Injury stops Camille Serme as Nour El Sherbini continues rivalry with Nouran Gohar
By ALAN THATCHER and ELLIE MAWSON
Egypt will supply all four finalists in the CIB Egyptian Open. It is a fitting finale that underlines the host nation’s current dominance of the sport. Both matches will feature the top two players in the world, with Ali Farag meeting Mohamed ElShorbagy in the men’s final and Nour El Sherbini playing Nouran Gohar in the women’s event.
Three non-Egyptians featured in the semi-finals, with New Zealand’s British Open champion Paul Coll losing a high-quality battle with Farag. Earlier, American No.1 Amanda Sobhy lost in straight games to Gohar and France’s Camille Serme saw her hopes dashed by a leg injury during her match with El Sherbini.
World No.1 El Sherbini, who captured this PSA World Tour Platinum tournament title in 2020, has made it four out of four finals in front of the last remaining Wonder of the Ancient World.
Serme, who withdrew from last month’s British Open due to a tendinitis in her right calf, looked out of sorts in the first game as her usual dynamic movement evaded her as El Sherbini comfortably took the first.
Serme gathered herself in the second to respond strongly to draw back level, before El Sherbini regained the lead after a blistering third game.
The fourth provided all the drama as Serme looked once again like she was causing problems for the world champion and was in the lead at 9-8 before disaster struck. She fell to the floor clutching her right leg, before being carried in tears from the court as the victory went to El Sherbini.
“It is the worst ending of any match and you never want to win the match like this,” said El Sherbini afterwards. “I am really sorry for Camille, she has been injured in the last tournament and she didn’t have the chance to compete in the British Open. Injuries are the worst enemy for any player.
“I was playing well, the whole match, even at the end, and I was still happy with my performance.”
El Sherbini’s opponent will be familiar rival Gohar in a repeat of the 2020 final after the World No.2 displayed a performance of utter dominance against Sobhy to reach her fifth final of the year.
Gohar took just 28 minutes to condemn Sobhy to a straight-games defeat, and will meet compatriot El Sherbini in their third consecutive final on the PSA World Tour.
“Amanda is very experienced on tour and it is really tricky to play against her,” said Gohar. “She is very skilful, she doesn’t give up easily, so it was tough out there.
“Not only last year, but we [Gohar and El Sherbini] have been playing since the final of El Gouna. [Then] World Championships, British Open, all the big stages, and I am just happy that we are playing another one here, in Egypt.
“It is very special in front of the Pyramids. It is a very special match, and I think it is a treat for the crowd to watch it, so I am delighted to be playing against her again tomorrow.”
The men’s final will also see the World No.1 and World No.2 go to battle as Ali Farag and Mohamed ElShorbagy go head-to-head for the PSA Platinum title. It will be their 14th PSA final in four years (thanks to Howard Harding of SquashInfo for the stat).
Farag got the better of New Zealand’s World No.3 Paul Coll in the last match of the day as he extracted his revenge following Coll’s win over the Egyptian in the final of the British Open last month when to win his first major title.
It was a different story this time as Farag held his nerve and played some flawless squash to book his place in his 44th PSA final.
“I did have a plan and I think I executed most of it, but with the conditions, I had to adapt, and so did he,” said Farag in his post-match interview. “The wind keeps getting harder (to deal with) every night.
“We both had to adapt to it and to mix the pace, and I was very annoyed with myself for losing that second game. I gave him a very cheap return of serve in the tin at 9-10, to get him back to 10-all. That changed the dynamic of the match completely. 2-0 to 1-1 would have been totally different. I am happy that I contained myself and came back in the third strong, and then the fourth. Thankfully I scraped through.”
ElShorbagy, meanwhile, was at his best to down former world champion Tarek Momen in straight games as he looks to add the CIB Egyptian Open title to his already impressive trophy cabinet.
The Bristol-based Egyptian is appearing at the Pyramids for the first time since 2016 and he made it count with a formidable performance to set up a 14th final showdown with compatriot Farag as the two continue to battle it out for the No.1 spot.
“I knew I had to start sharp, be aggressive and get a good lead in each game, which I definitely didn’t in the first,” said ElShorbagy. “In both the first and the third, I had to fight my way back and to get off in three against a quality player like Tarek, in the semi-final of a major, is obviously an ideal scenario. I am really pleased.
“It is my first time back here since 2016. [I have] probably won every other major in my career, but I haven’t been able to get my hands on this trophy. The top players always raise their game at the end of the tournament, so I will give it everything I can for the final.”
The finals of the CIB Egyptian Open take place today (September 17) at 19:00 (GMT+2). Action from the Great Pyramid of Giza will be shown live on SQUASHTV and multiple broadcasters around the world.
2021 CIB Egyptian Open, Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt.
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-3, 11-8 (42m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Paul Coll (NZL) 3-1: 11-9, 10-12, 11-4, 11-9 (69m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 3-1: 11-2, 8-11, 11-1, 8-9 retired (43m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Amanda Sobhy (USA) 3-0: 11-9, 11-2, 11-7 (28m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA