Day Four : Gawad and Hutton provide QF upsets

Gawad and Hutton provide Day Four upsets

The draws came back together for Quarter-Finals Day on the Glass Court, with all of the top names still in contention and some fascinating matchups in store.

In the men’s draw top three seeds Ali Farag, Paul Coll and Mostafa Asal all advanced in straight games while defending champion Karim Abdel Gawad ousted Mohamed ElShorbagy in five games.

Women’s top seed Nele Gilis is joined in the semis by Nada Abbas and Satomi Watanabe who both came from two games down to win, while Jasmine Hutton overcame second seed SJ Perry in five games.

read on for match reports and reaction ...

Optasia Championship 2024 : 15-Mar, Day FOUR, QUARTER-FINALS

[1] Nele Gilis (Bel) 3-0 [8] Hana Moataz (Egy)  11-6, 11-7, 11-8 (37m)
[3] Nada Abbas (Egy) 3-2 [5] Tesni Murphy (Wal)  7-11, 5-11, 11-5, 11-3, 11-4 (53m)
[4] Satomi Watanabe (Jpn) 3-2 [7] Melissa Alves (Fra)  8-11, 5-11, 11-9, 14-12, 11-7 (66m)
[6] Jasmine Hutton (Eng) 3-2 [2] Sarah-Jane Perry (Eng)  11-6, 4-11, 11-8, 3-11, 11-3 (54m)

[1] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 [7] Marwan ElShorbagy (Eng)  11-6, 11-9, 11-5 (40m)
[5] Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy) 3-2 [4] Mohamed ElShorbagy (Eng) 6-11, 11-5, 11-4, 12-14, 11-6 (66m)
[3] Mostafa Asal (Egy) 3-0 [6] Joel Makin (Wal)  13-11, 11-4, 11-4 (52m)
[2] Paul Coll (Nzl) 3-0 [8] Baptiste Masotti (Fra)  11-8, 11-4, 11-7 (45m)


Satomi comeback stuns Alves

[4] Satomi Watanabe (Jpn) 3-2 [7] Melissa Alves (Fra)  8-11, 5-11, 11-9, 14-12, 11-7 (66m)

Deep into quarter-finals day we’re still waiting for a seeding upset, but how close France’s Melissa Alves came as she saw a match ball go begging in the fourth game as Japan’s fourth seed Satomi Watanabe mounted a staggering comeback.

Alves, the seventh seed, took the final three points of a hit and miss first game as they traded points up to 8-all, then took a quick lead in the second, moving from 6-3 to 8-4 and doubling her lead 11-5, both games lasting 9 minutes.

Watanabe needed a comeback, and it started in the third as she opened out leads of 8-3 and then 10-4. One by one those game balls disappeared, some to Japanese errors, some to French winners. Five of them went begging, but a relieved Watanabe finally found a winner to take the game 11-9 and pull one back.

Watanabe led early in the fourth, but Alves levelled at 6-all and 8-all before Watanabe earned two game balls. One was lost on a stroke, the other on a no-let, and then a slip let Alves in for a match ball at 11-10.  To her own dismay Alves volleyed the ball straight back at her self, and it was Watanabe who took the game 14-12 after 17 minutes to set up a decider.

There was never much in it, but Watanabe maintained a lead through the fifth with Alves looking a little passive compared to her previous play, and after 66 minutes – the longest of the tournament so far – an ecstatic Watanabe completed the comeback 11-7.

“I’m just speechless, I still can’t believe I came back from match ball down. I’m really happy.

“Melissa has been playing some really good squash. She won her first match in 19 minutes. I knew it was going to be tough so it was really nerve-racking for me”

Gawad keeps title defence going against friendly foe ElShorbagy

[5] Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy) 3-2 [4] Mohamed ElShorbagy (Eng) 6-11, 11-5, 11-4, 12-14, 11-6 (66m)

The long awaited Optasia Championships seeding upset finally arrived – albeit in a fourth-v-fifth seed match between two former winners of this event!

Defending Champion Karim Abdel Gawad and fourth seed Mohamed ElShorbagy were playing their 25th PSA match, with Elshorbagy leading the count 17-8 but Gawad having won the last three [he also won their epic 2019 final in this event].

