Top Seeds Asal and Gohar win on opening day in Chicago
Top seeds Mostafa Asal and Nouran Gohar began their title challenges at the PSA World Championships presented by the Walter Family with respective victories over Leandro Romiglio and Nour Aboulmakarim at the University Club of Chicago.
Asal is playing his first event since returning from a six-week suspension and said:
“Coming back from a suspension is never easy, but I’m feeling good. When you’re World No.1 and you get a six-week suspension, you focus on your training 100 per cent. It was a good period of training and all the other players were fatiguing from playing tournaments, so maybe I will be fitter at this tournament. “Congrats to Diego [Elias] for being World No.1, but there will be another fight here.”
There were no seeding upsets mon the opening day, with England’s Nathan Lake and Canadian Hollie Naughton the only five-game winners. World junior champion Amina Orfi made the most of her wildcard entry with a win over Latvia’s Ineta Mackevica.
The PSA World Championships continue on Thursday when defending women’s champion Nour El Sherbini begins her tournament, while men’s World No.1 Diego Elias will also be in action.
Afternoon Roundup: Local Man Lake Claims First Worlds Win
Chicago-based Nathan Lake claimed his first ever win at the PSA World Championships presented by the Walter Family after he clawed back a 2-1 deficit against compatriot Curtis Malik at the University Club of Chicago this afternoon.
Since his debut in the qualifying draw of the 2013 World Championships, Lake hasn’t been able to make it beyond the opening round of the main draw despite some near misses. However, this time around the 30-year-old was able to oust his countryman courtesy of an 11-9, 11-13, 11-13, 11-4, 11-9 victory.
It was a nail-biting affair with Malik – who secured his place in Chicago after coming through the qualifying event in Birmingham last month – holding his nerve to win tie-breaks in the second and third games.
Lake, who has lived in Chicago since September 2021 and regularly plays at the University Club, was cheered on by his vocal home fans and duly equalised after a one-sided fourth game, before he fought back from 9-7 down in the fourth to complete the win.
”I remember winning my first match in the quallys and I remember thinking that I had a 100 per cent record.. then I didn’t win one for 10 years,” said Lake, who will take on World No.18 Gregoire Marche in the last 32.
“I thought Curtis played very well and didn’t let me settle. I was pleased that I hung in there mentally, I didn’t feel I played my best squash but I managed to hang in there at 9-7. I got 11 points in every game, so it was very close, I had to try and stay present all the way through.
“It’s only a five-minute walk [from home] and I’m here five or six times a week. I know all the members and it’s a great community, they definitely inspired me at the end to keep pushing.”
Frenchman Victor Crouin is also through to round two after he defeated Spain’s Bernat Jaume, while his compatriot Lucas Serme fell to Egypt’s Mazen Hesham. Karim El Hammamy and Aly Abou Eleinen also secured their places in the next round.
Meanwhile, No.3 seed Hania El Hammamy advanced to the second round of the women’s event after she cruised to a 3-0 win over 19-year-old Kenzy Ayman.
Ayman was a wildcard at last season’s World Championships – upsetting England’s Jasmine Hutton en route to the second round before falling to eventual winner Nour El Sherbini – but El Hammamy was on form as she dropped just one point in the opening game.
An improved Ayman was able to put more points on the board in the second and third games but El Hammamy was resolute and hit her targets with ruthless efficiency to wrap up the win in straight games. She will play Farida Mohamed in the next round.
“It was definitely a tricky one,” said El Hammamy.
“She’s an up-and-coming youngster and has been doing really well in the junior tournaments. I had to keep an eye on her performance and study her as much as possible.”
No.6 seed Nour El Tayeb made her return from a leg injury as she overcame fellow Egyptian Sana Ibrahim by an 11-7, 2-11, 12-10, 11-9 scoreline.
El Tayeb – the World Championship runner-up in 2019 – was making her first PSA appearance since February and she will go up against Hutton in the next round after she defeated South Africa’s Alexandra Fuller 3-1.
“I thought it was going to be more enjoyable than this,” said El Tayeb afterwards.
“Coming back after being away is very tough. I thought I knew how tough it would be but I didn’t really understand that until I was in the match. Sana played very well and made it tough all the way through.
“I knew I had to go back to basics, I lost my length and my focus in the second game. After winning the first game I relaxed too much. Now I’ve won this match and got it out of the way I think it will help.
“It’s the biggest tournament on the calendar and it’s the title everyone dreams about. Hopefully my leg will get me through and I hope I can play well here.”
USA No.4 Sabrina Sobhy has also booked her spot in the last 32 after beating Hong Kong’s Tsz-Wing Tong, winning 11-7, 11-3, 11-4 in 27 minutes, and she will go up against Hana Ramadan next.
Speaking after the win, Sobhy said: “It’s the biggest event of the year and the first round is always nerve-wracking.
