Day FIVE : Semi-Finals
Momen and Coll to meet in final
Egypt’s World No.3 Tarek Momen and New Zealand’s World No.7 Paul Coll will contest the final of the 2019 Citigold Wealth Management Canary Wharf Classic after they claimed wins over World No.2 Mohamed ElShorbagy and Mathieu Castagnet at London’s East Wintergarden.
Momen lost in the final here 12 months ago to ElShorbagy, but he was in sublime form to avenge that defeat – and repeat his win over ElShorbagy in last month’s World Championships in Chicago – to reach the Canary Wharf final for the second time.
Coll overcame 2016 champion Mathieu Castagnet to reach a second successive PSA final. Castagnet has been one of the surprise packages of this tournament but Coll was too strong for the World No.26 today.
Alan Thatcher reports
Egypt’s World No.3 Tarek Momen and New Zealand’s World No.7 Paul Coll will contest the final of the 2019 Citigold Wealth Management Canary Wharf Classic after they ended the hopes of World No.2 Mohamed ElShorbagy and Mathieu Castagnet at a packed East Wintergarden.
The popular London venue, which has attracted sell-out crowds every day for the past eight years, rocked to the rafters as two momentous matches unfolded on the glass court.
For Frenchman Castagnet it was something of a Hard Brexit, with no backhand backstop. And for ElShorbagy, his bid to regain the world number one spot was derailed on the Jubilee Line as he lost to Momen for the second time in a fortnight. ElShorbagy became the youngest player of the modern era to reach 500 PSA Tour matches, but it turned out to be a very special day for Momen.
Soon after his wife Raneem El Welily won 15-13 in the fifth game against Nouran Gohar to reach the final of the Black Ball Open in Cairo, Momen produced a brilliant display of attacking squash to beat top seed Mohamed ElShorbagy to reach the Canary Wharf final for the second year running.
Last year he finished runner-up to ElShorbagy. But less than two weeks ago in Chicago he beat ElShorbagy for the first time in 10 matches to reach the final of the World Championships, where he finished runner-up to Ali Farag.
Tonight in London, he began in uncharacteristically explosive form to take the game to ElShorbagy from the opening rally.
He looked positive at all times and managed the game comfortably to win it 11-7. ElShorbagy, with Hadrian Stiff in his corner, responded solidly in the second, playing at a higher pace and burying some fantastic winners.
The third game was crucial and ElShorbagy will be kicking himself for squandering an 8-4 lead.
Momen kept chipping away, pulled level and won the tiebreak when ElShorbagy slammed the ball into the middle of the tin.
The shot echoed around the East Wintergarden venue as Momen marched off court with renewed confidence and purpose.
The fourth game was close all the way through but Momen again finished strongly to win it 11-9.
Afterwards, he told me: “I am over the moon. I was having deja vu, because only two weeks ago, I was playing Mohamed in the semi finals of the World Champs, and Raneem had just finished a five-game match, 12-10 in the fifth.
“[Unfortunately] She lost, and it was very hard for me to go on court and play Mohamed only five minutes after it happened. Today it was the same scenario. Literally, two minutes before I started warming up, their match was over in Cairo.
“The result was reversed. She won this time and therefore, I was a bit worried that my result would also be reversed as well. She saved match balls as well. I just went on court today, I knew we both had a really tough season. We are both tired, but we both just want to make the most of it.
“I am kind of trying to get this approach where I go on and give 100%. I know I had Mohamed today. I was tired, Yes, but I just wanted to win and I didn’t want to give it up. I want to be the best in the world, and to be the best, I have to perform at my best every single match and every single tournament.
“No matter how much I was struggling, I knew I had to fight. Luckily, I was actually feeling pretty good going into the first game. I felt like I was okay. I didn’t have the niggles that I had been suffering, I was 100% fine. I kept pushing and luckily I was playing so well, so I am really happy with the way I have played today.”
After two massive wins over Simon Rosner and Fares Dessouky, Mathieu Castagnet was determined to avoid a Soft Brexit tonight.
However, he was unable to convert crucial points in the opening game and eventually lost 10-12, 5-11, 6-11 as Coll showed what a class act he is becoming.
“I went on court pretty relaxed tonight. I am just trying to enjoy the occasion and enjoy my squash at the moment. Like I said, we had never played on the PSA Tour before, but I knew it was going to be a really tough match, and mentally I had to focus right to the end because he digs in deep and fights all the way.
“I don’t change my gameplan too much going from best-of-three to best-of-five. I try and stay the same. I feel like it works in both formats. You just have to stay focussed mentally for longer because you can switch off more often in best-of-five. Generally speaking, I try and keep my tactics the same.
“I was watching it [Momen v ElShorbagy] while I was warming up. It was incredible, such high-quality squash in that match. Both players probably deserved to win that match, it was such high-quality.
