Welshman Joel Makin and Peru’s Diego Elias have sent top seeds Ali Farag and Mohamed ElShorbagy out of the 2021 U.S. Open at the quarter finals stage after two massive performances at the Arlen Specter US Squash Center last night.
Makin, the World No.9, had never taken more than a game in three previous defeats to World No.1 Ali Farag but put in an almost flawless performance to reach the semi finals of the U.S. Open for the first time and end Farag’s title defence.
Farag had been in red-hot form after winning both the CIB Egyptian Open and the Oracle NetSuite Open in September, but he never had a moment to settle against the 26-year-old from Pembrokeshire, with Makin completing an 11-5, 11-7, 16-14 victory to cause a big upset at the PSA World Tour Platinum event.
“I was frustrated coming into it, I’ve lost in too many quarter finals now and I’m not happy staying around there,” Makin said.
“I brought a lot of intensity into the match and I took it to him. I don’t want the match to be us saying ‘great shot’ and clapping each other’s shots, I wanted to take it to him, get across the middle and dominate the court.
“He got quite a few [decisions] wrong in crucial stages and that’s going to happen in sport. I had to deal with it as best as I could, it probably wasn’t the best squash I played after that because it was stop-start, but I was up for it, it didn’t effect me, and I was trying to get on top. There were a couple of errors but then I came back from 10-7, and I’m happy with how I did that.”
Makin will take on World No.4 Tarek Momen – the highest ranked player left in the tournament – in the semi-finals after the Egyptian ended the fairy tale run of England’s James Willstrop who, at 38 years of age, was the oldest man ever to reach the quarter finals of a major PSA event.
The other semi final will pit Elias against World No.10 Mostafa Asal following their respective wins over World No.2 ElShorbagy and World No.3 Paul Coll.
Elias was under huge pressure for the opening game and a half, but after the Peruvian fought through to take the second, ElShorbagy’s energy levels soon nose-dived. There was no let up from Elias as he powered through the third and fourth games to seal the win.
“I’m happy to win, but I think this was the worst match we’ve played together,” Elias said.
“I could see he wasn’t moving that well and I was a bit nervous at the start, I didn’t know if I should start putting pace on the ball because he’s good at that, or try to play smart. In the first game he was playing really smart, hitting the perfect shots and I got a bit frustrated.”
Asal made it three wins out of three over Coll after winning the longest match of the tournament so far at a gruelling 103 minutes. Tonight’s results mean that there will be a new name on the men’s trophy come the night of the final.
Meanwhile, the home crowd at the Specter Center will have a USA player to cheer on, on semi finals night as the country’s No.3 – Olivia Fiechter – beat Belgium’s Nele Gilis in straight games to reach her first Platinum semi final.
Fiechter stunned close friend and USA No.1 Amanda Sobhy in the previous round to reach her maiden Platinum quarter-final and, buoyed by passionate home support, put in a magnificent performance to beat Gilis 11-7, 11-6, 11-7.
“I was trying to enjoy the moment in front of my home crowd and at this new centre they’ve built for American players,” said Fiechter.
“I don’t think I could be more pleased with that performance. Throughout the day you go through moments when you’re hanging out in your hotel room and you’re trying not to think about it, but obviously you’re trying to prepare for it and get yourself ready. I was trying to take it point by point and focus on my game plan. I knew if I thought about the situation and the moment too much then things could unravel quickly.”
Fiechter will take on defending champion Nouran Gohar for a place in the title decider, with World No.2 Gohar beating England’s Sarah-Jane Perry 3-0.
“I was up for it and against SJ you have to play your best to be able to win 3-0 for sure,” said Gohar.
“[Playing a U.S. player in the semi final] is very exciting. When you have the crowd cheering for anyone, it’s great for our sport and is great for the game. I’ve had this in Egypt and I’m really excited to see it. It happened a few times with Amanda, but to have a new player with the home crowd is great for the sport and I’m very excited for tomorrow.”
World No.1 Nour El Sherbini and World No.6 Hania El Hammamy will contest the other women’s semi-final following respective wins against France’s Melissa Alves and New Zealand’s Joelle King.
Quarter Final Results
Men’s: Joel Makin (WAL) bt  Ali Farag (EGY) 3-0: 11-5, 11-7, 16-14 (64m);  Tarek Momen (EGY) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-1: 11-7, 11-13, 11-6, 11-9 (48m);  Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt  Paul Coll (NZL) 3-1: 11-8, 9-11, 11-5, 11-7 (103m);  Diego Elias (PER) bt  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-1: 5-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-1 (45m)
Women’s:  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Melissa Alves (FRA) 3-0: 11-5, 11-3, 11-4 (24m);  Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 3-0: 11-2, 11-8, 11-7 (39m); Olivia Fiechter (USA) bt Nele Gilis (BEL) 3-0: 11-5, 11-5, 11-8 (37m);  Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-6, 11-7 (39m)