Day FIVE : Let the Quarter-Finals begin

Day Five of the British Open in Birmingham, and with just eight competitors left in each draw it was four quarter-finals from the top half of the draws this evening at The Rep Theatre.

Wales’s Joel Makin produced a stunning upset as he beat newly-crowned World Champion Diego Elias in four games, setting up a semi-final with defending champion Ali Farag, who beat fellow Egyptian Mazen Hesham in straight games.

In the women’s matches fifth seed Nour El Tayeb came from two games down to dash the hopes of fellow Egyptian Salma Hany, while defending champion Nour El Sherbini overcame USA’s Olivia Weaver in four games.

Check out the Reports and Reaction below the results …

British Open 2024 : Thu 6th Jun, Day FIVE, QUARTER-FINALS (top)

Women’s Quarter-Finals (top) :
[5] Nour El Tayeb (Egy) 3-2 [9/16] Salma Hany (Egy)   7-11, 6-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-9 (73m)
[1] Nour ElSherbini (Egy) 3-1 [8] Olivia Weaver (Usa)   11-3, 11-8, 8-11, 11-5 (40m)

Men’s Quarter-Finals (top) :
[9/16] Joel Makin (Wal) 3-1 [3] Diego Elias (Per)   11-9, 11-9, 4-11, 11-8 (68m)
[1] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 [6] Mazen Hesham (Egy)   11-7, 11-5, 11-5 (37m)


Reports and Reaction

Farag despatches Hesham to reach fifth successive semi

[1] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 [6] Mazen Hesham (Egy) 11-7, 11-5, 11-5 (37m)

Defending champion Ali Farag put in a clinical performance to defeat Mazen Hesham in three games and advance to the British Open semi-finals.

World No.1 Farag held off an early barrage of attacks from Hesham – who struggled increasingly with shin issues as the match progressed – to seal an 11-7, 11-5, 11-5 victory after 37 minutes of action.

Coming into the encounter, Farag held a far superior record against the ‘Black Falcon’, having won 17 of their 19 matches on the PSA World Tour, but Farag’s two most recent victories at the Windy City Open and the Black Ball Open had both gone all the way to deciding games.

The early signs from both players were that another classic could be on the cards, with Hesham opening the court up in exhibition style and looking to put Farag on the back foot whenever possible. However, Farag showed his world-class defensive abilities to negate these early attacks, before turning the screw in the latter stages to move one game ahead.

Hesham began to struggle with his movement as the second game got underway, with Farag looking to extend the rallies whenever possible. This shin issue led to the No.6 seed attempting to fire the ball with regularity, and with the narrower margins, came a number of errors.

Farag worked his way through the second and third in workmanlike fashion, taking an early lead in the final game and never letting Hesham gain parity. The 32-year-old will now play Joel Makin for a spot in the final of the PSA World Tour Platinum event.

“I could see that he was struggling with something, and I hope it isn’t bad because we have World Tour finals just around the corner, but yeh, I still had to play very well. Even a Mazen on one leg can come up with some outrageous shots, and I wasn’t feeling great either because of Nour’s  match and the hype and the nerves. As soon as her match was over, the hype was all gone and I had to rejuvenate myself again.

“I think I started solid enough, and then I saw Mazen starting to struggle, so that encouraged me to stay even more solid. Maybe I was a little bit too passive sometimes, but I can’t be taking Mazen to the front wall that often.

On his nose fracture, he added: “I’m feeling great, I’m not feeling any pain although it is fractured, whether it is a complete fracture and completely broken I’ll have to wait and see.”

Sherbini keeps title defence on track

[1] Nour ElSherbini (Egy) 3-1 [8] Olivia Weaver (Usa) 11-3, 11-8, 8-11, 11-5 (40m)

World No.1 Nour El Sherbini continued her quest for a fifth British Open title after defeating Olivia Weaver in a strong four-game showing at The Rep Theatre.

The ‘Warrior Princess’ sealed an 11-3, 11-8, 8-11, 11-5 victory over the American No.1 to set up a semi-final date with Egyptian compatriot Nour El Tayeb.

Coming into the match, El Sherbini held a perfect head-to-head record against Weaver – winning all seven of their prior encounters on the PSA World Tour – but last month’s brutal five-game clash at the World Championships highlighted that Weaver certainly had the tools to upset the top seed.

However, the early signs from El Sherbini showed otherwise, with the top seed charging through the opening two games in 17 minutes, volleying well and forcing Weaver into some uncharacteristic errors due to the pressure she was applying from the ‘T’.

Weaver, who is currently sat at a career-high ranking of World No.4, managed to inject more physicality into the encounter to extend the match to a fourth game, testing the movement of El Sherbini with some clever combinations of height in the third. After taking an early lead, the American refused to allow El Sherbini get back ahead, taking the third by an 11-8 scoreline.

However, a comeback wasn’t to be, with Weaver forcing her play too quickly, taking the ball short too early and opening up the court for El Sherbini to hit into. The seven-time World Champion moved to match ball after 39 minutes, and didn’t need asking twice, progressing to her seventh semi-final at the PSA World Tour Platinum event.

After the match, El Sherbini said: “Olivia is now at World No.4, which shows how much she has improved this season, and she’s been the most consistent player after the top three, to be honest.

