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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Drama as Ali Farag and Nour El Sherbini storm to Windy City Open titles

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Champions Nour El Sherbiniand Ali Farag pictured with Windy City Open title sponsor Mark Walter

Farag stops Coll from claiming a trio of Egyptian scalps 
By SEAN REUTHE – Squash Mad Correspondent

Egyptian duo Ali Farag and Nour El Sherbini have been crowned champions of the 2020 Windy City Open, presented by the Walter Family, after they achieved thrilling five-game victories over men’s World No.5 Paul Coll and women’s World No.1 Raneem El Welily in the University Club of Chicago’s stunning Cathedral Hall in the early hours of this morning.

The luxurious setting of the glass court, surrounded by stained-glass windows and chandeliers, provided a fittingly dramatic backdrop as each final unfolded.

Farag’s mission was there for all to see as he completed an astonishing comeback from two games down against Coll.

It was a different story for Sherbini, who managed to deliver performances of the highest quality while concealing an illness that could have let her down at any point of the tournament.

Farag was delighted as he captured his first Windy City Open title courtesy of a 12-14, 9-11, 11-7, 11-6 11-1 victory in 77 minutes.

The result sees him extend his winning streak over Coll to 12 matches. He also makes it back-to-back titles in Chicago after winning the 2018-19 PSA Men’s World Championship crown in the city last season.

Coll had ended a five-match losing streak to World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy and a three-match winless run against World No.4 Karim Abdel Gawad en route to the final, and shot out of the starting blocks to take a one-game lead, while he held firm to take the second after initially squandering a 7-3 advantage.

But Farag’s resurgence in that second game looked to drain Coll’s energy and confidence, and the Kiwi never looked quite the same player over the course of the next three games as Farag absorbed everything his opponent threw at him and slowly took control of the encounter.

For Farag, it’s a first PSA World Tour title since the U.S. Open back in October 2019 and represents his first title win following the death of his nephew shortly after the 2019-20 PSA Men’s World Championship in November.

“I was telling Nour [his wife Nour El Tayeb] after the second that I still had it in me to win the last three games,” said Farag following the 19th PSA title of his career.

“I could have been the one that was 2-0 up but all credit to Paul, after beating Mohamed and Karim, and I was out of it after the second. I tried to hang in there and at least if I didn’t win it then I had put some work into his legs. It has been a great week for myself and I could not be prouder.

“First of all, I would like to thank my brother and his wife for staying so strong. I take inspiration from them every day and this one is for them. Karim Darwish for always letting me believe in myself. He keeps telling me that I am the best player and that pays off. My parents, they are up every morning to watch matches, and last but not least, Nour has been a great inspiration.”

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Sherbini shakes off illness and injury to beat El Welily 

World No.4 El Sherbini matched Farag in both making it successive title wins in Chicago and winning her final clash in five games as she followed up her title win at the 2018-19 PSA Women’s World Championship with victory over compatriot El Welily.

El Sherbini was a losing finalist to El Welily in the 2016 and 2017 finals but got her revenge over the three-time winner in a week which saw her brave both illness and a persistent knee injury to win this tournament for the first time.

El Sherbini has shown a remarkable ability to win titles despite not being at her best physically, as evidenced by her World Championship win over El Welily in front of the iconic Great Pyramid of Giza in November, which was her first tournament after undergoing knee surgery.

And El Sherbini made it 12-12 all on the head-to-head record against the world’s leading female player to win 11-8, 8-11, 11-8, 6-11, 11-9 in 59 minutes.

“Finally I got to win this tournament,” said El Sherbini after winning her 21st PSA title. “Every year I try very hard and I think Raneem is the favourite here. She has won it three times before and she plays her best here, but I am glad it was my turn this time. This is one of the few tournaments I had not won so it was very important for me to win this title.

“I am really grateful that the tournament is over because I have been suffering the whole week [with illness], and it was very hard for me physically and mentally to prepare for every match and try to be fit and ready.

“I wasn’t feeling very well and I was dealing with a lot, but I am really glad that I made it to the last day and that I kept digging in until the last point in the match.”

The Windy City Open is the most lucrative PSA World Tour event outside of the PSA World Championships, with a total prize fund of $500,000 split equally between the women and the men, and both Farag and El Sherbini will each take home in excess of $35,000 for their efforts in Chicago this week.
 
2020 Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family, Cathedral Hall, University Club of Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Men’s Final:
[1] Ali Farag (EGY) bt [5] Paul Coll (NZL) 3-2: 12-14, 9-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-1 (77m)

Women’s Final:
[2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [1] Raneem El Welily (EGY) 3-2: 11-8, 8-11, 11-8, 6-11, 11-9 (59m) 

Pictures by STEVE LINE courtesy of PSA and University Club of Chicago

 

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