GEORGE TOWN: It was a tournament tailor-made for world No. 1 Nicol David to win yet another world title.
But the pressure of playing in front of her home crowd, coupled with the brilliance of 18-year-old Nour El Sherbini, finally undid Nicol’s 10-month winning streak on the Women’s Squash Association (WSA) Tour, as she crashed to a surprising 11-4, 9-11, 6-11, 11-2, 9-11 in the semi-finals of the Penang-CIMB 29th Women’s World Championship.
The 2,000-strong crowd had turned up early at the SPICE Arena here hoping to see Nicol extend her winning run since the British Open last May.
And it all went right for the seven-time world champion as she duly took the first set 11-4.
Sherbini, who was once ranked as high as No. 4 in the world, before slipping back to No. 27, following a lengthy injury layoff, came back to take the second 11-9.
Alarms bells went off as Sherbini continued her fine run in the third as Nicol made too many loose shots.
But Nicol made it a fifth, taking the fourth 11-2 in style as she relieved herself off some pressure.
The young Egyptian, who has already beaten seeded players Kasey Brown, Alison Water and Joelle King earlier in the tournament, however stepped it up to lead 9-6 and 10-9 in the fifth before clinching the winning point as Nicol conceded a stroke.
The Alexandria-born Sherbini’s feat makes her only the second Egyptian to have made it to the final of the world meet since Omneya Abdel Kawy in 2010.
“I’m just so happy ... I never thought I could win this match,” said a jubilant Sherbini.
“I always lose to Nicol 3-0 and it was never easy getting points off her. But I thought since I had nothing to lose, I woul just go out to enjoy my game.
“I feel so sorry for her ... and bad too for beating her in front of her home crowd. But I think the pressure was on her.
“I’m also the second player from my country to make the final after Omneya so I’m really happy and I hope Egypt will be proud of me too,” added Sherbini.
Nicol meanwhile admitted she lacked focus, and the pressure of playing at home worked against her.
“It’s never easy losing in front of the fans here but it was a bit of an up-and-down game for me and I just lacked the focus,” said Nicol bravely.
“Everybody plays their best squash against me and today Sherbini just played one of her best matches. Everything just went in for her.
“I just wasn’t as sharp in the end. I did my best and gave it everything I could but it just wasn’t my day. Fair play to Sherbini, she really deserved to win, so all the best to her in the final.”
Sherbini, who is also the youngest ever finalist, will go on to meet England’s world No. 2 Laura Massaro.
The 30-year-old Massaro was on top of her game once more, despite competing for 105 minutes, the second longest match in a world meet history since 1981, against Low Wee Wern on Friday.
The Englishwoman who also made the 2012 final, denied an all-Egypt final as she wore down and frustrated world No. 3 Raneem El Weleily 11-9, 11-7, 6-11, 11-7.
“Against Raneem, it was more tough mentally because I didn’t know whether she was going to hit a nick or the tin,” said Massaro.
“But I felt that I was better physically and it definitely feels great to be in the final once more.”
Massaro has won the only other meeting against Sherbini, in the 2012 Malaysian Open quarter-finals.