Three players have already booked their places in the semi-finals, and Nour El Sherbini and Hania El Hammamy go head to head to decide the finishing positions in Women’s Group B, while Mostafa Asal meets Paul Coll with the Kiwi needing a win to join Asal in the semis.
In the A Groups, top seed Nouran Gohar needs to beat Gina Kennedy 2-0 to be sure of reaching the semis while one of Amanda Sobhy and Joelle King will keep their hopes alive.
In Men’s A wins for Ali Farag and Mohamed ElShorbagy would see them qualify, but Mazen Hesham and Diego Elias may have a say in that.
Sherbini wins Group B decider
The penultimate match of the night’s play featured the World Champion Nour El Sherbini and the British Open Champion Hania El Hammamy. Both players have already progressed to the semi-finals but the winner of this match would be going through as the group winner.
El Sherbini’s hard-hitting and aggressive approach was causing El Hammamy problems from the start of the match as it was stopping El Hammamy from imposing the very same style. The clinical short game of the World No.2 was on fire as she took the lead winning 11-8.
An injury seemed to be plaguing El Sherbini in the second game as her movement was slightly off which El Hammamy took full advantage of, dragging the World No.2 into all areas of the court to level the match at 1-1.
ElSherbini received physio treatment in-between games and returned onto court clearly struggling with her movement. However, ‘The Warrior Princess’ lived up to her nickname as she battled hard to keep in the rallies and counterpunch El Hammamy where she could. El Sherbini was able to keep touch on the scoreboard and impressively earn the first match ball. A cross-court nick attempt at 10-9 from El Sherbini was missed but then immediately followed up with a tin from the World No.3 to hand El Sherbini the win and the top spot in the group.
“First of all, Hania has been in amazing form this season and she beat me the last few times but I don’t know how I did this one. I was playing every point like it was the last. It was very risky for me but I had to keep going, I’d already qualified so I had to play on or I couldn’t play the rest of the tournament. I just wanted to finish this match, I kept pushing every point. I’m very lucky to get through this one.
“There are no easy matches, I’m glad to have a rest day tomorrow, I’ll try to recover and see how bad it is. It’s my second time in the semi-finals here in Egypt so I’ll have a good rest and see what I’m going to do.”
Result :  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 2-1: 11-8, 4-11, 11-9 (50m)
Farag beats Hesham to reach semis
World No.1 Ali Farag was next up on the glass court at the Mall of Arabia against dangerous compatriot Mazen Hesham. A win for Farag would see him and Mohamed ElShorbagy through to the semi-finals on Saturday night.
Farag dominated the first game and dragged Hesham into all four corners of the court at different paces. Hesham tried to impose his random, attacking style of play to disrupt the World No.1 but Farag was too smart and took the game 11-3.
A completely different Mazen Hesham came out in the second game, the shots of the ‘Black Falcon’ started to find their targets and that allowed the spectacular winners to come into play. Nobody plays the backhand volley nick as well as Hesham and after firing off three in quick succession there was no debating it. Farag continued to move Hesham around the court but after a lucky nick off the serve, Hesham was level.
Farag stormed out to a 5-1 lead in the third game with Hesham becoming increasingly more frustrated with some refereeing decisions and losing his focus which only played into the hands of the World No.1. It wasn’t long before Farag was serving with eight match balls.
Farag took the match 2-1 to move both himself and ElShorbagy into Saturday night’s semi-finals. Farag had this to say after reaching the semis:
“In the beginning, I had a clear game plan in mind and that was to be aggressive but in the back corners so I didn’t give him chance to go for his shots so to be ‘positive long’ as Mike [Way] likes to call it. In the second, I was long but very passive and negative, I didn’t put enough pressure on him but that’s credit to him, I’ve always said that when Mazen’s length hitting is good he’s at his best and then he can get the opportunities to kill with his variety of weaponry,
“Then there were some unfortunate bounces and a stroke against me so that was tough to take but I told myself that I was still at 1-1 so to keep pushing and work the ball at the beginning and it served me well so I’m very pleased.
“I was imagining that Karim [Darwish] or Nour [El Tayeb] were talking to me and I know exactly what they would say to me. They would say to not go for silly shots but not to go passive. Even if you’re tired, keep pushing because he’s just as tired if not more so, so keep pushing. I haven’t qualified except once here so to qualify with a match in hand is definitely a bonus.
“It doesn’t matter in terms of the outcome of the tournament because you don’t know who’s coming through from the other side but it matters because of the points because there are ranking points for each match and also, you never want to play a squash match and not want to win. But I’m playing Mohamed tomorrow and to win I can’t be at 99%, I need to be at 100 or 110.”
