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Ngāti Porou’s Joelle King has been beaten in the semi-finals of the British Open in an epic match that lasted well over an hour.
King, 33, in her first semi-final at the tournament was beaten in five games by 22-year-old Egyptian Hania El Hammamy 11-5, 5-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-3 in a contest that saw both players leave everything on the court. The Egyptian will now play her maiden British Open final.
El Hammamy started the better of the two, finding her line and length immediately and forcing King deep into the back corners. This set up numerous attacking opportunities for the Egyptian, which she took full advantage of as she won the opening game 11-5.
In a complete turnaround second game, King stepped up the court and used her hitting power to keep El Hammamy off the 'T' and impose her own game on the match. She capitalised on some unforced errors from the world no. 3 and took the game 11-5 to equalise.
King, who rose one place to no. 5 in the world in the April rankings a couple of days ago, continued her momentum into the third game and narrowed the angles of the talented Egyptian player. El Hammamy tried to force opportunities but found no way through the solid hitting of King. King took the game 11-7 in 17 minutes to take a 2-1 lead.
El Hammamy responded and took her chances well in the front two corners. She set up a fifth and final game, winning 11-8.
The momentum El Hammamy gathered in that fourth game showed no signs of disappearing as she ran away with the fifth game playing aggressive squash to dominate King in the final game to win the match in 71 minutes.
El Hammamy was relieved to have won another close encounter between the pair.
“Every time Joelle and I play we seem to kill each other. Anytime I lose my focus I get chopped so I had to focus really well today. I had to minimise my errors and keep telling myself to play safe and fight for every shot and I dug very deep, it's always tough against her so I’m very happy to get through," El Hammamy said.
The Egyptian now has a 6-3 winning record against King.
This was King's first British Open semi-final of her career, despite being involved in six previous quarter-finals in the prestigious event, the PSA World Tour said.
King’s next tournament is the Manchester Open next month followed by the PSA world championships in May in Cairo.
She is set to return to New Zealand for the first time in three years and will play the NZ Championships from 1-3 July in Tauranga.