By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)
Nour El Sherbini and Hania El Hammamy battled through to the final of the Grasshopper Cup after facing tough opposition in Zurich from Rowan Elaraby and Tesni Evans.
As the scoring format changed from best of three games in the early rounds to best of five in the semi-finals, El Hammamy fought off a fierce challenge from a resurgent Evans and El Sherbini had to rally from two games down against her younger opponent.
Evans, the last unseeded player left in the competition, had impressed in wins over No.3 seed Sarah-Jane Perry and No.6 seed Salma Hany, but tried her best to produce another upset last night inside a packed Halle 622.
Evans began slowly as a confident El Hammamy took the first game 11-3. But Evans fought back hard in the second, with the Welshwoman lobbing particularly well as she opened up a 7-4 lead. The 30-year-old, however, was unable to hold this lead, with El Hammamy winning seven of the next nine points to go 2-0 up with an 11-9 victory.
Evans continued to go high and slow in the third game, which disrupted the rhythm of the No.2 seed and drew a number of errors from the Egyptian’s racket. Evans edged into a 7-6 lead and was this time able to push on, with the world No.15 converting her first game ball to win 11-8.
The fourth game was full of sensational squash, and some huge surprises. The Egyptian raced o a 6-0 lead but Evans responded brilliantly, calmly chipping away at El Hammamy’s lead before incredibly drawing level at 9-9, only for a final desperate push from El Hammamy, who was able to cling on to scrape over the line with an 11-9 win.
El Hammamy said: “I’m definitely happy to be through and playing in the final tomorrow. The venue, the crowd and the atmosphere are all amazing. The crowd gives us a huge push and makes us very happy to play on court. I’m very happy to have one more match on this court!”
Regarding the scoring switch, she added: “It’s definitely tricky but it’s worked well for me in this tournament. It’s tricky for me because there have been a lot of matches (in the past) where I’ve come from 2-0 down to win.
“In this tournament I needed to warn myself and fire myself up for the best-of-threes and now that it’s best-of-five I managed to get through pretty well. But playing against Tesni is definitely tricky, especially with the conditions; this court definitely suits the way she plays.
“It’s going to be a tough match (in the final against El Sherbini). She’s a legend and I enjoy our battles. It’s always a pleasure sharing a court with her and I’m very happy to have one more match with her.
“We haven’t played a final in so long, we’ve been playing in semi-finals, so it’s definitely going to be a very hard one for both of us tomorrow.”
Elaraby had never taken a game off six-time world champion El Sherbini, but she raced into the lead thanks to some sublime squash. After going two games down, El Sherbini came back well in the third game and opened up a 10-4 lead. Incredibly, Elaraby saved all six of the game balls.
El Sherbini was eventually able to take it 12-10, and she then converted her first game ball in the fourth to send the match into a decider.
The two then traded points in a thrilling finale, and it was El Sherbini who was able to pull away to 11-7 with an intelligent shot down the middle the winning shot.
The world No.2 said: “I’m really proud of myself today and how I kept fighting mentally and physically. Rowan played really well. In the third she was coming back and nearly won the match.
“I’m really surprised by the way she played today. She’s been improving a lot. This was our first 3-2 and I don’t think it’s going to be the last one.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time and all the experience I have in the last 10-15 years came out on court. I just tried to focus on every point and forget that I was 2-0 down. I just focused on each point and tried to win the next one. Winning the third made a huge difference.”
The men’s final will be between Mostafa Asal and Marwan ElShorbagy. Asal beat fellow Egyptian Fares Dessouky while ElShorbagy played superbly to beat U.S. Open champion Diego Elias.
PSA Gold 2022 Grasshopper Cup, Halle 622, Zurich, Switzerland.
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Rowan Elaraby (EGY) 3-2: 4-11, 9-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-7 (68m)
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt Tesni Evans (WAL) 3-1: 11-3, 11-9, 8-11, 11-9 (51m)
Women’s Final (Sunday, October 23):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Hania El Hammamy (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour