Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Paul Coll targets a hat-trick of wins against Ali Farag as the world’s top two meet in Black Ball final

Farag fights back after squandering eight game balls in opener against Asal
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor

The final PSA World Tour match of 2021 will see World No.1 Ali Farag and World No.2 Paul Coll go head-to-head in the CIB Squash Open Black Ball title decider following their semi final wins over Egyptian pair Mostafa Asal and Marwan ElShorbagy.

Farag will be looking for revenge after losing to New Zealander Coll in the final of the Canary Wharf Classic in London.

Farag’s contest with World No.6 Asal will go down as one of the matches of the year, and one of the best battles ever at the Black Ball Sporting Club, with the 29-year-old finally prevailing by a 14-16, 11-1, 11-9, 6-11, 11-8 scoreline after 97 pulsating minutes of action.

The atmosphere was very different from the previous day’s controversy when Asal walked off court saying “I don’t want to play squash any more” after receiving a conduct game penalty during his fractious encounter with Youssef Soliman.

Farag had beaten Asal in eight of their nine PSA World Tour matches, but there was very little between them as Asal overturned eight game balls to take the opening game, before fighting through the fatigue to draw level in the fourth.

However, Farag just about had the better of the fifth game and finally got the win over the line to reach his third final at the Black Ball Sporting Club and his second at the Gold tier Black Ball event following his runner-up finish last December.

“[That was] very enjoyable,” said Farag afterwards. “I felt good all the way to 10-5, there were a few stoppages here and there and I lost my rhythm. All credit to him, he is such a warrior, he kept digging and digging. I think I had eight game balls in that one and I couldn’t convert, but I am extremely proud of how I didn’t let that get into my head.

“It was a big blow psychologically, but I took the positives from the first and carried it on into the second and then the third, I played well again. In the fourth, there were a lot of stoppages again, the ball softened up a bit and I couldn’t get it to the back and I didn’t really have a plan. The fifth was a flip of a coin, man.”

Paul Coll celebrates reaching the CIB Black Ball final after beating Marwan ElShorbagy

Meanwhile, New Zealander Coll has reached his first final at this tournament following an 11-5, 11-5, 11-2 victory over World No.7 Marwan ElShorbagy. ElShorbagy won the Platinum edition of the Black Ball event in March of this year, but he was unable to follow up an impressive performance against World No.4 Tarek Momen in the previous round.

Coll, who was 2-1 down in his quarter final match with Joel Makin before an injury to the Welshman saw him retire, has now reached three PSA Tour finals in a row for the first time since 2016.

Coll and Farag have contested four matches so far in 2021, with two wins apiece, including Coll’s first British Open title.

The view from above as Paul Coll plays Marwan ElShorbagy at Cairo’s spectacular Black Ball Club

If Coll wins the final, he will become the first non-Egyptian man to win a PSA World Tour title in Egypt since Gregory Gaultier won the 2017 El Gouna International.

Col revealed: “It’s never easy playing someone like Marwan. I had to stay on my toes the whole time because he is probably one of the best players at winning quick points in a row, so I had to stay on my game.

“Winning on the big stages against the big guys like Ali, it gives you a lot of confidence in your game and the game plan. You know it works and it is really reassuring that you know what you’re doing and you’re on the right way. The two wins have been a massive confidence boost and it would be nice to finish the year with a third.”

2021 CIB Squash Open Black Ball, Cairo, Egypt.
Men’s Semi Finals:
[1] Ali Farag (EGY) bt [4] Mostafa Asal (EGY) 3-2: 14-16, 11-1, 11-9, 6-11, 11-8 (97m)
[2] Paul Coll (NZL) bt [5] Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-0: 11-5, 11-5, 11-2 (49m)

Men’s Final (December 20):
[1] Ali Farag (EGY) bt [2] Paul Coll (NZL)

Pictures courtesy of PSA 


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