‘I cried this morning, but mum told me to enjoy it and relax – she is my lucky charm’
By SEAN REUTHE in Hull
Egyptian duo Nouran Gohar and Mohamed ElShorbagy are the 2019 Allam British Open champions after they got the better of World No.4 Camille Serme and World No.1 Ali Farag in their respective final clashes at the Allam Sport Centre in Hull.
The British Open is the sport’s longest-running tournament, and Gohar, the World No.7, put her name into the history books with a sensational dismantling of Serme as she powered to an 11-3, 11-8, 11-3 victory in 30 minutes to win the women’s event.
Gohar came runner-up to World No.2 Nour El Sherbini in the final of this tournament in 2016, and the hard-hitting 21-year-old ensured that she went one further this year as she stormed to a comfortable victory over 2015 winner Serme to lift her first PSA World Tour Platinum title since the Hong Kong Open in August 2016.
“It means so much to me, especially because it is the British Open,” said an emotional Gohar after lifting the seventh PSA title of her career.
“I feel very comfortable. The environment, the city itself, it feels a bit like home. It is very cosy here and it really helps me to feel good on court. To have the accuracy, you have to be both relaxed and focused. I feel this attitude and environment really helped me.
“This morning after my hit, I started crying. I never did that before. Even in Hong Kong, I didn’t do that. I think I was very young, so maybe I couldn’t really comprehend how much it meant to me to be in the final of a major event. My mum kept telling me to enjoy the occasion and to relax. She told me to take the chance and if I played my best then I would take the win.
“When I won the Hong Kong Open, she [her mother] was there as well. I think she might be my lucky charm, and there is also someone who is not always with me, but he is the main reason for what I have. My dad is the reason why I play squash because he loves it so much.”
The men’s final saw World No.2 ElShorbagy capture the third British Open title of his career after he overcame World No.1 Farag by an 11-9, 5-11, 11-5, 11-9 scoreline in 66 minutes to add to his 2015 and 2016 triumphs.
ElShorbagy, who also finished as runner-up 12 months ago, had lost three of his four matches with Farag this season, but a fired-up performance from the 28-year-old saw him earn the win in the latest instalment of their rivalry.
Farag came through a brutal 77-minute semi-final with New Zealand’s Paul Coll in the semi-finals, while ElShorbagy hadn’t dropped a game throughout the tournament. And the latter hunted the ball down and engaged Farag in all four corners of the court to become the first Egyptian since Abdelfattah AbouTaleb in 1966 to win a trio of British Open crowns.
“I have such respect for Ali, what he achieved this season is unbelievable,” said ElShorbagy. “Our last match last season in Dubai, he told me that what I did last season was inspirational. This time is it my turn to say that what he has done this season was inspirational. Normally, winning the US Open, Hong Kong and British Open in one season would be enough to keep me at No.1.
“Ali just showed consistency throughout and he was the toughest I had to face. We are going to improve each other for the rest of our careers and after a lot of great players have retired, I think squash now needs a new rivalry. The people need a new rivalry and hopefully we can both give the people what they want and what they will enjoy.”
Gohar and ElShorbagy each take home $22,800 in prize money, while ElShorbagy moves joint seventh on the men’s all-time PSA title winners, with his 37th title putting him level with Canada’s Jonathon Power.
The culmination of the British Open means that the qualification spots for the next month’s PSA World Tour Finals – the season-ending tournament which takes place in Cairo between June 9-14 – have been confirmed.
Despite his defeat, Farag tops the men’s PSA World Tour Finals Leaderboard, with ElShorbagy, Tarek Momen, Karim Abdel Gawad, Coll, Simon Rösner, Mohamed Abouelghar and Diego Elias all joining him in qualifying.
World No.1 Raneem El Welily finishes in first place on the women’s leaderboard, and will be joined in Cairo next month by El Sherbini, Nour El Tayeb, Serme, Gohar, Joelle King, Sarah-Jane Perry and Tesni Evans.
2019 Allam British Open, University of Hull Sports and Fitness Centre, Hull, England.
(2) Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) beat (1) Ali Farag (EGY) 3-1: 11-9, 5-11, 11-5, 11-9 (66m)
(7) Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt (4])Camille Serme (FRA) 3-0: 11-3, 11-8, 11-3 (30m)
Prize Money: Total fund $162,000 each for men and women.
Winners: $22,800. Runners-Up: $14,250.
Losing Semi-Finalists: $8,550.00
Report by SEAN REUTHE (PSA PR and Media Manager). Edited by ALAN THATCHER.
Pictures courtesy of PSA