“I feel very normal until the referee says ‘0-0’ and then all the nerves and emotion explode into me. Leading up to this event I haven’t been in a great spot mentally or feeling that confident, so that adds even more nerves to it.
“You get into your head and then you spiral. I’m trying to leave all of that behind and focus on staying neutral or optimistic.”
World No.12 Salma Hany needed an injury break during the opening game of her match against World No.72 Malak Khafagy, but it didn’t prevent her from securing a 3-0 win.
Belgium’s Tinne Gilis required just 25 minutes to dispatch Spain’s Cristina Gomez, and she will take on Japan’s Satomi Watanabe for a place in the third round. There were also wins for Georgia Adderley and Fayrouz Aboelkheir in the afternoon session.
Evening round-up: Defending Champion Farag Begins Title Defence
Defending World Champion Ali Farag got his title defence off to a perfect start after defeating Ramit Tandon 3-0.
The three-time World Champion edged a tough battle in the first game, winning 14-12 in the tie break.
Farag, who recently lifted the British Open crown a few weeks ago, then clinched the second and third games 11-4 and 11-3 to prevail and reach the second round.
“I’m very happy to be through. Ramit and I played so many times in our college career and we played once on the PSA World Tour and he got the better of me. He was ahead in the head-to-head, I was happy to get one today and it was close in the first, I won that one and I think I was on top for the rest of the match.
“In all respects the movement after my injury and my squash, and my mental capabilities, it’s been perfect timing to gear up for this one and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week.”
World No.1 Nouran Gohar produced a comprehensive display to seal her spot in the second round, overcoming her Egyptian compatriot Nour Aboulmakarim.
Gohar was relentless throughout, as she wrapped the match up in just 21 minutes to set up another all-Egyptian clash in the second round against Fayrouz Aboelkheir, who saw off Marta Dominguez Fernandez by the same scoreline.
“I’m happy with the way I played today and the way I dealt with the match. Obviously there’s a lot of nerves going into the first round of the World Championships – the biggest event of the year – but happy with the way I was relaxed and I enjoyed myself on court today,” Gohar said afterwards.
“Every day is different so I’m not taking it for granted as some days can be more difficult than others. It’s in the match of the day and how you feel to work around it.
“I’m very excited to be on the glass court. The venue we played at, about four or five years ago, so it’s very exciting to be back a great venue.
“I’m not really thinking about it (winning the World Championships) but it’s a lifetime dream. I think I’ve achieved all the titles except the World Championships so it would mean a lot. I’m not really thinking about it – I’m just thinking about winning every match I’m playing.”
Gohar’s compatriot Amina Orfi marked her maiden appearance at the World Championships with a 3-0 win against Ineta Mackevica.
“I feel really happy. This is my first World Championships and I wanted to make it into the main, luckily I got an invite from the PSA. I’m really happy and I’m just going to play with no pressure,” said Orfi.
“I didn’t expect it. I thought I was going to be playing on the Challenger Tour for a while until I made it, but when I had the opportunity to play Squash on Fire as a wildcard I went and took the risk.
‘I played with no pressure because I’m still still and enjoy it as much as I can before I become one of the top and get pressured by the rest.”
Elsewhere, Mostafa Asal’s returned from suspension with a straight sets victory against Leandro Romiglio.
“Coming back from a suspension is never easy but I’m feeling good,” said Asal.
“Leandro is from Argentina, my first tournament was in Argentina and I have a lot of supporters there. When you’re World No.1 and you get a six-week suspension, you focus on your training 100 per cent. It was a good period of training and all the other players were fatiguing from playing tournaments, maybe I will be fitter at this tournament.
“Congrats to Diego for being World No.1 but there will be another fight here. It’s amazing to see so many World No.1s in the draw.”
New Zealand No.1 Paul Coll cruised into the second round after dispatching USA’s Faraz Khan in straight games.
Coll, who was a semi-finalist at last season’s event, comfortably went two games up but it was a close contest in the third as Khan looked to find a way back in the match. However it was Coll who came out on top to book his place in the second round.
“First round is getting used to the court, which was a bit bouncy and it was hard to kill off the ball,” Coll said.
“I was happy with the way I was stroking the ball and I’m very excited to get going this week. It’s the biggest week of the year and I’m feeling in a good space and I’m excited to play.
“We’re good mates and he seems to have improved quite a bit since we last trained and I’m looking forward to the challenge in a couple of days’ time. I don’t think we’ve hit in a few years but we know each other well and I’m looking forward to it.
“I hear it’s one of my favourite courts on tour that they’d brought over. It’s always been a dream to play on that court. I’m super excited to hopefully get to the glass court.”
There were also straight games triumphs for Rory Stewart, Patrick Rooney, Omar Mosaad, Joel Makin and Colombian duo Miguel Rodriguez and Juan Camilo Vargas.
Meanwhile, American pair Amanda Sobhy and Olivia Clyne chalked up 3-0 wins to advance to the next round, beating Tomato Ho and Joshna Chinappa, respectively.