All-Egyptian finals in store in Chicago
Two all-Egyptian finals in store as Nouran Gohar, Nour El Sherbini, Ali Farag and Karim Abdel Gawad triumphed on a dramatic semi-finals night in Chicago.
Gohar reached a third final in a row as she saved three match balls in an epic clash with Hania El Hammamy, which at 105 minutes equalled the longest ever women’s world champs match. Defending champion Sherbini reached a record ninth women’s final as she continued her winning run over Joelle King in four games.
Defending men’s champion Farag got the better of top seed Mostafa Asal in four games to reach a fourth straight final, and in a clash of former champions unseeded Gawad overcame Mohamed ElShorbaby in a five game thriller.
Gohar and El Hammamy Equal Event’s Longest Women’s Match
Nouran Gohar and Hania El Hammamy equalled the all-time record for the longest women’s match at the PSA World Championships, with Gohar overturning three match balls to win a marathon 105-minute battle.
Their clash equals the time that England’s Laura Massaro and Malaysia’s Low Wee Wern spent on court during the 2014 World Championship and is equal fifth on the all-time list of longest women’s matches on the PSA Tour.
Gohar reached a third consecutive World Championship final, battling her way to a 6-11, 12-10, 11-9, 9-11, 14-12 victory.
El Hammamy looked the more relaxed of the two in the opening game. Gohar’s accuracy wasn’t quite there and too many of her shots were landing in the middle of the court, allowing El Hammamy to punish her with some well-placed trickle boasts.
El Hammamy looked set to double her advantage after amassing two game balls in the second, but a stroke against her and a critical error with a shot into the tin handed Gohar a lifeline as she came back to force a tie-break. Another couple of errors then handed the higher-ranked Egyptian the second game.
History repeated itself in the third as El Hammamy once again squandered a commanding lead. After pulling away from 4-4 to establish a 9-5 lead, El Hammamy’s accuracy died off and Gohar took full advantage, rattling off six points in succession to take a 2-1 lead in games.
The fourth game was a scrappy contest and both players received a conduct warning for continued discussion with the referee following multiple decisions. This time it was El Hammamy’s turn to overturn a deficit as she fought back from 7-3 behind to set up a decider.
El Hammamy looked full of confidence in the fifth and was the more aggressive player, often stranding Gohar in the back of the court as she built up three match balls. The drama wasn’t done there though as Gohar held her nerve to take the next three points, sending the match to a tie-break, where both players had multiple match balls.
It was Gohar who held her nerve, playing the crucial points well and a no let against El Hammamy at 13-12 brought the match to a close.
“I’m glad that I got the win at the end,” said Gohar. “I was so close in the fourth, I thought maybe I was finishing in four today. She came back strong, there was a lack of concentration from me and I got some bad calls. They don’t make it easy on me.
“The match was fine until this point, something happened and there were a lot of calls at the end. I’m pleased with the way I fought to the end, I like to think of myself as being one of the fittest on tour and she is too.
“It was going to be physical. I was believing so much that I was going to win this at the end, even if I was 10-7 down. I’ve come back in the U.S. Open final, I’ve come back on big stages, so I knew I had it in me and I knew what to do.
“It was just a matter of focusing on the big points and I thought I would just go for it. I went for a couple of drop shots at the end, which isn’t really the way I play, but I thought that I was going to take everything I could.
“It was a big match, but I’m just going to focus on recovering and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. I want to be ready for this one.”
Result :  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 3-2  Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 6-11, 12-10, 11-9, 9-11, 14-12 (105m)
Farag Through to Fourth Final
Reigning World Champion Ali Farag has reached a fourth PSA World Championship final in a row after he halted top seed Mostafa Asal in four games in a devastating performance at Chicago’s Union Station.
Farag is aiming to become the second Egyptian man to lift four World Championship trophies and has generally had Asal’s number, winning 12 of their previous 15 matches.
Asal had no match for Farag’s accuracy in the opening two games, with the World No.4 taking a surprisingly comfortable 2-0 lead against an opponent who hasn’t looked at his best during this tournament.
Farag’s accuracy dropped off in the third game as a resurgent Asal was able to edge ahead to a 7-5 lead. The errors then came thick and fast from the 22-year-old’s racket, handing Farag two match balls.
Asal struck back as he slammed his return of serve into the nick before a no let given against Farag soon after to set up a tie-break. Farag was unable to convert the win in three, with Asal fighting hard and playing some key winners at crucial times to halve the deficit and send the match into a fourth game.
