‘All I think about every day is being back at No.1’ says Mohamed ElShorbagy after beating Ali Farag
By ELLIE MAWSON – Squash Mad Correspondent
Egypt’s World No.2 Nouran Gohar is the first player through to the semi-finals of the CIB PSA World Tour Finals after she defeated France’s Camille Serme 2-0 at Cairo’s Mall of Arabia earlier today.
That win, along with her 2-1 victory over Salma Hany yesterday means that she currently sits top of Group A with seven points and cannot finish lower than second due to her head-to-head advantage over Serme, no matter what her result might be in her final pool match.
“Everyone in here can see how tough it was,” said Gohar afterwards.
“Winning 2-0 in 50 minutes is incredible. Camille never makes it easy on me, even if I’m going to win the match she’s running everywhere and getting everything back. She is one of the most experienced and consistent players on Tour and I have so much respect for her. It’s always tough to play against her.
“Nour is World No.1, I’m World No.2 – we have played in finals and this time we are playing in the final of the pool matches, which is going to be challenging as always. I’m looking forward to it.”
In the final pool match Gohar faces world No.1 Nour El Sherbini in a repeat of their El Gouna International final, where the latter came out on top in a dominant victory.
A win by any scoreline would see El Sherbini go through to the semi-finals after her 2-0 win over Salma Hany. However, if she is to lose and Serme wins her match against Hany then the Frenchwoman would go through thanks to her better head-to-head record after defeating the world No.1 on the first night.
“Usually after you lose a match it’s over for you – you go home and see what everyone is going to do but this tournament is different,” said El Sherbini.
“You lose and you have to come back the next day and be prepared mentally. Every match is difficult because we’re playing the top eight in the world, it’s the final in any tournament. I’m pleased to win today and have a chance to qualify, I’m really happy with my performance.”
New Zealand’s Joelle King, meanwhile, now sits top of Group B along with Hania El Hammamy on four points following a dominant 2-0 victory over USA’s Amanda Sobhy.
King made it four straight wins over Sobhy after she displayed a confident and composed performance to start her title challenge in the strongest way.
She will face Sarah-Jane Perry today with the Englishwoman needing to win to keep her hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals alive. While Sobhy will face El Hammamy as she looks to get her first win of the tournament against the defending champion.
“I felt good out there, I thought I was playing the court well,” said King afterwards.
“Amanda is class. If you give her a little inch, she is going to come back at you, which she did at the end. Probably the only thing I can say for my matches going forward is to keep my foot on the pedal.
“In this format, every point, every game counts, even losing 2-1 can set you up for the next round that you might get through the pool.”
The CIB PSA World Tour Finals features the top eight male and female players on the CIB Road to Egypt Standings, with points on offer at all PSA World Tour events throughout the 2020-21 season. The group stage uses a round robin, best-of-three games format as players bid to qualify for the knockout stages.
In the men’s event, Egypt’s Mohamed ElShorbagy has strengthened his grip at the top of Group A after he claimed a 2-1 victory over World No.1 Ali Farag and now has six points.
Mohamed’s victory over World No.1 Farag also gives him a small boost in his chances of getting the World No.1 spot back from Farag. However, there is still a lot that has to go his way with the 30-year-old needing to beat younger brother Marwan in the final pool game and then go onto win the title – and relying on Mostafa Asal to beat Farag to send him out at the group stage.
“We have been the best two players in the world for the last four or five years,” said Mohamed afterwards.
“We’ve been great rivals to each other, it’s been going back and forth between us. I’m really hungry to be back on the throne this year.
“It’s all I think about, every single day, I want to go back to World No.1 – my hunger is always to be the best player in the world and to do that I need to beat all the players and consistently, not just one tournament but the whole year.”
Rising Egyptian talent Asal gave his hopes of qualifying for the last four a significant boost with a 2-0 victory over Marwan ElShorbagy to send Group A down to the wire to decide who reaches the last four.
Asal came firing out of the blocks to sneak ahead in a tight first game before dominating the World No.5 in the second to comfortably close out his first win of the pool stage.
“I can’t believe I won and still have a chance of reaching the semi-finals,” said Asal. “I’m so proud of myself today, very big performance and I want to thank my team and my friends that are here.
“It’s a very tough group. When you play against World No.1, World No.2 and World No.5 it’s an unbelievable group. I’m focusing on my squash. All of my friends are here and they want to enjoy the moment. There’s still more to come.”
France’s Gregoire Marche made a mark on his debut at the event after coming from a game down to defeat Welshman Joel Makin.
Marche was drafted into the draw at the last minute following Fares Dessouky’s late withdrawal due to a lingering back injury and the Frenchman was on top form to topple Makin and go top of Group B along with New Zealand’s Paul Coll with both players on three points.
“It’s crazy how life can be sometimes,” said Marche in his post-match interview. “I’m sorry for Fares but it was good news for me.
“It’s easier for me maybe because I had no pressure today, I just had to try and push every rally and I liked the way I played, even in tough conditions. It’s hot tonight and the ball is pretty bouncy, but I dealt with it and mentally, it was maybe one of my best matches.”
If Marche and Coll both win today then they will be through to the semi-finals.
The CIB PSA World Tour Finals continue today (June 24) and play starts at the Mall of Arabia at 19:00 (GMT+2). The action will be shown live on SQUASHTV (worldwide) and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour.
2020-21 CIB PSA World Tour Finals, Mall of Cairo, Egypt.
Men’s Group A Second Round:
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Ali Farag (EGY) 2-1: 11-8, 8-11, 13-11 (64m)
 Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 2-0: 13-11, 11-3 (42m)
Men’s Group B First Round:
 Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt  Joel Makin (WAL) 2-1: 8-11, 11-9, 11-3 (59m)
Today – Men’s Group A Third Round:
 Mohamed ElShorbagy v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
Men’s Group B Second Round:
 Paul Coll (NZL) v  Joel Makin (WAL)
 Gregoire Marche (FRA) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
Women’s Group A Second Round:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Salma Hany (EGY) 2-0: 11-8, 11-6 (25m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 2-0: 11-8, 14-12 (48m)
Women’s Group B First Round:
 Joelle King (NZL) bt  Amanda Sobhy (USA) 2-0: 11-5, 11-8 (26m)
Women’s Group A Third Round:
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Salma Hany (EGY)
Women’s Group B Second Round:
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) v  Amanda Sobhy (USA)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v  Joelle King (NZL)
Squash fans can download the CIB Road to Egypt App to stay up-to-date with all the news from the tournament. Available now from the App Store and Google Play.
Pictures courtesy of PSA