‘This is mental. I can’t believe I’ve won the biggest tournament of them all at 32’ says first South American champion
By SEAN REUTHE in Hull
World No.14 Miguel Angel Rodriguez has become the first South American player ever to win a PSA World Series tournament after the unseeded Colombian stunned men’s World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy to win the iconic Allam British Open title inside Hull’s Airco Arena on a day that also saw women’s World No.1 Nour El Sherbini down World Champion Raneem El Welily to win her second title at the ‘Wimbledon of Squash’.
Rodriguez, the first unseeded player in the modern era to win the British Open, and ElShorbagy, a two-time British Open champion, contested one of the most dramatic finals the tournament has ever seen, with 32-year-old Rodriguez prevailing in a gladiatorial, 102-minute battle by an 11-7, 6-11, 8-11, 11-2, 11-9 scoreline.
ElShorbagy, who prior to the final had spent almost an hour longer on court than his opponent during this tournament, fought through the fatigue to take a 2-1 lead but the Egyptian took just two points in the fourth as he recharged his batteries for one last push in the fifth.
What followed was a stunning display of squash from both players, with ElShorbagy sinking to the floor due to sheer exhaustion after a particularly gruelling rally in the latter stages.
The reigning World Champion fought on manfully but he couldn’t deny his opponent and, when the Colombian went match ball up and deceived him with a well-disguised boast, he called an attempted pick-up to be down to ensure that Rodriguez made history.
“I think everything was mental, I dreamed it,” said Rodriguez after claiming the 27th – and biggest – PSA World Tour title of his career.
“I had emotions during the week but I am just speechless. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to win this major tournament, the greatest of all time. I’m so proud of myself, this is for my parents, my family and Colombia.
“It’s huge, this is like winning the ‘Wimbledon of Squash’. No one in South America has achieved this before, I’m a legend I think I can say. I couldn’t believe that I was able to fight with a top player like Mohamed, he has achieved so many titles. I can’t believe that I am 32 years old and I just won the British Open.”
Women’s World No.1 El Sherbini made it two British Open titles out of three finals after the 22-year-old put in a scintillating performance to overcome compatriot and World No.2 El Welily in straight games, avenging her defeat to the 29-year-old in the final of last month’s El Gouna International.
The pair were meeting in a fifth major final of the season with each player taking two wins apiece prior to today’s final. El Sherbini became the first female Egyptian to win the British Open in 2016 and had also reached the final in 2012 at the age of just 16, while 29-year-old El Welily was contesting the title decider of the iconic tournament for the first time in her career.
And it was the younger Egyptian who prevailed in Hull as she played an immaculate brand of squash to record an 11-6, 11-9, 14-12 triumph in 47 minutes to win her 16th PSA crown.
“The British Open is the biggest tournament on tour, it was an honour to win it once and now I have two and I’m really proud,” El Sherbini said.
“We always have very tough battles, it’s never an easy 3-0 and I’m really glad it’s ended this way.
“I’m glad I came back and won the third. Every time we play, it gets harder. We’re really good friends and I learn from her a lot and she is a role model to any player. I hope this battle continues and we keep playing each other in the finals.”
Both Rodriguez and El Sherbini take home over $24,000 in prize money after the tournament offered up equal prize money for the second year in succession.
The next stop for the world’s greatest squash players – including all four British Open finalists – will be the ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals, which will take place at Emirates Golf Club between June 5-9.
2018 Allam British Open Squash Championship, AirCo Arena, Hull, England.
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-2: 11-7, 6-11, 8-11, 11-2, 11-9 (102m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-9, 14-12 (47m)
Report by SEAN REUTHE. Edited by ALAN THATCHER
Pictures courtesy of PSA