The fourth game was a procession, however, as Farag was at his clinical best to close out an 11-5, 11-8, 11-13, 11-2 victory to set up a title decider against either 2017 World Champion or 2016 World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad.
“Mostafa was such a tough opponent to play against,” said Farag. “He’s got everything in the book from attacking to defending, to good length hitting. I had to execute my game plan to perfection to give myself a chance, and I think I did that for the most part because you’re never confident in a semi-final of the World Championships. The nerves are always attached to it. But thankfully I have my team around me and Nour (El Tayeb) generously stuck around to just be supportive and to talk it through.
“Players talk nonsense in the mornings of matches and they feel all sorts of things and it’s good to have a fellow player, a top player, in Nour guiding me through the day.
“It means a lot because I had a clear plan on the way back from injury and it was to peak for the World Champs. I was lucky enough that it happened a tournament earlier and what a tournament for it to happen at being the the British Open. It makes it even more meaningful when you go through hardships and come back from them. So I’m extremely grateful to be where I am at the moment.
“We’ve had some matches in the past and we talked it through, we both welcomed each other back on the tour because we were not playing for different reasons. We both said we’re Egyptians and at the end of the day, we want to raise our flag in the best way we can. I think we did that today, and hopefully we can do that many more times in the future.”
Result :  Ali Farag (EGY) 3-1  Mostafa Asal (EGY) 11-5, 11-8, 11-13, 11-2 (55m)
Sherbini reaches historic ninth final
Six-time World Champion Nour El Sherbini became the first female player to reach nine finals at the PSA World Championships following her 3-1 win against Joelle King.
El Sherbini, who has won four World crowns on the bounce, extended her sublime form at this year’s event in the opening two games, winning 11-8 and 11-6 as she aimed to keep her perfect streak intact. However King had other ideas in the third, with her patient play paying dividends to claw her way back into the contest. The Kiwi claimed the third 11-6 to cut the deficit in half.
But El Sherbini, who thrives on the biggest stage in squash, demonstrated why she has six World Championships to her name, wrapping up the match with an 11-4 victory in the fourth.
Tomorrow’s final against Nouran Gohar will be a rematch of the previous two deciders for the World Championships.
“I think she just went firing on (in the third) and I was a bit short and I wanted to finish the rally quickly. I wasn’t patient enough. But I’m glad that I came back in the fourth and fought for every point that, I won it in the end and that’s what mattered for me.
”It’s always a pleasure to put my name among these legends and I just hope it keep working the same. Another final and I’m just going to give it all and try to focus on and just be ready for the match. I’m definitely happy to break this record and it’s something that I’ll always be proud of (to be the first female player to reach nine finals).
“Nouran played an unbelievable match and, and it was a very physical one as well. I’m going to just try to do a good game plan and be ready. I don’t want to try and focus too much on tomorrow’s final or the seventh final or anything. Just another match, and just focus on my squash and be ready and that’s it.”
Result :  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-1  Joelle King (NZL) 11-8, 11-6, 6-11, 11-4 (43m)
Gawad through to final in five game thriller
2016 World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad overturned a 2-1 deficit against Mohamed ElShorbagy to set up a final showdown with Ali Farag.
The former World No.1 continued his excellent return from a lengthy spell away from the court due to injury, with an appearance in the final of the tournament he was successful in seven years ago.
The first game was settled in a tiebreak as ElShorbagy came out on top, but Gawad equalised after clinching the second 11-5 as he stepped up. ElShorbagy, who lifted the World Championships title back in 2017, was back ahead again only for Gawad to cancel him out once more with an 11-8 triumph in the fourth.
The decider was tightly contested with so much at stake and at 6-4 in favour of Gawad – a video replay showed the ball bounced twice when ElShorbagy went to play the ball. This didn’t deter Gawad, as he managed to put that aside and triumph over the World No.2 and secure his place in the final of the World Championships.
“I’m over the moon after a very tough time, there were a lot of doubts,” said Gawad. “There is still one more to go, so I’m just trying to just keep my focus as much as possible.
“I only had like a month and a half training before I began playing tournaments again. I was thinking a lot about whether it was too early to come back in March or not. I just took the decision because I had three tournaments that would expire from my ranking in March and I had to play or I would have gone too far back in the rankings. So I said I’ll play in March and see how it goes.
“I gave it everything in that month and a half. I actually trained like I’ve never done before.
“Ali is a very good friend of mine and we’re both playing good squash. We’ve had a lot of fun together, so tomorrow will be a great final. Hopefully everyone in Chicago and on SQUASHTV are looking forward to it.”
Result : Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-2  Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) 10-12, 11-5, 7-11, 11-8, 11-7 (74m)