Squash: British Open favourites fall on day of semi-final shocks

Two world number ones, Mohamed Elshorbagy and Nour El Sherbini, and a nine-year former world number one, Nicol David, were all casualties of an extraordinary semi-final cull of favourites at the British Open on Saturday.

Elshorbagy lost his title and became certain to lose the top ranking when he was beaten 11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 11-5 by Nick Matthew, a 36-year-old Englishman who becomes the oldest British Open finalist since Hashim Khan, the Pakistani regarded as the father of modern squash, in the 1950s.

Elshorbagy's fellow Egyptian El Sherbini also lost her title, but could remain the world number one, after a 5-11, 7-11, 11-5, 11-3, 11-6 loss to Laura Massaro, the 33-year-old 2013 British Open champion.

The match was a mirror-image reversal of their final in the last World Championships, in Kuala Lumpur, where the Egyptian came from two games down to win.

With Malaysian squash great David beaten 11-8, 7-11, 13-11, 11-7 to Sarah-Jane Perry, the seventh-seed, in the other women's semi-final, it meant that for the first time since 1953 three of the four British Open finalists were English.

The transformation from last year, when Egypt became the first country in the professional era to provide all four finalists, was complete when Ramy Ashour, the sport's injury-ravaged star, was forced to retire yet again with a hamstring problem.

That happened after Greg Gaultier had taken the first game 11-9, and enabled the Frenchman to reach his fourth British Open final in five years.

- Angry El Shorbagy -

Gaultier was fulsome in his praise for Ashour, saying: "I could see he was struggling when warming up.

"It's unfortunate, as there's no-one like him, and we really admire him and have taken a lot from him."

Earlier Matthew, whose ability to contain and defend against Elshorbagy's strident attacks, and to win points with his alert volleying and deft skills in the top left corner, was similarly complimentary about his opponent

"The last few times he has been beating me," said Matthew. "But he's won two of these titles already, and been world number one for about two years and he's still only 26."

Elshorbagy appeared gripped by the tension which has afflicted him during much of this week.

There were shouts of anger at his own errors -- which contributed greatly to his loss of an 8-3 lead in the second game -- and a lack of tightness with his driving.

The forehand volley he put down from a good position at 5-8 in the fourth game roused the crowd to urge a tiring Matthew on to one last big push to victory.

He will be trying for his fourth British Open title against Gaultier.

Massaro's effort in coming from two games down against El Sherbini was arguably even more impressive.

She altered the emphasis of her approach several times, eventually luring the top-seeded titleholder to an error-strewn defeat.

"I thought of that world final I lost to her and thought if she can come back from two down, I can," Massaro said.

David made fewer mistakes than either ElSherbini or El Shorbagy, but played more conservatively than while beating France's Camille Serme, the second seed, in the quarter-finals.

It left time and room for the tall, aggressive Perry to dominate for long spells.

"I wasn't as sharp as I needed to be and she is too strong not to be at your best," said David.

"I'm disappointed, but fair play to Sarah-Jane -- she played well and the better player won today."

Meanwhile Perry jokingly said: "I will dedicate this win to the people behind me who didn't know who I was, and said that Nicol was going to win."