There was a huge upset on the second day of Quarter-Final action at Union Station in Chicago as unseeded 2016 champion Karim Abdel Gawad downed current world #1 Diego Elias in straight games. He’ll meet another former champion in the semis after Mohamed ElShorbagy, winner in 2017, got the better of 2019 champion Tarek Momen in five games.
Defending women’s champion Nour El Sherbini breezed past Gina Kennedy in three games to set up a meeting with first-time semi-finalist Joelle King, who ended the run of Nele Gilis in straight games.
El Sherbini Storms Past Kennedy
World No.1 Nour El Sherbini advanced to the semi-finals following a devastating performance against England’s Georgina Kennedy at Chicago’s Union Station.
El Sherbini is aiming to win an incredible seventh World Championship title – and her fifth in succession – and moved to within one win of a ninth final at the sport’s biggest event courtesy of a dominant 11-7, 11-2, 11-4 victory over World No.8 Kennedy. The Egyptian – who has now won 54 of 61 matches at the World Championships – required five games to get the better of Kennedy when they met at the semi-final stage of last month’s British Open but put in her best performance of the tournament so far to dismantle her opponent.
El Sherbini was incredibly accurate and kept the ball tight throughout, with the short rallies not helping Kennedy build her way into the match. Every time El Sherbini had the opportunity to kill the rally, she took it, and it took her just 23 minutes to book her spot in the semi-finals.
“Gina’s been playing her best squash this season and last time it went to five, so I’m really happy to win it in three this time,” said El Sherbini. “Playing your opponent just three weeks ago and going to five, it’s hard mentally, but I tried to learn from the last match and and just focused on my game plan.
“The World Champs is always the biggest tournament, you want to play your best squash and everyone wants to win this tournament. I just want to enjoy my squash and I’m not putting any pressure on myself, but hopefully I can win it.”
Result :  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-0  Georgina Kennedy (ENG) 11-7, 11-2, 11-4 (23m)
Gawad Takes Out World No.1 Elias
2016 World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad claimed his biggest win since returning from a plantar fasciitis injury as the Egyptian put in a sensational performance to overcome World No.1 Diego Elias in the quarter-finals.
Gawad stepped away from the sport for 10 months due to the injury before making his return at March’s Black Ball Open and his win over Elias marks him out as a genuine contender for the sport’s biggest prize.
Elias looked out of sorts as he came back from 2-0 down to beat World No.19 Saurav Ghosal in the previous round and he was outplayed by former World No.1 Gawad, who ended his opponent’s chances of becoming the sport’s first South American World Champion for this year at least.
The current World No.17 was at his free-flowing best as he fired in some sublime winners throughout. Elias’s movement is usually one of his strongest assets, but the Peruvian didn’t look at the races as he struggled to deal with Gawad’s expert touch and accuracy. Elias did have two game ball opportunities in the third game but squandered both of them. The second game ball saved by Gawad was a perfect microcosm of the Egyptian’s talents as he chased down a seemingly irretrievable kill from Elias and responded with a delicate finish into the nick.
Gawad thoroughly deserved his 11-5, 13-11, 14-12 victory and his next opponent will either be 2017 World Champion Mohamed ElShorbagy or 2019 winner Tarek Momen.
“It feels great to get through to the quarters against the World No.1 with a 3-0 victory,” said Gawad. “I’m just very confident now from the way I’m playing, I’m trying to just keep focusing on each match as if it’s the final. Today, I went on court and I know that there’s a bit of stress on him. I’ve been through this too.
It’s a bit different as I have just come back from an injury and I didn’t know if I’d ever play squash again. Now it’s different because I’m not focusing on anything except enjoying my game. I’m enjoying playing well and enjoying being in front of amazing crowd.
“That’s the most important thing for me now. Winning or losing is not something that I’m thinking too much about now.”
Result : Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-0  Diego Elias (PER) 11-5, 13-11, 14-12 (51m)
King Secures First Semi-Final Appearance
New Zealand No.1 Joelle King is through to the semi-finals for the first time in her career after defeating Belgium No.1 Nele Gilis.
