Mohamed Abouelghar and Nouran Gohar champs in Macau
By ALEX WAN – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
It was a double Egyptian delight as second seeds Mohamed Abouelghar and Nouran Gohar took top honours at the rain interrupted finals of the Macau Squash Open 2017. After a few days of good weather with the occasional showers in the morning, the skies decided open up this afternoon. It stopped just in time for the women’s final to start but halfway through the first game, it came back with a vengeance and there was no other way but to move play back to the squash centre across the peninsula.
The women started with a high tempo, both players eager to be in front and taking the ball as early as possible. It was a joy watching them move with such grace. The first couple of points were close, with both taking turns to lead up to 3-3. Joelle then had a lucky bounce on her serve to budge ahead that was followed by a nick. She got another two points to 7-4. The rain came pouring during the next rally and Joelle slipped while hitting a shot on the front right corner, and water was coming down the covers at the right back corner. A quick call was made to move play back to the squash centre, and it wasn’t a good 45 minutes before play resumed.
Once back at the squash centre, it seemed that Nouran had adapted quicker and she quickly drew level to 7-7 with her power play. But Joelle got to game ball at 10-8 with a low backhand cross court. Nouran saves a game ball and in the next rally, her racket catches Joelle during the swing, but was only given a let, much to her disgust. But that seemed to have fired her up as she turned up the pace from there and took the crucial first game 13-11.
The second game saw both players continue displaying their moments of brilliances, Joelle with her occasional holds and soft cross court backhands that worked effectively and Nouran with her power play, and the rare soft touches in the front. It was close up to 7-7, before Nouran raced the next four points for a two-game lead, with the last point being another complete blunder by the referee, where a clear stroke became a no let against Joelle.
Both players traded points once again in the third, no one ever taking more than a two-point lead. Again, Joelle had a game ball at 10-9 but was just unable to convert again. Nouran levelled, won the next two points and the two ladies embraced. Joelle King has been dethroned by the world number 5.
“I think I’ve had five gold events where I’ve been runner up. To win today, it’s a big thing for me. Not so much beating Joelle, but it’s like a victory against myself. I was a little nervous when play was stopped earlier. It’s not something I am used to dealing with. It nearly happened in China also, but today, play actually moved back. Joelle was leading then and that affected me in a positive way. I’m really happy with the way I stayed focussed mentally tonight.”
When asked what she was looking forward to after a good start to the season, Nouran was quick to add, “I started really well last year too. But I wasn’t able to sustain the performance, so I hope to be consistent this year. I do not want to think about the ranking and just play well, the rest will come automatically.”
In the men’s, second seed Mohamed Abouelghar played flawlessly and displayed the crowd at the squash centre with an array of shot making attempts that drew lots of oohhs and aahhs from the appreciative audience. The level of control he exerted onto Saurav Ghosal made things look easy. There was only once that the Indian led, that was the first point of the first game, and he would never lead again.
From the word go, the Egyptian was in his element. After dropping the opening point, he raced through the next eleven points in succession for the lead. He followed this up with the next six points in the second game. Saurav won his first point with a cross court backhand from the front, which drew a loud applause from the crowd. Next, a tin from the Egyptian and Saurav doubled up his points. But after that, it was back to Mohamed controlling the T and sending Saurav all over the court. In a befitting end to the game, Mohamed leapt high into air for a soft forehand volley drop that ended so delicately in the front.
In the third, things were no different. Mohamed always in control and glimpses of his brilliance in shot making were at 9-3, where he hit a counter cross court drop into the nick and what better way to end the match than with a cross court nick off the serve. 29 minutes was all it took for Mohamed Abouelghar to win his second $50k event.
“It wasn’t as easy as it looked in there. Saurav has been around for a long time and his skills are second to none. When I heard we were moving back here, I thought it’s a good thing for me as the glass court is a lot more dead, so it’s better for Saurav’s shot making. I’m really happy I kept focussed on the change and handled the situation tonight. This is a great start to the season for me, as I usually start very badly. I’m looking forward to see what’s in store ahead,” said our Macau Open champion Mohamed Abouelghar.
Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt Joelle King (NZL) 13-11, 11-7, 12-10 (48m)
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 11-1, 11-4, 11-4 (29m)
Pictures by Macau Squash Association and Alex Wan