Mohamed ElShorbagy back to the top & Camille Serme's dream week at the ToC
Categories : Squash news around the world
Main story: ElShorbagy & Serme win the Tournament of Champions
While Camille Serme put an end to the Egyptian domination in the women's tournament thanks to string of incredible displays, Mohamed El Shorbagy's win at the Tournament of Champions means he's back to the top of the rankings at the expense of Ali Farag. Here's what happened in Grand Central Station.
Egypt's Mohamed ElShorbagy came from a game down to beat World Champion Tarek Momen in the final of of the 2020 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, and regained his World No.1 spot in the process. Last year on the same court, ElShorbagy finished runner up to compatriot Ali Farag and surrendered his place at the top of the World Rankings. However, fast forward 12 months and ElShorbagy cut a determined figure on court in New York as he advanced to the final without dropping a game, while his opponent had taken out Farag in the semi-finals. Momen edged a tight first game before ElShorbagy struck back and despite a knee injury, which saw him take an injury break when he was 8-5 up in the fourth, pushed through the pain barrier to close out a 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-5 victory to lift his third Tournament of Champion title. “To have your name beside all the great champions that have won the event it’s the kind of moment that I live for," said ElShorbagy afterwards. "I said before the season started that my main goal was to get back to World No.1 and to achieve this on the same court that I lost the World No.1 last year it’s a great feeling. There is no better venue than here that I would have wanted it to happen and I’m really proud. Tarek is a great champion and the way he has been playing the last two to three years, the matches we have been playing as well – to become World Champion it’s something you remember for the rest of your life and something that no-one can take away from you. I was happy he achieved it because he deserved it, and all of our generation – me, Ali [Farag], [Karim Abdel] Gawad and him have done it." ElShorbagy also mentioned the influence of new coach Rodney Martin. "He has been completely changing my game and how I think about squash. I wouldn’t have survived the way I did today without him.” Questioned by MC Will Carlin during the prize ceremony, Tarek Momen was clearly disappointed. "To be honest, I have nothing about today's match," said the reigning World Champion. "I am really disappointed with everything that went on and I don't want to comment on it." No doubt that the next clashes between the two Egyptians should be interesting ...
The other highlight of the week in the men's draw was Gregory Gaultier's come back to the PSA World Tour. In a remake of the 2015 World Championship final, the French General had the better of Omar Mosaad - 11-9 of the 5th - to set a clash of generation against 18-year old Mostafa Asal. The 37-year old Frenchman lost opportunities to go 2-1 up in the third, but still managed to level at 2-all. However, Asal seemed to be the fresher of the two in the decider and edged 11-5. "Congrats to Mostafa, he played really well," said Gaultier. "Of course I am disappointed not to have been able to take my chances but I am proud to be back playing at that level in such a short period of time of squash training. This was probably the biggest challenge of my life and I am winning it, nothing is impossible." Gaultier wil be back in action in the Windy City Open at the end of February.
Mohamed ElShorbagy killed two birds in one stone in NYC, clinching the ToC for the 3rd time and regaining the World No.1 sport (Photo credit: Tournament of Champions)
World No.5 Camille Serme got her hands on her second Tournament of Champions title after an incredible string of victories over the World No.1, 2 and 3 - becoming the first woman to achieve such a feat in the same event. In the quarters, she ended a 7 match losing streak against Raneem El Welily, after a match where both players produced some squash of the highest order. Serme's semifinal against in-form Nouran Gohar was an absolute thriller, the Frenchwoman finally edging it 16-14 in the 5th game after saving 5 match balls! The final did not reach such heights, because her opponent - Nour El Sherbini - was not 100% physically. “I think everyone could see it," admitted Serme with her usual sportmanship. "She was not moving very well on court but it’s not easy to play someone you know is not 100%. I was just trying to not think about it, but it’s not easy and all credit to her. All the titles are different, but this one is special because the last tournament I lost in the quarter final of the World Championship against a very strong Hania El Hammamy and that was a tough one,” she added. One of the keys of Camille Serme's victory is that all her staff (her long-term coach Philippe Signoret, as well as her fitness and mental coach) were alongside her in New York City. "If I could have all of my team at every tournament then I would do it. It’s so nice and so important to me to have them with me. To prepare all those matches, to analyse every match, usually we analyse when I lose but this week we have been analysing when I have won, so it was very interesting. I wish they could come every time.”
