France’s Camille Serme has reached the final of the Manchester Open for the first time after the No.1 seed overcame Egypt’s Hania El Hammamy 3-2 in the latest instalment of their enthralling rivalry.
Serme and El Hammamy met four times last season – and shared two wins apiece – with both their World Championship quarter-final clash and their meeting at the Windy City Open yielding brutal five-game battles.
El Hammamy’s win at the World Championship saw her overturn a 2-0 deficit to stun Serme and the 20-year-old came within a whisker of doing so once again.
World No.3 Serme – whose victory over El Hammamy helped her on her way to capturing the opening title of the 2019-20 season in Nantes – was in determined form as she marched to 11-6 and 11-8 victories in the opening two games and built up a match ball in the third.
PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) September 21, 2020
El Hammamy though responded brilliantly with some sensational volley boasts and, while she failed to convert her first game ball, the Egyptian took the next to breathe new life into a match which had seemed like a procession for the higher-ranked player.
As the ball softened up, the World No.6 then powered to victory in the fourth game to draw level against a shellshocked Serme, who had no answer for her opponent’s deception.
But Serme was rock solid mentally in the fifth game and kept any nerves at bay as the top seed closed out an 11-6, 11-8, 11-13, 4-11, 11-9 victory which sees her become the first player to reach a PSA World Tour final since the restart.
"I just wanted to make her life tough. I didn't want to give it to her too easily."— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) September 21, 2020
CamilleSerme</a> knew she had to make it tough for <a href="https://twitter.com/HaniaaElHammamy?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">HaniaaElHammamy, especially after the young Egyptian came back from two down to force a deciding game!#SquashIsBack #MCROpen #MCRactive pic.twitter.com/O7bm79mYbu
“In the fifth it was so close, I was thinking they [all the people watching] must be happy and enjoying it,” said 31-year-old Seme.
“I had a game plan, I knew what to do but of course she is really good and she knows how to play me, how to make me run and it’s funny because we have the same type of game. We love to volley, we love playing different shots and it was tough. After the fourth game I had a bit of a low and I had to give a big push for the last one.
“I just wanted to make her life tough, I didn’t want to make it too easy. It’s quite impressive for her age, she has the experience of someone my age and that’s quite incredible. I have to forget about the age when I’m on there and try to give my best anyway.
“I did learn a lot from the [World Championship] loss particularly. I felt like I had a lot of pressure when I played her at the World Championship and I don’t want to play with that pressure again, it’s too painful. Today I didn’t feel pressure even though she came back to 2-2, I was just trying to enjoy it.
“When you have no crowd it feels like we’re playing an exhibition or a training match, but we still gave it our all. At the end I was just fighting for every point, I wasn’t sure if I could get to the finish line today, I just wanted to make it hard for her but I just did it.”
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 3-2: 11-6, 11-8, 11-13, 4-11, 11-9 (69m)