5:22 am
25 Feb 2018

Egypt's Golden Couple Reach ToC Semis In New York

24 Jan 2018

Egyptian couple Nour El Tayeb and Ali Farag both advanced to the semi-finals of the 2018 JP Morgan Tournament of Champions after claiming huge wins over World Champion Raneem El Welily and three-time winner Ramy Ashour, respectively, on day six of the PSA World Series event taking place under the chandeliers of Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal in New York.

El Tayeb and Farag made history in October's US Open as they became the first married couple in sporting history ever to win the same major sports title on the same day - and they now both remain on course to challenge for honours in New York.

World No.7 El Tayeb, who beat El Welily in the US Open final, went a game down to the reigning World Champion but battled back in a high-quality 43-minute affair to win 6-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8.

"If someone would have told me that we [El Tayeb and Farag] would both come out as winners, I wouldn't have believed it," El Tayeb said.

"Raneem is not just the maverick of squash, she's one of my idols. I learn a lot from her on and off the court, she's the most graceful, most talented Egyptian female squash player.

"I got so nervous in Ali's match, it took me a while to get this match going and against someone like Raneem, I can't afford to start late. I saw how Ali studied his game and was preparing for the match and I tried to do that like him. I hope he's happy with my performance today and hopefully we can keep it up tomorrow."

Farag, meanwhile, ended Ashour's 12-match unbeaten run at Grand Central Terminal to reach the semi-finals of this tournament for the first time in his career - while inflicting a first Tournament of Champions defeat upon Ashour since 2010.

The duo last met in the final of the China Open in August, when it was Ashour who came out on top in a thrilling five-game encounter that saw the pair put on a free-flowing squash masterclass. But this time around it was Farag who triumphed 11-7, 12-10, 7-11, 11-5 in a scrappy match that failed to live up to the huge expectation surrounding it.

"Describing Ramy as tricky is an understatement," said Farag.

"On his day he's the best player on Tour and everyone knows that.

"I just tried to forgot about who I was playing. At times, I look at him as the squash God and because of that I sometimes forget to play my own game, so today the most important thing was to focus on my own game plan that was devised by my team and I think it went well."

Farag will line up against countryman Tarek Momen in the last four after the world No.7 halted the giant-killing run of Australia's Ryan Cuskelly.

Cuskelly caused one of the shocks of the tournament when he ended World Champion Mohamed Elshorbagy's 21-match unbeaten run in the previous round, but it was a different story against Momen as he struggled to find the impeccable length he was hitting against the world No.2 in round two, while Momen hit an incredible 23 winners en route to his 3/0 victory.

"I'm very glad to get through tonight in three games because it was the last session and you don't get enough recovery from now on," said Momen, El Welily's husband.

"I'm very happy with the way I played. Ryan is a very dangerous player, he took out the number two seed and the World Champion, it was an impressive win and I knew I had to have all my horses ready."

The other men's semi-final will see French world No.1 Gregory Gaultier and Germany's Simon Rösner go head-to-head after yesterday's wins over England's Nick Matthew and Switzerland's Nicolas Mueller, respectively - while Gaultier's compatriot, Camille Serme, moved into the last four of the women's event with a 3/1 win over 2014 champion Nicol David.

Serme, who recovered from 2/1 down to beat Australia's Donna Urquhart in the previous round, had never beaten David in 16 attempts until a momentous victory over the eight-time World Champion during November's Hong Kong Open.

David had the better of the early stages as the Malaysian opened up a one-game lead, but Serme fought back, edging a tie-break to take the second before winning a further two games without reply to seal a 2-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-5 triumph in 50 minutes that will see her take on El Tayeb for a place in the final.

"Nicol was so strong in the first game, I wasn't ready," said Serme.

"The match from yesterday was still in my legs and in my head as well. It was such a big fight today, mentally I had to push very far and I'm just happy I came back."

The other women's semi-final fixture will see world No.1 Nour El Sherbini and last year's runner-up Laura Massaro lock horns after respective wins over world No.8 Sarah-Jane Perry and world No.5 Nouran Gohar.