El Sherbini's defeat puts squash world champion in danger

Dubai (AFP) –


Nour El Sherbini, the new young star of world squash, suffered an opening day round robin defeat on Tuesday which left her much to do if she is to qualify for the knockout stages of the PSA World Series Finals.

Sherbini, a 20-year-old who has gained the world and British Open titles and the world number one ranking in quick succession in recent weeks, was beaten 12-10, 17-15 in an entertaining high speed encounter by fellow Egyptian Raneem El Welily in Dubai.

It was far from a major surprise, for Welily was the world's top ranked player herself for a spell last year, and her creative, enterprising style suited the shorter best of three games format very well.

Once Welily had grabbed the first game her opponent was often in difficulties, with scoreboard pressure making her aware that defeat was not far away.

Nevertheless Sherbini did well to save three match points as the match boiled up to an unpredictable climax.

Sherbini used her heavy driving and mixtures of the short and long games to earn four game points herself, and was only beaten when a length-seeking Welily drive suddenly found a nick between the sidewall and floor and the ball rolled dead.

"It was so bad it had to end that way" said Welily, generously adding: "Nour has been busy with media (since the world title triumph) and with exams, so credit to her."

Welily could nevertheless qualify for the semi-finals on Wednesday if she beats Camille Serme, the former British Open champion from France, who saved a game point at 9-10 in the second game against Omneya Abdel Kawy, a former world finalist from Egypt, to win 11-9, 13-11.

Serme played well, despite admitting she found it a "bit stressful," and Kawy played well enough to feel she has a chance against Sherbini on Wednesday. If she has and she wins, the world champion will probably be eliminated.

Later the other world champion, Greg Gaultier, produced a typically waspish display, full of sharp dialogues with the referee, unexpected shot selections and fine winners to beat Simon Rosner, the best player ever to come from Germany, 11-2, 11-9.

Gaultier next plays Cameron Pilley, who has a chance of becoming the first Australian in a decade to qualify for the later stages after a tenacious 11-7, 5-11, 11-6 win over Omar Mosaad, the world runner-up from Egypt. It avenged Pilley's defeat in El Gouna last month.