Two thrilling finals underline Egypt’s dominance to delight packed crowd at the Pyramids
By ALAN THATCHER and ELLIE MAWSON
If a single tournament can define an era, then it has to be the triumphant staging of squash in front of the Great Pyramids of Giza reflecting the dominance that Egypt enjoys in the game.
Two all-Egyptian finals attracted a packed crowd to the temporary stadium surrounding the glass court lit up in the desert with the Great Pyramid providing a stunning backdrop as Ali Farag and Nouran Gohar were crowned the 2021 CIB Egyptian Open champions in thrilling fashion.
Both did it the hard way. Farag fought back to win after losing the first two games to Mohamed ElShorbagy and Gohar saved three championship balls before finally ending the challenge of Nour El Sherbini.
This was the third consecutive final that the world’s best two women players have faced each other, with world No.1 El Sherbini taking victories at both the PSA World Championships and British Open, but Gohar ended that streak with an emphatic performance to claim her 11th title.
The world. No.2 began positively to win the opening two games before El Sherbini settled into her rhythm and was able to fight back to drawl level.
From that moment it looked as though El Sherbini was going to snatch another title from her compatriot’s hands. She built a winning lead but Gohar dug deep in an astonishing finale to save three match balls to win her first title in front of the Pyramids.
“I felt like I was spending the whole night on the court,” said Gohar afterwards. “I am enjoying these matches now. At the beginning, it was tough to lose but now I am enjoying it.
“I feel like I am growing every match and Nour did everything in this game. I just have to catch up with what she is doing. Having the rivalry with her right now is something big which I am really proud of.
“Playing the finals of all the big events is something I am really proud of and to win it today is something extra special for sure.
“I can’t actually believe it is the first time I have beaten her in a final in front of the Pyramids, in front of my friends and family, in front of the home crowd. Nothing can beat this.”
In the men’s final, it was World No.1 Farag who mounted an impressive comeback as he came from two games down to defeat rival Mohamed ElShorbagy and defend his title at the PSA World Tour Platinum event.
ElShorbagy got off to the better start in the 14th PSA final meeting between the pair, as he stormed into a 2-0 lead, but Farag showed his resilience to fight back and draw level with fatigue beginning to get the better of World No.2 ElShorbagy as the match wore on.
Farag used this to his advantage, stretching out the rallies and moving ElShorbagy around the court, to close out 6-11, 9-11, 11-2, 11-6, 11-5 in 74 minutes and claim the 23rd PSA title of his career, as well as strengthening his hold on the World No.1 spot.
“I am feeling amazing. It can’t get any better,” said Farag. “Playing at such a venue against the greatest rival of my career and the greatest of our generation.
“To be able to come back from 2-0 down is something that I am really proud of. As always, I am very proud to be able to share the court with such a great champion like Mohamed. I learn a lot from him every year.
“We have played in almost every Platinum event final, but we didn’t play in the most special one until today. We delivered a match for the crowd that they really deserve.”
Gohar and Farag each take home more than $41,000 in prize money, which is the most lucrative winner’s prize paid out so far for a Platinum event. Their victories also qualify them for the season-ending CIB PSA World Tour Finals.
The next stop on the PSA World Tour will be the Oracle NetSuite Open, PSA Gold event which takes place in San Francisco from September 23-27.
PSA Platinum CIB Egyptian Open 2021, Great Pyramids Of Giza, Egypt ($295,000 prize fund for both men and women).
(2) Ali Farag (Egy) beat (1) Mohamed ElShorbagy (Egy) 3-2: 6-11, 9-11, 11-2, 11-6, 11-5 (74m)
(2) Nouran Gohar (Egy) beat (1) Nour El Sherbini (Egy) 3-2: 11-7, 11-4, 5-11, 7-11, 12-10 (64m)
Pictures courtesy of PSA