After eight days of incredible squash drama, it’s finals day at the 2023 PSA World Championships in Chicago.
Action begins at 19:00 (GMT-5) with a repeat of last year’s women’s final, with defending champion Nour El Sherbini and top seed Nouran Gohar playing not only for the World Championship title, but for the World No.1 ranking, too.
This is followed by the second all-Egyptian final, when defending men’s champion Ali Farag takes on 2016 winner and this year’s surprise package Karim Abdel Gawad.
Order of Play (times are local: GMT -5)
Nouran Gohar v Nour El Sherbini
Two of the modern game’s greatest rivals going head to head for the World Championship and the World No.1 ranking – finals don’t come much more thrilling than this!
In what promises to be an intense and high-quality encounter, Nouran Gohar and Nour El Sherbini play out a World Championship final for the third time in a row, with the winner starting next week as the World No.1.
El Sherbini got the better of Gohar in 2021 in Chicago and last year in Cairo, with ‘the Warrior Princess’ coming out a 3-1 winner in an emotionally charged contest last May. That form is increasingly typical of El Sherbini at World Championships, with the 27-year-old having already won the title six times, just two behind the record of eight held by Nicol David.
The No.2 seed also enjoys a strong head-to-head record against Gohar, winning 18 of their 25 matches and four of the last five, including the final of last month’s British Open.
Gohar, regarded as one of the toughest players on tour and famed for her power, will look to her consistently excellent form of recent seasons to avenge those painful defeats.
The 25-year-old, who since December 2021 has reached the final of every tournament she’s played in bar two, spent 57 weeks as World No.1 until El Sherbini reclaimed the top ranking earlier this week. Expect a typically fiery performance from ‘the Terminator’ as she chases a maiden World Championship title and her World No.1 crown.
Both players have looked in fierce form in Chicago.
El Sherbini has been at her devastating best, dispatching Hana Moataz, Marie Stephan, Sarah-Jane Perry and Georgina Kennedy in straight games in a total of just 97 minutes, before beating World No.4 Joelle King 3-1 in 43 minutes in yesterday’s semi final.
Gohar, too, progressed to the semi finals in straight games with victories over Nour Aboulmakarim, Fayrouz Aboelkheir, Tinne Gilis and Nour El Tayeb. Her semi final, however, was a brutal affair, with Gohar eventually getting the better of World No.3 Hania El Hammamy in 105 nail-biting minutes – the joint-longest women’s World Championship match of all time.
Will that intense battle take sap the energy from Gohar’s legs? Or was the tough test exactly what was required to prepare for the six-time champion?
Ali Farag v Karim Adbel Gawad
An intriguing final that could be one of the all-time greats spectacles.
Unseeded Karim Abdel Gawad has been enjoying a fairytale in Chicago after becoming the first man from outside of the top eight seeds to reach the World Championship final since since Amr Shabana beat No.4 seed Thierry Lincou in Lahore in 2003.
In making tonight’s final the 2016 World Champion has left some of the world’s best players in his wake.
After beating Youssef Soliman and Dimitri Steinmann in the first two rounds, Gawad upset World No.6 Marwan ElShorbagy before blowing the World Championships wide open with a 3-0 win over World No.1 Diego Elias in the quarter final. Gawad then followed up this brilliant performance with another incredible showing to beat World No.2 Mohamed ElShorbagy 3-2 in the semis.
Such victories become all the more impressive given that just seven months ago ‘the Assassin’ was in a wheelchair after treatment for a severe plantar fasciitis issue that was feared to be career-ending.
Farag, too, has had to overcome recent injury problems, with the reigning World Champion now looking back to his best having missed four months of the season after injuring his knee in the final of the U.S. Open.
Like El Sherbini, Farag has always been able to produce his best form on the world’s biggest stage. The 31-year-old has three World Championship titles to his name and a fourth would move him level with Geoff Hunt and Amr Shabana in third for most World Championship titles won.
Farag has spent a little less time on court than his opponent tonight, with the No.4 seed beating Ramit Tandon, Adrian Waller, Nathan Lake, Paul Coll and Mostafa Asal in 189 minutes, compared to Gawad’s total of 235.
Will Farag add yet another World Championship title to his collection? Or can Gawad pull off one more masterpiece?