Amanda Sobhy digs deep to beat Laura Massaro
By MATT COLES
Egypt’s World No.1 Ali Farag is through to the quarter finals of the El Gouna International Squash Open, PSA World Tour Platinum tournament after surviving a gripping, five-game encounter against Peru’s Diego Elias on the glass court at the spectacular Abu Tig Marina earlier today.
The 81-minute encounter saw some high-quality squash played from both players, with Farag taking a two-game lead, only to see a stunning resurgence from Elias put the World No.9 on the verge of an incredible win.
The Peruvian’s energy levels dipped in the fifth as the physical exertion took its toll, and Farag re-established himself on the match to close the win out and book his place in the next round with an 11-8, 11-3, 14-16, 6-11, 11-5 victory to set up a fixture with World No.5 Paul Coll.
“I played really well for almost three full games, up until 9-5 [in the third], I had a good lead and I was controlling it,” Farag said.
“Once I lost that one, he let his racket go and he’s very dangerous when he does that. That tensed me up a little bit, and I lost my way. But I’m glad I found my way back in that fourth, even though I lost it, I think it gave me a big boost for the beginning of the fifth.
“I’m very thankful to be through that one. I never look at myself as the favourite to win any tournament, I look at myself as one of the contenders for sure, but not the favourite, so that releases me a little bit.”
Also on the glass court was Egypt’s World No.3 Tarek Momen, who saw off a strong challenge from India’s Saurav Ghosal to reach the last eight of the El Gouna International.
Momen came out firing in the first game, moving to the front of the court as quickly as possible, and nullifying any attacks that the Indian tried to put together. He won it 11-8, before taking the second in the same vein, 11-7.
At the end of the second game, Ghosal received treatment on a back injury. However, he came back strong in the third, and even had a game ball to take it into a fourth. The Egyptian composed himself though and recovered to take the match in three, winning the third on a tie-break.
“I’ve always played Saurav and never had a 3-0 win against him,” said Momen.
“It was always very tough because we play a very similar game. I knew today that I had to be up for it, and I don’t need to give him any windows of opportunity. It’s hard to do that against a good a player as Saurav, and I thought I did really well to win the first two games.
“In the third, when I saw he had an injury break, I tried so hard not to think about it, and I did really well at the start of the game and didn’t think about his injury. When I got the big lead, I started to relax a bit and thought that it was a shame, it was a good match, and I felt sorry for him.
“I’m really glad that I managed to win the last game in a tie-break because I didn’t want it to go to a fourth because you never know what might happen. I’m very pleased with the win, and I’m looking forward to playing after tomorrow.”
German No.1 Simon Rösner will face Momen in the quarter finals after claiming a 3-0 victory over England’s Adrian Waller.
All seven of their previous matches had gone the way of Rösner and he put in a composed performance in this one to win 11-4, 11-6, 11-2 in just 29 minutes.
New Zealand’s Paul Coll also moved into the quarter finals of the El Gouna International, after he defeated Wales’ Joel Makin at the Squash Complex.
The pair had only met twice on the PSA Tour before this clash, with the Kiwi getting the better of Makin at the Citigold Wealth Management Canary Wharf Classic in March. He did so again in this one, to set up a clash with World No.1 Farag.
In the women’s draw, United States No.1 Amanda Sobhy got her first win over a top eight player since October as she battled to a 3-1 victory against former World No.1 Laura Massaro to earn herself a spot on the glass court in the quarter-finals.
Sobhy was competing against the Englishwoman for the first time since 2016 and had never beaten the World No.8 in five previous matches. But Massaro looked off the pace in the opening two games as Sobhy hit clean lines and dominated the ’T’ to collect an 11-5 victory in game one, before following that up with an 11-6 triumph in the second.
Massaro dug into her mental reserves and came out fighting in the third as the steely 35-year-old stormed into a 7-0 lead. The Englishwoman lost her length though and made a succession of errors to let Sobhy back into the encounter, and the American built up two match balls to put herself on the verge of a straight games win.
Massaro came back to within touching distance, but Sobhy kept her at bay to hold three match balls, and the 25-year-old converted this time around to complete an 11-5, 11-6, 11-13, 11-8 victory in 44 minutes, setting up a clash with Egypt’s World No.3 Nour El Tayeb in the last eight.
