Elias Survives as three former Champions advance to the quarters
World No.1 Diego Elias was on the brink of elimination before fighting back from two games down to beat India’s Saurav Ghosal at Chicago Union Station in Round Three.
Elias was joined in the quarters by three former World Champions as Mohamed ElShorbagy recorded his first win over Youssef Ibrahim in three close games, Tarek Momen overcame qualifier Mohamed Abouelghar in five games, and Karim Abdel Gawad ousted sixth seed Marwan ElShorbagy in straight games.
In the women’s draw Nour El Sherbini kept her bid for a seventh title on track as she downed Sarah-Jane Perry in straight games. Fourth seed Joelle King also progressed as she beat close friend Tesni Evans in three games, but there were upsets elsewhere as Gina Kennedy and Nele Gilis downed higher seeds Rowan Elaraby and Olivia Fiechter in contrasting fashion.
Kennedy Reaches Quarters for First Time
World No.8 Georgina Kennedy put in an impressive performance to dismantle Egypt’s Rowan Elaraby as she booked her spot in the quarter-finals of the PSA World Championships presented by the Walter Family for the first time.
Kennedy, appearing in only her second World Championship, asserted her game plan right from the off as she played an immaculate line and length to take the attacking opportunities away from Elaraby.
The English star had won all four of her previous matches against Elaraby and she looked full of confidence as she stormed to an 11-8, 11-7, 11-4 in just 29 minutes.
Elaraby put up a strong fight in the opening game but Kennedy held her off and the Egyptian was unable to match her in the next two games.
“I’m really chuffed with that performance,” said Kennedy. “The head-to-head swings my way against Rowan, but I never feel like I’m the one expected to win for some reason. I always go in thinking I’m the underdog.
“I really liked it [the glass court]. I thought I’d struggle a bit because I haven’t really hit much on it. Playing Rowan on the glass court, she’s so aggressive and her short game is so good.
“I thought I could become a little bit unstuck, but I felt like my length was really good, I found my targets quite quickly, and when she was lifting it I got a bit like ‘oh wow, the view up there is really nice.”
Result :  Georgina Kennedy (ENG) bt  Rowan Elaraby (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-7, 11-4 (29m)
ElShorbagy Ends Losing Run Against Ibrahim
2017 World Champion Mohamed ElShorbagy finally got the better of bogey player Youssef Ibrahim as he ended a three-match losing streak against the World No.30.
Not many players have a superior head-to-head record against World No.2 ElShorbagy but Youssef is one of those rare players and the Egyptian had won all three of their previous meetings on the PSA Tour, including in the third round of the Windy City Open held in Chicago last year.
ElShorbagy is one of the most tactically-astute players on the tour though and he pulled off his gameplan to perfection as he recorded a 3-0 win to book his spot in the last eight.
The Englishman buried Ibrahim in the back of the court and didn’t allow him to utilise his considerable attacking talents into the front corners. ElShorbagy’s length game was immaculate and Ibrahim just couldn’t match him when it came to the basics.
The third game was the only time where ElShorbagy’s consistency dipped, but Ibrahim hit too many errors to really put his opponent’s victory in any serious doubt.
An 11-7, 11-9, 11-9 victory has seen ElShorbagy set up a quarter-final clash with either 2019 World Champion Tarek Momen or World No.53 Mohamed Abouelghar.
“Youssef is a quality player,” ElShorbagy said. “There’s not many players I can go on court with and have a 100 per cent loss record against. He’s played me three times and beat me three times. He has a great game for my game and we had to do a lot of work to study him.
“Last night I asked Greg [Gaultier] and David Campion, the England national coach, to watch a couple of matches to make some notes and then we had breakfast at 8.30am. The whole conversation, we were living the match before we played the match. I came here to the venue and I started feeling so nervous.
“It’s still early in the tournament, but this is a big, big match early in the tournament. Half an hour before the match, I rang my physiotherapist Jade and spoke to her and told her I was so nervous. I needed to speak to someone, I needed to speak to her and someone who has been working with me for a while to understand how I work mentally.
“She spoke to me and we had a good discussion – nothing about the match, it all mental. I knew what I needed to do on court, but I need to be ready mentally to be able to perform now and she got me ready. She said the right words and I’m very thankful to have all of them. This was a team performance.
“Even though I was 2-0 up, last time we played in Chicago I was 2-0 up, but I lost 3-2. So when I was up in the third, I couldn’t relax because he did that to me last year.”
