El Sherbini and Farag win thrilling finals in Chicago
Categories : Squash news around the world
Main story: Nour El Sherbini and Ali Farag are 2020 Windy City Open champions
The crowd of the Cathedral Hall in the University Club of Chicago was treated with two amazing finals last night at the Windy City Open. Despite suffering from health issues, Nour El Sherbini overcame her big rival Raneem El Welily after an amazing finish, while Ali Farag came back from a 2-game deficit to finally break down the resistance of Paul Coll in the fifth game.
New Zealander Paul Coll came into the final full of confidence after beating Mohamed ElShorbagy - his first win ever over the World No.1 - as well as Karim Abdel Gawad, while Ali Farag had been absolutely flawless in Chicago, not dropping a game in 4 matches. Coll shot out of the starting blocks to take a one-game lead, while he held firm to take the second after initially squandering a 7-3 advantage. But Farag’s resurgence in that second game looked to drain Coll’s energy and confidence, and the Kiwi never looked quite the same player over the course of the next three games as Farag absorbed everything his opponent threw at him and slowly took control of the encounter. For Farag, it’s a first PSA World Tour title since the U.S. Open back in October 2019 as well as the first following the death of his nephew in November. “I was telling Nour [wife, El Tayeb] after the second that I still had it in me to win the last three games,” said Farag during the prize ceremony.eer. “I could have been the one that was 2-0 up but all credit to Paul. It has been a great week for myself and I could not be prouder. First of all, I would like to thank my brother and his wife for staying so strong. I take inspiration from them every day and this one is for them. Karim Darwish for always letting me believe in myself. My parents, they are up every morning to watch matches, and last but not least, Nour has been a great inspiration.”
Nour El Sherbini and Ali Farag celebrating after their win at the Windy City Open (Photo credits: Windy City Open)
2019-2020 continues to be an extraordinary season for Nour El Sherbini. The Warrior Princess came into the World Championship at the end of October without having played a PSA match for more than five months, due to a knee injury that, she admits, is still bothering her. Yet she won the most prestigious event in the sport for a fourth time - at only 24 years of age - and made the final at the Tournament of Champions in mid-January. Attempting to win a first Windy City Open presented itself as a big challenge, as El Sherbini haf also been suffering with illness all week in Chicago. She still made the final, beating the likes of Camille Serme and SJ Perry, to meet long term rival and friend Raneem El Welily in the Cathedral Hall of the University Club. This was the 24th meeting between the two Egyptians, with El Welily having won 12 of their previous 23 clashes. At the start of the match, the World No.1 - who had previously won the Windy City Open in three successive years from 2015-2017 - tried to make El Sherbini move around the court as much as possible but the latter was able to take the first game 11-8 after some lengthy rallies towards the end, before El Wellily restored parity. The pair were levelled at 7-7 in the third game, before El Sherbini found some quality shots in the front two corners to take a 2-1 lead. Nevertheless, El Welily came back to win the fourth game comfortably, before taking a lead at the start of the fifth. But the Warrior Princess kept fighting and in very tense finale converted her third match ball to clinch her first Windy City Open crown. “Finally I got to win this tournament,” said El Sherbini. “Raneem has won it three times before and she plays her best here, but I am glad it was my turn this time. This is one of the few tournaments I had not won so it was very important for me to win this title. I am really grateful that the tournament is over because I have been suffering the whole week [with illness], and it was very hard for me physically and mentally to prepare for every match and try to be fit and ready. I wasn’t feeling very well and I was dealing with a lot, but I am really glad that I made it to the last day and that I kept digging in until the last point in the match.”
Source: PSA World Tour
Off the court, there was some controversy on quarter final night in Chicago. After his loss to Paul Coll, World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy posted a video on his Facebook page, reacting to his post-match interview not being published by the PSA. He explained that a few weeks ago, he governing body that he wouldn't play any event held in Egypt in 2020. In an article published on Squash Mad, squash expert Rod Gilmour says that "it was later confirmed by the PSA that ElShorbagy had revealed (in the interview that was not broadcast) that Egyptian males aged 19 to 34 face conscription. Athletes and celebrities based overseas can avoid the call-up by paying 50,000 dollars every time they return home to Egypt." However, the top 8 players have the obligation to attend the Platinum events and ElShorbagy will receive a disciplinary zero for the El Gouna Open in April, which may well cost him his top ranking spot. While he says he accepts the decision, he expressed his disagreement with the timing - he was informed just before the match and could not prepare as well as he would have liked to - and regrets that the post-match interview was not posted. To be continued ...
