It’s a classic as Nour Sherbini takes Laura all the way in gripping final
ENGLAND’S Laura Massaro was crowned Women’s World Squash champion in Malaysia today after a classic five-game victory over Egyptian wonder-kid Nour El Sherbini in front of a monster 4,000 crowd.
The 30-year-old world no.2 from Lancashire, runner-up in 2012, became the first English winner since Cassie Jackman in 1999 by halting the giant-killing run of 18-year-old El Sherbini 11-7, 6-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-9..
Qualifier Sherbini, who had beaten four seeds to reach the finals, had shocked the world by defeating the hot favourite and number one seed Nicol David in the semi-final. And she looked like causing another sensation as she took world number two Massaro into a fifth game decider in front of a wildly excited full-house in Penang,
It was gripping stuff as the decider swung one way and then the other. The young Egyptian, former world junior champion and only recently back to her best following a long absence through injury, led at the mid-way stage but British Open champion Massaro held her nerve, pulled on her experience and edged over the line.
Laura was ecstatic at the end. “That’s the hardest match I have ever played. I never thought I’d be able to say that I am World Champion and British Open Champion. And now I can. This is amazing, Nour played so well. I was nervous throughout the whole match.” she said.
The victory was another scalp for England squash following Nick Matthew’s world title last year. Nick was straight on to Twitter. “Yesssss!!!@ljmassaro is World Champion!!Massive credit to @noursherbini for her sportsmanship waiting for Laura to come off court at the end.”
Massaro, who had won the pair’s only previous meeting in September 2012, began brightly, rallying from 3-2 behind to dominate the first game, which she took on a stroke.
However, El Sherbini conquered her early nerves to take an early lead in the second game which she hung on to all the way through.
The third game was a much closer affair, though, with no more than two points separating the pair throughout before Massaro claimed it with a decisive late push.
The England star seemed as though she was going to wrap up her first world title in four games when she strode into a 4-2 lead, but El Sherbini stormed back to win seven points in a row and the game.
That roll continued into the decider as the Egyptian marched into a 6-2 lead, but Massaro gradually clawed her way back into it to level at 6-6 and then edge ahead 9-8 – an advantage she didn’t surrender as she took the trophy on her second match-ball with a stroke.
Laura added: “For me and Nick to both be world champions at the same time is great. I’m so proud of what he’s achieved as well. He’s someone I really look up to, so to emulate what he’s done by becoming world champion is very special.
“For me personally to hold the British Open and the World Open titles in the same year, it’s just dream stuff really. It’s a big team effort and I’m so grateful to everyone around me and really proud that they get to share this too.
“Hopefully this will be good for squash in England. This is all part of it – getting coverage of things like this; young kids being able to watch our matches and see us achieve things. We want to show them that they can become world champions too and that anything is possible.”
Afterwards, Nour spoke to SquashMad. She said:” I’m not sad at all. It’s an honour to be in the final. I’ve just beaten the world number oneyesterday, so I am in no way sad. I’m happy with the way I have been playing all week.
“I was a little nervous today. I did not put a lot of my shots in. I learned from today really. Before the game, I felt confident and I told myself to just play my game and there’s no pressure on me. But when I stepped into court, all that changed. I felt nervous and I was playing too cautiously.”
On being 4-0 and 6-2 up in the fifth she added:” I was on my way to winning and it kept playing in my mind and I lost focus. I was thinking of the end too much at that stage.”