Saturday, May 18, 2024

Paul Coll wins his first Windy City title after fighting back to beat the fearless Youssef Ibrahim

Nouran Gohar battles past Hania El Hammamy to gain her third consecutive PSA Platinum title
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor

Paul Coll had a tough day at the office on his first day as world number one. Having broken Egypt’s stranglehold by overtaking Ali Farag at the summit of the men’s game he found himself trailing in the Chicago final by two games to love against the fearless and outrageously talented Youssef Ibrahim, still a student at Princeton but a young man destined to continue the dominance of Egypt at some point in the near future.

To win his first Windy City Open title, Coll was forced to dig deep into his phenomenal reserves of stamina to claw his way back into the match before squeezing home 11-9 in the fifth game after 96 minutes of pulsating squash.

In the women’s final, Egypt’s authority was on full display as Nouran Gohar overcame Hania El Hammamy in a tremendous hour-long battle to gain her first Windy City title.

The whole day’s storyline may have revolved around Coll but Ibrahim was intent on writing his own script. It felt like he was carrying a nation’s expectations on his shoulders and he represented Egyptian honour with a ferocious attacking display.

Left-hander Ibrahim, the first unseeded player to reach the Windy City Open final since 2012, was simply magnificent in the opening stages as his free-flowing, inventive brand of squash blew his opponent away.

However, Coll dragged himself back into the contest with some long, physical rallies taking their toll on Ibrahim. Coll then held his nerve in a nailbiting decider to complete the win 7-11, 10-12, 11-4, 11-7, 11-9 after 96 minutes, the longest Windy City Open final ever.

Coll was rewarded with his first Windy City Open crown, his second PSA World Tour Platinum trophy, and the 18th PSA title of his career.

A relieved Coll paid tribute to his opponent and admitted: “I thought I played pretty well. Youssef was incredible. He was so tight to the back and I’d put a drive one foot off the wall and he’d roll it out of the nick.

“To play like that in his first platinum final is a mark of a great player – he’s a danger to everyone.

“This week has been a hugely emotional week for me. Going to No.1 was the best thing that’s ever happened in my squash career. I really wanted to win this tournament after going to No.1.”

Ibrahim, having conquered the ElShorbagy brothers Mohamed and Marwan in Chicago, will soon be heading to London to compete for the first time in the GillenMarkets Canary Wharf Classic.

Coll beat Farag in November’s postponed Canary Wharf final and to retain his title he will need to navigate his way through a draw full of menacing Egyptians, with Ibrahim joining Tarek Momen, Fares Dessouky and Mazen Hesham in the top half, and Mostafa Asal, Marwan ElShorbagy, Moustafa El Sirty and Mohamed ElSherbini in the bottom half.

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Meanwhile, Gohar captured her third consecutive Platinum title after a 15-13, 11-9, 11-8 victory over El Hammamy saw her win her first Windy City Open crown.

The win also sees her become the first female player since Malaysian legend Nicol David at the 2015 Hong Kong Open to win a Platinum event without dropping a game.

It was a repeat of the 2021 U.S. Open final and Gohar came out on top once again to add the Windy City Open triumph to her collection of major tournament wins this season, which includes September’s CIB Egyptian Open at the Pyramids.

“Wow, that was tough, that was really tough,” said Gohar afterwards.

“I know we’ve been playing for over an hour; Hania was retrieving everything and it was very tough out there. I’m glad I didn’t drop a game in this tournament.

“I can’t really believe it, the first time I came to Chicago I was 15 and I was in qualification on the traditional courts.

“I was just dreaming to be on the glass court, not even to win, and now seven or eight years later I’m winning the event, it’s huge for me.”

It was Gohar’s 15th PSA title and her fifth of the 2021-22 season. Gohar and Coll both bank over $35,000 in prize money for their efforts in Chicago this week, while Coll secures automatic qualification for the CIB PSA World Tour Finals in June.

All Platinum title winners, as well as the PSA world champions, qualify for the PSA World Tour Finals, with the remaining spots being allocated to the highest ranked players on the CIB Road to Egypt Standings.

The next event on the PSA World Tour will be the men’s Optasia Championships between March 6-11, while the next women’s event will be the CIB Black Ball Open between March 12-17. Both tournaments will be shown live on SQUASHTV.

2022 Windy City Open Presented by the Walter Family, Cathedral Hall, University Club of Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Men’s Final:
[2] Paul Coll (NZL) bt Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) 3-2: 7-11, 10-12, 11-4, 11-7, 11-9 (96m)

Women’s Final:
[2] Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt [3] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 3-0: 15-13, 11-9, 11-8 (62m)

Pictures courtesy of PSA


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