‘It’s been a long, tough season for us all,’ says Mo as he faces Farag in the last four
By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)
Four of the greatest names in squash, Mohamed ElShorbagy, Ali Farag, Paul Coll and Nouran Gohar, booked their places in the semi-finals of the 2021-22 CIB PSA World Tour Finals after winning through at Cairo’s Mall of Arabia.
ElShorbagy is currently top of Group A in the men’s event following an accomplished performance against Peru’s Diego Elias on day three of the event.
The two-time World Tour Finals champion lost out to Elias in the final of the Necker Mauritius Open earlier this month but moved on from that with an impressive showing, winning 11-6, 11-7.
“It’s been a long season for all of us, it’s tough,” said ElShorbagy. “I think I’m one of the most experienced players with dealing with the end of seasons, so I know everyone is hurting, including myself. He [Diego] played really well in Mauritius and gave us all a squash lesson there. To win today puts me in a good position.
“I don’t think he was too worried about losing to me today, and I wasn’t too worried about losing to him in Mauritius. We both want to be winning Platinum events. It’s a big deal to win the World Tour Finals, Jansher [Khan] won this event, so there’s so much history.”
A win for Farag in the following men’s match sent both him and ElShorbagy through to the last four, with the World No.1 seeing off World No.8 Mazen Hesham by a 2-1 margin.
Farag and ElShorbagy will now go head-to-head for the honour of winning the group, and their match will be a repeat of May’s CIB PSA World Championship final.
“It [topping the group] doesn’t matter in terms of the outcome of the tournament because you don’t know who’s coming through from the other side,” said Farag.
“But it matters because of the points, because there are ranking points for each match, and also you never want to play a squash match and not want to win. I’m playing Mohamed tomorrow and to win I can’t be at 99%, I need to be at 100 or 110.”
In Group B, World No.2 Paul Coll ensured that he will top the group after he defeated defending champion Mostafa Asal 2-0.
Asal dismantled Coll to win the El Gouna International title earlier this month, but he dropped off physically as today’s match went on, and the New Zealander will play whoever comes second in Group A. Asal also reaches the semi-finals having qualified yesterday, and he will play the winner of Group A.
In the women’s event, World No.1 and defending champion Nouran Gohar remains the only player to have a 100 per cent record and earned her place in the semi-finals courtesy of a 2-0 win against England’s Georgina Kennedy.
Kennedy couldn’t live with Gohar’s pace and the Egyptian has qualified top of Group A, taking eight points from eight so far.
“It’s always hard to play against Gina,” Gohar said. “We grew up playing together but what an unbelievable season she’s had, nobody did what she did and I have so much respect for her. I’m sure we’re going to have great battles in the upcoming years, and I’m really looking forward to this rivalry.”
There is one spot remaining in the women’s semi-finals, and USA’s Amanda Sobhy took a major step towards a maiden World Tour Finals semis spot after she ended a six-match losing streak against New Zealand’s Joelle King. Sobhy had won just one of their previous 11 meetings, but the World No.4 was in red-hot form and outclassed her opponent to capture her first win of this year’s event and move into second place in the group.
Sobhy takes on Kennedy next and a win would see her join Gohar in the last four. Kennedy, meanwhile, still has a chance of qualifying if she records a 2-0 win over Sobhy and Gohar beats King. Added to that, King can also qualify if she defeats Gohar and Kennedy beats Sobhy, so it’s all to play for in Group A.
In Group B, World Champion Nour El Sherbini recorded an astonishing win over World No.3 Hania El Hammamy to finish top of Group B. ‘The Warrior Princess’ was clearly inhibited by a leg injury and required treatment, first in the game break after El Hammamy had come back to level at 1-1, and then after a collision with the wall when two match balls up.
El Sherbini held her nerve to underline just why she is a six-time World Champion and fought through the pain barrier to complete an 11-8, 4-11, 11-9 victory in one of the best matches of the tournament so far.
El Sherbini said: “Hania has been in amazing form this season and she beat me the last few times, but I don’t know how I won this one.
“I was playing every point like it was the last. It was very risky for me but I had to keep going, I’d already qualified so I had to play on or I couldn’t play the rest of the tournament. I’m very lucky to get through this one.”
The CIB PSA World Tour Finals continues today (June 24) as the group stage draws to a close, and play starts at the Mall of Arabia at 19:00 (GMT+2). The action will be shown live on SQUASHTV.
2021-22 CIB PSA World Tour Finals, Mall of Arabia, Cairo.
Men’s Group A, Second Round:
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Mazen Hesham (EGY) 2-1: 11-3, 9-11, 11-2 (40m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) bt  Diego Elias (PER) 2-0: 11-6, 11-7 (29m)
Men’s Group B, Third Round:
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt  Mostafa Asal (EGY) 2-0: 11-8, 11-5 (21m)
Women’s Group A, Second Round:
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Georgina Kennedy (ENG) 2-0: 11-3, 11-4 (19m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 2-0: 11-5, 11-5 (24m)
Women’s Group B, Third Round:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 2-1: 11-8, 4-11, 11-9 (50m)
Today’s Matches (Day 4, June 24)
Men’s Group A Third Round:
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Diego Elias (PER) v  Mazen Hesham (EGY)
Men’s Group B Third Round:
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v  Joel Makin (WAL)
Women’s Group A Third Round:
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v  Joelle King (NZL)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) v  Georgina Kennedy (ENG)
Women’s Group B Third Round:
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v  Rowan Elaraby (EGY)
Pictures and graphics courtesy of PSA World Tour