Nour hits the Heights in Casino Classic
By LINDA ELRIANI – Squash Mad Correspondent in Brooklyn
Nour El Tayeb added the Carol Weymuller Open to her trophy cabinet after a titanic tussle with England’s Sarah-Jane Perry at the Heights Casino club in Brooklyn, New York. El Tayeb’s incredible range of skills saw her triumph 11-8, 10-12, 11-6, 11-8 against a taller opponent who was also seeking her first Weymuller win.
It has been a tremendous week of squash and the PSA players have definitely left everyone inspired and motivated.
The tournament is named after Carol Weymuller, who started the junior squash program here at The Heights Casino many years back with her late husband Fred, and it has grown and expanded along with the sport.
We always like to thank Carol for all her hard work and dedication back at the start, as we wouldn’t be where we are today with our program if she had not been forward-thinking enough to develop squash in this area.
At 7.30pm the bleachers were packed with eager members, anticipating the outcome. Our 2018 finalists were Sarah-Jane Perry from England, the world No.8, playing against Nour El Tayeb from Egypt, who is world No.3 and the 2017 US Open champion. Both players looked bouncy and eager to go on, knowing this was their last huge effort after a very successful and tiring week.
Nour and Sarah-Jane will go off to Hong Kong soon and their next big PSA event of 2019 will be back in NYC for the TOC in Grand Central Station in mid-January, so we are lucky to have all these amazing players back in the city in the near future.
They both first played in the world juniors and Sarah-Jane won that one, but since then Nour is 4-1 up in the head to heads, although every one of those four victories went to five games. So it was going to be interesting to see if they would have another epic five-setter tonight.
This match was going to be particularly interesting as both players, whilst very much on-form, play with quite different styles. Sarah-Jane is six feet tall and plays a precise and attacking game with a wonderful change of pace, stepping forward on the court and has more traditional tactics of cutting the ball off around the T.
Nour varies the pace and goes short whenever possible with colourful, creative shots whenever she feels there is a space open on the court. Nour dives for balls and she tries to twist and turn her opponent and take away their rhythm. Who was going to manage to force their game plan over the other? We’d soon find out!
In the first game Nour hit her first ball on the return of serve into the nick, so we can assume that she wasn’t feeling any nerves going into the final! Even though Nour won that first point it was actually Sarah-Jane who settled into her game plan the quickest, keeping the T and hitting some great deep and tight lengths to give her a 5-2 lead.
The rallies were fantastic quality with players producing smart but creative squash which was so much fun to watch. Nour started to find her rhythm and slowly but surely you could feel her start to control the first game. With an array of winners and a couple of errors from Sarah-Jane Nour went through to take the first game 11-8.
The second game started in the same fashion as the first with Sarah-Jane taking a 5-2 lead still with equally fantastic rallies and efforts from both players. In this match in particular it was being played with a wonderful spirit and even though they clearly both wanted to leave as the Weymuller champion, they were very much enjoying the fact they had fought their way to the final.
Maybe it was because they had reached the final and already done so well, but each rally was contested as hard as possible, but both players managed to have a smile on their faces in between rallies when something funny happened or one of the players made a cheeky remark.
As in the first game Nour pushed back, and with a cross court drive straight into the nick and a perfect backhand drop, Nour once again found her previous rhythm. Sarah-Jane lost a little of her previous length and the game evened up at 6-6. The game continued on with such closely contested rallies and neither player could afford to give the other even an inch.
The game evened up at 9-9 and with a perfect length it was Nour that got the first game ball. You could see that Sarah-Jane did not want to be 2-0 down and risky but perfect cross court nick evened the game once again to 10-10. In the next two rallies Sarah-Jane really upped her game producing a perfect crosscourt so wide that Nour threw her racket to try and retrieve it, and a perfect held trickle boast to take the games to 1-1, winning the second game 12-10.
In the third game it was Nour’s turn to get a 5-2 lead. A determined Sarah-Jane gave a big to push to not let Nour’s lead get away from her and she some plugged back to 6-6. This was the last point that Sarah-Jane won in the third game.
While Sarah-Jane was still producing some fantastic squash and putting in 100% effort, Nour was making very few errors and making it incredibly hard for Sarah-Jane to create any openings for herself. A series of wonderful shots from Nour and a forehand volley straight into the nick took her to the 2-1 lead she wanted winning the third game 11-6.
Sarah-Jane came out strong in the fourth, building a 5-3 lead. We were left wondering if Sarah-Jane could take this to a fifth five setter in a row! Each time Sarah-Jane worked hard for a small two-point advantage, Nour seemed to very quickly whip two points back again. The game evened up at 7-7 and with a volley boast error from Sarah-Jane and a lucky scrape off an incredibly tight length, Nour seemingly had the gods on her side today. Nour must have felt it was her time as she finished the last two points of the match with very impressive volley nicks, winning the final game 11-8.
Thus Nour El Tayeb managed to win her first Carol Weymuller Open title beating Sarah-Jane Perry (3-1) 11-8, 10-12, 11-6, 11-8 in 50 minutes.
Watching both players display world class, hard fought squash with such tremendous sportsmanship and respect for each other was really heartwarming and inspiring. We were all very privileged to witness this match this evening and it definitely makes us already feel excited to have them all back next year!
After the final I interviewed the very happy Nour. She said: “At the beginning of this season I think I put too much pressure on myself to do better than last year. Being in the top four area I was too desperate.
“When I was interviewed at another tournament they said that I had created a rivalry between me, Nour and Raneem and this put on more pressure. I should have enjoyed it more being in the mix. Then I lost early last week too so I just thought I should enjoy, relax and give it the best I could and this result shouldn’t matter.
“SJ is very positive and whether she wins or loses she takes more from the match than if she puts pressure on herself. Over the last two years there have been a lot of changes in my life, being married to Ali who helps me a lot, together with Haitham Effat and Hossam Nasser, who has added a lot of attacking to my game and Ali Ismail, my fitness coach , he has made me fit enough to back up my matches. Thanks to them all.”
When I spoke to Sarah-Jane after the final she seemed pretty happy and she said: “I thought that was the best I played all week. Unfortunately she just made a few less errors. It was a really high quality match. It’s not often you are going to play that well and lose.
“Credit to Nour. I get a round further each time I come so I’m definitely playing here next year! It’s been a great week. It’s time to go home after literally a month in the US! Next stop Hong Kong.”
Thank you to all the PSA players for choosing to come and play our event and for playing such beautiful squash and inspiring all of us, especially our juniors and taking the time to get on court with them at the Play a Pro.
You are not only amazing athletes, but also such gracious, friendly and inspiring women and wonderful role models to us all, and our sport in general. Thanks so much.
Women’s $51,250 Carol Weymuller Open 2018, Heights Casino, Brooklyn, New York, USA.
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-1: 11-8, 10-12, 11-6, 11-8 (50m)
Report by Linda Elriani. Edited by Alan Thatcher
Pictures by KELLEY HOLMGREN