“I think it was the refusal to lose [that got me through it] and being able to back myself while having the confidence of being able to scalp the top eight players,” Sobhy said afterwards.
“I saw this as an opportunity, I haven’t played Laura in a number of years, and I wanted to see how I would do up against someone other than Nour El Tayeb or Nour El Sherbini.
“I’m happy with how I regrouped, hung in there and backed myself to win in four. I think playing those matches [against the top players] and learning from those tough losses every time [is key to turning the losses into wins].”
El Tayeb joined husband Farag in the quarter-finals after dispatching fellow Egyptian Salma Hany in straight games.
World No.14 Hany really took the game to El Tayeb at the beginning of the first and second games, and she had the World Championship runner-up on the ropes as she displayed some serious attacking intent.
But El Tayeb grew into the match as she played the big points well and came from behind to win both of the opening two games. She then made short work of the third to book a quarter-final clash with Sobhy. The pair have met eight times on the PSA Tour – with four wins apiece – while their last three matches have gone all the way to five games.
“I think today’s match was tough, first of all it’s Salma, secondly because Ali’s match kept going and going, and he was so nervous, so I got nervous,” said El Tayeb afterwards.
“I think I started the match too tired in the end, not physically, but emotionally because of Ali’s match. But I’m glad that I managed the conditions.
“I didn’t start well in the first two games, but I managed to play well in the end, and I’m very happy with my performance. Salma is a very tough opponent, we practice a lot together, and I’m very happy to be in the next round.”
Defending champion Raneem El Welily saw off the threat of Belgium’s Tinne Gilis to earn her spot in the quarter-finals after an 11-8, 11-8, 11-2 victory on a windy night at El Gouna’s Abu Tig Marina.
World No.1 El Welily beat compatriot Nour El Sherbini to win the inaugural title 12 months ago and was tested at times in the opening two games against Gilis, who was appearing in her first Platinum third round after scalping Egypt’s Mayar Hany and India’s Joshna Chinappa.
Gilis cut the ball into the front well to finish the first two games within three points of the Egyptian, although the third was one-way traffic as El Welily dropped just two points to close out the win.
The 30-year-old will face New Zealand’s Joelle King in the quarter-finals, after she got the better of Egypt’s Mariam Metwally.
The Kiwi got off to a flying start, not letting her opponent get a rhythm going in the first game. She continued that momentum to take the match in three.
Third round action continues tomorrow at El Gouna Squash Complex, with matches starting at 12:00 local time (GMT+2). The glass court action at the Abu Tig Marina will start at 18:30 tomorrow evening.
Matches from the glass court will be broadcast live on SQUASHTV (rest of world), Eurosport Player (Europe only) and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour (excluding Europe and Japan).
El Gouna International.
Men’s Third Round (Top Half):
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt Diego Elias (PER) 3-2: 11-8, 11-3, 14-16, 6-11, 11-5 (81m)
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt Joel Makin (WAL) 3-0: 12-10, 11-5, 11-7 (65m)
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-0: 11-4, 11-6, 11-2 (29m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 3-0: 11-8, 11-7, 13-11 (45m)
Women’s Third Round (Top Half):
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt Tinne Gilis (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-8, 11-2 (22m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt Mariam Metwally (EGY) 3-0: 11-4, 12-10, 11-4 (27m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Laura Massaro (ENG) 3-1: 11-5, 11-6, 11-13, 11-8 (44m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Salma Hany (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-7, 11-3 (24m)
Men’s Third Round (Bottom Half) Monday April 22:
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Omar Mosaad (EGY)
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Miguel Rodriguez (COL) v Fares Dessouky (EGY)
Cesar Salazar (MEX) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
Women’s Third Round (Bottom Half) Monday April 22:
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Tesni Evans (WAL)
 Annie Au (HKG) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v Zeina Mickawy (EGY)
Nadine Shahin (EGY) v  Nour El Sherbini (EGY)
Men’s Quarter Finals (Top Half) Tuesday April 23:
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Paul Coll (NZL)
 Simon Rösner (GER) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
Women’s Quarter Finals (Top Half) Tuesday April 23:
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v  Joelle King (NZL)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) v  Nour El Tayeb (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA