RAWALPINDI - Sensational Maria Toorpakai Wazir kept the hosts’ hopes alive, as she stormed into the semifinals of the $15,000 3rd Bahria Town International Women Squash Championship 2016 after thrashing Hong Kong’s Lee Ka Yi 3-0 here at Safari Club Bahria Town Rawalpindi squash courts on Friday.

A huge upset was also witnessed when second seed Egyptian Nadine Shahin was dumped out of the event by compatriot Amina Yousry in straight games in just 25 minutes to set semi-final clash with Maria. Sitwat Babar was the chief guest during the quarterfinals, while former Pakistan squash team head coach Jamshed Gul Khan was also present there as his pupils Malaysian girls performed exceptionally.

A healthy crowd was supporting and cheering for Maria, who started the match well and raced on to take comfortable 5-1 lead, but then Lee staged a strong comeback and leveled the score at 5-5 and then took 6-5 lead. Maria recharged herself and played aggressive squash which helped her outclass Lee to take the first game 11-7 in 7 minutes.

A royal battle was witnessed during the second game when Lee raced on to take 6-3 lead and was looking all set to clinch the game, but Maria then played well and closed the gap to 5-6, but Lee once again took commanding 9-6 lead. Maria once again got energy from cheering crowd and played some delicate drop shots, which hit the gold and gave her crucial points to frustrate Lee and won the game 12-10 in 8 minutes.

It was all Maria in the third game and was in driving seat leading 9-3, but she started to relax and was blocking Lee’s way. At the scores of 5-3, Maria was given conduct warning by the chair referee M Fayyaz of Hong Kong but she argued with him saying she was not blocking Lee’s way instead her rival was doing so. Maria also looked highly uncomfortable on a number of referee’s calls, which went against her. The crowd and especially fellow female players were also not looking happy with the decisions. Frustrated Maria started committing unforced errors, which resulted in Lee closing down massive 9-3 lead to 8-9. Maria controlled her emotions at the right time and shut the doors on Lee, winning next two points to take the game 11-9 in 11 minutes to win the match in 26 minutes.

Sixth seed Egyptian Amina Yousry stunned second seed Nadine Shahin. Amina won the first game 11-5 and was stretched to the limit in the second game before winning it 12-10. Amina just outplayed Nadine in the third game winning it 11-4 in 25 minutes. In other quarterfinals, Hong Kong’s Tsz-Wing beat fourth seed compatriot 3-0 in 32 minutes, winning 11-9, 11-5, 12-10 to set semifinal date with top seed Liu Tsz-Ling, who beat 7th seed Egyptian Nouran El Torky 3-0 in 27 minutes, winning 13-11, 11-6, 11-7.

The first semifinal between Maria and Amina will start at 3pm, while the second semifinal between Tong Tsz-Wing and Liu Tsz-Ling will be played at 4pm.

Sharing her views after the match, Maria demanded the Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) to stop step-motherly treatment with female players.

“It seems the PSF is serious only for males’ squash and least bothered about females. I attribute my victory to my nation. I always played for Pakistan and it is my passion to raise green flag high in the WSA events.”

“The federation must ensure maximum events for females, like Bahria Town has been doing for the promotion of female squash. I request private sector to step forward and help the PSF to conduct maximum events. I want to thank Bahria Town for such a wonderful hospitality and taking good care of not only Pakistani players but especially the foreigners,” she added.

About her chances of retaining the title, Maria said: “I will try my best to defend my title. I know today’s match against Amina was highly important for me and was like final before the final. I lost against her 3-1 previously, but now conditions and home crowd helped me a lot in beating the same rival after a tough fight,” Maria concluded.