Semifinal roundup

Match reports by Jesse Cramer

Clinton Leeuw bt Wade Johnstone 11-8, 11-1, 11-8 (46m)
Tonight’s first semifinal had South African Clinton Leeuw against Aussie Wade Johnstone. Clinton came out attacking, but straight into the tin. A few poor mistakes early on gave Wade a 5-2 lead. But, the game began to calm down. The first long rally of the match had Wade doing most of the work, and Clinton took advantage to bring the game back to 4-5. More solid play, and a fantastic drop by Clinton brought the score to 6-6. From there, Clinton strung together three solid rallies to give himself a commanding 9-6 lead. But, the tin monster reared its ugly head yet again; this time, two unforced mistakes by Clinton gave Wade new life. In the next rally, Wade hit a beautiful volley drop and then anticipated that Clinton would be forced to hit it cross court. Wade stepped up, expecting the volley. But somehow Clinton managed to delicately play a counter drop, and Wade was hung out to dry. That gave Clinton two game balls. On the first, Wade slipped as he played a forehand, and the shot went straight into the tin. Game 1 to Leeuw, 11-8 in 15 minutes.

The second game was locked at 1-1 when Clinton slipped and re-opened a knee wound from the previous rounds. After taking a few minutes to stop the bleeding, play resumed. Clionton returned to the court focused, while it seemed that Wade perhaps had lost his concentration. Clinton quickly built a 4-1 lead, then 6-1, then 8-1. Even when Wade had Clinton doing the occasional court sprint, he could not put the South African away. Clinton runs away with the second game 11-1 in 7 minutes (not including the injury time).

In the third, Wade came out re-focused and firing, quickly gaining a 2-0 lead. The game then went back and forth until the score reached 4-4. The next few points ended in a series of curious referee decisions (or, so the players would tell you); both Johnstone and Leeuw felt hard done by, and the score was 6-5 in favor of Clinton. Good length by Clinton, followed by a Wade tin, brought the score to 8-5. Wade storms back, 8-8. Wade then hits a loose boast; Clinton jumps onto it, holds, and flicks. Taxi! 9-8 to Clinton. In the next rally, Wade could scrape a tight drop off the wall. 10-8 to Leeuw. With two match balls, Clinton goes for the nick on the half-volley. The ball rolls out, game and match to Clinton 11-8 after 18 minutes.

Ali Farag (EGY) bt. Erik Tepos Valtierra (MEX) 14-12, 8-11, 12-10, 11-8 (65m)
The second semifinal had crowd favorite Ali Farag (EGY) playing the steady Erik Tepos Valtierra (MEX). In the first, Ali came out firing. A quick 3-0 lead grew into 6-1. Tepos played consistently, hoping that Ali’s winners might turn into tins. And sure enough, they did. A series of lengthy rallies seemed to wane Ali’s focus, and he started shooting from poor positions on court. Tepos came back, bringing the score to 6-7. But then Ali found the nick again, followed by an ankle-breaking trickle boast. 9-6 to Farag. Then more tins; three in a row bring the score to 9-9. Another tin, and Tepos has game ball. Time to play safe? Hardly. Ali played a three wall boast off the serve directly into the nick. 10-10. Steady rallies bring the score to 11-11. Another nick, and Ali has a game ball. But Erik saves it, 12-12. The next two rallies gave Ali the game; but rather that attack, he won both points with tight, ungettable drives. First game to Farag, 14-12 in 14 minutes.

Ali Farag

In the second, Ali controlled play terrifically. Volleying, attacking. Tepos was running to and fro. But the tin continued to plague Ali’s final attack. Despite playing better squash for 90% of the rallies, Ali fell behind 6-3, then 8-5. Erik was picking everything up, and Ali was trying for too fine of a margin. The score grew to 10-5 for Tepos. Ali managed to fight off three game balls, but Erik converted the fourth. Game two to Erik, 11-8 after 12 minutes.

In the third, Erik continued to frustrate Ali with his retrieving. He jumped out to a 2-0 lead, which grew into 7-3 then 8-4. Ali stopped shooting altogether; he was hitting to many tins to ever win that way. Instead, he started playing tight rails, tight drops, no nick attempts at all. He fought back to 6-8, but another tin gave Erik a 9-6 lead. Two more long rallies, both going Ali’s way using tight rails. A trickle boast by Ali made it 9-9, and then a perfect hold-rail gave Ali a game ball at 10-9. Erik played a terrific next rally and fought back to 10-10. But Ali could not be denied. Ali won 11-10 using a perfect backhand drop, and then won the game using a delicate forehand drop. Farag wins the third 12-10 after 21 minutes.

Steady squash in the fourth brought the boys to 4-4. Perhaps the best point of the match ensued; the players took turns attacking and retrieving, and a ton of action took place in the front corners. The crowd applauded loudly afterwards despite the point ending in a let! The game went on, and a pair on tins gave Erik a 6-4 lead. Ali went back to playing straight and tight, and tied the game at 6-6. More steady play from Ali, and he took a 9-8 lead. Then, Tepos tinned on a straight drop; it was one of his only unforced errors all day, and it occurred at such an inopportune time. That gave Ali a 10-8 lead and two game balls. On the next rally, Ali played a run-of-the-mill backhand drop. Tepos went in and lobbed it to the back right corner. Ali leaped into the air to volley, and planted his shot directly into the crosscourt nick. The crowd gasped at the athleticism and gutsy shotmaking, and then gave both players a standing ovation as they left the court. Well played boys.

Tomorrow’s final between Clinton and Ali will take place at noon.


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