‘I have a great coach, a great team behind me, and hopefully I can reach the top’
By SEAN REUTHE – Squash Mad Correspondent
New Zealand’s World No.5 Paul Coll has reached his first ever PSA World Tour Platinum final after overcoming Egypt’s World No.4 Karim Abdel Gawad in their semi-final clash at the Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family taking place at the University Club of Chicago.
With $500,000 split equally between the event’s male and female athletes, the Windy City Open is the most lucrative PSA Platinum tournament on the PSA World Tour this season, and Coll will have his chance to get his hands on the trophy – and the lion’s share of the prize money – after beating Gawad 11-5, 6-11, 11-9, 11-9.
The Kiwi had ended a five-match losing streak to upset World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy in the previous round, and he brought a three-match winless run against Gawad to an end after 80 minutes of action. Coll was a losing finalist at the 2019-20 PSA Men’s World Championship in November and he will now have another chance of capturing a major PSA World Tour title.
“It was quite draining, it was very tense at the end there,” said Coll. “I thought I had won it three times at the end but the ref disagreed, which is fine. I just had to keep my head which was mentally really draining. Right at the end there I just wanted to celebrate but I had to keep my emotions in check and finish the match off.
“I am trying to constantly learn and improve my game, I am not No.1 for a reason and there are areas of my game that I can improve on. I will keep doing that and hopefully I can reach the top. I have found a great coach (Robert Owen) and I have a great team behind me. It will be my first Platinum final tomorrow and I will be enjoying it.”
The 27-year-old will now need to end an 11-match losing run against World No.2 Ali Farag if he is to claim a maiden Platinum title, with Farag ousting World Champion Tarek Momen by an 12-10, 11-2, 11-8 scoreline.
The pair were meeting in a repeat of the 2018-19 PSA Men’s World Championship, which was held in Chicago’s Union Station 12 months ago. Today’s match went the way of Farag once again as the Harvard-graduate profited off a number of errors from Momen to reach his first Windy City Open final, meaning a new name will be engraved onto the men’s trophy tomorrow night.
“I keep surprising myself day after day,” said Farag afterwards. “The first game was a bit weird, neither Tarek or I did that well at the beginning, and then Nour gave me a couple of tips in between and they served me well up until the middle of the third, and then I saw the finishing line way too soon. I saw Tarek loosening up a little, so I’m very happy to get back in it for sure.”
The women’s final will be a repeat of the 2016 and 2017 Windy City Open title deciders as World No.1 Raneem El Welily and World Champion Nour El Sherbini dismantled World No.2 Nouran Gohar and World No.7 Sarah-Jane Perry, respectively.
Both players contested the final of the 2019-20 PSA Women’s World Championship in front of the iconic Great Pyramid of Giza in November, with El Sherbini capturing her fourth World Championship crown to mark her 24th birthday.
The World No.4 has struggled with illness and a knee injury all week in Chicago, but against all the odds El Sherbini has reached a third Windy City Open final, beating England’s Sarah-Jane Perry by an 11-7, 11-4, 11-8 margin.
“I have been struggling against her a few times, but I was making sure that every time I play her that I have a game plan and I stick to it,” said El Sherbini, who had lost three of her previous four matches against Perry.
“To be honest, it is not one of the best weeks for me, but I am glad that I won and I am in the final. Whatever is happening, I just have to keep winning, that is it. I just have one more match, one more day to live and I hope it is going to be a good one.”
Meanwhile, three-time Windy City Open champion El Welily is through to her fifth final at the University Club of Chicago after putting in a majestic performance to dispatch World No.2 Nouran Gohar 11-5, 11-8, 11-9 in 31 minutes.
El Welily overcame El Sherbini in the 2016 and 2017 finals and has won 12 of their 23 matches on the PSA World Tour.
“I’m very proud to be part of such a great sport, I think we’re the first sport to have equal prize money for men and women,” El Welily said after her match.
“Chicago has obviously been one of those tournaments which started things for us a few years ago. All thanks to Mr Mark Walter and the Walter Family for putting on such a great event year after year, for raising the bar higher each year and we’re blessed to be here in Chicago every year. It’s my all-time favourite place.”
The finals will take place today (Wednesday March 4) with play beginning at 18:30 (GMT-6). Action will be shown live on SQUASHTV (rest of world), Eurosport Player (Europe only) and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour.
2020 Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family, Cathedral Hall, University Club of Chicago, USA.
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-0: 12-10, 11-2, 11-8 (37m)
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-1: 11-5, 6-11, 11-9, 11-9 (80m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Paul Coll (NZL)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 3-0: 11-5, 11-8, 11-9 (31m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-4, 11-8 (31m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v  Nour El Sherbini (EGY)
Pictures by STEVE LINE courtesy of PSA and University Club of Chicago