Two all-Egyptian finals at the Pyramids
By NATHAN CLARKE in New Giza
Ali Farag recorded one of the biggest wins of his career as he halted the charge of title-favourite and World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy to move one step closer to becoming the first home-based player to win the iconic Al Ahram Squash Open NewGiza – the $100k tournament taking place at the foot of the Great Pyramids of Giza – since Ahmed Barada in 1998.
Competing in one of world sport’s most breathtaking locations, Farag – who earned a berth in the last four following the retirement of three-time World Champion Ramy Ashour during their quarter-final encounter – produced a sublime performance to come through in four games and earn a richly deserved win after 70-minutes of high quality squash.
After losing the opening game Farag fought back to level against ElShorbagy and then take a 2-1 lead. Then, with both men giving their all, they traded points in a series of ferocious exchanges as the score reached 10-10 in the crucial fourth. A first match ball went to waste as ElShorbagy mounted a last ditch charge before Farag responded in style and take the game, and with it the match, 14-12.
“I have the upmost respect for Mohamed – he’s been the best in the game for the past two seasons hands down,” said Farag.
“I knew that to have a chance I needed to be at my absolute best, but I’ve been preparing well since Hong Kong and got in a big chunk of training before this event that I think made the difference.
“Mohamed can be very intimidating at times with how big he makes himself on court – like any top player does – but I knew the biggest battle today would be mental. I had to match him mentally and that’s what I did.
“Before the event I looked at the draw and knew it would be tough – but names are just names – you go out and play to win. At Motor City Open I had the toughest draw possible and won so I know I just have to believe in myself.”
Farag will face compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad – the Hong Kong Open runner up – in the decider after he saw off second seeded Omar Mosaad 3-0 with a performance that underlined his status as one of the most in-form players on the Men’s Tour.
Farag’s wife Nour El Tayeb bowed out of the women’s event at the semi-final stage, losing in straight game to the in-form play on the Women’s Tour this year – Nour El Sherbini.
World No.1 El Sherbini has scythed her way through the tournament so far without dropping a single game and she impressed once again to underline her status as the player to beat as she came through 11-7, 11-8, 11-4 in less than 30 minutes.
“I was very focused from the beginning today and worked hard not to let her get in front and I’m glad to come through in three games,” said El Sherbini.
“I’ve been dreaming of playing here since I was ten years old and playing in front of the Pyramids and the Egyptian crowd. I’m really proud to be here and have my family and sponsors there to see me play so hopefully I can keep it going now in the final.”
El Sherbini will face Raneem El Welily, the 27-year-old who held the World No.1 spot at the end of 2015, in what promises to be a gripping encounter after she stormed past England’s Sarah-Jane Perry to end all international interest in the $100k event.
“I used to come here with my brother and my parents, we were so young then, and I remember we were fascinated by everything, so being here means a lot for me,” said El Welily.
“Tomorrow, I hope it’s going to be a great match. She is a good person, on and off court, and a great player.”
Al Ahram Squash Open, New Giza, Cairo, Egypt.
PSA M100 Semi-final Results:
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) 3-1: 7-11, 11-7, 11-9, 14-12 (78m)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt  Omar Mosaad (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 13-11, 11-9 (61m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
PSA W100 Women’s Semi-final Results:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [WC] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 11-8, 11-4 (29m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-7, 12-10 (34m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com) courtesy of PSA