Hollie Naughton became the first Canadian woman to reach a Commonwealth Games final after the 5/8 seed stunned New Zealand’s top seed and defending champion Joelle King at the University of Birmingham Hockey and Squash Centre.
Naughton, 27, had never taken a game, let alone beaten King, in four previous meetings and even after her surprise win over 3/4 seed Joshna Chinappa in the quarter-final, there were doubts as to whether she out consistently threaten the Kiwi.
Naughton soon answered those questions. The Barnsley-born star looked quietly threatening in an 11-7 defeat in the first game and came out flying in the second, where she moved higher up the court and looked to volley whenever possible. This proved effective, with Naughton taking the second game 11-3 as King looked rattled.
The third game was an even one and at 8-8 could have gone either way. Naughton, however, who looked increasingly assured as the match went on, was able to pull away to take a 2-1 lead into the fourth game.
The efforts of the third game, and perhaps the brutal 85-minuter against Turmel yesterday, seemed to drain King and there was a growing sense of inevitability in the fourth game as Naughton rapidly rattled off points.
The onslaught from Naughton continued against an increasingly dejected King, and the World No.20 was able to record a historic victory with a comfortable 11-1 win.
“I don’t really know what happened there!” a stunned Naughton said afterwards.
“This is my first Commonwealth Games and I’m super happy with how I’ve dealt with the emotions and the atmosphere.
“I hope I’m doing [my family and supporters] proud. I want to try and inspire that next generation to follow in my footsteps. Hopefully that’s possible.”
Naughton’s opponent tomorrow will be England’s Georgina Kennedy after the 3/4 seed beat No.2 seed and 2018 silver medallist Sarah-Jane Perry in an all-English semi-final.
Kennedy, who has climbed 162 places to World No.8 in the past year, has shown few nerves in her debut Commonwealth Games and played her classic harrying squash from the beginning as she took the first game 11-6.
Perry responded by slowing the ball down in the second and took the first five points on the way to an 11-8 win.
Kennedy, though, had ended that second game strongly and took that momentum into the third game, which she took 11-5 to restore her advantage.
In a thrilling final game, Kennedy earned three match balls when she went 10-7 up. The resilient Perry, though, played courageously and continued to attack, brilliantly saving all three to force a tie break.
Perry came close to forcing Kennedy into a fifth game when she took a 12-11 lead, only for Kennedy to recover before finally making the breakthrough to seal a memorable match with a 14-12 victory.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve had, ever,” an emotional Kennedy said afterwards.
“Sport is all about role models, SJ’s sportsmanship and her graciousness are amazing and everyone is inspired by her on court and off it.
“I just did not want it to go to a fifth [game] because her mental strength is her biggest asset. I think that if it had gone to a fifth I really would have struggled.”
In the men’s draw, England’s defending champion and 5/8 seed James Willstrop fell to an impressive performance from No.2 seed Joel Makin, who became the first Welshman to reach the final courtesy of a 3-0 win.
Willstrop, 38, battled past Scotland’s Rory Stewart in a tough quarter-final match yesterday and seemed to be feeling the effects, with his movement not at its best.
Makin, meanwhile, is renowned for his movement and covered every inch of the court as he took a deserved lead with an 11-5 win. A second 11-5 followed for the 27-year-old, leading to an exciting shootout in the third game.
Willstrop threw the kitchen sink at Makin in the third game and eked out narrow leads at 4-3 and 5-4. The Englishman, however, made too many errors and Makin capitalised to force his way into the final with an 11-9 victory.
Afterwards, Makin said: “I knew he was hurting physically, but he actually came on stronger in the third game than he did in the first.
“The support has been unbelievable. Everyone has booked so much time off and my family has travelled from all over.
“The Games bring in people who wouldn’t normally watch the sport. When it gets coverage on the BBC, that is where we reach a wider audience and people realise what it’s about. It’s exciting. It’s fast-paced. It’s so intense.”
Makin will meet top seed and 2018 runner up Paul Coll in the men’s final, after the Kiwi brushed aside 3/4 Saurav Ghosal in three games.
Ghosal gave a good account of himself in the first game, as the 35-year-old fell to a narrow 11-9 defeat after going 10-6 down.
After this, though, Coll was at his brilliant best and the World No.2 reached his second successive final with comfortable 11-4 and 11-1 wins.
“There’s no feeling to describe it. I’ve really found my groove the past two matches. I’ve trained for four years to bring a medal back to New Zealand and obviously I really want it to be gold,” Coll said.
Yesterday also saw the plate event, played between players knocked out earlier in the tournament, reach the final stage. Sunayna Sara Kuruvilla and Mary Fung-A-Fat will contest the women’s final, while Kundanji Kalengo and Muqtadir Sadruddin Numji will meet in the men’s final. Click here for the plate results.
The bronze medal matches of squash at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games begin tomorrow (03/08) at 16:00 (GMT+1). The gold medal matches will begin at 18:00 with the women’s final, followed by the men’s final at 19:00.
Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games: Semi-Finals – Men’s Results
 Paul Coll (NZL) beat [3/4] Saurav Ghosal (IND) 3-0: 11-9, 11-4, 11-1
 Joel Makin (WAL) beat [5/8] James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-5, 11-9 (50m)
Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games: Semi-Finals – Women’s Results
[5/8] Hollie Naughton (CAN) beat  Joelle King (NZL) 3-1: 7-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-1
[3/4] Georgina Kennedy (ENG) beat  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-1: 11-6, 8-11, 11-5, 14-12 (55m)
Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games: Men’s Final
 Paul Coll (NZL) v  Joel Makin (WAL)
Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games: Women’s Final
[3/4] Georgina Kennedy (ENG) v [5/8] Hollie Naughton (CAN)