After his loss against Paul Coll at the Windy City Open, Mohamed ElShorbagy explained how his preparation for this match was altered (Photo credit: Mohamed ElShorbagy)
Other squash news in February
--- Momen, Elias, El Tayeb and Sobhy claim PSA World Tour titles in North America
Between the Tournament of Champions and the Windy City Open, there was a lot of action on the PSA World Tour and some top players took the opportunity to add a trophy to their cabinet. Nour El Tayeb successfully retained her Cleveland Classic (Bronze) title after defeating England’s Sarah-Jane Perry in the final. It was her second title of the season after the China Squash Open back in September, and the 10th in her career. Perry went 1-0 and 10-5 up in the second game, but El Tayeb saved eight game balls in total to tie the match. This was the turning point as she then was able to seal victory in 4 games. A few days later, Peru’s Diego Elias became the 2020 Motor City Open (Silver) champion after being runner-up last year. The World No.7 ended the impressive run of unseeded Egyptian Mohamed ElSherbini, who had downed three higher-ranked opponents en route to the final, including World No.10 Miguel Rodriguez. In Cincinatti (Bronze), Amanda Sobhy captured her first PSA title since March 2019 after recovering from a game down to beat Sarah-Jane Perry. The 26-year-old has had a disappointing start to the New Year after early defeats at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions and Carol Weymuller Open, but played some of her best squash in front of a packed house. Finally, World No.3 Tarek Momen overcame World No.5 Paul Coll in straight games to capture the 2020 Troilus Gold Canada Cup (Silver) in Toronto, in a repeat of the World Championship final in Qatar in November.
Source: PSA World Tour
Before the Windy City Open, four tournaments were held on the PSA World Tour in February (Photo credits: PSA World Tour)
--- National Championships roundup ...
Most of the National Championships are traditionnally held in February. Where can we find 8 world top 10 players - 4 men and 4 women? In Egypt, of course! Ali Farag wonthe title for the 3rd consecutive time beating Tarek Momen in the final, in a super strong men's draw despite the Shorbagy brothers missing: 8 players among the 17 highest ranked in the world were featuring in Cairo! In the women's draw, Nouran Gohar had not recovered from a marathon semifinal with Rowan El Araby and had to retire against Raneem El Welily, the World No.1 clinching a 6th national title. James Willstrop claimed his fourth British National Championship, at 36 years old! The Marksman was not fazed after being bagelled in the 2nd game by rising star Joel Makin, and the tall Englishman closed the match in 4 including 3 tie-breaks. “To sneak in there at the end against one of the top players in world, I’m not sure how I was able to do it really,” said Willstrop. In the absence of double title holder from Wales Tesni Evans, Sarah-Jane Perry lived up to her seeding in the women's draw. Amazingly enough, her opponent in the final Jasmine Hutton had benefited from two walkovers in the previous rounds - Alison Waters and Emily Whitlock. The young lefty gave a good account of herself but had to surrender in straight games - 11-9, 11-9, 11-9. Perry was “really pleased to win a second National title because I’ve been stuck on one for a little while. Jasmine came out with no signs of nerves and played some really fearless squash. She is definitely pushing in that crop of young players trying to challenge the slightly older guard like myself.” What an outcome for the Serme family at the French Nationals: Lucas and Camille both lived up to their #1 seeding, making it the first time that a brother and a sister are crowned on the same year in the history of the event. Camille Serme joined Corinne Castets and Isabelle Stoehr at the top of the list with 11 titles each. In the final, World No.3 beat training partner Mélissa Alves in straight games (11-7, 11-5, 11-4). She then joined sister-in-law Anna in the stands to support her brother Lucas, who was facing final debutant Sébastien Bonmalais in the men’s. The 22-year old from Reunion Islands took the opener 11-8, but a drop of energy allowed Serme to quickly get back into the match (11-1). The third game was key in this battle of attrition, Serme coming on top 14-12 in 29 minutes after saving a few game balls. The world No.38 was then dominant in the fourth game and raced to a 4-game win, 8-11, 11-1, 14-12, 11-6. “I was number 1 seed for the first time (author’s note: Grégoire Marche, Grégory Gaultier and Mathieu Castagnet were missing), it’s never easy to be in that position and I am absolutely over the moon to win my second national title. Sharing it with my sister is the cherry on top!” Other top players who were crowned include Saurav Ghosal and Joshna Chinappa in India, Iker Pajares who beat Borja Golan in Spain and Raphael Kandra in Germany.