Tonight was another five-setter as the match swung one way and the next – Gawad started strongly to take the lead 11-5, ElShorbagy struck back 11-5, then Gawad reasserted to retake the lead 11-5.

The fourth was the crucial game – 20 minutes of fast, attacking squash with both players having their chances. Points were traded to 9-all, and after that it seemed that most of the points would be decided by errors or decisions at the end of well-contested rallies. Gawad thought he had match ball but a VR decision reversed it. It would take ElShorbagy four game balls to set up the decider 14-12 with each of the final seven points ending on a error or a stroke.

Undeterred, Gawad was on the front foot from the start of the fifth, and although ElShorbagy levelled at 6-all the momentum was with the reigning champion as he reeled off five points to win through to the semis.

“It was a tough battle as usual. Nothing new there. Mohamed now is playing amazing squash. His tactics, his reading the ball, his way he volleys the ball, the way he attacks. Just amazing.

“I really wanted to win. I tried to push as much as I could. I tried to dominate the T a bit more. I managed to this in the important games like the third and fifth. I wanted to finish in the fourth but he was just a bit more aggressive than me.”

It’s a Double First for Jazz !!

[6] Jasmine Hutton (Eng) 3-2 [2] Sarah-Jane Perry (Eng)  11-6, 4-11, 11-8, 3-11, 11-3 (54m)

British National Champion Jasmine Hutton provided the second seeding upset in a row as she overcame second seed Sarah-Jane Perry in a topsy-turvy five games to 1) reach a first-ever PSA World Tour (Bronze level and above) semi-final and b) record a first PSA victory over Perry in three attempts.

Although the match went the full distance, only on rare occasions were the players performing at their best at the same time – they traded the first two games, Hutton pulled clear from 7-7 to take the third, then SJ levelled convincingly only for Jazz to win the decider equally comprehensively.

She’ll play Satomi Watanabe in the semi-finals aiming for a first World Tour Final.

“She’s beaten me so many times now. Every time it’s gotten closer and closer. I knew it was going to be a real battle today but I had the belief that I could definitely win today,

“I won the first, lost the second, won the third, but every time I lost that game I just though that she was trying to up the pace at me. I’m quite a frantic, high-energy person so I knew she was going to hit it at me quickly. As soon as that happened I started to get frustrated with myself. I needed to manoeuvre around the court more and play it into good places and I did that in parts but not enough.”

Farag fends off Marwan

[1] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 [7] Marwan ElShorbagy (Eng)  11-6, 11-9, 11-5 (40m)

Top seed and World #1 Ali Farag completed quarter-finals day with an impressive three-game win over seventh seed Marwan ElShorbagy to complete the semi-final lineups.

The Head-to-Head between the pair stood at 7-all, but ElShorbagy had got the better of their earlier exchanges, and this win not only put Farag in the lead, it made it five wins in a row.

Farag dazzled the packed and noisy crowd with his remarkable retrieving and shotmaking skills as he despatched the last remaining English hope in the men’s draw. After Farag had won the opening game, Marwan had his chances at 9-all in the second, but oncer Farag had snatched that opportunity away he romped through the third to complete the win.

“Marwan caught me offguard with his pace,” said Farag after the match. “He never plays at such a high pace from the beginning. For the first game and a half he was really taking it to me. It took me a game and half to adjust, but thankfully I won that game.

“I thought the backend of the second went well so I kept on with my strategy in the third and it paid off.”

Nada comeback denies Tesni upset

[3] Nada Abbas (Egy) 3-2 [5] Tesni Murphy (Wal)  7-11, 5-11, 11-5, 11-3, 11-4 (53m)

The first quarter-final looked to be producing the first seeding upset as Wales’ Tesni Murphy raced out of the block to take a two game lead over third seed Nada Abbas. Murphy took control from the outset of both games, converting an 8-4 lead in the first and an 8-2 opening to the second to lead 11-7, 11-5.

The Welsh #1, who spent the majority of the last few years ranked above Abbas before dropping in the last 18 months, took the opening point of the third game but was never ahead again as Abbas mounted a tremendous recovery.

