Record-breaking world number one Nicol David moved closer to her sixth British Open title with a quarter-final win in Hull, northern England, on Friday.
The legendary Malaysian’s 11-6, 11-8, 12-10 win over Sarah-Jane Perry, the British national champion, was made more significant by losses for two talented Egyptians who were among her most dangerous rivals.
David played with great patience and plenty of control against an aggressive and threatening opponent, especially when coming from 4-8 down in the third game and saving three game points.
She was simultaneously aware that her path was potentially easier after losses for Raneem El Weleily, the second seed who was some punditsâ€™ tip for the title, and Nour El Sherbini, who ended Davidâ€™s world title defence in Penang 14 months ago.
David nevertheless wisely focussed on the job in hand. “I think I really played well,” she said. “I came on strong at the right times.
“You just need to keep fighting all the way. Sarah-Jane is a really talented player.â€
– Malaysian double –
David’s win means that for the first time there are two Malaysians in the British Open semi-finals with her compatriot Delia Arnold the conqueror of El Weleily.
“It’s amazing,” said David. “You donâ€™t really think that a small country like Malaysia would have two semi-finalists. I am really proud of what Delia has done.”
Weleily twice had points for a two-game lead, but her level was strangely variable. That enabled Arnold, the Malaysian number three, to hit some clinging backhand drops and fierce low boasts that helped her sneak from 7-9 and 9-10 down in the decider to steal an improbable 4-11, 16-14, 10-12, 11-6, 12-10 victory.
Though David may be particularly glad to see the exit of El Weleily, who held four match points her in the last World Championship final and won their last encounter, she still face a tough semi-final.
This is against Laura Massaro, to whom David lost the 2013 British Open final and whom she beat to regain the title last year.
Britain’s Massaro, who recently took five weeks break to decide on her future, looked almost as good as ever while winning 11-6, 11-2, 11-7 against Joelle King, the New Zealander who has fought back bravely from an Achilles tendon injury.
That semi-final may produce the tournament winner, for Arnold play the other one against another surprise survivor, Camille Serme.
The sixth-seeded Frenchwoman, came from 5-8 and 8-9 down in the fourth game and 3-5 down in the decider to steal a great 6-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-9, 11-9 win over the powerful El Sherbini.
Earlier the menâ€™s event also produced a semi-final showdown many people wanted, as Mohamed El Shorbagy and Nick Matthew both came through their last eight ties.
El Shorbagy, the world number one, did so with an 11-6, 11-6, 11-5 win over Simon Rosner, the rising world number seven from Germany, while Matthew, the former world number one, scored a 11-7, 11-7, 11-7 win over Mathieu Castagnet, the unseeded but improving Frenchman.
El Shorbagy paid a generous tribute to a rival he especially wants to beat.
“He is such a champion â€“- he has so many reasons not to go on court here,â€ he said, referring to the ankle injury which almost prevented Matthew from playing this British Open.
“Many would not have played in this tournament. It shows what a strong character he is. I have a lot to learn from him.â€
In fact El Shorbagy, who also has an injury, to a hamstring, seems to have learnt only too well. He similarly made light of difficulties, which was indicated by revelations about what his coach Jonah Barrington said to him before the match.
â€œWhich will hurt more? The hamstring â€“ or the feeling of someone else holding up the trophy?â€ the six-time British Open champion is reported to have said.
El Shorbagyâ€™s actions have so far answered that question eloquently.