Monday, June 24, 2024

British Open Squash 2024: Mostafa Asal ensures all-Egyptian finales

While three main protagonists duly booked their slots in the British Open finals, it was left to Mostafa Asal, in a fractured and tense semi-final, to advance to his first showdown in the sport’s oldest event on Saturday evening.

World No.4 Asal had to come from behind to defeat two-time champion Paul Coll at the Birmingham Rep Theatre. ‘The Raging Bull’ had to regather himself from 2-1 down to eventually seal victory 7-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-7, 11-6 and will now face perennial champ Ali Farag for the last PSA World Tour Platinum title of the season in Sunday’s men’s final. 

For a majority of this final, Coll looked the likely winner. Asal looked physically short, intent on short rallies and going short to stifle the Kiwi. One game to the good and the Egyptian trailing in the second, a movement decision against Asal seemed to spark him as the two traded games to take it into a fifth.

This time it was Coll who was on the back foot as Asal raced into a 5-1 lead, which he held onto to confirm all-Egyptian finals.

“It’s a nightmare [to play Coll] but we have had some tough battles over the past four or five years and he’s an unbelievable athlete,” said Asal. “He picks up every single ball and I have to hit five crosscourt nicks to win a rally. All credit to him and I can’t believe I won this match.

“It’s great to be here and to be in the final of the British Open. I’m still young, I’m only 23 years old, and I’ve grown up watching these legends. I’m really looking forward to it, and hopefully the crowd are going to be on my side tomorrow. There is one more push.”

In the other men’s semi-final, World No.1 Ali Farag delivered a masterful performance to end the run of Birmingham-based Joel Makin in straight games. 

Makin, 29, had already made history this week at The Rep Theatre, becoming the first Welshman to reach the semi-finals of the prestigious event since David Evans 24 years ago, but he couldn’t replicate these heroics against an in-form Farag, who claimed the win by an 11-3, 11-9, 11-7 scoreline. 

“Joel has been in immaculate form recently, and deservedly so,” Farag said after the match. “He has been in and out with injuries, and he has shown what a competitor he is when he is fully fit. Even at some points today when I felt like I was dominating the ’T’, he kept coming back. But for me, I had to hit my targets well, and try to twist him and turn him as much as possible. 

“He’s not as patient as he used to be, he’s more aggressive, he takes his opportunities, and I had to try and take this away from him. I think I did that well today, so I’m very pleased.”

In the women’s draw, World No.2 Nouran Gohar and World No.1 Nour El Sherbini will contest the final for the second year in succession. It will be a rematch of last month’s World Championship final, which saw Gohar end El Sherbini’s run of five straight World Championship trophies.

Gohar, 26, reached her fifth consecutive final at the British Open after she came back from a game down to defeat arch-rival Hania El Hammamy. 

It was the 24th time the pair were meeting on the PSA Tour – with Gohar winning 15 of those matches – and it was ‘The Terminator’ who emerged victorious in front of a packed house at The Rep as she won 11-13, 11-4, 11-3, 11-8.

Despite El Hammamy taking a nip-and-tuck first game, Gohar kept a level head to manoeuvre her way back in the encounter with some ferocious hitting and accurate lines, setting up a tantalising final against top seed El Sherbini.

“It’s because of Nour [El Sherbini] and Hania that we keep improving the level of squash,” said Gohar after the win.

“They are such fierce competitors and they always want to improve. It’s because of them that I am the player I am today, and we’re pushing each other to the limits. Sometimes it goes beyond the limit, but I don’t think it’s anything personal, it’s more we have the hunger and the will to win, and we kill ourselves to reach the ball every single time.

“It was a very enjoyable match today, it was very clean and the referee did a great job today as well. I’m happy with the way I dealt with it today, especially after losing the first game.”

Meanwhile, top seed El Sherbini secured her spot in the title decider with a battling victory over Egyptian compatriot Nour El Tayeb in four games. 

El Sherbini, a four-time winner at the British Open, had to withhold a determined comeback from the No.5 seed, who saved a match ball in the third, before eventually sealing the win by an 11-9, 11-5, 10-12, 11-4  scoreline after 47 minutes on court. 

After moving through to her sixth British Open final, El Sherbini said: “It was very hard because we are very close friends and we have been together since we were ten years old. What she is doing is unbelievable after giving birth and making it back at the top level. 

“I just wanted to get back to my game plan [after the third game], get back to my targets again. She’s a fighter, she gets everything back and she keeps running everywhere. I just tried to be focused again on what I should do.”

Results – Men’s Semi-Finals: 2024 British Open 

[1] Ali Farag (EGY) bt Joel Makin (WAL) 3-0: 11-3, 11-9, 11-7 (54m)

[4] Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt [2] Paul Coll (NZL) 3-2: 7-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-7, 11-6 (67m)

Results – Women’s Semi-Finals: 2024 British Open 

[1] Nour ElSherbini (EGY) bt [5] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 3-1: 11-9, 11-5, 10-12, 11-4 (47m) 

[3] Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt [2] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 3-1: 11-13, 11-4, 11-3, 11-8 (64m)

From 3pm BST

Draw – Men’s Final: To Be Played June 9th 

[1] Ali Farag (EGY) v [4] Mostafa Asal (EGY) 

Draw – Women’s Final: To Be Played June 9th 

[1] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v [3] Nouran Gohar (EGY)

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