New Zealand’s Paul Coll and England’s Sarah-Jane Perry are through to the semi finals of the Open de France – Nantes after both surviving scares in their last eight clashes at the Chateau des ducs de Bretagne.
The Kiwi played in the final match of the night at the PSA World Tour Silver event, with play going on past midnight. He overcame Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet, to anguish of the partisan crowd that had gathered around the glass court at the Chateau.
The first game was tight all the way through, with both men having several game balls as it went into a tie-break. Castagnet was the man to take it 15-13 to take a lead in the match. However, the World No.6 battled back to take the second game, restricting Castagnet to just three points, as he levelled the match at one game apiece.
The third and deciding game had a little bit of everything, as both the Kiwi and the Frenchman put everything on the line for a place in the semi finals. Eventually, after an epic 63 minute battle, it would be ‘Superman’ that would tale the victory. He won the third game 11-9 to seal the win, booking his place in the semi finals.
“I am very relieved to get through that. I thought it was quite high quality in the first [game]. I had my opportunities to close it out which would have been nice, and the I played well in the second,” Coll admitted.
“He is such a fighter, and I always think that I have got him but he just keeps digging in. He looks like he is about to fall over but he keeps going. He is a real pain, but I loved the battle. It was amazing to hear the crowd and the atmosphere, as much as I didn’t enjoy it, I also absolutely loved it.
“I pushed my shoulders back and stood up a bit taller. I told myself to fight and take the last bit of the game to him. It was now or never if I was going to save it. I had a few mental words to myself to push myself to the finish line.
“It is best-of-five tomorrow so it is probably going to be even later than tonight. I am just going to have a good day tomorrow, sleep as long as possible after doing my recovery tonight. Just relax tomorrow, it is a long day because it is not until the evening that we play, so I will probably have a hit and then see what happens.”
Coll will now face Zahed Salem in the last four of the Open de France – Nantes on Friday evening, as the tournament changes to the traditional best-of-five format. The Egyptian got the better of former World No.1 James Willstrop to make his way into the last four.
Sarah-Jane Perry in action against Emily Whitlock in their semi-final clash
Meanwhile in the women’s draw, England’s World No.7 Sarah-Jane Perry had to come from behind to overcome compatriot Emily Whitlock to book her place in the semi finals in Nantes.
Birmingham-born Perry started off slowly, with Whitlock taking full advantage of her opponent’s start. In her 250th match on the PSA World Tour, she took the first game 11-7 to move into the lead.
However, as reigning Oracle Netsuite Open champion got into the match, her squash improved, and she was able to battle back to take the second and send the tie into a deciding game.
The third was a tight affair, with neither player wanting to give their opponent any ground. It would be the No.2 seed that would take victory, winning the third 11-8 to book her place in the last four. “The crowds have been great all week and weirdly, it is really nice when your opponent plays a good rally and they clap, because you then know not to beat yourself up too much. The crowd were fantastic and every point at the end they were up,” Perry said.
“We played in a club match about six months ago and I am not sure that was actually the same player. She has improved massively and she just came out firing. I watched her the other day and she did the same. It took me a game to get into it, despite telling myself not to do that.
“I had to really dig in there and in the end, I thought I was moving better than I expected to. I think that just about got me over the line in the end. I am happy to come through that because she is playing some really good squash.”
Amanda Sobhy in action during her quarter final match with Olivia Blatchford Clye
The Englishwoman will face off against US No.1 Amanda Sobhy in the semi-finals, after the World No.8 defeated fellow American Olivia Blatchford Clyne in three games in the opening match of the evening’s action.
Results – Men’s Quarter Finals (Bottom Half): Open de France – Nantes
 Zahed Salem (EGY) bt  James Willstrop (ENG) 2-0: 11-8, 11-7 (29m)
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 2-1: 13-15, 11-3, 11-9 (63m)
Result – Women’s Quarter Finals (Bottom Half): Open de France – Nantes
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Olivia Blatchford Clyne (USA) 2-1: 11-1, 6-11, 11-1 (25m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) beats Emily Whitlock (ENG) 2-1: 7-11, 11-8, 11-8 (34m)
Draw – Men’s Semi-Final: Open de France – Nantes (To be played Friday 13th September)
 Gregoire Marche (FRA) v  Joel Makin (WAL)
 Zahed Salem (EGY) v  Paul Coll (NZL)
Draw – Women’s Semi-Final: Open de France – Nantes (To be played Friday 13th September)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Hania El Hammamy (EGY)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)