Gawad Despatches World No.1 Diego At Worlds
10 May 2023
World No.17 Karim Abdel Gawad brought an end to world No.1 Diego Elias's title hopes at the PSA World Championship presented by the Walter Family at Union Station in Chicago when the Egyptian booked his surprise semi-final spot courtesy of a stunning straight games upset.
Gawad, the 2016 World Champion and a former world No.1, spent 10 months on the sidelines between May 2022 and March 2023 due to a plantar fasciitis issue and he put in his finest performance since his return to action. Elias held two game balls in the third but was ultimately no match for Gawad's delicate touch and superlative skills as he fell to an 11-5, 13-11, 14-12 defeat.
"I have just come back from an injury and I didn't know if I'd ever play squash again," said Gawad afterwards.
"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.
"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."
The Peruvian's exit leaves the battle for the men's world No.1 spot wide open. One man hoping to take advantage is England's Mohamed ElShorbagy. The world No.2 will reclaim the world No.1 ranking for the first time since August 2021 if he can progress to capture the World title for a second time.
The 2017 winner booked his spot in the last four courtesy of an 11-8, 9-11, 13-11, 8-11, 11-3 victory over 2019 World Champion Tarek Momen. ElShorbagy will be out for revenge against Gawad following his defeat to the Egyptian at last month's British Open.
"I would love to do it [get to No.1] against this current generation," said ElShorbagy.
"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 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."
Meanwhile, world No.4 Joelle King has become the first female New Zealander in 20 years to reach the last four of the sport's most prestigious tournament after she put in a masterclass to axe Belgium's Nele Gilis.
Not since Carol Owens in 2003 has a Kiwi woman competed in the World Championship semi-finals, and King will now battle reigning World Champion and world No.1 Nour El Sherbini for a place in the title decider.
"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," King said.
"So it's kind of one step done. I'll be coming up against a very tough opponent in the next round. She's [El Sherbini] 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."
El Sherbini continued her hunt for an incredible seventh World Championship title as she dismantled England's world No.8 Georgina Kennedy, winning 11-7, 11-2, 11-4 in just 23 minutes.
It was a scintillating performance from the 27-year-old, and she will go into her semi-final clash with King with a healthy 15-1 lead on the pair's head-to-head record, having won 13 in a row.
"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."