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Commonwealth Games Semi-Final Preview: Birmingham’s Perry hoping for local boost

England’s No.2 seed at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Sarah-Jane Perry is hoping the support of her hometown crowd will give her a boost in today’s semi-finals, which begin at 16:00 (GMT+1) at the University of Birmingham Hockey and Squash Centre and will be shown live on BBC iPlayer in the UK and around the world.

The 32-year-old is hoping to become the first squash player to reach a singles final played in her hometown.

Perry, who won a silver medal in the 2018 Games, faces fellow Englishwoman Georgina Kennedy in tonight’s semi-final and as a Birmingham native – born in the city and living in Kenilworth nearby – says that her fans can make a difference against the 3/4 seed and World No.8, who has climbed 162 places in one year.

The World No.6 said: “I’ve got a lot of people coming [to watch]. I think half of Kenilworth was here [for the quarter-final].

“My parents, family and everyone will be the ones shouting loudest, I’m sure. It gives you that extra little push when you most need it.”

Perry and Kennedy meet at 17:45 in the third semi-final today and present an intriguing clash of styles, with the powerful Perry known for her attacking prowess and Kennedy for her relentless energy and pace.

The two have met seven times before, with six of those since February 2021. Although Perry enjoys a slender 4-3 advantage, Kennedy has had the more recent success, with the Harvard graduate winning the last two meetings 3-0, 3-1.

Top seed Joelle King

In the other women’s semi-final, New Zealand’s Bristol-based top seed Joelle King plays Canada’s 5/8 seed Hollie Naughton in the first match of the day.

While King is the defending champion, Naughton made history last night as the first Canadian woman to reach the Commonwealth Games semi-finals.

World No.20 Naughton, who was born in Barnsley in the north of England, will have her work cut out tonight if she is to upset the World No.6. King enjoys a 4-0 record over Naughton, with Naughton yet to take a game off the Kiwi.

The 27-year-old, though, will take confidence from her performance last night, in which she shocked 3/4 seed Joshna Chinappa of India in a 3-0 win. King, meanwhile, was pushed to her limits in an 85-minute humdinger with 5/8 seed Lucy Turmel of England, and will have been alarmed by her failure to convert eight game balls in game two yesterday.

James Willstrop (right) came through a demanding test against Scotland’s Rory Stewart last night.

There’s more home representation in the second of the men’s semi-finals, as England’s James Willstrop faces Birmingham-based Welshman and No.2 seed Joel Makin at 18:30.

The evergreen Willstrop, 38, came through a brutal clash with Scotland’s Rory Stewart last night to become the first man to reach four consecutive semi-finals and will expect an even more physically demanding task tonight against the World No.7, who is known as one of the world’s fittest players.

Defending champion Willstrop remains a hugely popular figure amongst the English – and global – squash public, and will undoubtedly be counting on strong home backing as he bids to defend his 2018 gold medal.

Tonight’s match represents the 10th meeting between the pair, with the 27-year-old Makin leading the former World No.1 by five matches to four. With two of their last three matches going to five games, expect another classic tonight!

India’s Saurav Ghosal is looking to become the first player from his country to reach the final

Completing the draw, 3/4 seed Saurav Ghosal is aiming to become the first Indian to reach a Commonwealth Games singles final.

To do so, though, he must overcome a formidable opponent in top seed and World No.2 Paul Coll. Coll has had the bit between his teeth in Birmingham, with the Kiwi – who was ranked World No.1 between March and May of this year – recording 3-0 wins over Niall Engerer of Malta and Adrian Waller of England, as well as coming from behind to beat Wales’ Emyr Evans in the last 16.

Ghosal, too, has looked sharp as he’s exorcised the demons of a shock round two loss in 2018. The 35-year-old World No.15 began his campaign with straight-game victories over Sri Lanka’s Shamil Wakeel and Canada’s David Baillargeon, before besting Scotland’s Greg Lobban 3-1 yesterday.

Click here for the full schedule and live results as they happen.

Stats kindly provided by Squash Info.

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games: Semi-Finals – Women’s Draw
16:00 – [1] Joelle King (NZL) v [5/8] Hollie Naughton (CAN)
17:45 – [2] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v [3/4] Georgina Kennedy (ENG)

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games: Semi-Finals – Men’s Draw
16:45 – [1] Paul Coll (NZL) v [3/4] Saurav Ghosal (IND)
18:30 – [2] Joel Makin (WAL) v [5/8] James Willstrop (ENG)

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