Hania El Hammamy halts six-times world champion Nour El Sherbini to reach final against Nouran Gohar
By ALAN THATCHER and SEAN REUTHE
Mohamed ElShorbagy will face disciplinary measures from the PSA after receiving two consecutive conduct strokes for dissent that gave a revenge victory to Paul Coll in the semi-finals of the El Gouna International.
Coll now meets a fired-up Mostafa Asal in what should be a mouthwatering final after Asal outplayed Ali Farag 3-1 the day after Farag replaced Coll as world No.1.
On a night of drama, Hania El Hammamy beat six-times world champion Nour El Sherbini to set up a meeting in the women’s final with Nouran Gohar, who beat Farag’s wife Nour El Tayeb.
ElShorbagy beat Coll in the semi-finals of the World Championships in Cairo and last night’s contest was equally thrilling until both players began to question decisions in the fifth game.
ElShorbagy had taken an injury break after losing the fourth game 11-1 but returned to the court looking sharp and quickly won the first three points. Coll fought back and led for the first time at 6-5.
ElShorbagy hit the tin and a forehand winner gave Coll an 8-5 lead.
Coll received a surprise ‘no let’ to bring ElShorbagy back to 6-8 but referee Andrea Santamaria referred her next decision to the video referee after Coll tripped over his opponent in mid-court.
As soon as the verdict of ‘stroke’ was announced, making it 9-6 to Coll, ElShorbagy began to complain to the referee, who told him he was blocking Coll’s path to the ball.
Despite a warning, ElShorbagy continued to protest and a conduct stroke made it match ball to Coll.
ElShorbagy kept up the verbal barrage and a second conduct stroke put Coll into this PSA Platinum level final against Asal.
After ElShorbagy had edged a cagey opening game 11-9, the pair engaged in a brutal 30-minute second game, played in hot conditions by the Red Sea. This time Coll squeezed through 11-9 to draw level.
The third was equally close and at 9-9 it was ElShorbagy’s turn to take it 11-9 after some fractious moments.
The heat must have played a part as ElShorbagy offered token resistance in the fourth, saving himself for a fierce attack at the start of the fifth.
However, Coll deserves credit for remaining steady and maintaining the pressure to get in front before that unexpected climax.
Coll said: “It’s not great to end a good battle like that. We were going hard for over 100 minutes again and it’s a shame for a match to end like that.
“I don’t really know what to say. It’s a shame. We’re pretty close off court and it’s a shame the match ended like this. It was a good battle.”
Asked about their match at the World Championships, Coll added: “It was very disappointing for me. I was really targeting that and Mohamed found his form again and he’s such a tough competitor.
“He’s been around the circuit for who knows how long and came out and found his groove again, and tonight we had a huge battle again, so I think he’s found his form again.
“He’s going to be a danger for hopefully not too many years, but he’s proved that he’s truly found his groove again.
“We’re playing in 30-plus degrees and as hard as that is physically, mentally it’s also very hard. Everyone’s using ice between games to cool down and try to stay calm and mentally focused in such hot temperatures.”
Asked about facing another Egyptian before the second semi-final, Coll added: “I’m sure it’s going to be a big battle between those two. They played as well in the World Championships and had 90-plus minutes there, so I’m hoping for 100-plus minutes from them tonight!”
On the comments made at the World Championships by ElShorbagy about Coll’s coach, Rob Owen, he said: “I still haven’t heard them. I just try to keep myself out of that stuff. I didn’t even read Rob’s article, so I don’t really know what Rob said.
“I’ve only heard through the grapevine what Mo said and Rob wasn’t too bothered by it. It’s just Mo’s opinion. He’s a very upfront guy, we’ll talk about it on and off court, so it didn’t bother me at all. I’ve moved on.”
Coll didn’t quite get his wish as world No.4 Asal beat Farag in 69 minutes. Asal had never beaten Farag over a best-of-five games scoring format and had lost 11 of their 12 matches on the tour.
This included a thrilling 97-minute semi-final battle in Cairo, which Farag won en route to his third World Championship title.
This time an inspired Asal put in one of the best performances of his career to date to complete an 11-4, 11-6, 6-11, 11-6 victory which will see him renew his rivalry with World No.2 Coll when he competes in his second Platinum final.
The match was full of attacking squash but Farag was only in control for large parts of the third game, when his decision to go short paid dividends.
However, he could not maintain the pressure and Asal regained control with his dynamic brand of squash to clinch victory in the fourth game.
“Paul is an old rival,” said Asal. “We have set up good clashes in Egypt, and his performances have been unbelievable over the last couple of tournaments. He was World No.1 two days ago.
“It’s going to be a tough match, but with this crowd is going to be all over the place tomorrow and boost my confidence and my performance.”
In the women’s event, El Hammamy produced a spellbinding performance to beat reigning El Gouna champion El Sherbini, who lifted her sixth World Championship trophy in Cairo two weeks ago, 11-6, 5-11, 14-12, 11-6 in 67 minutes.
The 21-year-old El Hammamy is no stranger to a major final after wins at the Allam British Open and the CIB Black Ball Women’s Squash Open in recent years, and she will look to capture her third Platinum title when she takes on World No.1 Gohar in a repeat of that British Open title decider.
“It definitely feels amazing being able to beat the six-time World Champion,” El Hammamy said afterwards.
“It’s something that I’m always proud of. Playing against Nour is definitely tricky. She’s the best of the best, to be honest. Playing against her makes me so happy and makes me want to play my best because if I’m not bringing my ‘A game’ I’m not able to beat her, so I’m definitely happy with that win.”
Gohar has reached her 11th successive major PSA final, becoming the first player to do so since Malaysia’s Nicol David in 2013, and her third El Gouna final after beating world No.14 El Tayeb 11-7, 13-11, 4-11, 11-1 in 65 minutes.
A tenacious El Tayeb proved to be a difficult opponent for the hard-hitting Gohar, but she eventually came unstuck in a one-sided fourth game as Gohar continued her tremendous form this season.
Gohar said: “Nour, since I was a junior, has been a role model for us and she’s one of the best and she keeps on being the example. She’s had a baby and is playing like this.
“Not just me but the whole tour thinks she’s playing better than before. Honestly, I was really excited for the match. It’s been so long since I felt I was challenged, mentally more than anything.”
The finals of the El Gouna International take place today (June 3) and play begins at 19:00 local time (GMT+2). All of the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV as well as on the channels of PSA’s broadcast partners.
2022 El Gouna International Open 2022, El Gouna Conference and Culture Center, El Gouna, Egypt.
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-2: 9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-1, 11-6 (109m)
 Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt  Ali Farag (EGY) 3-1: 11-4, 11-6, 6-11, 11-6 (69m)
 Paul Coll (NZL) v  Mostafa Asal (EGY)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 3-1: 11-7, 13-11, 4-11, 11-1 (65m)
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-1: 11-6, 5-11, 14-12, 11-6 (67m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v  Hania El Hammamy (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour