Diego Elias (r) eliminated three seed Nick Matthew in four games.
For the second year in a row, Peru’s Diego Elias has made a surprise run to the Oracle NetSuite Open semifinals, while England’s Sara-Jane Perry dethroned defending champion Laura Massaro in the first women’s semifinal Thursday night in Justin Herman Plaza.
Twenty-year-old Elias and thirty-seven-year-old Nick Matthew put on a show for the crowd in the first game of the night on the Oracle NetSuite Challenge Court. Elias, a former two-time world junior champion, came back from 6-9 down to force a tie-break at 10-all, at which point both players held multiple game balls until Matthew finally clinched the game 19-17 after thirty-two minutes.
Elias, world No. 17, took control of the match from there on out, grinding through the next three games 11-6, 11-3, 11-6 in sixty-eight minutes. The victory marks Elias’ second consecutive run to the Oracle NetSuite Open semifinals.
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“This is my lucky tournament, I was in the semis last year and I love playing here,” Elias said. “The crowd are amazing, I’ve had an amazing tournament and I want to keep playing like this, I hope I can keep winning here.”
The result marks the end of an era with Matthew’s final professional appearance in San Francisco. The three-time world champion reached the finals in 2012 and 2015.
“I just wanted to do my best today, although I knew it was his last year and I didn’t want to beat him,” said Elias. “I was playing my best but he’s an idol for me and I’ve always looked up to him ever since I was a little kid, so playing him here and having the opportunity to play this amazing game with him was very special for me, and I’m really happy to win. I want to wish Nick good luck in the rest of his last season and I hope he can win some more tournaments.”
The first women’s semifinal match followed on in an all-English battle between defending champion and top seed Laura Massaro and 2015 finalist and three seed Sarah-Jane Perry. The England teammates traded games until Perry pulled away in the fifth to earn five match balls, converting on the third.
“I have beaten her once before but it wasn’t on the Tour, so it’s the first time I’ve beaten her on the Tour,” Perry said. “I probably had a bit of a mental block against Laura over the last few matches and she’s had a really good game plan against me, executed it perfectly and left me very, very frustrated. I played some really good squash, Laura played some really fantastic squash, so I’m really happy to come out with a win against a really tough opponent. I really like it here, I’m playing really well and I’m looking forward to my first final in a little while.”
Perry will face either two seed Nicol David or unseeded Dipika Pallikal Karthik who will face off in the bottom half semifinal during the Friday night session.
The night cap was between two Egyptians, reigning men’s world champion Karim Abdel Gawad and world No. 8 Tarek Momen. After dropping the first game, the men’s title favorite Gawad came back to win the second and third games and an 8-3 advantage in the fourth. Momen fought back to 8-all and ask the question of a fifth game, until Gawad sealed the match 11-8 in the fourth.
“It’s harder to play one of your best mates and he’s like a brother to me,” Gawad said. “I grew up watching him and I remember him playing one of the other Egyptian guys and I was so impressed and now we’re here playing and competing together. We had been playing at the same club for 10 years, I’ve moved to another club now but we still train together and are very close. It’s always to tough to play such a physical and gifted opponent.”
Friday night’s semifinal session is near a sell out with select tickets available on www.oraclenetsuiteopen.com.
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