[Above: Nour El Tayeb dives against Alison Waters]
The world’s top four-ranked women will contest the 2019 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions semifinals, while the men’s draw is guaranteed an Egyptian champion after Tarek Momen and Ali Farag completed the semifinal lineup Tuesday, January 22, in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal.
Wednesday’s slate of four women’s quarterfinals and two men’s quarterfinals played out in decisive fashion with all but one match decided in three games and all higher-ranked players advancing.
The exception came in the second women’s match of the day between four seed Joelle King and five seed Camille Serme. France’s Serme nearly shutout King in the first game, conceding just one point late in the game.
“I guess I laughed and said to myself that the only positive thing to come out of that [first] game was that I got a point,” King said. “I just tried to relax and start again and see what happened. Someone like Camille, if she gets on a run and gets confident, she is so hard to play. I just tried to weather the storm and hang in there.”
After the lackluster first game, the Kiwi turned the match on its head, overpowering the 2017 ToC champion 1-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-9 in forty-eight minutes.
“Once you get older, you tell all the juniors that you will go through these tough matches later on in your career and I have been on the back end of many losses from being up in those points, so I guess it is just experience on that day,” said thirty-year-old King.
King will make her ToC semifinal debut on Wednesday against world No. 1 Raneem El Welily, who convincingly dispatched compatriot and world No.8 Nouran Gohar in three games.
The second women’s semifinal will stage a rematch of the 2018 final between defending champion and world No. 2 Nour El Sherbini and world No. 3 Nour El Tayeb. After a close five-gamer over Team USA’s Amanda Sobhy on Monday, El Tayeb made no mistake against Alison Waters by winning in three games. The Vanderbilt Hall crowd erupted late in the third game when El Tayeb won an extended rally including two successful dives to earn her first match ball, which she converted. El Tayeb has earned a reputation for her acrobatic dives, despite sustaining a lengthy layoff from the tour due to a shoulder injury sustained in a dive in 2016.
“My mom and dad are always scared when I dive and I am going to get yelled at by them after,” El Tayeb said. “I couldn’t resist, I think she tricked me in the rally and I couldn’t let go. I was excited, I thought I was playing well so I thought why not just go for it. In all honesty, I am trying not to do it, but if it is one or two per match, I am alright.”
El Tayeb has faced El Sherbini twice on the PSA Tour since the 2018 ToC final, beating El Sherbini in the 2018 Windy City Open quarterfinals, and losing in World Series Finals pool play.
“Yesterday’s match was more of a confidence booster. Today I woke up feeling very sore obviously, but it gave me a lot of confidence to be able to get back and win such a tough match. I haven’t won a match from being 2-1 down, or being outplayed for a while and to win a match like that gave me a massive confidence boost and it showed today. Today I was more relaxed and happier to be on court rather than being too nervous.”
King’s teammate Paul Coll was the only non-Egyptian left in the men’s draw, but couldn’t challenge in-form Farag. Farag sped to a 10-3 lead in the first game, but Coll surprised Farag and the crowd alike by fighting off six game balls, only to fall 11-9. Farag, a Harvard graduate, continued to frustrate the Kiwi’s attacking options, sending “Superman” packing in three games 11-9, 11-7, 11-6 in forty-eight minutes.
“Paul has been giving trouble to everyone and he is a very, very tough opponent to play against,” Farag said. “You could tell his fighting spirit at 10-3 down in the first game. Most would have just thrown the first game away, but he kept fighting back and he got me edgy at 9-10. It was crucial to win that one in terms of momentum and psychological confidence. Fitness to fitness, I stand no chance with Paul. This is a testament to him, he is the fittest on tour by far and I could not play his game. If we get into a physical battle then he is going to come out on top so I had to play smart to control the pace as much as possible.”
Farag will need to rely on fitness again if he is to claim his first career ToC title. The world No. 2 will take on 2018 finalist Tarek Momen in the semifinals after the thirty-year-old defeated close friend and teammate Omar Mosaad for just the second time in their eighth PSA World Tour encounter. With Coll out of the draw, Wednesday’s men’s semifinal lineup will feature four Egyptians, guaranteeing an Egyptian champion.
The women’s semifinal session begins at 5pm with the men’s semifinal session set to follow from 8pm.
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