Saturday, April 20, 2024

Married couple win 2023 Manchester Squash Open

It was a day to remember in Manchester for married couple Ali Farag and Nour El Tayeb, as they both picked up the Manchester Open 2023 titles, beating Karim Abdel Gawad and Nele Gilis respectively in the finals at the National Squash Centre.

It was the first time in six years that the couple have both been successful in the same tournament, with the last occasion coming at the 2017 U.S. Open.

The men’s final was a rematch of the recent PSA World Championships final as Ali Farag took on compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad and looked to repeat his success in Chicago to claim a 32nd PSA Tour title.

Gawad started the better of the two in the final and caught the World Champion slightly flat-footed as he raced to 9-4 by attacking the front of the court with great precision. Farag responded however and worked his way back into the game to force a tiebreak. Gawad hung tough however and managed to close the game out 12-10 to take a 1-0 lead.

There was nothing between the two in the second game, with the quality of squash at the highest level and both trading blows at the front of the court. It was again Gawad who earned the first game ball to take a huge 2-0 lead. Farag regrouped strongly and forced Gawad into some tough movements and eventually stole the game 13-11 to equalise.

The resistance started to fade from the 2016 World Champion as the sharp, explosive movements that were evident in the opening two games were no longer driving him forward. The street-wise Farag recognised this and continued to pile the pressure onto his fellow Egyptian. Farag took the third and fourth games 11-2, 11-5 to claim his first Manchester Open title and third successive PSA World Tour event win.

“I hate losing! That is what drives me to keep going,” Farag said afterwards.

“In the first, I didn’t start off too badly but Karim [Abdel Gawad] was really sharp. It was very similar to the first game in the World Champs – he was 9-4 up and I came back to 10-9 and then he came back to 10-all. This time he ended up winning it and I thought I’d put a bit of work into his legs, but at the beginning of the second, it was so loose from my end and with Karim you just can’t afford to do it. He gave me some very lucky tins, he could have run away with the game, but I hung in there and once I got there, I think I had the upper edge and I feel better physically.

“I’m lucky that I was only away for four months as he’s been away for 10 months. It’s all on your body and all in your head and I’m so glad I have Nour [El Tayeb] by my side and having Farida [his daughter] here as well helps to get your mind off things and you don’t think about the matches as much or how tired you are – you just keep pushing. I’m extremely proud and very grateful.”

Farag’s wife Nour El Tayeb was a winner in 2020 at the Manchester Open and came up against first-time finalist Nele Gilis to try and capture a second. The Egyptian displayed her excellent skill and deception in the opening games and despite Gilis trying her best to restrict El Tayeb, the No.3 seed took the games 11-9, 11-7 to take a 2-0 lead.

The Belgian No.1 has been in great form this week and wasn’t going to go down without a fight. She battled back and made things difficult for El Tayeb and ran away with game three to breathe more life in the contest, taking it 11-5.

The World No.6 returned to the court in the fourth game ready to push hard physically to ensure the match didn’t reach a fifth and she could secure the win in four games. She set herself up with two championship balls and converted at the second time of asking after a stroke decision went her way to claim a second Manchester Open title and second title of the season.

“This was a tough match, Nele [Gilis] played so well. I’ve played her three or four times over the last year and a half and I can see her improvements every time,” El Tayeb said afterwards on court.

“Even though I can see her getting tired, I couldn’t close it out because even though she’s tired she keeps trying every point and keeps changing her game every few points.

“I’m glad I hung in there and trusted my ability and trusted myself, and luckily I managed to win this one as it was getting very close! I think it was the longest match of the week for me, but I’m glad.

“I was trying to focus on what I wanted to do. The game plan was tough against her – I can see her getting tired and I was tired, but I had to trust myself and I know what I’m doing as I’ve been doing it for a while.

“I’m confident in what I do, I’ve changed my coaching over the last four or five months and I’ve been taught how to be confident at every point and to give myself credit even on the points I lose. In a lot of moments when I felt like I was losing points, I was trusting myself and trusting that I was doing everything I can and it came today.”

The PSA World Tour heads to Egypt next for the El Gouna International 2023, which takes place from 26 May – 02 June.

Men’s Final Result: Manchester Open 2023

[1] Ali Farag (EGY) bt [8] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-1: 10-12, 13-11, 11-2, 11-5 (57m)

Women’s Final Result: Manchester Open 2023

[3] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt [7] Nele Gilis (BEL) 3-1: 11-9, 11-7, 5-11, 11-9 (63m)

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