Nour El Sherbini and Hania El Hammamy power through to women’s semi-finals
By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor) and SEAN REUTHE (PSA Media)
Paul Coll opened up about the emotional turmoil he has faced this season after beating Joel Makin in the 2021-22 CIB PSA World Tour Finals,
Having lost his opening match of the tournament to Tarek Momen on Tuesday, world No.2 Coll bounced back with a battling display to defeat Manchester Open champion Makin in straight games.
The pair both came in with a single point to their names after their respective 2-1 losses on the opening day, and it was the Welshman that held a solid lead in the latter part of the first game. Five straight points saw Coll come from 8-5 down to lead 10-8, and he eventually clinched the opening game on a tiebreak 12-10.
He carried that momentum into the second game, and with Makin starting to tire ever so slightly, the Kiwi was able to get home in straight games, winning 12-10, 11-5 in 44 minutes to take home the full four points, and move top of Group B ahead of the last match of the event between Mostafa Asal and Tarek Momen.
“I spoke to my coaches, Rob [Owen] and Bart [Wijnhoven], I felt really good coming into this after speaking to them, and I am really happy with today’s performance.
“That was the main goal, to win 2-0 and to try and get as many points as possible. I am gonna rest up tonight, watch them battle it out [Mostafa Asal and Tarek Momen], and hey, who knows what’s going to happen with the points tomorrow.
“I am just trying to enjoy my squash again. There has been a lot of pressure on me this year. I am just trying to find myself on court again and finish strong.
“It is a very emotional time for me. There was a lot of pressure and a lot of emotions flying around. I spoke to a lot of people. Greg Gaultier, I have spoken to a few times and he has helped, even Mohamed [ElShorbagy], relating to those guys is very helpful.
“These last few tournaments, I haven’t really been enjoying it as much as I was at the start [of the season], so in this one, I wanted to find myself again and start enjoying it!”
To reach the last four, Coll now needs to beat World No.4 Mostafa Asal, who became the first man to qualify for the semi-finals after he overcame World No.6 Tarek Momen in a feisty clash. It was a scrappy battle with numerous traffic issues, resulting in a busy night for the referees.
“I don’t want to be bad, I don’t want to say some things,” said Asal after winning 11-8, 12-10 in 40 minutes.
“It was a terrible match, I didn’t like the way we played on this court. He is an unbelievable player, he is 34-years-old and he is a World Champion, so all credit to him… but tonight was not how we should play our squash. “
World No.1 Ali Farag came from behind to beat Peru’s Diego Elias in a contentious Group A clash. A superb performance from Elias saw him unsettle the reigning World Champion as he built up a one-game lead.
But midway through the second game, a controversial video referee decision saw a potential double bounce called good in Farag’s favour. Elias was incensed and it rattled the World No.5, who lost his focus, allowing Farag to come back and level.
The third game was all Farag as Elias’s intensity dropped off, and the Peruvian was clearly still unhappy with his opponent as he walked off court, believing Farag should have called his ball down.
“He completely lost his focus, and I am very proud that I kept mine,” said Farag, who has moved up to second in Group A, behind World No.3 Mohamed ElShorbagy.
“I’m very proud because when he loses his focus, sometimes it gets to you, but I kept on with my game-plan until the very last moment. I have never gotten my hands on this trophy, I have never made it to the finals here in Egypt, only once in Dubai, so hopefully I can keep progressing and take it one match at a time until I hopefully achieve the title.”
World No.2 Nour El Sherbini and World No.3 Hania El Hammamy powered through after beating Rowan Elaraby and Sarah-Jane Perry at Cairo’s Mall of Arabia.
El Sherbini became the first player to qualify for the semi-finals after she overcame World No.7 Elaraby by an 11-8, 11-7 scoreline. The 2017-18 champion currently sits top of Group B, a point ahead of El Hammamy, after taking the maximum of eight points on offer so far.
“It’s the perfect start for me,” said El Sherbini. “I have only been to the semis once [at the Mall of Arabia], so it was in my head a little bit. Two matches, two 2-0 wins, eight points, it is perfect for me and hopefully I keep going like this.
“It’s definitely a different type of tournament and ending the group stage on top is important, to have the chance to play the second player on the other side [from Group A]. It is the top eight anyway, so whoever it is, it will be a tough match.”
El Hammamy, the 2019-20 champion, navigated a tricky first game against World No.6 Perry, eventually taking it 16-14 in a nail-biting tie-break. The 21-year-old was able to stamp her authority on the match in the second and closed out the win to set up a mouth-watering clash tomorrow.
“It was a feisty first game, it was very close and it could have gone either way, so I am glad I managed to get it,” said El Hammamy.
“Playing SJ is always enjoyable, and I am always pleased when I get to share the court with her. She is very tricky and you have to be on your toes from the very first point. I had in my mind the match at Black Ball where I was 2-0 up and I lost, so I knew that the second game tonight was very important, and I had to start it well because she can come back easily.”
World No.1 and defending champion Nouran Gohar got her tournament off to a fine start as she defeated United States No.1 Amanda Sobhy 11-4, 11-5 in just 19 minutes to go top of Group A, ahead of New Zealand’s Joelle King, who beat Georgina Kennedy on Tuesday.
Gohar revealed how much she enjoyed playing on the new ASB glass floor installed ahead of the tournament.
She said: “I am very pleased with the floor. It is amazing. It’s an amazing feeling, it is softer than the usual [wood] floor. I just think the bad thing is to then get used to the other floors again!
“It is a very new technology, it’s very nice, but the World Tour Finals is a prestigious one, so the first time to use it is at a tournament like this.
“We keep on having new stuff in our game, with SquashTV, with everything. I am just happy with the way that squash is evolving right now, and I am happy to be a part of it!”
The CIB PSA World Tour Finals features the top eight male and female players on the CIB Road to Egypt Standings, with points for the standings on offer at all PSA World Tour events throughout the 2021-22 season.
The group stage uses a round robin, best-of-three games format as players bid to qualify for the knockout stages.
The CIB PSA World Tour Finals continues today (June 23) and play starts at the Mall of Arabia at 19:00 local time (GMT+2). The action will be shown live on SQUASHTV.
2021-22 CIB PSA World Tour Finals, Mall of Arabia, Cairo, Egypt.
Men’s Group A, First Round:
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Diego Elias (PER) 2-1: 8-11, 11-6, 11-3 (37m)
Men’s Group B, Second Round:
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt  Joel Makin (WAL) 2-0: 12-10, 11-5 (44m)
 Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 2-0: 11-8, 12-10 (40m)
Women’s Group A, First Round:
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Amanda Sobhy (USA) 2-0: 11-4, 11-5 (19m)
Women’s Group B, Second Round:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Rowan Elaraby (EGY) 2-0: 11-8, 11-7 (25m)
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 2-0: 16-14, 11-5 (31m)
TODAY’S MATCHES (June 23)
Men’s Group A Second Round:
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Mazen Hesham (EGY)
 Diego Elias (PER) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG)
Men’s Group B Third Round:
 Paul Coll (NZL) v  Mostafa Asal (EGY)
Women’s Group A Second Round:
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v  Georgina Kennedy (ENG)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) v  Joelle King (NZL)
Women’s Group B Third Round:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Hania El Hammamy (EGY)
Pictures and graphics courtesy of PSA World Tour