“I am going to have my work cut out for me tomorrow, but I am looking forward to the challenge against one of the top players in the world.
“I am just going to have to be really alert, you know. He is taking it in so well, with lots of angles and lots of severity. I am going to have to really watch him and be careful where I leave the ball on the court because he can put it away. He is one of the best in the world at putting the ball away.”
Coll will appear in the final of this tournament for the first time and will be aiming to win his first PSA Tour title since the 2016 Channel VAS Championships – where he beat Momen in the final.
Coverage of the final begins at 19:00 (GMT) on Friday March 15 and will be shown live on SQUASHTV (rest of world), Eurosport Player (Europe only) and mainstream broadcasters such as BT Sport, Sky Sports New Zealand, Fox Sports Australia and more.
Preview by Alan Thatcher
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (Egy) v  Tarek Momen (Egy)
Tarek Momen ended a nine-match losing streak against Mohamed ElShorbagy by beating him in the semi-finals of the PSA World Championships in Chicago.
We saw two hugely contrasting performances from both players in last night’s quarter-finals.
Mohamed looked calm and confident against Declan and totally dominated the second game. At one stage it looked like it might be a bagel.
After the match, during his interview on court, he gave a masterful speech about the pressures he has faced as world number one suddenly being transferred to Ali Farag. He gave the impression of being at one with himself, fully accepting the position he is in and deeply respectful of Ali’s achievements and current form.
He said: “This is going to be a test of character and I am going to challenge myself here and see. It is hard when you lose the World Number One ranking. It is not an easy thing to lose.
“When you lose it because someone has raised their level over yours, you raise you hand up. Ali, right now, is playing the best I have ever seen him play and right now he is the best player in the world.
“I am going to be chasing him now. It is a different scenario with our matches, but for now, maybe luckily for all of us he is not playing this event, because he has been playing so well this season, but I look forward to tomorrow now.
“Tarek got out of jail a little bit today. Ryan was playing so well, but Tarek has been playing an amazing season. He beat me last week and I really forward to having another great match with him.”
In contrast, Tarek struggled to impose his game at all against Ryan Cuskelly and was simply outplayed in the first game. The Australian found a winning game plan against James Willstrop and continued in the same style against Momen, with simple, precise, attacking squash played at a high pace and with very few errors.
He almost let it slip after reaching game ball but just clung on to win the tiebreak. As Cuskelly tired, the Egyptian took control in the third game and played intelligently to book his place in the semi-finals.
Today brings a fresh challenge. Both Momen and ElShorbagy will relish the prospect of facing each other in front of a packed-out East Wintergarden crowd who are both knowledgeable and noisy. It promises to be a phenomenal battle as the scoring system reverts to best of five.
 Paul Coll (Nzl) v Mathieu Castagnet (Fra)
Mathieu Castagnet is the only unseeded player in the semi-finals after two astonishing, dramatic victories over Simon Rosner and Fares Dessouky.
Castagnet may have ridden his luck a little against Rosner, with a few mistakes from the normally solid German contributing to the result, but for large phases of the match Castagnet looked comfortably in control.
His movement is obviously is good as it ever was, but against Dessouky he faced a massive challenge after losing the opening game in the quarter-finals.
Dessouky was playing his usual fast, aggressive brand of squash but Castagnet dug deep to work his way into the contest.
Some phenomenal retrieving by Castagnet must have frustrated the Egyptian and Dessouky suddenly lost his error-free control. As the ascendancy switched to Castagnet, it was the Frenchman who began hitting winners and controlling rallies with excellent width and length.
There were several moments of physical contact in the middle of the court, but Castagnet by now was showing a far more positive body language.
He will need to do all that and much more tonight against Paul Coll because, as the Kiwi has show in both of his matches so far, that ball will keep coming back.
Coll frustrated Tom Richards in the second round, constantly moving forward with lightning pace to cover the front corners as the Englishman attacked the angles. Time after time he thought he had slotted a winning nick, but Coll read the situation early and got his racket under the ball to keep the rally going.
Mentally, he was telling Richards: “Go on buddy, give it your best shot. But I will get all of your best shots back.”
Against Joel Makin in the quarter-finals, we saw two incredible athletes moving at phenomenal speed around the court. In some rallies, we were treated to the sight of both players diving to keep the ball in play.
Makin is improving solidly and, having reached the world top 20, we can expect to see continued improvement masterminded by coach Robert Owen.
Coll has travelled that same journey and is probably a good two years ahead of Makin. He is embedded in the world top ten, and has shown that his game is now so much more than supreme fitness and diving around the court.
His shot selection and ability at the front of the court have improved enormously and it was a spectacular sight as he buried a crosscourt nick to win the match last night.
Castagnet knows he is in for a tough night. Coll knows he can make it even harder, building the workload and the pain with increasing tempo.
It looks like two magnificent matches in prospect.