Result :  Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) bt Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 11-9, 11-9 (47m)
El Sherbini Powers Past Perry
Reigning World Champion Nour El Sherbini made short work of World No.9 Sarah-Jane Perry to make it 27 matches unbeaten at the sport’s biggest tournament.
El Sherbini generally brings her ‘A’ game to the PSA World Championships – winning six of the last seven and reaching the final in the other – and that was certainly true against Perry today as she stormed to a comfortable 11-3, 11-4, 11-6 victory after 27 minutes of action.
The Egyptian exposed her opponent’s movement as she displayed a delicate touch at the front of the court as well as an ability to hit her lines into the back corners.
There was very little Perry could do to knock El Sherbini off her stride in the opening two game, and while she made a stronger start to the third game as she took a 3-1 lead, she immediately served out to hand the momentum back to El Sherbini.
El Sherbini’s quarter-final opponent will be England’s Georgina Kennedy. Kennedy is yet to beat El Sherbini on the PSA Tour after two previous meetings, but the World No.8 did take ‘The Warrior Princess’ to five games in then quarter-finals of last month’s British Open.
“I’m very pleased with my performance,” said El Sherbini. “Beating SJ 3-0 is a good win for me. Winning three matches in three is good for me and I hope I keep going like this. I felt I played better on court today and that will give me a confidence boost.”
Result :  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-0: 11-3, 11-4, 11-6 (27m)
Momen Axes Abouelghar
2019 World Champion Tarek Momen continued his title challenge as he came out on top of a gruelling five-game battle with fellow Egyptian Mohamed Abouelghar.
Despite Abouelghar needing to qualify for the tournament via the event in Birmingham last April, the World No.54 is a tricky customer having been as high as No.7 in the world previously and he displayed his shot-making skills in a quick-fire first game which he won 11-4 in just 7 minutes.
Momen was far better in the second though as he went back to basics and focused on hitting a solid length. Abouelghar had picked him off every time ‘The Viper’ hit a cross court in the opening game but this time around Momen didn’t give him the opportunity and kept a two-game cushion between him and his opponent for the majority of the game.
He initially squandered two game balls as Abouelghar battled back to force a tie-break but eventually ended up securing the win 13-11.
Abouelghar was back on it in the third game as he stormed into a 7-1 lead, but he went off the boil and became far too passive, enabling Momen to back into the match, and the 35-year-old prevailed in another tie-break to establish a lead for the first time.
Abouelghar wasn’t done there and it was Momen’s turn to throw away a lead, relinquishing a 9-7 advantage to hand Abouelghar a lifeline. The fifth game saw both players trade blows, with Momen eventually pulling away to seal the win, dropping six points in the decider.
“As I said in my post-match interview on court, it was such an up and down kind of match,” Momen said. “It was brilliant at times. I felt like I enjoyed a big part of it as I think we both played really well for the majority of the match, but there were some brutal ups and downs.
“I thought I had him and then he came back and he thought he had me, and then I came back. I’m pretty sure it was exciting for everyone. It was just brutal for us! I’m glad I have a day off, for sure. I would have loved to have finished this match a bit earlier than a 3-2.
“Those matches have their advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is getting me sharpened up for the next rounds. Hopefully this match will get me ready for the next one. I’ll just try to recover in the next 48 hours.”
Result :  Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 3-2: 4-11, 13-11, 12-10, 9-11, 11-6 (87m)
King Maintains Perfect Streak
Joelle King maintained her perfect streak at the World Championships as she notched another straight games victory against Tesni Evans.
The New Zealand No.1 has been in top form so far in Chicago having not dropped a single game, and she kept her 100% record intact to book her quarter-final spot.
King stormed into a two-game advantage, winning 11-8 and 11-4, and looked on course to have the third wrapped up quickly.
However the Kiwi took her foot off the gas at the backend of the game and Evans capitalised as she forced a tiebreak. But King was able to deliver when it mattered most, pulling out some terrific shots to seal the victory.
“I think it was quite a mixed bag, to be honest, from both of us,” said King. “It was an emotional match, I think, more than anything. We’re both really good friends, I’m actually bridesmaid at her wedding later in the year, so we’re really close off the court. It’s not always easy to separate that when you go on the court.
