DUBAI (AFP) - Nicol David, the most successful female squash player of the professional era, kept alive her hopes of winning yet another major title by beating Nouran Gohar, the world junior champion, 11-7, 11-9 to qualify for the last four of the PSA World Series finals.
The eight-time world champion from Malaysia made light of any difficulties she may experience with the two-inch lower tin which has altered the tactical emphases of the women's game, moving the ball around well, usually picking good moments to play the ball in short, and coping with the hectic helter-skelter into which the rallies sometimes developed.
David also resisted a dangerous-looking fight-back which took the hard-hitting Egyptian to a 9-8 lead in the second game, and won the match with a penalty point after a Gohar drive lurched into the middle allowing David no room in which to play the ball.
"This format really makes you stay in the moment," David said of the best-of-three-game group matches, in which her two wins and one loss carried her to second place in group A.
"It means you have to make everything count," she said, with what sounded like a hint of relief that matches now revert to the customary five-game encounters.
"Nouran is a feisty player and definitely one for the future, and I am so pleased to come out with a win."
David will complete a hat-trick of World Series finals titles after the women's event's three-year hiatus if she triumphs in Saturday's final, something which may feel especially welcome to her after an almost barren 17 months.
First though she must cope tomorrow (Friday) with Raneem El Welily, the former world number one from Egypt against whom she saved a match point to win the memorable 2014 world final in Cairo.
Welily finished top of group B, unbeaten with three wins, after beating her friend Omneya Abdel Kawy 15-13, 11-9. The other semi-final is between Laura Massaro, the top-seeded former world champion from England and Nour El Sherbini, the 20-year-old current world champion from Egypt.
Massaro notched her third win by overcoming Amanda Sobhy, the first American ever to make the world's top eight,13-11, 11-9 in a tense, tight, and occasionally contentious match with a trickle of difficult refereeing decisions.
Sherbini, by contrast, rescued herself from a first day defeat with a calm and authoritative 11-4, 11-6 success against Camille Serme, last year's British Open champion from France. This second victory kept alive her chances of a climactic finish to by far the finest season of her career.
The other world champion, Greg Gaultier, was rewarded for his three wins with a semi-final against Miguel Angel Rodriguez, the dynamic fifth-seeded Colombian. The Frenchman had already been sure of qualifying worked hard and pulled out some extra tricks to prevail 7-11, 11-8, 11-1 against Omar Mosaad, yet another high level Egyptian.
What was effectively a dead match contained surprising drive and tension, emanating from its being a repeat of the World Open final six months ago in Seattle.
Gaultier could go on to a final with the favourite Mohamed Elshorbagy, whose semi-final is against Cameron Pilley, the first Australian since Anthony Ricketts a decade ago to reach the semi-finals.
Pilley beat Simon Rosner, the sixth-seeded German, 11-2, 11-7 and finished second in his group with two wins, attributing his improvement to "a couple of changes with technical things and training methods," which have "freshened" him.
Later Nick Matthew, the three-times world champion, ended speculation that at the age of almost 36 he is about to retire after a decade and at the top level.
The Englishman gained a good-looking result in an exhibition-style dead encounter with a 12-10, 12-10 win against the Bristol-based Elshorbagy, afterwards explaining why he hoped still to remain a leading contender.
"I aim for a good summer's training which I've not had for a couple of years (because of injuries)," Matthew said. "And if I do - I believe I have another good season left in me."