Friday, June 21, 2024

British Open Squash 2024: Mostafa Asal and Nouran Gohar lift titles after epics

At the very last, with one final soft touch from Mostafa Asal, Ali Farag stopped in his tracks.

It wasn’t out of fatigue – the Egyptian would have done another five games – no, it was the frantic nature of the multiple British Open champion asking for a let and more, which for all the world never looked likely.

And there ended a men’s classic final as Asal, coached by James Willstrop, lifted his first British Open title after a searing 11-5, 2-11, 13-11, 4-11, 12-10 victory.

The fifth game had plenty of storylines and intrigue worthy of the Rep stage. Decisions went against each player with the score at 2-2. It was a three-way final, with referee Jason Foster thrust into the action with a number of let calls and video reviews. He handled it intelligently and calmly, while some of the video decisions were somewhat baffling in outcome.

Still, Farag, uncharacteristically vocal, rallied from 6-2 down to 9-7 ahead. Then, Asal produced a now trademark shot he has made his own this week, the whipped backhand crosscourt into the nick. And then another clean winner.

To the tiebreak and Asal inched ahead before the final moment of action as the young pretender dropped his racket and the two embraced. He celebrated by pretending to drink a cup of tea, but his first title had been less than cosy.

For Farag was appearing in his fifth successive British Open final and Asal had even overturned a championship ball to secure the 15th title of his career.

“It’s unbelievable, I’m almost running out of words, I’m almost crying,” said Asal afterwards.

 “To win against Paul [Coll, in the semi-finals] and Ali is amazing. I was 6-2 up in the final game and then the emotions came in, and Ali came back to 9-7. It was almost going the other way, but what a relief.

“At the beginning of the season I had no structure until I went to Pontefract to work with James [Willstrop]. To play the squash that I’m winning at the moment is all credit to them.”

Meanwhile, world champion Nouran Gohar won her second British Open title after beating El Sherbini 11-6, 17-15, 3-11, 7-11, 11-4 in the longest women’s British Open final on record.

At 91 minutes, El Sherbini overturned a two-game deficit as she looked to avenge last month’s PSA World Championship final defeat to Gohar.

History suggested that El Sherbini would complete the comeback having beaten Gohar in three previous British Open finals, but Gohar is playing some of the best squash of her career at present, and the 26-year-old powered through to take the fifth game, earning her fourth successive PSA title.

“It felt like a never-ending story today although I was 2-0 up,” said Gohar after winning the 27th title of her career. “El Sherbini won her first World Championships title from 2-0 down, so if anyone can come back, it is her. She played better when she was down, and I tried to prepare for that, but it was very difficult to stop. 

“I feel like I can trust my physicality right now. I can go out there and play for 100 minutes, I’m injury-free, I can hit whatever shot whenever I want, so why not win every single match I can? I think after the World Championships, it was a major relief and there was pressure off me. [This week] it was more about enjoying myself and proving to myself that I am the best right now.”

Results – Men’s Final: 2024 British Open

[4] Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt [1] Ali Farag (EGY) 3-2: 11-5, 2-11, 13-11, 4-11, 12-10 (79m)

Results – Women’s Final: 2024 British Open

[3] Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt [1] Nour ElSherbini (EGY) 3-2: 11-6, 17-15, 3-11, 7-11, 11-4 (91m)

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