Friday, February 3, 2023

El Hammamy and Asal topple top seeds to reach Hong Kong Open finals

By Mike Dale and Sean Reuthe (PSA) in Hong Kong

Egyptian duo Hania El Hammamy and Mostafa Asal toppled the no.1 seeds to advance to the finals of the Everbright Securities International Hong Kong Squash Open for the first time.

El Hammamy’s victory marks the first time in 2022 that anyone has prevented world No.1 Nouran Gohar from reaching a PSA World Tour final, with the 25-year-old reaching 11 finals in 11 events this calendar year.

It was the latest chapter in the pair’s bitter rivalry, with Gohar enjoying nine wins from 13 matches against her compatriot. Saturday’s match at Hong Kong Park Sports Centre was perhaps the most entertaining of the lot, with El Hammamy coming from behind to record an 11-9, 8-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-2 victory following 84 high-octane minutes.

Hania El Hammamy ends rival Nouran Gohar’s run of 11 straight finals

“I’m over the moon to reach the final,” said El Hammamy. “Last time I was here was four years ago and I lost in the first or second round. I’m very happy to be back after the long break from Hong Kong to reach the finals. It was a very tough match and I’m happy to come out on top.

“What an achievement [on becoming the first player to deny Gohar a final appearance in 2022]. She’s reached every final for a season and a half, but I’m just focusing on myself and my game and what I want to achieve. Hopefully I can keep going and get the win tomorrow.”

Her final opponent will be 2017 Hong Kong Open champion Nour El Sherbini, who overturned a one-game deficit against in-form Joelle King to progress to her third successive final.

Four-game win for Nour El Sherbini gets the 2017 Hong Kong champion back into the final

Her last appearance in a PSA World Tour final saw her defeat El Hammamy by a 3-2 margin to win the Grasshopper Cup, and the world No.2 and world No.3 will lock horns in what promises to be a captivating final on Sunday.

“It would be amazing to win the Hong Kong Open final, hopefully it goes well and I’ll be ready for it,” El Sherbini said.

“It was very tough [for El Hammamy against Gohar] they had an amazing match and it was 84 minutes or something unbelievable. It’s going to be a tough match, Hania is the no.3 player and has been in good form since last season. I’m looking forward to it and we’ve played a couple of times this season, so hopefully it’s going to be a good match.”

There will be a new name etched onto the men’s trophy with Asal setting up a title showdown with no.2 seed Diego Elias after the Peruvian ended the 11-match winning run of world no.3 Mohamed ElShorbagy.

Asal fell a game behind following a confident start from Coll, who could have returned to world no.1 had he won this event. However, the Egyptian found his accuracy in the second and third games to take the lead and, while Coll recovered to take the fourth, Asal was able to outmanoeuvre the Kiwi to advance to his first PSA World Tour Platinum final of the season.

“It’s an amazing match between me and Paul,” said Asal. “He’s a superb player and there is always free-flowing squash. He’s the kind of player who never acts or does stuff on court, so I want to thank him for a great match. It was a tough match for me, it was a 3-2 and one of the best days of squash today.”

Diego Elias ends Mohamed ElShorbagy’s hopes of a third successive title

Meanwhile, Elias required five games to get the better of ElShorbagy, who was hunting a third successive title after wins at the New Zealand Open and Singapore Open.

The Peruvian was able to raise his game to another level after falling 2-1 behind, recording a 7-11, 11-3, 6-11, 11-5, 11-7 victory to give him the chance of lifting his 13th PSA title.

“He [ElShorbagy] is such a great player and he’s so experienced,” Elias said. “We have become very good friends lately. When I’m in the match you don’t think about that though. We both want to win so badly, and I’m just happy I could win this time.”

The Hong Kong Open finals take place on Sunday (4 December 4). Play begins at 16:00 (GMT+8).

Results – Men’s Semi-Finals:
[2] Diego Elias (PER) bt [3] Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) 3-2: 7-11, 11-3, 6-11, 11-5, 11-7 (67m)
[4] Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt [1] Paul Coll (NZL) 3-2: 7-11, 11-5, 11-7, 5-11, 11-4 (72m)

Draw – Men’s Final (4 December):
[2] Diego Elias (PER) v [4] Mostafa Asal (EGY)

Results – Women’s Semi-Finals:
[3] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt [1] Nouran Gohar (EGY) 3-2: 11-9, 8-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-2 (84m)
[2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [4] Joelle King (NZL) 3-1: 8-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-7 (48m)

Draw – Women’s Final (4 December):
[3] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) v [2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY)

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