Nour El Sherbini (pic, left), the 18-year-old Egyptian squash prodigy who, last month, was within a couple of points of becoming world champion, was sent crashing out in a controversial first round of the British Open on Tuesday.
Sherbini was beaten 11-5, 7-11, 11-6, 11-9 by Emma Beddoes, an English player who reached the world's top 20 for the first time only last month at the age of 28.
Beddoes' career-best win may have aided by the conditions and by debatable 'no let' decisions at important moments which upset Sherbini, triggering uncharacteristic outbursts from the Alexandrian teenager towards the English referee.
However, she took her chance with a clear head and good judgement, mixing the short and the long games well, especially in a see-saw fourth game .
"I'm really surprised, but all the pressure was on her and I played really well," Beddoes said. "Last time we played I was just chasing all match, so this time I tried to not give her time in the middle and I managed to keep her behind me more."
It was Sherbini's first match since flirting with world championship glory in Penang, and she may have been inhibited by having to compete on a conventional plaster-walled court, on which all the first round women's matches are being played, instead of the all-glass show court.
Sherbini nevertheless led 5-3 in the third game and led 7-4 in the fourth game, and each time appeared to be on the way to recovery, with the help of the support of her father.
However, each time in the following few rallies there were two 'no let' decisions imposed on her, either for failing to play the ball or for failing to show she could have played the ball.
Referees appear to be adopting new, tougher interpretations, based on the needs of TV to avoid interruptions in the play and designed to make players continue the rally where reasonably possible.
"There were probably a couple which were harsh in the fourth," Beddoes admitted. "I know referees are trying to clamp down and it will take some adapting.
"You have to make sure you give a hundred percent effort (to get to the ball). With me, it's more obvious I am making a hundred percent effort.
"She seemed surprised, and it can be tough if that's the way the game is going."
Beddoes had not looked to see who she might play in the second round, but has clearly improved enough to be a threat to many players.
She will next play Low Wee Wern, the seventh-seeded Malaysian in the all-glass show court. – AFP, May 13, 2014.