Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Ali Farag and Hania El Hammamy lift CIB Egyptian Open titles after superb wins over Paul Coll and Nouran Gohar

Farag stays on top of the rankings as El Hammamy sets her sights on becoming No.1
By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor) and SIMON DENT (PSA)

Egypt’s authority over world squash was once again underlined as Ali Farag and Hania El Hammamy lifted the CIB Egyptian Open titles at the Great Pyramid of Giza after brilliant performances against Paul Coll and Nouran Gohar in last night’s finals.

World No.1 Farag won his third Egyptian Open title as he beat New Zealander Coll 3-1 in a 66-minute battle.

Farag, whose place at the top of the world rankings was under threat from No.2 Coll going into last night’s showdown, comfortably took the opening game 11-6, with the Egyptian playing the court conditions better as Coll struggled to find a firm footing on a glass surface with sand blowing in from this amazing desert location.

Coll looked more assured in the second game as he moved to 10-6, with the 30-year-old lifting the ball well in a tactical shift. Farag saved two game balls, but an error from his racket enabled Coll to draw level with an 11-8 win.

Coll’s tactical discipline slipped in the third game and Farag took full advantage in rapid rallies, easing back into the lead with an 11-4 victory to the delight of the home crowd.

In a more even fourth game, Coll was initially able to coax longer rallies out of Farag, before the world champion accelerated away once again to seal his third title in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza with an 11-7 win.

Farag’s joy was matched by his respect for the occasion and the surroundings, saying: “It’s still unbelievable every time I come and play in front of the Pyramids.

“You think you take it for granted, but then every time you come here there’s a loss of breath and you can’t really believe that you’ve watched all the greats of Egypt and globally who have played on such a stage. I only dreamed of being here.

Ali Farag lifts the CIB Egyptian Open trophy for the third time

“For myself, I’m really proud of this week because I wasn’t in a good place this past couple of weeks. Just one loss can take your confidence down and it’s thanks to the people behind me, especially my mum, my parents, the belief they have in me, day in and day out, makes me believe in myself.

“To them, I’m forever grateful. My brother and Karim Darwish, who’s always on the court and the phone with me. My wife (Nour El Tayeb), she sees the worst of me and believe me, the worst of me is not easy to deal with! I’m very grateful for her.”

Runner-up Coll paid tribute to Farag, saying: “He’s been world No.1 for so long. It takes a complete performance to beat someone of his calibre. Tonight, I don’t think I played well enough for a long enough period of time to get the win.

“Credit to Ali; he’s very hard to beat here in Egypt and he turned up again and played a great final. I just don’t think I was consistent enough in my game plan and accuracy and it let me down a bit.”

Champions at the Pyramids: Ali Farag and Hania El Hammamy with the CIB Egyptian Open titles

In an all-Egyptian women’s final, El Hammamy put in a dominant performance to beat her fierce rival Gohar 3-1.

Going into the match, world No.1 and defending champion Gohar enjoyed a 9-3 head-to-head record against No.3 El Hammamy – who will rise to World No.2 in today’s rankings – and won the last match, a fiery encounter at the World Tour Finals, 2-0.

El Hammamy also beat her in the finals of the Platinum-level Allam British Open and the El Gouna International last season, sending out a clear warning of her ambitions.

In the opening game, Gohar took a 5-1 lead but at 6-3 up her momentum was halted by an injury break after being accidentally caught below the eye by El Hammamy’s racket.

After having the cut glued shut, Gohar saw her lead evaporate, with El Hammamy scoring eight unanswered points to move from 3-7 to 11-7.

Gohar, whose usual brutal pace had slowed down after the injury break, looked to strike the ball earlier in the second and was rewarded with a 13-11 win.

El Hammamy came out flying in the third game to win 11-3, with Gohar looking flat on court and dejected as she exited.

Hania El Hammay wins the CIB Egyptian Open

The younger Egyptian’s brutal dominance continued in the fourth game, with the 22-year-old covering the court brilliantly as she opened up a 10-3 lead to have seven championship balls.

Gohar saved one, but was unable to mount a shock comeback, as El Hammamy lifted her first CIB Egyptian Open title.

A delighted El Hammamy said: “I wanted to start the first game really well. I wanted to have a sharp start and a strong one, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to do it. Definitely, coming back from very far away against Nouran gives you a huge confidence (boost). After winning the first, especially with a bouncy ball like this one with Nouran gives you big confidence.”

On her goal to be world No.1, she said: “This was definitely really important. I knew that after my last match (in the semi-finals) I was going to be world No.2, but I didn’t want to stop there. I didn’t want to be satisfied with that.

“I wanted to come here today and win the match and prove it’s not where I belong, to be world No.2. It’s even bigger than this and I’m really glad I managed to prove it to myself today.”

Gohar said: “I just want to say I’m really proud of everything I’ve done, not only as a player but as a person as well. Reaching the final three times in a row isn’t easy at all. Obviously, sometimes I’m being harsh on myself as I want to win everything.

“Sometimes it doesn’t go your way and I’m happy with the way I’m improving. Just one word I want to say: these small setbacks just make me come back even stronger than ever and I can’t wait to be back on court.”

Attention now turns to the Platinum-level U.S Open, which takes place at the Arlen Specter US Squash Center in Philadelphia from October 8-15.

Meanwhile, the next event on the PSA World Tour is the Silver-level Oracle Netsuite Open, which will be played across four venues in San Francisco from September 30 to October 4.

CIB Egyptian Open 2022, Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt.

Men’s Final:
[1] Ali Farag (EGY) bt [2] Paul Coll (NZL) 3-1: 11-6, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7 (66m)

Women’s Final:
[3] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt [1] Nouran Gohar (EGY) 3-1: 11-7, 11-13, 11-3, 11-4 (81m)


Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour 


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