The Egyptian went 4-1 up in the third, reducing the deficit 11-5 with Murphy getting frustrated with some decisions not going her way, converted a 7-1 opening to the fourth to level the match 11-3, and held the lead throughout the decider, pulling clear from 4-3 to 10-3 and booking her semi-final spot on her second match ball with a delicate boast that left Murphy stranded.

“I’m really happy with my fightback. I think the old me would’ve just let it go and wouldn’t fight back so I’m really proud that I dug deep and kept pushing and I’m really proud I got the win.

“I think I was kind of passive in the first two games. I was allowing her to play her game. She was slowing the pace and I wasn’t doing anything about it. I tried to inject the pace a little bit in the second game and I tried to volley back everytime she volleyed and not allow her slow down the pace.”

Coll denies Masotti another Wimbledon semi

[2] Paul Coll (Nzl) 3-0 [8] Baptiste Masotti (Fra) 11-8, 11-4, 11-7 (45m)

France’s Baptiste Masotti loves it here at Wimbledon, and not just because he made the semi-finals here last year, he just gels with the place and the people.

Taking on second seed Paul Coll for another semi-final appearance, Masotti made a convincing start, matching the World #2 Kiwi throughout an 18-minute first game where Coll could never quite pull clear. At 9-8 Masotti slipped on the way to the ball then tinned the subsequent match ball as Coll took the lead.

Masotti continued to press at the start of the second, but became increasingly distracted by moisture on the floor, and Coll took advantage by racing through from 5-4 to 11-4 to double his lead in ten minutes.

It was a similar pattern in the third as Coll stepped up the pressure from 6-all and closing out the match 11-7 to reach the semi-finals.

“I’m very happy with my lengths. I think I found it better than the first match. I maybe could’ve been more aggressive a couple of times but I know the danger he possesses and you have to be quite calculated with your attacks and your balls. I’m very happy to get through that in three.

“I always try and use my speed to attack and really get into those front  corners. There’s a couple of times on the backhand that I went in a bit slow and a bit big but I’m really happy with the intent I showed in the match.”

Gilis comes through a tester

[1] Nele Gilis (Bel) 3-0 [8] Hana Moataz (Egy)  11-6, 11-7, 11-8 (37m)

Top seed Nele Gilis was given a bit of a test by Egypt’s eighth seed Hana Moataz, who proved difficult to shake off during their three game quarter-final encounter, but the top seeded Belgian came through comfortably enough, if a little to her own relief.

All three games were evenly contested for their first two thirds, but Gilis found the way, taking runs of points at the end of the first two games, winning both from 7-6m then crucially extending from 7-6 to 10-6 in the third before sealing the victory on her third match ball.

“It definitely wasn’t as easy as the scores may tell you. She’s a very aggressive and great player, and it was very difficult to put my game onto her. Anything short or loose, she just attacked me.

“It’s very easy to get stuck into their game and hit it hard. I just had to take a step back and focus on what I was doing. I just focused on finding my good length again and taking some pace off the ball. Once I did that, I felt that I was winning rallies again.”

Asal too strong for Makin

[3] Mostafa Asal (Egy) 3-0 [6] Joel Makin (Wal)  13-11, 11-4, 11-4 (52m)

Egyptian third seed Mostafa Asal continued his quest for the Optasia title in his maiden appearance, eventually overpowering Wales’ Joel Makin in three tough games.

The Welsh sixth seed more than held his own in the opening game, despite falling 9-3 down as Asal powered through the opening rallies. Makin became more comfortable chasing down the Egyptian’s powerful drives and started to force errors from his opponent’s racket as he levelled the game 9-all with the crowd very much behind him.

Asal regained the lead 10-9, 11-10 and 12-11, finally taking the lead 13-11 after 27 minutes of compelling action.

Makin admits he isn’t back to match fitness after a difficult few months, and it showed in the following games as Asal took them both 11-4 to advance to the semi-finals.

“Joel is a really tough player. It’s hard battle between us alway. It’s very physical, very tough. It’s unreal what he’s doing, the physicality and the gym stuff. I’m proud of my performance today, the crowd is full.

“I played some amazing squash in the second game and I’m proud of it.”