Sunday, May 26, 2024

El Gouna 2023: Ali Farag and Nouran Gohar make it Egypt double

Ali Farag won his 20th match in a row while Nouran Gohar lifted her first El Gouna International title at the fourth time of asking following another Egyptian title double on the PSA World Tour.

Both players will return to the summit of the women’s and men’s PSA world rankings, respectively, on Monday.

Farag beat defending champion Mostafa Asal 3-1 to make it four trophy wins in succession, while Gohar defeated Belgium’s Nele Gilis in straight games to secure her maiden El Gouna International title.

Farag’s incredible form has seen him win the British Open, PSA World Championships, the Manchester Open and now the El Gouna International, as he stretched his unbeaten run.

Coming into the men’s decider, Asal was up against it following a mammoth 110-minute semi-final against World No.4 Mohamed ElShorbagy, with the pair finally walking off court in the early hours of the morning.

The 22-year-old really had to draw on all of his remaining energy reserves and relinquished control of the first game despite holding a 9-7 lead, with a big push from Farag seeing him punish his compatriot.

Asal – who beat Farag in the semi-finals of last year’s event – was able to fight on in the second game, drawing level following a tie-break victory, but he faded rapidly in the third as Farag restored the one-game cushion in confident fashion.

That broke Asal’s resistance and the fourth game was a procession, with Farag in complete control as he dropped just two points against an ailing opponent.

Ali Farag celebrates

Farag now has 33 PSA titles to his name – becoming the joint-second most successful Egyptian alongside the legendary Amr Shabana – while it’s his fifth triumph of the season. He will also overtake Peru’s Diego Elias at the top of the PSA World Rankings on Monday.

“I’m very proud with how I’ve dealt with the past couple of months and I’m very happy with the way I performed today,” said Farag.

“It’s never easy to play against Mostafa [Asal], he’s such a champion. How many people in history can say that they have been the World No.1 and the best player in their sport at the age of 21, it’s unbelievable what he has achieved already. I’m happy I’m at the back end of my career because I don’t want to battle it out with him for many years!”

It was fourth time lucky for Gohar to land her maiden El Gouna International title, having been a runner-up in 2019, 2021 and 2022, but she ensured she would walk away with the trophy on this occasion after overcoming Gilis in 58 minutes.

Gilis was the first Belgian player ever to appear in the final of a major PSA event following her sensational 3-0 dismantling of current World No.1 and World Champion Nour El Sherbini in the semi-finals. The 27-year-old came out firing as she hit her targets with conviction to take an early 5-4 lead in the opening game.

Gohar was backing up after contesting a mammoth 107-minute battle with rival Hania El Hammamy the night before – the fifth longest women’s match of all time – and she took a while to find her rhythm. There was a short break in play due to the ball flying out of the court following a shot from Gilis, which halted the Belgian’s momentum. Gohar took full advantage as she won seven of the next eight points to take a one-game lead.

Nouran Gohar has been runner-up three times

The second game followed a similar pattern as Gilis again came out swinging and attacked with no fear, but the intensity of Gohar’s hitting soon told as she dispatched her opponent clinically to double her lead.

Both players traded points in a back and forth third game, with Gohar coming from 9-8 down to ultimately seal her first Platinum title since October’s U.S. Open.

The win means that Gohar has lifted her 22nd PSA Tour title and, like Farag, it’s her fifth title of the season. It will also see her replace El Sherbini as the World No.1, ending her fellow Egyptian’s four-week reign at the summit, with Gohar ascending to the top ranking for the third time in her career.

“Nele [Gilis] had an unbelievable tournament,” said Gohar afterwards.

“I saw it coming, she’s put in the work and it’s very inspirational. We’ve known each other since juniors and for her to be playing like this was far from enjoyable for me today! With the weather, her retrieving everything and the pressure, it was a bit too much.

“It wasn’t the prettiest squash from my side maybe, but I’m super proud of myself with how I fought hard this week. This will be the third time that I’m World No.1 in my career, but it’s the first time after winning a tournament, so it feels amazing. With the new weekly ranking system, it’s so nice, you win a tournament on Friday and on Monday you’re World No.1.”

Men’s Final Result:

[4] Ali Farag (EGY) bt [3] Mostafa Asal (EGY) 3-1: 12-10, 10-12, 11-6, 11-2 (62m)

Women’s Final Result: 

[1] Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt Nele Gilis (BEL) 3-0: 11-5, 11-7, 11-9 (58m)

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