‘If I cry, it’s been an emotional week,’ says Sobhy after first major title win
By ALAN THATCHER and MATT COLES
US No.1 Amanda Sobhy and Egypt’s world No.1 Ali Farag have won the Oracle NetSuite Open titles, beating Egypt’s Salma Hany and New Zealand’s Paul Coll in San Francisco.
The women’s final pitted home favourite Sobhy against world No.9 Hany, with the Egyptian having already taken out world No.2 Nouran Gohar and world No.8 Joelle King to reach the biggest final of her career to date.
The pair had met five times previously on the PSA World Tour, with the American having won all of those contests, including their last meeting just two weeks ago in the quarter-finals of the CIB Egyptian Open.
The finals were delayed for an hour because of heavy rain at the outdoor venue set up in Embarcadero Plaza. After a week of matches played in a best-of-three games format, the final of this PSA World Tour Gold event fittingly switched to the traditional best-of-five system. And Sobhy clearly meant business right from the start as the home crowd cheered her on.
Her line hitting was sublime from the off, and that helped her take the first game 11-7. The US No.1 continued that form into the second, and although Hany threatened a run through the middle of the game, it was Sobhy who went two games up.
The third was a foregone conclusion in the end as ‘Southpaw’ Sobhy ran out into an 8-2 lead in quick-fire fashion. She rounded out the game with a lovely backhand drive down the line, to claim the biggest title of her career so far, and her second Oracle NetSuite Open, following her win in San Francisco in 2015.
A delighted Sobhy told the crowd: “There is literally steam coming off of my forehead. I am speechless, honestly.
“I haven’t won a major title before and if I cry, it has been an emotional week! It has been a long year, I am a bit frazzled so for me to win is extra special. Those close to me knew the state I was in last week so I have to thank my support system this past week. I have to really thank Charlie Johnson, who has been my on-site support system this week.
“It really means a lot. I’ll wrap it up soon, but to come back after winning it in 2015, and now to win it at a Gold level, it really means a lot, and to do it on home soil is massive. I thank you all for being here in the cold and the rain and for supporting me all week.
“I was a little bit edgy, and I tried not to think it was a final. We were both vying for our first major title, and so the nerves came. I felt a bit tense, but I tried to be as aggressive as possible. We had one massive rally in the third and I definitely felt that after a week of short matches! I am very pleased to have won in three!”
In the men’s final, World No.1 Ali Farag secured a second victory at the Oracle NetSuite Open as he defeated New Zealand’s Paul Coll in a brilliant four-game final, which will go down as one of the best matches of the year to date.
The pair had faced each other 16 times on the PSA World Tour, with Coll having won just two of those, but his most recent victory over the Egyptian came in the Allam British Open final, where he claimed the biggest title of his career.
The New Zealander started strongly in the first game, and came through to take it after winning the last three points for an 11-9 scoreline. He then saved two game balls in the second, before Farag was able to regroup and win it 12-10 to level the match at one game apiece.
From there, the World No.1 was able to keep Coll at arms reach, winning the next two games 11-8, 11-8, to secure his second victory in San Francisco, following his win in the city in 2018. He now has three titles in the last three months, after wins at the PSA World Championships and the CIB Egyptian Open.
Farag said: “I prefer the best-of-five for sure, it suits my game and I think Paul would agree with that. We both like to wear our opponents out. We are not the flashiest of players who go for attacking shots, but I think we both did pretty well this week to adapt.
“Both of us have struggled in the World Tour Finals in past years because of the best-of-three, but I think this week we showed we are improving. As he said, it is always enjoyable to be part of a match with Paul. You know it will be played with fighting spirit, picking all the balls up, I don’t know where he gets them from.
“As I always say, we always talk about his physicality, but his squash, his technical prowess and his technical ability, they are improving day by day, and they really are underrated. I am really proud to be a part of these matches and I am looking forward to a lot more in the future together.”
The next tournament on the PSA World Tour will be the U.S. Open presented by Truist, which takes place at the Arlen Specter Squash Center in Philadelphia from October 1-6. It will be the first major event to be held at the new $40m US Squash headquarters on the campus of Drexel University, the event’s previous home.
Oracle NetSuite Open 2021, San Francisco, USA.
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Paul Coll (NZL) 3-1: 9-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-8 (70m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Salma Hany (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 11-8, 11-4 (32m)
Pictures courtesy of PSA