England’s 37-year-old three-time World Champion Nick Matthew has qualified for the semi-final stage of his final professional squash event after a stunning 2-1 victory over British Open champion Miguel Angel Rodriguez to cap 72 minutes of blistering squash in the ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals at Emirates Golf Club.
Matthew had begun his retirement after a disappointing second round loss at the British Open last month but got a late call up to Dubai after the withdrawal of World No.3 Marwan ElShorbagy, who pulled out due to a hamstring injury.
And the veteran Yorkshireman is now one win away from a third World Series Finals title decider after claiming an epic 11-9, 9-11, 12-10 victory over the in-form Colombian.
With the scores locked at one game apiece, Rodriguez edged ahead to 9-7 as all of Matthew’s endeavour looked set to be for nothing. But ‘The Wolf’ dug into his famed mental reserves as he kept on fighting and he reeled Rodriguez in before going on to take the tie-break as Rodriguez hit the tin to leave Matthew sinking to the floor to lap up the victory.
“I was just summoning every ounce of sweat, experience, willpower, knowhow and a little bit of technique here and there,” said Matthew.
Matthew’s sensational win over Rodriguez also sealed defending champion Mohamed ElShorbagy’s place in the semi-finals for the fourth time in a row after the World No.1 overcame fellow Egyptian Tarek Momen in an entertaining battle.
ElShorbagy has won four World Series titles this season and he picked up where he left off from his one victory over Rodriguez as he powered the ball around all areas of the court to prevent Momen from building up any momentum in the opening game, before Momen recovered in the second to send the match into a decider.
Neither player gave an inch in the third until ElShorbagy played his best squash to win the crucial points and he edged that game 11-9 to complete the victory.
“This was probably our last battle of the season and it’s great to have a new battle with him again. Me, my brother, Tarek and [Ali] Farag have made it to the top four and it’s the first time ever that there are all Egyptians in the top four” said ElShorbagy.
“I’ve witnessed a generation when [Amr] Shabana, [Karim] Darwish and Ramy [Ashour] were in the top three and I didn’t think that we were going to have another generation like that, but I’m happy to be a part of history like this and it’s something I’ll always remember for the rest of my career.”
Earlier in the evening session World No.1 Nour El Sherbini made it two wins out of two after she cruised to a quick-fire 2-0 triumph over World No.3 Nour El Tayeb to claim victory in just 15 minutes.
El Sherbini and El Tayeb are the only women to have won multiple World Series titles throughout the 2017/18 season and it was El Tayeb who prevailed the last time the pair met in the quarter-finals of February’s Windy City Open – a tournament El Tayeb went on to win.
El Tayeb made a strong start here yesterday as she eased to a 13-minute win over World No.6 Nouran Gohar but she was on the back foot from the off today as El Sherbini stormed to an 11-7, 11-5 victory to go top of Group A.
Joelle King’s victory over Nouran Gohar later in the evening secured El Sherbini’s place in the semi-finals and El Sherbini will look to go one better than last year, where she was a losing finalist.
King’s victory over Gohar means she is still in with a chance of reaching a first ever PSA World Series semi-final. 29-year-old King is making her debut at the World Series Finals this year and she edged two tightly contested games to ensure that a win against El Tayeb tomorrow will see her qualify for the last four.
“Nouran’s much younger than me but I’ve never actually beaten her before, so it’s nice to come away with a 2-0 win, especially in the pools because it is pretty crucial,” said King.
“I think me and Nour are now tied at one [win] all, so everything to play for tomorrow.
“I think we’ve just got used to it [playing Egyptian players]. They’ve been so dominant for the last few years that I’ve been on tour and they play exciting squash, so I guess with a player like me who is more traditional, sometimes it makes for exciting squash, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
In earlier matches defending champion Laura Massaro took a step closer towards the knockout semi-finals with a victory over England teammate Sarah-Jane Perry while Germany’s Simon Rosner notched up a second win to secure a place in the semi-finals.
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Massaro, 34, is firmly in the driving seat in Group B of the women’s event after she followed up an impressive opening day win over World Champion Raneem El Welily with a 2-1 victory over her fellow countrywoman.
Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad delivered a second defeat to Gregory Gaultier after claiming a 2-1 victory to keep his semi-final hopes alive after losing to Germany’s Simon Rösner in the opening round.
Rosner became the first player to qualify for the semi-final stage after he came back from 1-0 down to defeat World No.2 Ali Farag – meaning three-time winner Gaultier has bowed out at the group stage for a second year running.
Rösner’s superior head-to-head record over both Farag and Gawad means that he qualifies top of the group after he stormed to an 11-3 victory in the final game of today’s clash with Farag, having already recovered from a game down to draw level.
World Champion Raneem El Welily came back from a game down to take a 2-1 victory over World No.5 Camille Serme – meaning that the battle to qualify for the semi-finals from Group B will be wide open going into the final day of group stage action.
The action continues tomorrow with Day 3 of the Group Stages. Matches will take place at 3:00pm, 3:45pm, 4:30pm and 5:15pm (Group B) and 8:00pm, 8:45pm, 9:30pm and 10:15pm (Group A) with the semi-finals due to take place from 8:00pm on June 8. The finals will commence at 8:00pm local time on June 9.
Tickets for the World Series Finals can be purchased here: https://dubai.platinumlist.net/event-tickets/70345/atco-psa-dubai-world-series-finals or at the venue. For further information on both the PSA World Series and the PSA World Tour, please visit www.worldseriesfinals.com
Day 2 results:
Women’s Group A
 Joelle King (NZL) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 2-0: 11-8, 14-12 (26m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 2-0: 11-7, 11-5 (15m)
Men’s Group A
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 2-1: 11-8, 2-11, 11-9 (39m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
Women’s Group B
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 2-1: 15-13, 7-11, 11-8 (48m)  Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 2-1: 8-11, 11-7, 11-5 (34m)
Men’s Group B
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 2-1: 9-11, 11-8, 11-4 (41m)
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt  Ali Farag (EGY) 2-1: 7-11, 11-9, 11-3 (40m)