Black Ball Club to host back-to-back men’s and women’s events in December
By ALAN THATCHER and SEAN REUTHE
Egypt will host back-to-back men’s and women’s PSA World Tour Gold events between December 7 and 18, 2020 when the CIB PSA Black Ball Open takes place at the spectacular Black Ball Sporting Club in Cairo.
A women’s event will take place from December 7-12, with a men’s tournament beginning the following day and drawing to a close with the final on December 18. Equal prize money of $100,000 will be on offer at both events.
Since first coming onto the PSA World Tour calendar with a men’s tournament in 2018, the Black Ball Open has held two women’s tournaments, the most recent of which took place in March in what was the final women’s PSA World Tour event to take place before the six-month suspension of the tour due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
World No.5 Hania El Hammamy took the title on that occasion – her first Platinum success – to join former World No.1 Raneem El Welily on the roll of honour, while World No.4 Karim Abdel Gawad won the inaugural men’s tournament in 2018.
The Black Ball Open will be the final PSA World Tour event to be held in 2020 and all matches will take place on the club’s permanent glass showcourt, which has seating for around 800 spectators. At this stage it is unsure how many fans will be allowed in to watch the world’s top stars in action.
It is also uncertain if Mohamed ElShorbagy will choose to compete. The world No.2 won the last men’s tournament before lockdown began, beating Ali Farag in the final of the St. James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic in London.
He carried on where he had left off by winning the first event on the calendar when the Tour resumed, beating Karim Abdel Gawad to win September’s Manchester Open. But he elected not to play the two subsequent events in Egypt, the PSA World Tour Finals and the CIB Egyptian Open. It is understood that he faces financial penalties whenever he visits his home country because of issues surrounding national service.
ElShorbagy suffered a shock defeat to 21-year-old Youssef Ibrahim in last week’s Qatar Classic and vowed to come back stronger.
His rivalry with current world No.1 Ali Farag is one of the most exciting elements of the professional scene and fans will be keen to see “The Beast” back in action. Entries are still open at the PSA Tour Office.
Both Black Ball events will be shown live on SQUASHTV and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour (excluding Europe and Japan). The semi-finals and finals of both tournaments will also be shown live by contracted broadcast partners around the world.
“I would like to thank CIB, Hussein Abaza, and all involved at the Black Ball Sporting Club for their hard work in ensuring that we could hold back-to-back men’s and women’s events,” said PSA Chief Executive Alex Gough.
“The support CIB have shown professional squash in particular has been greatly appreciated and I know I speak on behalf of all players when I say that they have been integral to the relaunch of the sport following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Black Ball Open has been a tremendous addition to the PSA World Tour schedule over the past two years, and I look forward to seeing what the latest instalment has to offer.”
CEO of Black Ball Sporting Club and Tournament Director, Mohamed Raef, said: “Since the opening of the Black Ball Sporting Club at the end of 2017, we have maintained a great partnership and cooperation with both CIB and the Professional Squash Association to organize multiple Gold and Platinum tournaments.
“No doubt it’s a huge challenge to organise such a tournament in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we guarantee to all the players, organisers, workers and audiences that all of the relevant precautions and safety measures will be in place to nurture the health and safety of all the participants and staff, who are our primary concern.
“I’m looking forward to the success of the tournament and we are hoping to receive decent global attention which will reflect the ultimate support of the Egyptian Squash Federation and the Ministry of Youth and Sports, who help ensure that Egypt continues leading squash globally.”
CIB Chief Executive and Board Member, Hussein Abaza, said: “CIB is honoured to sponsor such an esteemed sporting event where we have the privilege of witnessing some of the most skilled squash players in the world.
“The bank is committed to supporting sports in Egypt by reinforcing our country’s position as an international squash hub, increasing athletic engagement in Egyptian youth, and uplifting our local stars who have become a source of national pride following their achievements and international rankings.”
Like all four previous PSA World Tour events since the return of the tour, the Black Ball Open will be held in accordance with strict COVID-19 protocols. All players and staff will be tested prior to travelling to the tournaments before taking a further test upon arrival. Once a negative result has been received, that person will then be allowed to enter the tournament bubble, with further testing every four days during the tournament.
For more information on the CIB PSA Black Ball Open, please visit the tournament website or follow the event on Twitter or Facebook.
Further information regarding plans for the PSA World Tour schedule in 2021 will be revealed in due course.
Pictures courtesy of PSA and Black Ball Club