Camille Serme (in black) and Nouran Gohar's clash in the semifinals was the match of the tournament in the women's draw (Photo credit: #PSA WSFmensteams)
Other squash news in January
--- Gohar and Dessouky claim titles in Brooklyn and Pittsburgh
After the Tournament of Champions, some of the top female players stayed in New York City to take part in the Carol Weymuller Open (Bronze). The draw was incredibly strong, with the the 5 players ranked from #3 to #7 featuring in Brooklyn. Number 1 seed Nouran Gohar lost the opening game of her first match against Mélissa Alves, but the Egyptian was pretty flawless after that. She avenged her loss to Serme in the ToC - beating the Frenchwoman in straight games in the semis - and carried the momentum forward in the final against compatriot and title holder Nour El Tayeb. The first game was tight, with the score level at 6-6 at one point, but ‘The Terminator’ took a run of points which helped her into the lead of the match, as she claimed the first game 11-9. Over the course of the next two games, Gohar restricted her opponent to just seven points, as she rounded out the victory in less than half an hour.
Nouran Gohar (top right) and Fares Dessouky won a Bronze tournament, in Brooklyn and Pittsburgh respectively (Photo credits: PSA World Tour)
Similar situation in Pittsburgh (Bronze), where Fares Dessouky lived up to his #1 seeding. The Egyptian defeated last year's winner Grégoire Marche in the semis and came into the final holding a 4-0 advantage over Saurav Ghosal, their most recent meeting coming at the CIB Egyptian Squash Open at the Pyramids in October. Dessouky was in complete control throughout, needing just 34 minutes to win his first title in more than 3 years - he had been out of action in the whole of 2018 due to a serious knee injury.
Source: PSA World Tour
--- Egypt dominate thrilling final day at Dunlop British Junior Open
Although other nations - mostly England and Malaysia - have been trying to thwart their domination in the past few years, Egypt once again played the major part at the Dunlop British Junior Open, which took place at the beginning of January in Birmingham. The Pharaohs clinched 7 of the 10 titles at stake, totalling 19 medals. In BU19, Egyptian top seed Moustafa El Sirty made up for his early exit in 2019 and won his first BJO crown, seeing off three-time champion and compatriot Yahya Elnawasany 3-0 in a little over 30 minutes. It was also a maiden title for top seed Jana Shiha in GU19. She denied Malaysia's Aifa Azman a fourth title, winning in straight games 11-7, 11-6, 16-14. World No.78 Shiha’s power hitting and deft touch allowed her to save two game balls in the third, extending her winning streak to 21 - she has not lost a match since the World Junior Championship final back in August. “It feels great, I have dreamt of winning this tournament since I was 10!” said Shiha. The only final to go beyond three games was BU13's between two Egyptian boys, Youssef Salem coming back from a game down to beat Ahmed Rashed. The day’s only upset belonged to Harleein Tan of Malaysia in the GU11, as she overcame home hope Mariam Eissa 3-0 while in the BU11 group, Yassin Kouritam beat Seif Belal El Shal 3-0. GU13 top seed Amina Orfi won her third BJO trophy after making light work of India’s Anahat Singh 11-0, 11-1, 11-4. GU15 second seed Fayrouz Abouelkheir made amends for losses in the U13 final in each of the last two years as she completed the perfect tournament by not losing a game, including a 20-minute final against compatriot Malak Taha. Pakistan’s Muhammad Humza Khan then followed Abouelkheir’s achievement with a perfect streak of his own in the BU15, showing no signs of nerves as he downed England’s Yusuf Sheikh 3-0 in his first BJO final, and also his country’s first win at that age group since 2012. The day’s fourth all-Egyptian clash in the GU17 provided Sana Ibrahim with her shot at a first BJO title since 2016 to make up for her runner-up finish in 2018. She saved a game ball against Nour Khaled Aboulmakarim in the third game to register a 3-0 victory 11-4, 11-9, 12-10. In a complete contrast, BU17 Sam Todd outplayed the patient Malaysian Ishant Shah in three, winning 11-4, 11-2, 11-2 in 26 minutes. It was Todd’s third title, adding to wins at U15 and U13s, his recent experience on the PSA Tour proving vital as he was rarely tested by the steady rhythm of Shah. “I was very happy with the way I played. I didn’t let him get in the match and I thought I was very solid throughout. Overall, I’m just very happy, “said the 16-year-old, and England’s first winner in the age category since James Willstrop in 2000.
Source: PSA World Tour
The ten winners of the 2020 Dunlop British Junior Open, including seven Egyptian players (Photo credit: Dunlop British Junior Open)
--- Mohamed ElShorbagy is back to the top of the rankings
As mentioned above, Mohamed ElShorbagy's win at the ToC has allowed him to come back to the top of the men's February rankings. The Beast of Alexandria had lost the World No.1 spot to Ali Farag, after losing to his compatriot in the final last year in NYC. The top 4 is still 100% Egyptian, with World Champion Tarek Momen at #3 and Karim Abdel Gawad at #4. Paul Coll stil sits at #5, while Simon Rösner overcame Diego Elias to regain the World No.6 ranking. Marwan ElShorbagy, Mohamed Abouelghar and Miguel Angel Rodriguez complete the top 10, while Fares Dessouky and Joel Makin exchange places (#11 and #12). That means the Welshman has reached the highest world ranking of his career. Same feature for rising star Mostafa Asal, whose superb run at the ToC has propelled to the 19th place. Back to the tour after being out for 15 months, Grégory Gaultier has rised to 130th and should continue to do so in the following months. Meanwhile, Raneem El Welily is sitting at the top of the women's rankings for the 15th consecutive month. Despite reaching the final at the Tournament of Champions, Nour El Sherbini (No.4) is overtaken by Nouran Gohar (No.2), and Camille Serme (No.3), whose triumph in Grand Central Station was the first in a major since January 2017. Nour El Tayeb goes down one place at #5 and is followed Joelle King, while SJ Perry overcomes Amanda Sobhy (#6 and #7). Tesni Evans and Hania El Hammamy round up the top 10. Significant risers in the top 50 are Sabrina Sobhy (30th, +9 places) and Donna Lobban (37th, +10 places).
