Asal conquers Coll in straight games after El Hammamy battles back to beat Gohar in 90 minutes
By ALAN THATCHER and SEAN REUTHE
Egypt’s dominance of the world squash scene may have entered an exciting new era following victories by Mostafa Asal and Hania El Hammamy in last night’s El Gouna International.
Both beat the top two players in the world in their semi-finals and final. Both are just 21 years old.
For Asal, beating New Zealand’s Paul Coll in three games lasting 70 minutes delivered him his second PSA Platinum title.
Earlier, El Hammamy produced one of the greatest comebacks the sport has seen in recent years as she overturned a two-game deficit against World No.1 Nouran Gohar to lift her third PSA World Tour Platinum title. Her victory took 90 minutes to accomplish in a brutal battle played at a phenomenal pace.
In the semi-finals, Asal beat world No.1 Ali Farag in four games, while El Hammamy accounted for six-times world champion Nour El Sherbini, also in four games.
Coll had accounted for Mohamed ElShorbagy to gain revenge for losing to him in the World Championships, although his victory was overshadowed by ElShorbagy receiving two conduct strokes that ended the match. Gohar, meanwhile, had halted the determined run of supermum Nour El Tayeb.
Last night’s women’s final began with world No.1 Gohar controlling the opening stages as the 24-year-old stormed through the first two games and seldom missed a shot.
With scores of 11-2 and 11-4, Gohar looked confident and in complete control. She kept the ball pinned in the back corners and when her opponent struck anything loose she killed the rally with punishing severity.
As the score reached 4-4 in the third game, El Hammamy looked to be settling into the match and finding her usual accuracy. The feisty nature of the World No.3 was growing with every point and after earning herself three game balls, she converted to win it 11-8.
The fourth game started in a slightly scrappy fashion with both players determined not to surrender the middle of the court and the accuracy gave way to more power.
The interruptions continued as decisions and medical time outs featured heavily but El Hammamy stayed focused to reach game ball. After a lengthy, tense rally, the No.3 seed fired a brilliant volley drop into the front left corner to force a fifth game.
Another blood injury, this time for a cut on El Hammamy’s knee, came at the start of the fifth game, which seemed to disrupt Gohar’s momentum as some errors crept into her game.
El Hammamy saw her opportunity and grabbed it with both hands as she powered home in the decider to complete a 2-11, 4-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-4 victory after an hour and a half of intense action.
“It’s very special, I can’t believe it,” said El Hammamy after winning the ninth PSA title of her career.
“A week ago I lost in the World Championships, and I didn’t really feel like I was ready to come here and play my best squash.
“Being able to beat the World No.1 and No.2 in the same tournament is a huge step for me, I’ve never done it. I felt like coming here I have to show up, do my job and try as much as I could to play my best, even if I’m not feeling like it.
“To beat Nouran, you have to keep digging in. I was thinking at 2-0 down that I was rushing and making a lot of errors, and I wanted to keep digging and keep putting in a performance. Slowly, I got back to playing my best, so I’m very happy with that.”
In the men’s final, World No.4 Asal captured the second Platinum title of his career after taking out World No.2 Coll with a superb 11-8, 11-9, 11-5 victory.
Patience and maturity are not words often used in association with Asal following repeated incidents on court that have sparked controversy ever since he emerged from the juniors to carve his way through the senior ranks.
However, his superb performances against Farag and Coll on consecutive days suggest that he has the mental strength to shed all that unnecessary baggage as he heads inexorably for the top.
Coll had won his last two matches against Asal and is determined to regain the No.1 ranking he surrendered to Farag during this tournament. But last night was all about Asal as he put in an impeccable performance to gain his sixth PSA title.
In a mammoth 30-minute first game, Asal managed to pull away in the later stages by chopping the ball in short when Coll failed to hit his targets.
Asal seemed content with the attritional rallies which would ordinarily suit Coll. The US Open Champion chose his attacking shots wisely and took the opening game 11-8.
The young Egyptian raced out to a 5-1 lead in the second game by quickly moving onto balls at the front and hitting past the World No.2. Coll stuck to his task and clawed his way back to 6-7.
However, Coll’s momentum was halted by the intelligent attacks of Asal who moved through to take the game 11-9.
Asal, known as ‘The Raging Bull’ showed no signs of slowing down and continued to create opportunities to put the ball into space to work Coll and set up attacking chances.
The controlled and measured length of Asal was a constant threat and the World No.4 motored through to earn himself five match balls. He needed only one to win 11-5 as the crowd went crazy.
After winning the title Asal was serenaded at courtside by Egyptian legend Ramy Ashour and the wave of joy at having two young champions hung in the air at this superb venue.
Asal had this to say after his win: “I want to thank all of this crowd for coming today. It is something unreal so thank you guys for coming and supporting us and making squash bigger and bigger.
“I want to thank (promoter) Amr Mansi and all the PSA for making this tournament. I couldn’t be more proud of myself, it’s been tough for me, playing the World No.1 Ali Farag and I’m really proud of myself and once again thank you to all the crowd for cheering for me.
“I also want to say the women’s match was unbelievable. I want to congratulate Nouran [Gohar] and Hania [El Hammamy] because it was unreal.
“I also want to congratulate Paul. He’s been World No.1 and I’m sure he will be there for many more months in the future and I want to congratulate Ali (Farag) for his efforts, all of my team, my coach and physio and thanks to my family and the Al Ahly Club.”
The next stop on the PSA World Tour will be the Necker Mauritius Open 2022, presented by Beachcomber Resorts & Hotels, which will take place between June 7-11 at the RM Club in Mauritius.
2022 El Gouna International, El Gouna Conference and Culture Center, El Gouna, Egypt (PSA Platinum event with $180,000 prize fund for both men and women).
 Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt  Paul Coll (NZL) 3-0: 11-8, 11-9, 11-5 (70m)
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 3-2: 2-11, 4-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-4 (90m)
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour