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English Finalist Assured In San Francisco

 PSA International 70 NetSuite Open, San Francisco, USA

Quarter-finals (lower half of draw):
[4] Peter Barker (ENG) bt Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) 11-7, 11-4, 11-4 (47m)
[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Daryl Selby (ENG) 11-6, 12-10, 11-4 (53m)

Straight games victories by Nick Matthew and Peter Barker in the quarter-finals of the NetSuite Open Squash Championship will ensure English representation in the final of the PSA World Tour International 70 event staged on an all-glass court at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco, USA.

Despite falling behind compatriot Daryl Selby in the second game of the first quarter-final, world No2 Matthew never looked to be out of control of the match. The 32-year-old from Sheffield simply did what he does best – play error-free squash with commanding court presence by driving the ball deep to both corners to force Selby into scramble mode.

In that second game, Matthew ran the table with five consecutive points to erase the deficit built by his fellow countryman and good friend, taking the game 12-10.

The opening game was Matthew’s from the start. With long rallies, neither player appeared to be eager to take the ball short. The cold conditions suited Matthew’s reach across the mid-court, and he ran out to a comfortable 5-3 lead before extending it to 8-4. Midway through the game, Matthew started taking the ball short on the backhand side, and Selby could not answer.

The third and final game was never in doubt. Matthew needed just nine minutes to finish Selby off, 11-6, 12-10, 11-4 in 53 minutes.

The nightcap showed off Londoner Barker’s short game and total court control in despatching Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema in a methodical 11-7, 11-4, 11-4 47-minute encounter.

Afterwards, when asked about the cold San Francisco evening air, fourth seed Barker acknowledged that the conditions are more suited to his game than Anjema’s. “Obviously with the court playing more dead, I like to attack the front of the court,” commented the world No6.

Jessica Winstanley, interviewing Barker, noted that steam was rising off his warm body. The bundled capacity crowd got a good laugh watching the steamy man his friends call Spider Man.

Anjema, spent the majority of the match trying to solve the puzzle of how to get Barker out of the middle of the court. When successful, Anjema capitalised by taking the ball early with sharp drops. Barker, however, was moving fluidly and reaching virtually every length Anjema placed without much difficulty.

Shabana Shocks Willstrop In NetSuite Upset

Quarter-finals (top half of draw):

Amr Shabana (EGY) bt [1] James Willstrop (ENG) 11-8, 11-8, 11-9 (53m)
[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Tarek Momen (EGY) 11-4, 11-7, 7-11, 12-10 (58m)

After reaching at least the semi-finals in 14 successive appearances on the PSA World Tour since September last year, England’s world number one James Willstrop crashed out of the NetSuite Open Squash Championship quarter-finals – overwhelmed in straight games by Egypt’s Amr Shabana in the PSA International 70 event in San Francisco.

For the eleventh time since 2004, Willstrop and Shabana squared off in a PSA quarter-final, with the Englishman holding a slight edge (6-4) before the opening NetSuite Open match on the spectacular McWil Courtwall glass court at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco, California.

“In Philadelphia a week ago, Shabana looked as lean and fit as he’s been in the last five years,” said tournament spokesmanJay Prince. “And it showed tonight as he took out the No1 seed in three straight—11-8, 11-8, 11-9.”

The chilly San Francisco air favoured the 33-year-old Egyptian’s attacking style, mixing knee-bending boasts from the back and mid-court with inch-perfect length.

When asked about the conditions, world No7 Shabana said: “I actually don’t like the cold. It does help with control of the court, but I’m not used to it and worry about getting injured. So I never stop moving around.”

Willstrop, a finalist in nine Tour events in the past 13 months and winner of four titles, just never seemed to get going. After dropping the opener with several errors and strokes against him, the tall Yorkshireman pulled himself together early in the second game while building a sizable lead, 7-2

But Shabana, the four-time world champion from Cairo, simply kept making the court longer and wider, while also drawing gasps from the capacity crowd with eye-popping court coverage.

“In essence, this was Shabana’s match from the start,” added Prince. “Willstrop appeared to be suffering from a cough, though earlier in the day he was excited to get going.”

In the second quarter-final, Gregory Gaultier of France hammered away at Egypt’s Tarek Momen to run away with the first two games. There were relentless lengths on both sides of the court, made possible by the supreme quickness and balance of Gaultier who seems to be able to reach any ball on the court.

In the third, Momen played a more free-flowing game, attacking short—particularly on the left side—with positive effect. Drop exchanges were going Momen’s way for the duration and the 24-year-old from Cairo cut Gaultier’s margin to 2/1.

In the fourth, Momen again ran away with the game while Gaultier became frustrated and made a handful of errors that he can be prone to make when he becomes distracted by referee decisions with which he disagrees.

But down 10-6 and staring straight into the headlights of a deciding fifth game, the wheels came off for Momen. Coupled with a pair of errors and Gaultier stepping forward to attack with higher pace, the 29-year-old Frenchman, ranked three in the world, rattled off six straight points to punch his ticket into the semi-finals where he will face Shabana.

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