King, who also becomes the first female Kiwi to feature in a semi-final at the World Championships in 20 years, battled back in the opening game after a positive start from Gilis as the New Zealander held her nerve to come back from 7-5 down to win 11-9. Errors from Gilis, who created history herself when she became the first female Belgian player to appear in the quarter-finals, were costly as King doubled her lead.
King, who’s been in great form all season, had seven match balls to seal her last four place but she squandered four of them. However it was fifth time lucky for the New Zealander when she converted to land her maiden appearance in the semi-finals in this competition.
“I think it was a bit of a mental battle,” said King. “The first two games were obviously pretty neck and neck the whole way through, and I managed to just pull away at the end and nick those two games. I think that was quite crucial, especially considering Nele came off a really tough match just two days ago. I thought I started really well and just probably relaxed a little bit towards the end, and she just kept coming at me. So that’s all credit to her.
“I didn’t know that I’m first female New Zealander since 2003 to reach the semis. Obviously, this has been a goal of mine for years to win a World Championship and I haven’t even made it to the semi-finals. So it’s kind of one step done. I’ll be coming up against a very tough opponent in the next round. From here, it feels like every day becomes a new tournament.
“It’s a nice it’s a nice step, but tomorrow when you step on court that is out of the window. Nour is a specialist at the World Champs. She seems to play her best squash here, and I think it’s going to take a huge mental effort to come in with a solid game plan and stick to it, which is only half the battle.
“You’ve got a tough opponent on the other side trying to stop you from doing that. I’m going to give it everything, that’s for sure, I’ll make the most of it and see how we go.”
Result :  Joelle King (NZL) 3-0  Nele Gilis (BEL) 11-9, 11-8, 11-7 (38m)
ElShorbagy Sees Off Momen In Five
Mohamed ElShorbagy held off a strong fightback from Tarek Momen to book his place in the semi-finals.
2017 World Champion ElShorbagy was patient with his play to draw first blood, but Momen overcame a comeback from his opponent in the second after clawing it back to 9-9 as Momen went on to make it all square. Momen, who lifted the World crown back in 2019, was in his groove as he had game ball for a potential 2-1 lead only for ElShorbagy to peg it back to 10 apiece as he went on to regain his match lead.
The request went in for a new ball at the end of the third from Momen, and it came to his aid in the fourth while ElShorbagy made some costly errors.
However ElShorbagy turned it up a notch in the decider, comprehensively clinching the game to advance to the last four, where he will take on Karim Abdel Gawad.
“The last time he beat me was at Union Station in 2019 and it was going the same way,” said ElShorbagy. “I won the first, he won the second, I won the third, and then he won the fourth and the fifth. I stayed solid in the fifth, there were a lot of tough rallies at the beginning and I felt whoever would get a bit of a lead would take it from there.
“It was an up and down match, we both had our moments. Any match against a rival, we’ll be annoyed with ourselves with the patches where we don’t play well. There were moments when we played well at the same time and it was such high quality. It was probably one of the best times I’ve played him and I had to push hard. After I won the third game I felt I had the advantage but he stayed so solid and full respect for that. That’s why he is an ex-World Champion and playing the way he is at 35 years of age.
“He’s the greatest ever Egyptian player in his 30s. When a lot of Egyptians get to 30, their bodies break down, but he kept healthy and fit. I have so much respect for him for doing this.
“It was a hard one for me to lose in England against Gawad. I don’t think we both played well the last two times. When he beat my brother in under 30 minutes, I told my team that he is a bit of a dark horse. No one is really talking about him, they’re picking other players to win the World Championship. He’s taken out Youssef Soliman, he’s beaten by brother, he’s taken out Diego and he’s the only player in the semi-final who has not lost a game.
“I’m a tactical player, I need to see why he has been so successful at this event, and I need to respond.
“World No.1 has always been a big thing for me. Being World Champion, you need to play well for one week, being World No.1, you need to play well for the whole year. “I would love to do it against this current generation. It’s a pretty cool thing to have Diego in front of me and Asal behind me. One player is seven years younger than me, one is 10 years younger than me.
“If not for Ali’s injury, he’s also be included in the competition for the World No.1 ranking. If I win the world Championship I’ll be World No.1, if I can have both at the same time, that would be an amazing day.”
Result :  Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) 3-2  Tarek Momen (EGY) 11-8, 9-11, 13-11, 8-11, 11-