Wednesday, June 12, 2024

ElShorbagy wins epic to deny close friend Elias world No.1 spot

Mohamed ElShorbagy put in a sensational performance at the Black Ball Open to scupper Diego Elias’ hopes of becoming squash’s new world No.1.

World No.4 ElShorbagy earned his spot in the final of the PSA World Tour Gold event for the first time following a gripping five-game battle with the Peruvian in which he overturned a match ball.

Elias would have become the sport’s first South American world No.1 if he had won the tournament following current incumbent Mostafa Asal’s surprise second-round exit to Fares Dessouky. However, he was outmanoeuvred at the Black Ball Sporting Club by an inspired ElShorbagy.

The Englishman – who spent 50 months at world No.1 himself between 2014 and 2021 – looked incredibly hungry and played at a relentless pace as he battled back from 10-9 down in the fifth game to secure a victory which will see him line up against 2019 PSA World Champion Tarek Momen in the title decider.

“I was almost going to retire last season,” said ElShorbagy. “I didn’t know what I was doing with my life or where I was, and here I am playing my sixth final this season, and I will be going for my fifth title.

“I kept backing it up and I trained really hard after last season. England Squash has done a great job with me, they’re sending a team with me to every tournament.

“He [Elias] is my closest friend on tour. It was so tough on court but at the same time we were smiling at each other and playing in the right spirit. I’m actually really sad that I’m the one that has stopped him from having his first chance at world No.1.”

Momen will also appear in his maiden Black Ball Open final after the 35-year-old achieved a superb comeback from 2-0 down against Welshman Joel Makin in a gruelling 76-minute contest.

The world No.9 overturned eight match balls against fellow Egyptian Dessouky in the previous round and again showed his powers of revival. He battled to a 7-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-4 victory against an increasingly tired Makin, who already had 230 minutes of action under his belt at this event after mammoth wins over No.4 seed Paul Coll and No.6 seed Marwan ElShorbagy in the previous two rounds.

“Today was a great day for me coming back from 2-0 down against a quality player like Joel,” said Momen.

“A few days before this tournament I wasn’t sure if I was going to play, I was struggling so much. I saved eight match balls yesterday and I came back from 2-0 down today, it’s unbelievable.”

The women’s final will be contested by world No.1 Nouran Gohar and world No.3 Hania El Hammamy, who will meet for the third time this season, with El Hammamy winning both of their previous meetings since September.

El Hammamy was pushed all the way by United States No.1 Amanda Sobhy in her semi-final but stormed home to victory in a dominant fifth game to reach the Black Ball final for the fourth time. The 22-year-old will now look to win her second Black Ball trophy after her 2020 triumph.

“I’m not very pleased with the way I played but I’m definitely happy to be able to fight and get through it even when it wasn’t my best day,” El Hammamy said.

“All credit to her, she’s been playing really well all week and I think she was really good tactically as well, so I had to adapt in each game. In every game I was trying to do something different because she was throwing everything at me. It’s always a tough match against Nouran. She’s the World No.1 and is very experienced. I need to be ready and focused for tomorrow.”

Defending champion Gohar overcame New Zealand’s No.4 seed Joelle King in the opening match of the day, completing an 11-5, 10-12, 11-8, 11-4 win in 54 minutes to reach her sixth final of the season.

“Joelle played very well and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Gohar said.

“I’m very happy with the way I managed the game and changed some stuff during the match. Having the crowd here and having the coaching back in general is very helpful. Having your coach travelling with you and helping you out gives you a big boost. Rod [Martin] is one of the best in the game.”

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