Some squash stars were crowned in their National Championship in February (Photo credits: PSA World Tour, FFSquash and Egyptian Squash Federation)
--- Joel Makin breaks into the top 10
Joel Makin has become the first Welshman since David Evans in 2002 to break the top 10 in the March world rankings. The 25-year-old from Pembrokeshire rises one place to No.10 as Egypt’s Mohamed Abouelghar falls out of the top 10 for the first time since September 2018. Tournament of Champions winner Mohamed ElShorbagy stays at the top with Ali Farag (No.2), Tarek Momen (No.3), Karim Abdel Gawad (No.4) and Paul Coll (No.5) completing an unchanged top five. Peru’s Diego Elias (No.6) and Germany’s Simon Rösner (No.7) swap places, while Egypt’s Marwan ElShorbagy stays at No.8 with Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez rising a place to No.9 as Makin completes the top ten. In the women's rankings, Belgium’s Tinne Gilis has achieved a career-high of No.19 after breaking into the top 20 for the first time in her career. The 21-year-old from Mol rises two places to leapfrog Egypt’s Nadine Shahin and former World Junior champion Rowan Elaraby to break the top 20. Egypt’s Raneem El Welily stays at the top of the World Rankings for the 15th consecutive month, with compatriot Nouran Gohar at No.2 and France’s Tournament of Champions winner Camille Serme at No.3. World Champion Nour El Sherbini remains at No.4, with Nour El Tayeb (No.5), Joelle King (No.6), Sarah-Jane Perry (No.7), Amanda Sobhy (No.8), Tesni Evans (No.9) and Hania El Hammamy (No.10) completing an unchanged top ten.
Source: PSA World Tour
PSA March World rankings (Photo credits: PSA World Tour)
March squash hotspots
No rest for the wicked; after the Windy City Open (see above), the top players left the US to play another major tournament. The ladies will be in Egypt for the CIB Black Ball Open (Platinum) which starts on Sunday in Cairo. Defending champion Raneem El Welily is predicted to play World No.2 Nouran Gohar in the final. She beat reigning World Champion Nour El Sherbini at the inaugural event in 2019 and will be once again the favourite this time around. Both Egyptians have been drawn on the same side of the draw and are seeded to meet in the semi-finals, which would be their first encounter since the 2016 U.S. Open not to take place in a PSA World Tour final. On the bottom half of the draw, No.2 seed Gohar is seeded to play J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions winner Camille Serme in the last four, but the French woman has a tough difficult round of 16 match in store against Hania El Hammamy, both players having played a real epic in Chicago a few days ago. Here are the predicted quarter final lineups: El Welily v El Tayeb, El Sherbini v King, Serme v Sobhy and Gohar v Perry.
The best female players in the world will be in Cairo for the Black Ball Open next week (Photo credit: Black Ball Open)
In the meantime, the men will be in London for the Canary Wharf Classic, whose draw is stronger than ever: 16 players among of the world top 20 will be in Easterwinter Garden! World Champion and twice runner-up Tarek Momen has been handed a tricky second round tie against either the in-form Joel Makin or local favourite Daryl Selby, then Mohamed ElShorbagy could lie in wait in the semi-finals. In the bottom half of the draw, World No.2 Ali Farag will need to come through a field that contains former World No.1 Karim Abdel Gawad, 2017 World Championship runner-up Marwan ElShorbagy and 2018-19 PSA World Tour Finals runner-up Mohamed Abouelghar if he is to reach a first Canary Wharf Classic final. There are six Englishman involved in the draw, including three-time winner and former World No.1 James Willstrop and tournament wildcard Richie Fallows who meet in round one. The Canary Wharf Classic will use a best-of-three games scoring format up to and including the quarter-finals for a third year in succession. The semi-finals and final will revert to traditional best-of-five scoring. Just a few days later, most of the top guys will be travelling to Switzerland for the Grasshopper Cup, another Gold event which also features a Bronze women's tournament for the first time. World Champion Nour El Sherbini joins Raneem El Welily at the top of the seedings in a top-class draw, the duo being seeded to meet in the final in what would be a repeat of the 2019-20 PSA Women’s World Championship final held in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza three months ago. In the men's draw, reigning champion Mohamed ElShorbagy leads the way with all but one of the world’s top 10 battling it out for the crown. He is seeded to clash with Ali Farag in the final, but will have to overcome the likes of World No.9 Mohamed Abouleghar and World Champion Tarek Momen - who will play Declan James or Grégory Gaultier in round 2 ... Meanwhile, Farag will start his campaign against either compatriot Mazen Hesham or Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet. He could then play World Championship runner-up Paul Coll in the quarter finals, before a potential meeting with fellow Egyptian Karim Abdel Gawad in the last four.
The Macau Open, scheduled on March 18-22, has been put on hold due to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
Source: PSA World Tour
Winner: Nour El Tayeb (Egypt)
Winner: Diego Elias (Peru)
Winner: Amanda Sobhy (United States)
Winner: Tarek Momen (Egypt)
Winners: Ali Farag (Egypt) and Nour El Sherbini (Egypt)
Winner: James Willstrop (England) and Sarah-Jane Perry (England)