2016 and 2017 tournament winner Laura Massaro saw her hopes of a third consecutive title at the season-ending ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals come crashing down following a 2-0 defeat to France’s Camille Serme inside Emirates Golf Club earlier today.
Massaro had impressed during the opening two days of action to win both her previous pool matches and assume what looked to be a commanding position atop Group B of the event – played under a best-of-three games round robin format prior to the knockout semi-finals – but defeat to Serme, combined with World Champion Raneem El Welily’s victory over Sarah-Jane Perry, ended the English World No.1’s title-defence.
Those results meant that El Welily went through top of Group B courtesy of a superior points won percentage over Serme.
“I’m very happy with the way I played today, I managed to relax and play my shots better than the other days,” said Serme.
“Laura is such a fighter. She loves playing here and she never gives up, so until the very last point I didn’t want to give her anything.
“I was a bit upset with myself after losing yesterday, then on the other side because of the round robin format I was like ‘you still have a chance, be positive!’ I called my coach and he was telling me what went wrong in my match yesterday but you have to focus on the positive side and refocus the next day and I’m really happy reach the semi-finals.”
After her match, El Welily said: “I am very pleased to be through to the semis. It’s the second time for me to reach the last four in Dubai.
“I can’t help but feel bad for Laura, she won her first two matches but she didn’t qualify. It was a tough group and I’m just glad to be through against such tough competitors.
“Dubai is definitely a favourite tournament, we all have a great time here, we’re taken good care of and I really enjoy the crowd and the atmosphere.”
Serme will now go up against World No.1 Nour El Sherbini in the semi-final stage after the 22-year-old Egyptian defeated compatriot Nouran Gohar 2-0 to progress from the group stage with a 100 per cent winning record, while the other semi-final will see El Welily face World No.3 Nour El Tayeb after she came through a shoot-out decider in Group B.
In the men’s event England’s Nick Matthew, the 37-year-old, a late call-up to the event following the withdrawal of Marwan ElShorbagy through injury, cemented his semi-final berth with victory over World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy to make it three wins from three at the event.
“It was a very unique situation, neither of us quite knew how to approach it,” said Matthew.
“It certainly didn’t have the edge of the usual battles between the two of us but I think that both of us at the start of the week would have signed up for the position that we were in. We would have both taken it, getting to the semi-finals with one match to spare and I think whoever we had to play tomorrow, be it Simon or Ali, were both going to be incredibly tough.
“Maybe it was a bit easier for Mohamed to turn off the tap and then turn it back on at full speed tomorrow. It’s a bit harder at my age, I think that if I slow down I stop so I try to keep moving and obviously Mohamed was nice and relaxed tonight. I’ve never seen him so relaxed but I’m sure he’ll be back in beast mode tomorrow.”
He will now face Egyptian Ali Farag in the last four after the former Harvard student prevailed in an all-or-nothing encounter with compatriot, and 2016 World Champion, Karim Abdel Gawad.
Both players lost out to German Simon Rösner during the opening two days, while recording victories over Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, but with a semi-final berth on the line it was Farag who came out firing on all cylinders to prevail 11-5, 11-5.
“It was very tough today because not only is he a good friend, he’s such a lethal player,” said Farag, who will appear in the last four of this tournament for the first time.
“When I had the opportunity I went short and thankfully it worked. Last year I was in the exact same position, I won my first match, lost the second and then it was winner takes all in the third match and I lost to James [Willstrop], who played brilliantly.
“Today I wanted to learn from that and go through to the semis for the first time ever, so I’m quite delighted.”
The other winners on the final day of action in the men’s group stages were Rösner and Tarek Momen, who beat Miguel Angel Rodriguez to take third place in Group A.
Rösner will take on ElShorbagy in a repeat of the 2017 event’s semi-finals that saw Rösner squander match-ball to gift ElShorbagy passage to the finale – which he duly won – with the German hoping to exercise his demons from that encounter.
Semi-final action from the World Series Finals takes place at 15:00 local time (GMT+4) later today (Friday June 8) and the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV (Rest of World), Eurosport Player (Europe only) and mainstream channels across the globe, including BT Sport, beIN Sports, Fox Sports Australia and Astro.
Results: ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals – Men’s Group A
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 2-0: 11-6, 11-6 (16m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 2-1: 11-5, 8-11, 11-8 (40m)
Results: ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals – Men’s Group B
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 2-0: 11-8, 12-10 (21m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 2-0: 11-5, 11-5 (21m)
Draw – Men’s Semi-Finals: To Be Played June 8
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
Results: ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals – Women’s Group A
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 2-0: 11-5, 11-5 (14m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 2-1: 7-11, 11-7, 13-11 (38m)
Results: ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals – Women’s Group B
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Laura Massaro (ENG) 2-0: 11-7, 11-5 (22m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 2-0: 11-6, 11-9 (20m)
Draw – Women’s Semi-Finals: To Be Played June 8
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)