First World Series title for Marwan as Farag fades in final
By SEAN REUTHE in El Gouna
World No.2 Raneem El Welily and World No.4 Marwan ElShorbagy are the 2018 El Gouna International champions after they beat World No.1 Nour El Sherbini and World No.2 Ali Farag in an all-Egyptian finals line-up at the PSA World Series tournament held in El Gouna’s marina.
El Welily came back from a game down to avenge her defeat to El Sherbini in the final of the PSA Women’s World Championship 12 months ago at this very venue.
The Alexandria-born 29-year-old played some spellbinding squash to go 2-1 up. However, when holding five match balls up in the fourth, nerves kicked in and she began to find the tin with her shots, resulting in El Sherbini fighting back to force a tie-break. However, a crucial tin from the two-time World Champion handed the initiative back to El Welily and she converted this time to get her hands on the title with a scoreline of 5-11, 11-8, 11-3, 14-12.
El Welily said: “What a match that was. Nour played fantastic and was fighting back all the way to the end. Even at 10-5 down at the end she wasn’t letting go all the way to 11-10. I still can’t believe that. Last time it happened I lost that match.
“I was thinking too much about that today, so I’m very happy that I managed to win it at the end and that I pushed myself.”
Meanwhile, ElShorbagy has lifted the first World Series title of his career on home soil after he blitzed past Farag to complete a 3-0 victory in just 39 minutes.
The 24-year-old had won three of their five matches on the PSA World Tour, with all of their previous meetings coming in semi-finals, including in the last four of December’s PSA Men’s World Championships where ElShorbagy came through a dramatic five-game, 75-minute thriller.
But ElShorbagy was rarely troubled by an out-of-sorts Farag tonight as he dominated the U.S. Open champion and played an impeccable match of squash, outclassing his compatriot to take an 11-8, 11-5, 11-4 victory to win his first World Series tournament final at the third attempt, joining his brother on the list of El Gouna International tournament winners in the process.
“To win my first ever World Series title here in Egypt means a lot to me,” said ElShorbagy, who will overtake France’s Gregory Gaultier to move to a career-high World No.3 ranking on May 1.
“Especially to win it here at home means the world. I’m so happy, I’m over the moon and I can’t even describe how I feel.
“I’ve lost a few major finals before, but coming into this one I just had to learn from the losses I had and I had to be more relaxed and more focused. Me and my coach put a good game plan together before the match.”
Both winners will take home over $24,000 of prize money while they also claim the maximum 100 points on offer on the PSA World Series Standings.
Only the top eight players on the World Series Standings will qualify for June’s ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals – which will take place at Emirates Golf Club between June 5-9 – and all four finalists had already guaranteed their participation at the season-ending event prior to the tournament.
ElShorbagy’s title win sees him move up to third on the men’s standings with 260 points, while Farag stays second, 75 points ahead of ElShorbagy. El Welily goes joint second, level with World No.3 Nour El Tayeb, and the pair trail current leader El Sherbini by 55 points.
The penultimate World Series tournament of the 2017-18 season will be held between May 15-20 when the Allam British Open, the sport’s longest-running tournament, welcomes the world’s greatest players to Hull’s Airco Arena, where the battle for a place in Dubai will come to a thrilling close.
2018 El Gouna International, El Gouna Marina, Egypt ($165,000 prize money for both men and women).
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Ali Farag (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-5, 11-4 (39m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-1: 5-11, 11-8, 11-3, 14-12 (50m)
(Report by SEAN REUTHE. Edited by ALAN THATCHER).
Pictures courtesy of PSA