Gohar Taking Pressure Off In Search Of First World Championships Crown

The World Championships title is one that has agonisingly eluded Nouran Gohar over the last three years, but the World No.2 looks in as good a place as ever to fill this void in her trophy cabinet and take home the most prestigious title in the sport. 

Gohar will arrive in Cairo this week as the most in-form player in the women’s game after back-to-back wins at the Black Ball Open and El Gouna International last month.

In particular, the Egyptian’s victory in the title decider of the Platinum-level event in El Gouna is worth highlighting, with Gohar overcoming compatriot and World No.1 Nour El Sherbini – the adversary who has defeated Gohar in each of the last three World Championships finals. 

Despite these near-misses, Gohar admitted that she refuses to add any more pressure upon herself as looks ahead to the 2023-2024 CIB PSA World Championships, which will take place between 9-18 May.

She said: “I always believe that when you want something so much, it doesn’t come. You need to have other goals. So, I have set myself other goals before the World Championships, but obviously, I don’t want to stop my career until I have won a World Championship. 

“For me, though, I try to think of it as just another big tournament and not to emphasise the fact that it’s a World Championships. And then if I win it, then great, I’m a World Champion. 

“As I have said before, I do think that being World No.1 is harder because you have to be consistent throughout the whole year, but also winning a World Championship is very, very difficult before you have to be the best player on that single week. So for me, it was all about winning as many tournaments as possible, and I think I’ve won every single Platinum event that’s been played on tour.

“I’m pretty sure that if I can bring it all together in a good way, I might have a good chance to win it.”

Gohar has enjoyed a wealth of success without lifting the World Championships trophy in the past. From her nine career appearances to date, she has recorded three runner-up finishes, three semi-final appearances, and two quarter-final outings. 

On what her most memorable moments – both good and bad – have been at the event, she recalled: “2022 was a great week as a whole. I was 6-1 up in the second game [in the final against El Sherbini], and I think that was the closest to me winning it. 

“It was heart-breaking to be honest. I think that was the most heart-breaking for me from the three finals I have been in, because I had had a great season and I was in great form.

On her 105-minute semi-final blockbuster which followed a year later against Hania El Hammamy, she added: “It was my best [performance] in terms of mental toughness, but in terms of performance, I wouldn’t rank that as one of my best performances because like everything wasn’t falling in the right place. But I was very proud of myself to be able to dig that deep.

“I believe my first World Championships final, which I believe was in 2021 in Chicago, that week was great. I think I had reached two or three semi-finals before that, so it was my biggest result in the World Championships [to that point], and I put in a great performance against Camille [Serme in the semi-finals], who was one of the most experienced players on tour at the time.”

The 2023/24 season has been one of mixed fortunes for Gohar, with ‘The Terminator’ having to bide her time before finally tasting silverware in both Egyptian-based events in April. 

A plantar fascia injury sustained during the Paris Squash season-opener left Gohar sidelined for around four months, missing out on key Platinum events such as the US Open and the Hong Kong Open in the closing stages of the 2023 calendar year. 

And it wasn’t all plain sailing for Gohar upon her return to the court, with the 26-year-old edged out by El Sherbini in the finals of the Platinum-level J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions and Windy City Open, the former of which came after taking a two-game lead.

Gohar acknowledged that she learned plenty of lessons from this final against the World No.1 at the J.P Morgan Tournament of Champions, despite the disappointing nature of her defeat. 

“It reminded me of a lot, in terms of tactics, squash, and even fitness levels,” she said.

“I was in a very good position. Obviously, I had the experience, but it always takes you a couple of matches to get back into winning big titles. So to understand this, it took me a few days [after TOC], but then I just got back on track and got back to training. I was still very proud of myself and the week I produced and the squash I produced.”

Since then however, Gohar has only seemingly moved from strength to strength, finally getting what felt like a significant breakthrough victory over El Sherbini in El Gouna, defeating ‘The Warrior Princess’ in an impressive four-game performance.

Gohar admitted that she has been pleased with this trending form as the PSA World Tour reaches the business end of the season. 

She said: “The good signs are that I think I am improving every single tournament, and this season, the biggest tournaments are at the end of the season – like the World Championships and the World Tour Finals. 

“So I’m hoping if I can improve every single event, I will be able to peak during these most important tournaments at the end of the season.” 

If Gohar is to be crowned World Champion this year, she will certainly have to do it the hard way, potentially having to come through ties against World No.5 Nour El Tayeb, World No.3 El Hammamy and top seed El Sherbini to lift the title. 

On what it would mean to win the World Championships, Gohar finished by saying: “It’s massive for sure; it’s the biggest tournament of the year. 

“In any sport, in general, it is the Olympics at the top and then the World Champs below that. For any squash player, their dream is to become World No.1 and World Champion. 

“Thankfully, I’ve managed to achieve World No.1, but the World Championships, not yet. Three finals so far, but hopefully fingers crossed.”