“I think both of us were hungry for a quarter-final spot. I think the head-to-head is 5-3 and I can honestly say that it’s never been too long before things are fine between us afterwards. Whatever happens on the court stays on the court, I think we love squash but there’s bigger things than that.
“We’ll be friends for a long time after squash, so I don’t think it would ever ruin our relationship.
“It’s very easy to let the nerves overcome you. When you’ve got someone coming at you, fighting hard, even when they’re down 2-0, that game can change the whole momentum of the match and you can find yourself in a five gamer. It’s about sticking to the game plan, being clear on those tactics and just being brave enough to take them on.”
Result :  Joelle King (NZL) bt  Tesni Evans (WAL) 3-0: 11-8, 11-4, 14-12 (46m)
Elias Edges Pulsating Encounter With Ghosal
World No.1 Diego Elias battled back from 2-1 down to defeat Suarav Ghosal in a pulsating encounter.
India’s No.1 Ghosal tested the resolve of the Peruvian Puma throughout, and was well worth his two-game lead. The 36-year-old was measured in his play, while Elias made too many unforced errors.
However the World No.1 turned it up a notch in the third, storming into a 7-0 lead before clinching the game to be reduce the deficit.
The Peruvian Puma produced another dominant display in the fourth to send the match into a fifth, demonstrating why he sits at the top of the Men’s World Rankings.
Ghosal, hunting his first quarter-final appearance at a World Championships in four years, rediscovered the energy he had in the opening two games and looked to pull off a huge shock when he had a couple of match balls.
But Elias denied Ghosal, sending the gripping match into a tiebreak. It remained a stalemate at 10-all until Ghosal made an error, and Elias closed the match out to progress to the quarter-finals.
“Saurav was playing great squash from the beginning,” said Elias. “He had a good game plan against me and I couldn’t figure it out at the start. It took me a couple of games and I’m just very happy I could come back from that because I was under a lot of pressure and I didn’t start in the best way.
“I wasn’t moving great. I think I can improve a lot of things for the next match and just be way more aggressive. Hopefully I’ll be moving better in the next one.”
Result :  Diego Elias (PER) bt  Saurav Ghosal (IND) 3-2: 9-11, 4-11, 11-6, 11-3, 12-10 (83m)
Gilis Makes History
World No.11 Nele Gilis has become the first female Belgian player to reach the quarter-finals of the World Championships following her victory over Olivia Fiechter.
Gilis, who has the upperhand over Fiechter from their previous meetings on the PSA World Tour, but fell behind in the first game to the American.
But the Belgian fought back, levelling the match with a tiebreak victory in the second before taking the lead with an 11-7 triumph in the third.
However Fiechter responded to force a decider when she edged the fourth 11-9, but Gilis booked her place in the fifth to create history – becoming the first Belgian since Stefan Casteleyn in 1998 to progress to the last eight of the World Championships.
“I knew it was going to be a really tough battle against Olivia,” said Gilis. “We always have good battles. I really wanted to be very focused and fight, but I also wanted to really enjoyed this experience and soak it all in and give it my all. I’m just very happy that I got to win at the end.
“I just know that that’s a really cool stat [to become the first Belgian woman to reach the quarters]. I feel very proud of that and to be able to represent my country is amazing.
“Joelle is one of the best players in the world. She’s going to come out firing and so will I. I’m looking forward to the battle.”
Result :  Nele Gilis (BEL) bt  Olivia Fiechter (USA) 3-2: 9-11, 13-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-8 (94m)
Gawad Downs ElShorbagy
2016 World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad delivered a magnificent performance to defeat his Egyptian compatriot Marwan ElShorbagy 3-0.
The 31-year-old’s shot selection in the first two games was inch perfect, with Gawad wasting little time to book his place in the quarter-finals – clinching the opening two games in just 14 minutes.
ElShorbagy looked to have got the perfect response when he was 8-4 up in the third, only for his advantage to evaporate, leaving Gawad in pole position to seal the win, which he took at the first attempt with match ball.
“I’m very happy to win in three against a very good player in Marwan,” said Gawad. “He can come back at any time, he’s very clever on court and he’s one of the best players to come back when he’s down. In the third game when I was 9-4 down, I thought I can’t give him any cheap points.
“I just came back from an injury a couple of months ago, and I’m really happy with the way I’m playing, with my performance and with the way I am on court. I think I can get better every tournament and every match.”
Result : Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 11-3, 11-9 (28m)