Result :  Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Mazen Hesham (EGY) 2-1: 11-3, 9-11, 11-2 (40m)
Sobhy scores first win
Amanda Sobhy scored her first win of the CIB World Tour Finals after beating New Zealand’s Joelle King in an impressive performance in Cairo.
King held a 10-1 advantage over Sobhy in the head-to-head records coming into the match but the American looked full of confidence in the opening game and took the ball in short with great precision, which was particularly impressive given the heat on the court and the bouncy ball.
After taking the first game 11-5, Sobhy stuck to her attacking style of play as the score reached 4-4 and forced King into several tough movements. That ultimately proved to be too much for the New Zealander and Sobhy secured the game again, 11-5, to win 2-0.
“Not only is a nice to get a win over Joelle, because my record is so bad and she’s such a class player, but I have a horrendous losing record here and I knew I couldn’t do worse than last year. I wanted to go out and play the squash I know I’m capable of and challenge myself against the top players in the world. Also, to challenge myself with the heat and playing a player that I haven’t got a good record against, so I’m just very pleased.
“Every day is tough and you don’t know how the other player will be feeling on the day but this was a huge confidence booster, not just for this tournament but for my squash in general, being able to pay the way I did against Joelle was very pleasing.
“I couldn’t do any worse than last year so there’s no pressure on me. I had a clear game plan going into tonight and I played Joelle so many times over the season so I learnt from those and I know it’s always going to be tough.”
Result :  Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 2-0: 11-5, 11-5 (24m)
ElShorbagy takes charge of Men’s Group A
Next onto court was a repeat of the recent Necker Mauritius Open final between Mohamed ElShorbagy and Diego Elias.
‘The Beast’ came charging out the blocks in the opening game and took the pace to the Peruvian by hitting hard to the back and pushing high up the court to take time away from Elias. The pace seemed to take its toll on the younger player as Elias hit a string of errors to hand ElShorbagy the first game.
As the score reached 6-6 in the second game, the pace of ElShorbagy ramped up and Elias was asked the question of ‘The Beast’ whether he wanted to follow him. Some errors again started to creep into the game of Elias and after some accurate lines hit by ElShorbagy, he closed out the match 2-0 and had this to say after his win.
“The court was unbelievable, the conditions were tough on both of us. It’s been a long season for all of us, it’s tough, I think I’m one of the most experienced players with dealing with end of seasons, so I know everyone is hurting including myself. He [Diego] played really well in Mauritius and gave us all a squash lesson there and to win today puts me in a good position, maybe the job isn’t done yet but it puts me in a good position.
“I don’t think he was too worried about losing to me today and I wasn’t too worried about losing to him in Mauritius. We both want to be winning platinum events, of course, it’s a big deal to win World Tour Finals, Jansher Khan won so this event so there’s so much history. I still remember the Mauritius match and I’m not happy about it but he’s one of my good friends on tour and it’s good to see him playing well, he’s always had it in him and he’s going to be one to watch next season.”
“I just need to focus on the tournament. I enjoyed myself today and I’ll look forward to tomorrow.”
Result :  Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) bt  Diego Elias (PER) 2-0: 11-6, 11-7 (29m)
Gohar books semi-final place in style
Opening day three at the CIB World Tour Finals was a match between World No.1 Nouran Gohar and England No.2 Georgina Kennedy.
Gohar held a 3-0 head-to-head advantage over Kennedy going into the match and asserted her dominance from the start of the encounter. ‘The Terminator’ came out at a lightning pace and ripped the ball past Kennedy several times to find outright winners at the back of the court to take a 1-0 lead.
More followed from Gohar in the second game and with Kennedy trying to force more shots to the front of the court, this only gave the World No.1 more angles to play with. The Englishwoman wasn’t able to step forward and volley at any point in the match as the face of Gohar’s hitting simply didn’t allow it. Gohar took the second game 11-4 to take the match and strengthen her lead at the top of group A.
Gohar spoke highly of her opponent after the match:
“It’s always hard to play against Gina. We grew up playing together but what an unbelievable season she’s had, nobody did what she did and I have so much respect for her and I’m sure we’re going to have great battles in the upcoming years and I’m really looking forward to this rivalry.
“It’s always nice to have funny bounces when you’re hitting your targets so at first, I was just trying to hit my targets and it was paying off, this court really gives you credit if you play a nice shot, it’s bouncy but it’s very straight and clear so it helps you to hit good winners at the back and I really enjoy myself when I’m hitting winners at the back fo the court.
“You always want to win all your matches. If it’s No.1 or No.2 in the other pool it’s going to be tough because we’re the top eight players in the world. I just want to keep this winning feeling and get ready for my semi-final match as well.”
Result :  Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Georgina Kennedy (ENG) 2-0: 11-3, 11-4 (19m)