By JANE BALL (Squash Mad Reporter) and CONNOR SHEEN (PSA)
World No.8 Nour El Tayeb continued her impressive start to the season as she defeated USA No.1 Amanda Sobhy to progress to the final of the South Western Women’s Open, where she will face World No.1 Nouran Gohar for the title.
Both finalists in this PSA Gold event at Houston Squash Club, presented by Cotidié, had to battle through tough five setters.
Recent CIB Zed Open winner El Tayeb progressed through to the semi-finals after England’s Georgina Kennedy was forced to withdraw in the second game of their encounter with a hamstring injury.
El Tayeb looked sharp and focused from the outset of the match and started to fire the ball into the front corners with ease to trouble her American opponent.
Spurred on by the home crowd, Sobhy responded by matching El Tayeb’s pace and started to implement her own short game to test the movement of the No.7 seed. Sobhy took the second game 11-9 to level the match.
The quality between the two players continued throughout the entire match and as the points became more crucial, the quality only increased. El Tayeb clinched a nail-biting third game 12-10 to place one foot in the final.
Despite Sobhy levelling at 2-2, it was clear that the efforts from the fourth game had taken their toll on the No.2 seed and El Tayeb was able to find the space on the court better in the final game to take it 11-6 and secure her place in successive finals after 63 minutes.
“I’m very grateful to be in successive finals, I guess I worked hard over the last period to come back and compete at this level against one of the best in the world in Amanda,” said El Tayeb.
“Most of the time I still feel like I’m on the comeback. I feel like the other players treat me like a mother so it gives me an edge and confidence. I’ve gone through a hard period, being pregnant and having a baby, but it’s just great to be back at this level.
“I still feel like I’m coming up the rankings again. I’m very happy with how it’s been going since I came back in December and it feels great to be back in another final.
“Tomorrow, I have Nouran in the final and I think she has been in every final since I’ve been back. Other people change but she seems to be the one always in the final and that’s a credit to her character and her squash.
“But I want to be testing myself against the top four or five players in the world – tomorrow’s another day and I hope I can do just as well.”
El Tayeb’s opponent in tomorrow’s final will be World No.1 and No.1 seed Nouran Gohar, who did not have it all her own way as she overcame compatriot Rowan Elaraby in a feisty affair.
Gohar held a 4-0 lead in the head-to-head record with Elaraby but the younger Egyptian showed no signs of nerves in the opening game against ‘The Terminator’, hitting the ball at a blistering pace to pin Gohar deep in the back corners before taking the ball in short with great accuracy. Elaraby stormed through to take the opening game 11-8 and looked determined for more.
Despite Gohar taking the second game, World No.7 Elaraby continued to pummel the back corners with tremendous power, making it very difficult for Gohar to impose her own aggressive style on the match. After many tense rallies, it was Elaraby who held her nerve, closing the game out 12-10 despite numerous interactions with the referee to take a 2-1 lead and silence the Houston crowd.
Gohar showed just why she is at the top of the world rankings in the fourth and fifth games, capitalising on a physically fading Elaraby. The World No.1 moved from strength to strength and it wasn’t long before she was looking ahead to her 33rd PSA World Tour final, winning the final two games both 11-4.
“It was a very tough match obviously, Rowan is such a talented player but you have to find a way and all credit to her, she played so well and I had to keep digging in but I felt like I found my range at the end and just very pleased to get through,” said Gohar after her win.
“Sometimes it’s not always a good thing to be winning lots go matches 3-0. With my coach, we talk about how some days I won’t be able to beat everyone 3-0 and I need to be prepared. I’m actually quite glad that I had a match like this before the final to really mentally prepare me.
“I’ve watched Amanda [Sobhy] and Nour [El Tayeb] play World Juniors together and have been on tour for so long but they’re awesome players and I’m really looking forward to playing either of them tomorrow.”
Today’s all-Egyptian South Western Women’s Open final will be shown live on SQUASHTV from 13:00 local time (GMT-5).
PSA Gold $110k South Western Women’s Open, Presented by Cotidié, Houston Squash Club, Houston, Texas, USA.
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Rowan Elaraby (EGY) 3-2: 8-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-4, 11-4 (59m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Amanda Sobhy (USA) 3-2: 11-8, 9-11, 12-10, 8-11, 11-6 (63m)
Final (September 11):
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v  Nour El Tayeb (EGY)
Pictures by Collin Poon Kong courtesy of PSA World Tour