“Everyone saw the match at the World Championship, but this time I tried to be sharp from the beginning. I think in the third I lost it a little bit, but she has such a good fighting spirit, she kept pushing, but I’m just happy that I won.”

“I watched my match against her from the World Championships and I tried to avoid the errors that I made last time, so I love this one better. I learned a lot. I think it has been my best performance of the tournament so far.

“I love playing here, the venue is amazing, the crowd is amazing. It’s something different and I also have really good memories here from the British Open, so I lover coming and playing here, so hopefully it goes well this week.”

On her upcoming semi-final with Nour El Tayeb, she added: “Nour is my lifelong friend. We always have amazing battles since the juniors, we haven’t actually played this season, but I’m looking forward to this one and I hope it is a good match.”

Makin downs World Champ Elias in massive Rep upset

[9/16] Joel Makin (Wal) 3-1 [3] Diego Elias (Per) 11-9, 11-9, 4-11, 11-8 (68m)

Birmingham-based Joel Makin has become the first Welshman since 2000 to reach the semi-finals of the historic British Open after a stunning victory over World Champion Diego Elias in front of a cracking atmosphere at the Birmingham Rep Theatre.

Makin was the first man from Wales since Alex Gough in 2002 to compete in the quarter-finals, but he will now go one better and end Wales’ wait for a men’s semi-finalist since David Evans won the tournament 24 years ago.

Before this week Makin hadn’t recorded a single win at the prestigious event, but tonight he produced one of his finest ever displays to complete an 11-9, 11-9, 4-11, 11-8 triumph over the recently-crowned World Champion.

Elias was rattled from the start, seemingly unhappy with the sweat on the court floor. Makin though showed no signs of being distracted and went about his business efficiently to take the opening game.

The Peruvian showed signs of getting back to something approaching his best in the next game as he slowed the pace down, but Makin adapted well and his accurate squash helped him establish a 2-0 lead.

Elias was more focused in the third as he found his winners at the front of the court to halve his opponent’s lead, but that proved to be as good as it got for the World No.2.

Roared on by a partizan home crowd, Makin kept his nerve to move to two match balls ahead and he converted at the first opportunity to send the crowd wild.

“It’s absolutely massive, I felt like I could do that today,” said Makin.

“I had a chat with Johnny Williams [one of Makin’s team] on the way in and he said that now is the time. Me and Miles [Jenkins, Makin’s coach] put together some good tactics and we’ve been pushing hard. It’s not been the best season, but I’m up for it and I want to get these scalps.

“I knew I could upset him a bit, I know he’s an unbelievable squash player, but there was space on there and if my lines were good and I was gripping the ball down the side walls then I know I have a chance against anyone. I’m really happy with how I executed that.

“I didn’t actually think it [the court] was that bad. He was upset about it, but you’ve got to get on with it, it’s a professional sport, so you’ve got to be tough.

“I’ve had issues this year, but I’m feeling good and I’m in a good place. There’s two big matches left now for a big title. It’s anyone’s now and there are going to be some big matches.”

Tayeb comeback denies Hany in all-Egyptian Quarter-Final

[5] Nour El Tayeb (Egy) 3-2 [9/16] Salma Hany (Egy) 7-11, 6-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-9 (73m)

Egypt’s Nour El Tayeb has reached the semi-finals of the British Open for the first time since 2019 after she produced a magnificent comeback from 2-0 down to beat compatriot Salma Hany at Birmingham Rep Theatre.

El Tayeb had won nine of their previous matches coming into today’s match, but it was Hany who stormed out of the traps as she powered into a 9-2 lead. The World No.12 then quelled a late fightback from El Tayeb to go a game ahead.

Hany continued to be on the front foot in the second too, pulling away from 5-5 as she outplayed her opponent, getting on the volley early and putting El Tayeb under immense pressure.

After claiming the second game, Hany was on the verge of her first Platinum semi-final in over three years, but El Tayeb had other ideas. Hany still looked to go short early, but she was lacking the accuracy she displayed before as El Tayeb returned her attacks with interest to halve the deficit.

Hany completely lost her way in the fourth as her accuracy dropped off. This time it was El Tayeb who was buzzing on the ’T’ and hunting in the back of the court and she soon levelled to send the match to a decider.

The rallies grew more longer and more attritional in a nervy fifth game, with neither player wanting to go short and make an error. El Tayeb pulled ahead to build up four game balls, but a couple of crucial errors handed Hany a lifeline as she came back to within one point.

El Tayeb managed to get the job done though, earning a spot in her first Platinum semi-final since October 2022. El Tayeb will play either defending champion Nour El Sherbini or United States No.1 Olivia Weaver in the next round.

“I don’t know the last time I came back from 2-0 down,” said El Tayeb.

“Ali [Farag, El Tayeb’s husband] kept insisting that I should play length. I was going for shots and it wasn’t working, and Salma was picking me off and playing better. Ali was begging me to not hit to the back.

“The last time I played five games was against Salma and I lost. I haven’t been in this situation recently, so it’s nice to get a win like that in the later stages of my career. To be in the semis is amazing, I haven’t been in a semi-final for so long.

“I keep thinking of myself as one of the best four players, but I haven’t proven that in the last two of three years since I came back. I’ve been waiting for a good performance and a semi-final, so for it to happen at this tournament in front of this amazing crowd in front of this amazing venue is unreal.”

Today’s contenders mini-gallery