Day FIVE, Thu 18th Dec:
 Karim Darwish (Egy)
bt  Nick Matthew (Eng)
14/12, 11/3, 11/13,
 Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt  David Palmer (Aus)
13/11, 15/13, 11/7 (56m)
Darwish & Gaultier in the final
He's been on great form all week, and tonight was no exception
as Karim Darwish followed up last night's sensational victory
over Amr Shabana with a hard-fought win over Nick Matthew to
reach the final of the richest squash event ever.
The second semi saw second seed Gregory Gaultier save game balls
in the first two games against David Palmer before completing a
straight-games win to take him into his second Saudi
For both finalists it will be their sixth final of the season,
but this time there's a cheque for $37,400 awaiting the winner
Karim Darwish (Egy) bt  Nick Matthew (Eng)
14/12, 11/3, 11/13,
Darwish still on song
Soon-to-be world number one Karim Darwish reached the final of
the richest squash event ever with an impressive display against
England's Nick Matthew.
Three-quarters os the match was desperately close, with the
players matching each other point for point, shot for shot, but
it was the Egyptian who managed to be in charge for the spells
that really mattered.
Darwish started the better, taking a 7/3 lead in the first, but
Matthew steadied and levelled at 7-all. He earned two game balls
too, winning a monster rally to go 9/8 and glueing a drive to
the wall for 10/8.
A winner off the serve pulled one back for
Darwish, then he pinged the ball into Matthew's leg from the
back of the court. It didn't appear to unsettle the Englishman,
who went on to save two game balls himself, but at 13/12 to
Darwish they played a huge, patient rally, and on the first
opportunity at the front Matthew tinned a dropshot to fall
Darwish controlled the second completely, pinning Matthew to the
back and at the first sniff of an opportunity put away a winning
dropshot or crosscourt flick. The crowd were going wild as he
doubled his lead - the first game took 24 minutes, the second
We were back to equality in the third as Matthew steadied, going
point for point all the way to 8-all. Darwish chopped in a drop
then got a stroke to earn two match balls, but Matthew dug in,
taking the next four points ti pull a game back.
A quick start for Darwish in the fourth, 4/1, an equally quick
riposte from Matthew to 4-all, but after a couple of patient
rallies Darwish darted ahead again, reached match ball again
with a deceptive crosscourt flick. Matthew save one, but put a
volley into the tin on the next point and Darwish was through to
an impressive sixth final of the year, but the next one's the
big one ...
first game was crucial, I had a couple of chances but couldn't
take them, then I slowed up in the second when I had a drop in
energy and he caught me out with drops and when I started moving
forward he threw in a few good flicks.
"When he made two mistakes at the end of the third to give me
that game I remember thinking that they were the first unforced
errors he'd made, he was playing that well.
"At 5-all in the fourth I felt I was in with a sniff of a
chance, I could feel the momentum changing, but then I lost
three quick points and it was back with him.
"Karim fully deserved it today, but I played pretty well. If
he'd been just a touch off I could easily have won that.
"After a long time out I've played well in the Worlds, Qatar,
and here, it's good to be back in the mix and competing for
"I'm just going to keep on with my training, play my best and
I'll have a look at the rankings towards the summer when
hopefully I'll be back up there ..."
"It's a dream come true this week, getting to number one and
getting to the final of a $250k event.
"I've played well all week but that was a really tough match,
Nick played well and the support of the crowd was great.
"I just need to focus and be ready for the final ... "
"I was giving him a few years start
tonight, and I was just a fraction behind his pace. I had game
balls in the first two and couldn't take them and it's always
going to be tough from 2/0 down.
"It was nice to hear the crowd chanting my name tonight - I've
been here a few times and done some coaching clinics here, I
really appreciate all the support
"I gave it my best shot and that's how it goes, it just wasn't
my night ..."
Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt  David Palmer (Aus)
13/11, 15/13, 11/7 (56m)
Gaultier grabs a final place
This was another one of those could-have-gone-either-way
matches. David Palmer, seeming to thrive in the cool conditions
which once again dictated that both players would go short more
often than they normally would, matched second seed Gregory
Gaultier for two games, and reached ten first in both.
that there was anything much between them in either game, but
the Frenchman got the better of the scrambling, frantic rallies
that featured at the business end of both games. Palmer lost
both games on attempted drops that just clipped the in, in
between some incredible retrieving, in particular a double-dive
at 13-all in the second.
Overcoming a two game deficit is always a difficult task,
especially against someone as quick as Gaultier on a cool court.
The Frenchman maintained a few points gap throughout the third
and in just short of an hour was back in the Saudi final ...
a tough man, big and strong and he has so much experience and
gives you no cheap points. You have to fight for each rally and
that's what I did tonight.
"I pushed a lot when I was down in the first two, I had to play
my best squash at game ball down and luckily I was really fast
and found my shots at the right time.
"I know the crowd will support Karim tomorrow, but I'm here to
win. I'll go on and focus on my game and my squash, it won't
bother me. I beat him 3/0 in the Macau final a couple of weeks
ago, but he's playing much better this week so it should be a
good match ..."
If the quarter-finals were as predicted by the seedings,
tonight's semi-final lineup would have been tough for anyone to
predict, after three upsets in four matches last night at Sunset
up is Karim Darwish, whose win over Amr Shabana not only
ended his reign as Saudi International champion, but also meant
that Darwish will succeed him as world number one in January,
ending a 33-month stay at the top for Shabana. Darwish, seeded
seven but currently ranked two in the world, meets England's
Nick Matthew who created an even bigger upset in beating
world champion Ramy Ashour.
They've met three times before with the Egyptian 2-1 ahead
including the semi-final of last month's Qatar Classic.
Then it's second seed Gregory Gaultier, runner-up here to
Shabana two years ago, looking in good form as he meets
Australia's David Palmer, looking to make his first Saudi
Palmer leads 5-4 in their series, but the Frenchman has won all
four encounters since their epic world open final in Cairo two
years ago, the most recent meeting being in the Hong Kong
quarter-finals last month.