After the Pyramids, the Black Ball Club is one of the great wonders of the squash world
By ALAN THATCHER and ELLIE MAWSON
The main draw for the women’s 2020 CIB Black Ball Squash Open has been released, with defending champion Raneem El Welily predicted to play World No.2 Nouran Gohar in the final of the PSA World Tour Platinum event held between March 8-14.
El Welily beat reigning World Champion Nour El Sherbini at the spectacular Black Ball Sporting Club in March 2019 to capture the inaugural title and she will once again be the favourite this time around as a 48-woman draw battles for the $180,000 total prize fund.
The Egyptians are on the same side of the draw and are seeded to meet in the semi-finals, which would be their first encounter since the 2016 U.S. Open not to take place in a PSA World Tour final. They met in Chicago on Wednesday on Wednesday evening when El Sherbini shook off the effects of illness and injury to win a dramatic final of the Windy City Open 11-9 in the fifth.
El Welily will play either South Africa’s Alexandra Fuller or compatriot Menna Nasser in round two, and could face the likes of Yathreb Adel and World No.5 Nour El Tayeb as she looks to reach a second straight Black Ball Open final.
Meanwhile, El Sherbini will go up against one of Millie Tomlinson or Rachael Chadwick in round two, with further matchups against the likes of World No.14 Alison Waters and World No.6 Joelle King predicted to follow.
In the bottom half of the draw, No.2 seed Gohar will take on either Canada’s Hollie Naughton or Netherlands’ Tessa ter Sluis in the last 32. Her path to the final contains the likes of India’s Joshna Chinappa and World No.7 Sarah-Jane Perry, while she is seeded to play J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions winner Camille Serme in the last four.
The wildcards for the tournament are Egyptian duo Salma Youssef and Nour Aboulmakarim, who take on American Sabrina Sobhy and 2007 World Champion Rachael Grinham, respectively. Wales’ Tesni Evans and Hong Kong’s Annie Au have both withdrawn from the event since the entry list was announced.
The winner of the tournament will also qualify for the season-ending PSA World Tour Finals. The World Tour Finals brings together the world’s top eight male and female players and features the reigning World Champions as well as all PSA Platinum title winners. The other places will be allocated to the highest ranked players on the Road to Egypt Standings, with points on offer at all PSA World Tour events throughout the 2019-20 season.
The Black Ball Club has a permanent glass court with room for more than 800 spectators, making it one of the most luxurious and magnetic squash centres on the planet.
Squash Director Ashraf Hanafi told Squash Mad: “It’s an honour to host the CIB Black Ball women’s tournament for the second time. We worked very hard to raise the prize money to $180.000 and to have it as a Platinum tournament instead of Gold status.
“We are glad that we could have 46 top players from all over the world plus our two Black Ball players as wild cards, Salma Hatem and the 17-year-old Nour Aboulmakarim.
“The tournament will be broadcasted live at Squash TV as usual plus our local channel ON Sport in Arabic with a Podium analyzing and explaining the technical and tactical Egyptian way of playing. I wish the whole squash society could hear it to understand more about Egyptian squash.
“I am very pleased with the progress we have made. I have worked on this project personally with Alex Gough from the PSA to get squash into the wider Egyptian TV market again after six years being shown exclusively on a different TV channel.
“Since the first Black Ball tournament two years ago, there are now millions in Egypt watching the squash stars live on TV for many hours a day, including the match analysis and player interviews.
“I am sure that we are well prepared and we are going to do our best to present a big, successful tournament worthy of the Black Ball Club and Egypt.”
Action from the glass court stages will be shown live on SQUASHTV (rest of world), Eurosport Player (Europe only) and the official PSA World Tour Facebook page (excluding Europe and Japan).
Tickets for the event are available via the tournament website
2020 CIB Black Ball Squash Open, Black Ball Sports Club, Cairo, Egypt, March 8-14.
First Round Draw:
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) [bye]
Menna Nasser (EGY) v [17/32] Alexandra Fuller (RSA)
[17/32] Joey Chan (HKG) v Ineta Mackevica (LAT)
 Yathreb Adel (EGY) [bye]
 Victoria Lust (ENG) [bye]
Tze Lok Ho (HKG) v [17/32] Donna Lobban (AUS)
[17/32] Tinne Gilis (BEL) v Liu Tsz-Ling (HKG)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) [bye]
 Joelle King (NZL) [bye]
Farida Mohamed (EGY) v [17/32] Nadine Shahin (EGY)
[17/32] Coline Aumard (FRA) v Tsz-Wing Tong (HKG)
 Salma Hany (EGY) [bye]
 Alison Waters (ENG) [bye]
Lisa Aitken (SCO) v [17/32] Mariam Metwally (EGY)
[17/32] Millie Tomlinson (ENG) v Rachael Chadwick (ENG)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) [bye]
 Camille Serme (FRA) [bye]
Enora Villard (FRA) v [17/32] Melissa Alves (FRA)
[17/32] Rowan Elaraby (EGY) v Mayar Hany (EGY)
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) [bye]
 Olivia Blatchford Clyne (USA) [Bye]
[WC] Salma Youssef (EGY) v [17/32] Sabrina Sobhy (USA)
[17/32] Zeina Mickawy (EGY) v Rachel Arnold (MAS)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) [bye]
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) [bye]
Jasmine Hutton (ENG) v [17/32] Emily Whitlock (ENG)
[17/32] Rachael Grinham (AUS) v [WC] Nour Aboulmakarim (EGY)
 Nele Gilis (EGY) [bye]
 Joshna Chinappa (IND) [bye]
Lucy Turmel (ENG) v [17/32] Nada Abbas (EGY)
[17/32] Hollie Naughton (CAN) v Tessa ter Sluis (NED)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) [bye]
Pictures courtesy of PSA and Black Ball Open