Quarters Roundup : Mueller gatecrashes the semis

Switzerland’s World No.26 Nicolas Mueller has reached his first PSA World Tour Gold semi-final after he claimed a huge upset over World No.7 Marwan ElShorbagy at the Optasia Championships held in Wimbledon, London.

Unseeded Mueller already had two upsets under his belt after claiming wins over higher ranked Iker Pajares and Gregoire Marche in previous days and added the Egyptian to the list with a mighty performance to overturn a one game deficit to win 8-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-6.

It was evenly contested opening two games before 32-year-old Mueller fully hit his stride, executing his shots to perfection to claim his first win over ElShorbagy since the 2013 PSA World Championships.

“I’ve got goosebumps here. The crowd here was amazing,” said Mueller in his post-match interview. “That win was one of my better wins in my career, considering it was the first quarter final of such a big tournament. Obviously, it’s Wimbledon, and the Swiss do like to play well here so I’ve heard over the years, I am just super pumped to be in the tournament and to keep going.

“The conditions here suit my game style. The court is dead and it doesn’t bounce much. I am a seasoned campaigner and I have finally managed to be in a good position in my head, my body feels fine, and when I am confident, I am a dangerous player.”

Mueller joins the top three seeds in the semis, and will face top seed Ali Farag for a place in the final after the Egyptian got the better of British No.1 Joel Makin in straight-games in front of a packed out crowd at the Wimbledon Club.

Makin had beaten Farag 3-0 the last time the two players met at the 2021 U.S. Open with a formidable performance. However, the tables were turned this time around as Farag played with his trademark elegance to win 11-9, 11-7, 11-3 as he continues his bid to win a first major PSA title on English soil.

Speaking about the chase for the men’s World No.1 spot, he said:

“I am very grateful for the career I have had already, but as long I am here, this time I am breathing down his [Paul Coll’s] neck. So are so many great players, like Mohamed [ElShorbagy] who is the best player of our generation, you’ve got Diego [Elias], Marwan [ElShorbagy], Tarek [Momen], everyone is chasing that No.1 spot. I am just one of them, but I will do my best to get it back hopefully.”

The other semi-final will see Peru’s World No.6 Diego Elias take on World No.3 Mohamed ElShorbagy after they claimed respective wins over Egypt’s Mazen Hesham and Karim Abdel Gawad.

The last match of the day provided all of the drama and excitement as Elias was forced to save three match balls on his way to a thrilling five-game victory against the unorthodox Hesham.

2021 Qatar Classic champion Elias was forced to come from a game behind, before holding off a resurgent Hesham after he drew level in the fourth with a nail-biting finish as Elias delivered under pressure to prevail.

“When I was 10-7 down, anything could have happened. He goes for it and it could have been 11-7 and done within a second, or this,” said Elias.

“Everyone knows how much I hate playing Mazen. I am trying to change my game because sometimes it doesn’t work. This court is a bit cold, it bounces weird at times. I am very happy with the comeback and I am excited for tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, a top form ElShorbagy triumphed in the repeat of the 2019 final, when it was known as the Channel VAS Championships and hosted at the St George’s Hill Lawn Tennis Club.

In 2019 it was Gawad who reigned victorious in a five-game thriller, but there was no faulting ElShorbagy today as he hit all his targets and was too much for his old rival to handle as he comfortably took an 11-6, 11-4, 11-4 victory in 29 minutes.

“In two months, I will have been inside the top three for nine straight years, so to do this, I have done it over generations,” said ElShorbagy.

“I came up playing against [Thierry] Lincou, playing [Amr] Shabana, against Greg [Gaultier] and James [Willstrop]. Then I had to take some time out a few years later because [Karim Abdel] Gawad came up to me, and Ali [Farag] and my brother [Marwan ElShorbagy].

“Now I had to take some time out because Paul [Coll] stepped up and then [Mostafa] Asal. Different generations, different times, different speeds, and in order to keep up with these generations, you have to go back and tell yourself that you’re not good enough and you can’t keep up.

“You then go out and train and you can do better, you know. I wanted to do better, to do myself justice, and I am just really happy to get off in three.”

Optasia Championship 2022 : QUARTER-FINALS, Wed 9th Mar

Nicolas Mueller (Sui) 3-1 [4] Marwan ElShorbagy (Egy)    8-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-6 (44m)

[1] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 [5] Joel Makin (Wal)   11-9, 11-7, 11-3 (43m)

[2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (Egy) 3-0 [8] Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy)    11-6, 11-4, 11-4 (29m)

[3] Diego Elias (Per) 3-2 [6] Mazen Hesham (Egy)  9-11, 11-7, 11-6, 4-11, 12-10 (63m)