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21 Apr 2024

Naughton Upsets Abbas To Set Up Weaver Semi In Detroit

9 Feb 2024

Canada's Hollie Naughton fought past No.4 seed Nada Abbas in four games to reach the DAC Pro Squash Classic semi-finals and set up a second meeting in two weeks with world No.6 Olivia Weaver.

Sixth seed Naughton displayed her battling qualities to come from behind in three separate games - notably 10-6 down in the opener - to book her spot in the last four of the PSA World Tour Silver event in Detroit, USA.

After Naughton claimed six consecutive points to steal the first game in a 12-10 tie-break, Abbas sharpened up her game in the front two corners and brought the scoreline level in what was a back-and-forth encounter at the Detroit Athletic Club.

Despite Abbas having another game ball to move clear at 11-10 in the third, Naughton once again saved her best squash for the pressure moments, clinching two consecutive points to re-take the lead in the match.

The fourth followed a similar pattern of play, with Egypt's Abbas edging the middle phase of the game to move 10-8 up but Naughton reeling off three straight points to earn a match ball, and claiming victory at the first time of asking.

The Canadian No.1 will play US No.2 Weaver for the third time in her last four events on the PSA World Tour, with their last two meetings having both gone to five games, and each player winning a match a piece.

After the match, Naughton said: "I'm relieved to get through that to be honest. I think every game I won I was down in and had to fight back in. I'm really happy with my mental strength to push on through in those key moments.

"I just tried to tell myself to stick to the game plan. I just needed to make it tough and trust my short game. I felt hesitant to put the ball in short and then Nada can then start to do things, so I just tried to tell myself to swing through and get that ball into the back corners.

"I'm just trying to enjoy getting back on court. I took a bit of time off over Christmas and told myself I wouldn't come back on court until I wanted to, and I'm starting to enjoy it now."

Naughton's opponent in the semi-finals, Olivia Weaver, was in sublime form to record her sixth straight win on the PSA World Tour, defeating France's No.7 seed Melissa Alves in straight games.

The USA No.2 found an immaculate length early on in her encounter, moving into a 9-2 lead in the first and never looking back throughout the match. Weaver's impressive movement forced Alves to search for winners in the front two corners, but with this came the risk of unforced errors. The No.2 seed dropped just nine points on her way to victory, walking off court after 27 minutes of action.

"I'm really pleased," title-holder Weaver reflected after her match. "Melissa is not only an amazing player, extremely dangerous, but she's also one of my best friends on tour which is always tricky. I just tried to get that out of my head today and focus on hitting my targets, my movement and finding my game.

World No.3 Nouran Gohar looked in ominous form during her quarter-final victory against England's Jasmine Hutton, needing just 19 minutes to book her spot in the last four.

The 'Terminator' flew out of the blocks in an 11-2 first game that lasted just four minutes, hitting powerfully into the back two corners before cutting the ball in short. Hutton grew into the game in the second, using more height on the front wall and asserting herself in the middle of the court, but Gohar always held a significant buffer, doubling her advantage through an 11-8 scoreline.

After progressing to the last four, Gohar said: "Jasmine is a very tricky player because she has really good hands and has some really good results, so obviously I was very well prepared for this match and wanted to give it a good performance today.

"I'm known for being a good starter, so it's something that I do well. Obviously, against a tricky player you try to do this even more, and then having a 1-0 lead makes you much more comfortable on court."

The final match of the night saw No.3 seed Rowan Elaraby end the impressive run of Egyptian compatriot Hana Moataz in three games of entertaining action. Despite powering through the opening two games by dominant 11-4 and 11-3 scorelines, Elaraby was made to fight right until the end for victory, with Moataz saving five match balls in a tight third game.

After the match, Elaraby said: "I'm glad with my performance today. I started really strongly and I think I was glad with my game plan and how I played. It is always tough playing a good friend. I think in the end, I was dragged into her game plan, and I almost forgot what I was doing. Once I remembered, I started playing well again and I'm glad I'm through in three.

On her upcoming semi-final against top seed Gohar, she added: "I'm really excited for this one, we just played recently and I have a good game plan for tomorrow. I just want to play my best squash and see how it goes."