Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Sixth world title for Nour El Sherbini and a third for Ali Farag

Farag returns to the top of the men’s rankings after his night of magic at the Museum 

Nour El Sherbini won a sixth world title and Ali Farag collected his third on another stellar night for Egyptian squash.

Nouran Gohar and Mohamed ElShorbagy were again the runners-up as the finals of the CIB PSA World Championships attracted a packed crowd to this week’s new outdoor venue at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.

Both winners had multiple reasons underscoring their desire to claim further world trophies.

Farag’s triumph will see him return to the top of the world rankings above Paul Coll, who took over the No.1 spot in March.

El Sherbini harbours similar ambitions after losing her place at the top of the rankings to Gohar.

El Sherbini also wanted to prove to herself that she could complete such a demanding tournament schedule in her first event back after injury forced her to concede the Black Ball final against Gohar in March.

Record prize money of $1.1 million was on offer, with both champions taking home $79,800 with the runners-up collecting almost $50,000 in the richest tournament in squash history.

Both finals were a repeat of the 2020-21 PSA World Championship finals in Chicago with the outcome also the same as El Sherbini and Farag conquered their compatriots in memorable performances.

Ali Farag is back on top of the world

Double delight for Ali Farag

Ali Farag defended his World Championship crown and reclaimed the world No.1 ranking as he came from behind to defeat 2017 champion Mohamed ElShorbagy.

In a free-flowing first game, ElShorbagy opened up a 6-1 lead as the Alexandrian dominated the front of the court. Farag responded but ElShorbagy took the first game 11-9.

El Shorbagy took up residence on the T for much of the second game before Farag took control. Despite a cheeky flick from El Shorbagy hitting the front right nick, Farag took the game 11-8 to draw level.

The packed crowd enjoy the men’s final at the Egyptian National Museum of Civilization

ElShorbagy showed a perfect combination of power and touch to lead 6-0 in the third and then weathered a mini revival from Farag to win 11-7.

Both players made a number of errors in game four, with Farag too loose and ElShorbagy tinning when when placed at the front. After Farag opened up a lead, ElShorbagy hit back to draw level at 9-9.

Farag had game ball at 10-9 and converted at the first attempt to take the match into a fifth game.

Somehow Farag found the energy to power through the fifth. ElShorbagy, who had taken 122 minutes to beat Coll in the semi-finals, was unable to respond as Farag retained the title and the world No.1 ranking with an 11-2 win.

Afterwards, Farag revealed: “I’m really happy to be done with the tournament; the pressure we live through every day. I didn’t come into this week with that pressure, but then the week started and I felt the pressure.

“I’m super proud of my week. I had to go through a lot of tough players to reach the final and today, as I say it over and over and over again, I was playing against the greatest of our generation.

“He’s the one who pushes us every single day in training. I have a lot of people around me who, if I’m being honest, wrote Mohamed off after the past few months and I told them there’s no chance Mohamed’s going to go away without a fight.

“He’s going to come back smarter and harder and he did. It’s inspiring how every time he faces a challenge he comes back stronger. We saw it yesterday and here today. I’m extremely blessed to come out as the winner today.”

Nour El Sherbini celebrates her victory

Spectacular sixth World title for El Sherbini

Defending Champion Nour El Sherbini claimed a remarkable sixth World Championship title after coming from behind to beat Egyptian compatriot and world No.1 Nouran Gohar 3-1 in 56 minutes.

El Sherbini enjoyed an impressive 3-1 win in last year’s World Championship final but Gohar has added a new dimension to her game after moving to America to work with Australian legend Rodney Martin.

In the first of two Cairo-Alexandria derbies, it was Cairo native Gohar who made the stronger start. El Sherbini began to find her length too many loose shots allowed Gohar took the opener 11-7.

The second game had three distinct phases. El Sherbini established a quick 4-0 lead, but Gohar won the next six points. Then El Sherbini responded in style to win 11-7.

In an attritional third game, both players had scoring runs as the ball became livelier and the rallies grew longer. El Sherbini suddenly had an air of authority to win it 11-8.

El Sherbini maintained that authority at the start of the fourth and hit some outstanding winners to clinch her sixth World Championship title with another 11-7 scoreline.

A delighted El Sherbini said: “It’s always a dream for me to win this tournament and I wait for it every year.

“I’m a bit emotional right now and of course it”s an unbelievable feeling. It’s been very hard, the last couple of months. I can’t believe I’m standing here right now, the tournament is over, everything is over. All the thinking, the mental stuff is over. I can’t describe how I’m feeling right now.

“Nouran is the best player right now. She’s on-form at No.1 and she deserves this spot. I think her results this season show why she’s in this place and she’s improved a lot. I’ve huge respect for her and how she’s changed and learnt and tried to get better.

“Every match is a challenge. It’s hard playing her and it’s getting tougher.”

The four finalists at the end of the richest tournament in squash history

Referring to the painful memory of conceding the CIB Black Ball Open final through injury in March, El Sherbini added: “I didn’t want this match to end like that, so it was a bit challenging for me to come and play her again in the final of the World Champs after pulling out of the Black Ball Open.

“She’s the one I’m challenging right now and she’s the one I’m looking up to now. Both of us are challenging each other for the No.1 spot. She took it from me and now I’m looking to get it back.”

The next stop on the PSA World Tour will be the El Gouna International Platinum event, which will once again feature the best players in the world between May 27 – June 3. The action will be broadcast live on SQUASHTV and multiple broadcasters around the world.

CIB PSA World Championships, National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, Cairo, Egypt.

Men’s Final:
[2] Ali Farag (EGY) bt [3] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-2: 9-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-9, 11-2 (74m)

Women’s Final:
[2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [1] Nouran Gohar (EGY) 3-1: 7-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-7 (56m)

Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour


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