The first day of Oracle NetSuite Challenge Court play saw Mohamed ElShorbagy and James Willstrop set up a Friday night semifinal, while women’s two seed Nicol David edged a five-game match against Victoria Lust 12-10 in the fifth at Bay Club San Francisco.
Friday night’s semifinal session will feature a rematch of the 2017 World Series Finals climax between ElShorbagy and Willstrop, after the respective two and four seeds recorded three-game victories on the glass court in Justin Herman Plaza.
ElShorbagy made his San Francisco glass court debut against England’s Daryl Selby. After ElShorbagy took the first game 11-5, the English world No. 12 fought back in the second game where he earned a game ball at 10-9, at which point the Egyptian stormed back to win the game 13-11. The world No. 3 continued his momentum in the third to win his Embarcadero debut 11-6 in fifty minutes.
“At the beginning of the match I struggled a little bit,” ElShorbagy said. “Daryl is very experienced, he took full advantage of that and full credit to him, he was leading in the first two games and I had to work really hard to come back. We both played a really high quality match in a good spirit like always, it was a good battle. I always stay positive and I felt like I really put some work into his legs in that second game. Luckily it went my way, I got his game ball back and it was huge for me to be 2-0 up.”
The twenty-six-year-old from Alexandria held the world No. 1 ranking for twenty-eight months across 2014-2017.
“It’s my first year here and I’m absolutely loving it,” ElShorbagy said. “The goal for me this season is to get my world No. 1 spot back. I didn’t play very well last season and I want to prove to myself that I can still get the wins when I play well.”
ElShorbagy will face four seed Willstrop in the semifinals Friday night after the Englishman held off Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly in three close games 11-9, 12-10, 11-9 in fifty-nine minutes.
While defending champion Laura Massaro prevailed on the glass court in four games against Salma Hany Ibrahim, the women’s match of the day took place on Bay Club San Francisco’s court during the afternoon session.
After trading games and setting up a fifth, David fought off a match ball at 10-9 to come back and win 12-10 after seventy-five minutes. The only problem was that the Malaysian eight-time world champion hadn’t realized she had won. David carried the ball into the service box for the next point, which Lust jokingly obliged, until the crowd and Lust helped David come to the realization that the match had ended.
“I thought I was match ball down, so I was thinking that I had to stay in the match,” David said. “I was getting ready to serve but then found out I won! I just felt that I worked really hard and I knew I wasn’t really putting my game together, so I had to dig deep and stay solid. I stuck to my game plan and I knew that I couldn’t let her in. I had to raise my game when I was down and even though she was leading I knew that if I could put her under a bit more pressure than I might have an opportunity to put it away.
“I came through it and she made some errors at the end which gave me some confidence so I’m happy to win it 3-2,” David said. “I’m looking forward to being on the glass court next and I’ll take a lot from this game. I played really well in patches and maybe lost some of my focus at times. She was playing really well too so I have to keep consistent in my semis match.”
David will face first-time Oracle NetSuite Open semifinalist Dipika Pallikal Karthik Friday night, who upset U.S. champion Olivia Blatchford in three games.
Tickets are still available for Thursday night’s session on www.oraclenetsuiteopen.com/tickets.
Can’t make it to Justin Herman Plaza? Watch all of the action live on SquashTV.