PSA February world rankings (Photo credits: PSA World Tour)
February squash hotspots
--- Farag and El Welily headline Windy City Open draws
The main event on the PSA World Tour in the next few weeks will be the Windy City Open, starting on the 27th of February in Chicago. Egyptian Raneem El Welily and Ali Farag will top their respective draws, which have not been published yet at the time of release. The glass court will be staged in the University Club of Chicago’s iconic Cathedral Hall, with 96 of the world’s best players battling out for a share of the $500,000 prize fund - split equally across both the men’s and women’s tournaments. El Welily is a three-time winner of this event, having taken the title in 2015, 2016 and 2017, with World No.4 Nour El Tayeb the most recent winner of the Windy City Open, last held in 2018. In addition to El Welily and World No.2 Nour El Sherbini, the likes of World No.3 Nouran Gohar, El Tayeb, World No.5 Camille Serme and World No.6 Joelle King will be vying for the women’s title, alongside US No.1 Amanda Sobhy, who will be the home favourite for the tournament. The 2019 event was replaced with the 2018-2019 PSA World Championships presented by the Walter Family, held at Chicago’s Union Station, where Farag and El Sherbini got their hands on the biggest prize in squash. Neither have tasted success at the University Club of Chicago, but both have fond memories of the city. The men’s event features four former champions, with Egypt’s Mohamed ElShorbagy and France’s Gregory Gaultier winning this event twice in the past. World Champion Tarek Momen will be among those trying to get the better of the top two, along with former World No.1 Karim Abdel Gawad, World Championship runner-up Paul Coll, World No.6 Diego Elias and World No.7 Simon Rösner.
The Windy City Open is staged in the University Club of Chicago’s iconic Cathedral Hall (Photo credit: Windy City Open)
Before that, a few other tournaments will have been held on the PSA World Tour in February, including the Cleveland Classic which is underway, and the quarterfinal matches will be the following tonight : Nour El Tayeb v Farida Mohamed, Joshna Chinappa v Annie Au, an all English battle between Sarah-Jane Perry and Alison Waters and Olivia Blatchford Clyne v Joelle King. Peru’s World No.6 Diego Elias and Egypt’s World No.8 Marwan ElShorbagy are seeded to meet in the final of the Motor City Open, which starts on the 5th of February in Detroit. Elias may face title holder Mohamed Abouelghar in the semis, while 'the Jackal' could have to beat another former Motor City Open champion, Miguel Angel Rodriguez, at this stage. A few weeks later, another Silver event will take place, the 2020 Troilus Gold Canada Cup. World Champion and 2017 winner Tarek Momen headlines the 24-strong field, where we also find title holder and World No.6 Diego Elias, who defeated New Zealand’s Paul Coll in a monster battle in last year’s final. Welshman Joel Makin and England’s Daryl Selby are among the other seeds in the tournament. World No.7 Amanda Sobhy will be the top seed at the Gaynor Cup in Cincinnati between February 20-24. The tournament, which is now into its fourth edition, has grown year on year and this season is a PSA Bronze tournament, with a prize fund of $51,000 available. Along with US No.1, reigning Gaynor Cup champion Hania El Hammamy is also in the field and she will be the No.3 seed for this year’s event, behind Sarah-Jane Perry. The likes of the Belgian sisters Nele and Tinne Gilis, and the Egyptian pair of Rowan Elaraby and Salma Hany also feature inside the top eight seeds.
Source: PSA World Tour
Winners: Mohamed ElShorbagy (Egypt) and Camille Serme (France)
Winner: Fares Dessouky (Egypt)
Winner: Nouran Gohar (Egypt)
Winners: U11: Harleein Tan (Malaysia) and Yassin Kouritam (Egypt); U13: Amina Orfi (Egypt) and Youssef Salem (Egypt); U15: Mohammad Hamza Khan (Pakistan) and Fayrouz Abouelkheir (Egypt) ; U17: Sam Todd (England) and Sana Ibrahim (Egypt); U19: Moustafa El Sirty (Egypt) and Jana Shiha (Egypt)