Nouran Gohar fights back from the brink to stop shock defeat in Cairo
By SEAN REUTHE – Squash Mad Correspondent
World No.2 Nouran Gohar survived an all-out assault from World No.35 Farida Mohamed as she came back from two games down and 6-0 behind in the decider to avoid a shock defeat in round one of the women’s CIB Black Ball Squash Open, PSA World Tour Gold event in Cairo, Egypt.
Mohamed, 18, has built up a reputation as something of a giant-killer in 2020 with wins over top 10 players such as Sarah-Jane Perry and Joelle King, and she went toe-to-toe with Gohar in an attacking performance that saw her match the No.2 seed’s trademark hard-hitting.
She hit winners from all over the court in the first two games but let that lead slip, before refocusing in the fifth game to take the first six points on offer. It was a real shootout between the two in a captivating finish to a feisty match, with Gohar coming back to take it 16-14 on the tie-break, ensuring she lives to fight another day at the final PSA World Tour event of 2020.
“It wasn’t easy at all,” Gohar said afterwards. “Sometimes you are not playing your best, but I am very proud of the way I held myself today. Being World No.2 is not easy at all but you have to earn this place by showing character before playing good squash, and I am glad I did this today and I proved that I can hold myself even when I am not playing my best.
“I think that is the first time we have been on court together after practicing yesterday. She surprised me with her killing shots, usually I am the one who does that but she took me by surprise and I just had to adapt, which I don’t have to do a lot. It was new and it was not very enjoyable, but I will take it.”
In the last 16 Gohar will play World No.16 Alison Waters, who beat wildcard Menna Nasser in the final match of the evening at Black Ball Sporting Club, while Waters’ fellow Englishwoman, Sarah-Jane Perry, is also through to round two after holding off Wales’ Emily Whitlock in five games.
Whitlock was making her first PSA World Tour appearance since March at the previous edition of the women’s Black Ball Open and, while Perry walked away with a comfortable 3-0 victory on that occasion, the World No.6 had to be on her mettle this time around to oust Whitlock by an 11-4, 9-11, 11-6, 11-13, 11-9 scoreline.
“I’ve been working on the mental side and one day it’s going to come together,” Perry said.
“In between some of those games I was thinking about [World No.3] Nour El Tayeb’s interview [announcing her pregnancy] and how I still have so much more I want to achieve and to do that I’ve just got to go out there and do it. I’ve put a really hard block in and I’m probably moving the best I’ve ever moved, and I’ve just got to keep putting the balls in the right areas and bring it all together.”
A clash with India’s Joshna Chinappa awaits Perry in the second round, with Chinappa beating England’s Julianne Courtice by a 3-1 margin.
Canada’s Hollie Naughton claimed one of the biggest wins of her career as she took out World No.14 Rowan Elaraby to win 3-1. The World No.20 came from a game down to win 8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-7 and she will play New Zealand’s Joelle King in the next round.
“I’ve been playing these girls that are ranked above me and just narrowly missing out,” said Naughton.
“You’re aiming to get to the top of the rankings, but I’ve been working on it with my coaches and sports psychologist to ultimately push that back and if you play, you can take out anyone.”
No.3 seed Camille Serme is also through to the last 32 courtesy of a straightforward 3-0 win over fellow French player Melissa Alves which will see her line up next against Belgium’s Tinne Gilis.
Serme said: “I am happy with my performance. It was not easy to play Melissa. We knew the draw for a few weeks but I really had to prepare mentally for this match.
“We are not only team-mates, but we are good friends. We spend a lot of time together, so it was not easy, but I had to give it my all to beat her. You have to remember that it is our job. You have to do your best, focus on what you have to, and to mentally be ready.”
The second round begins tomorrow (December 9) and play begins at 11:00 (GMT+2). All of the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour (excluding Europe & Japan).
Women’s 2020 CIB Black Ball Squash Open, Black Ball Club, Cairo, Egypt.
First Round (Bottom Half):
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt Melissa Alves (FRA) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-3 (33m)
 Tinne Gilis (BEL) bt Millie Tomlinson (ENG) 3-0: 11-5 rtd (7m)
 Joshna Chinappa (IND) bt Julianne Courtice (ENG) 3-1: 10-12, 11-6, 11-9, 12-10 (50m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt Emily Whitlock (WAL) 3-2: 11-4, 9-11, 11-6, 11-13, 11-9 (55m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt Donna Lobban (AUS) 3-2: 11-6, 11-6, 4-11, 5-11, 11-8 (54m)
Hollie Naughton (CAN) bt  Rowan Elaraby (EGY) 3-1: 8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-7 (40m)
 Alison Waters (ENG) bt [WC] Menna Nasser (EGY) 3-0: 11-4, 11-5, 11-3 (23m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt Farida Mohamed (EGY) 3-2: 9-11, 8-11, 11-5, 11-8, 16-14 (57m)
Second Round (December 9):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v Sabrina Sobhy (USA)
 Nadine Shahin (EGY) v  Amanda Sobhy (USA)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) v  Olivia Clyne (USA)
 Nele Gilis (BEL) v  Hania El Hammamy (EGY)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Tinne Gilis (BEL)
 Joshna Chinappa (IND) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
 Joelle King (NZL) v Hollie Naughton (CAN)
 Alison Waters (ENG) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA