think everyone saw the matches we had against each other, but you don’t understand how much respect we have for each other once the matches have finished.

“He’s a great guy. I enjoyed every single second of that battle and you could see that from how we looked at each other after each rally.

“The level we played today we again raised the bar and the kind of squash I play against him is completely different and I’m thankful to him for that, because he has made me a stronger player and I will always be thankful to that generation but right now it’s my time.

“I played Miguel and Kandra through juniors and they both deserve their place in the semis and hopefully they play a great match.”

[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 3-2: 8-11, 11-6, 11-6, 3-11, 11-5 (71m)

Rodriguez Reaches First World Series Final

Colombia’s World No.14 Miguel Angel Rodriguez defeated ‘giant killer’ Germany's Raphael Kandra to reach his first ever World Series final at the British Open.

Rodriguez and Kandra – who came through qualifying – have both produced some of the most exciting squash of the tournament with both players producing shocks, particularly Kandra, who defeated three-time World Champion Nick Matthew and World No.3 Marwan ElShorbagy to reach the semi-finals.

However, it was to be the Colombian’s day as he survived a fightback from Kandra in the second to claim an 11-5, 5-11, 11-4, 11-3 in 44 minutes, that also means Rodriguez has booked his place at the PSA Dubai World Series Finals next month.

Rodriguez will now face World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy in the final as he hopes to cause a huge upset to take squash’s oldest title.

“I think we both didn’t have anything to lose,” said 32-year-old Rodriguez following his win.

“I had a little bit of pressure, this is a World Series semi-final, so it’s difficult the emotions you feel on court while you are playing. The first two games were edgy but then I was moving much better and I felt good physically, my shots were deeper, and I think that was the key. I was patient and that helped.

“It’s huge [to be in the final], this is one of my dreams when I was a kid and I talked to myself at the beginning of the year that I wanted to reach a final and I have and I’m very proud.

“I’m feeling fitter than ever and stronger than two years ago so I’m ready to fight.”

Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt [Q] Raphael Kandra (GER) 3-1: 11-5, 5-11, 11-4, 11-3 (44m)