Friday, January 27, 2023

ToC Squash 2023: Diego Elias and trio of Egyptians seal places in the finals

World No.5 Diego Elias joins an Egyptian trio in the finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions finals after the Peruvian stunned New Zealand’s Paul Coll under the chandeliers of Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal.

Elias and Coll were facing off for the tenth time on Tour, with Coll coming into this clash with a tight 5-4 advantage over the Peruvian. It was an attritional start to the first game with both players trying to adapt to the hot and bouncy conditions, as the opening two rallies lasted for five minutes.

The Peruvian was the first to reach game ball but was forced into a tiebreak, to which the ‘Puma’ responded with an outrageous backhand cross-court drop to earn another game ball, which he took.

The Kiwi straightened up his play in the second and reverted to his strengths of hitting accurate, straight lines to the back corners and follow up with controlled straight drops, going on to level up the match at one game apiece.

Elias, who sits just a place below Coll in the world rankings, ran out into a lead in the third, one he would not relinquish. The same then happened in the fourth game, as the Peruvian’s fitness levels seemed to improve as the match went on. He took the fourth game 11-8 to move into a third successive PSA World Tour final, after reaching the same stage in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Elias said: “It is my third Platinum final in a row so I am very happy with this. I have been training so hard for this and I am just happy that I could make another final.

“I am not the same player as I was before. I can keep going for a while, not like before where I would get tired if I played a few tough rallies. I am very happy with this, and it is always great playing Paul. He is a great friend of mine and it is always great playing in the most important stages of the tournament. I think we are now 5-5 in the head-to-head so I hope this rivalry can keep going.”

Elias will face Egypt’s Marwan ElShorbagy in the final on Thursday evening, after the world No.6 put in a convincing performance to defeat Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez and reach his first major final since winning the CIB Black Ball Squash Open in March 2021.

In the women’s draw, three-time ToC winner Nour El Sherbini came through an exciting four-game battle with compatriot and world No.3 Hania El Hammamy, battling back from a game down to move into a fifth final in New York City.

The ‘Warrior Princess’ was in scintillating form at the start of every game, but El Hammamy fought back in the first three. The opening game went the way of the world No.3 on a tie-break, and she then saved four game balls in the second. However, El Sherbini was eventually able to take it 15-13 to level up the contest.

The slow starts for El Hammamy didn’t seem to be a problem for the world No.3 as she constantly found solutions to work her way back in the games. El Hammamy again mounted a comeback and reached 9-9 but after El Sherbini stifled the run to hold a game ball, she hit an excellent length, dying in the back left corner to take a 2-1 lead. The fourth was easier for the former world No.1, who won it 11-5 to book her spot in yet another major Tour final.

“It’s tough and tricky, always, playing Hania and it’s always a physical game against her. I’m glad I won this time,” the three-time ToC champ said.

“It was a bit hard for me to lose the first game and I was very frustrated losing it after having a huge lead. Even in the third [game] I had a huge lead and then it disappeared again. I think I was doing a lot of mental talks inside the game to keep going and I think it paid off in the end.”

El Sherbini will now face off against world No.1 Nouran Gohar once again, after the defending champion got the better of New Zealand’s world No.4 Joelle King in straight games in the opening match of the day’s play.

The finals get underway at 19:00 (GMT -5) at Grand Central Terminal.

Men’s semi-finals:
[5] Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Miguel Rodriguez (COL) 3-0: 11-5, 11-7, 11-8 (49m)
[4] Diego Elias (PER) bt [1] Paul Coll (NZL) 3-1: 13-11, 8-11, 11-3, 11-8 (85m)

Men’s final (Thursday January 26):
[5] Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v [4] Diego Elias (PER)

Women’s semi-finals:
[1] Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt [4] Joelle King (NZL) 3-0: 12-10, 11-9, 11-7 (50m)
[2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [3] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 3-1: 11-13, 15-13, 11-9, 11-5 (64m)

Women’s final (Thursday January 26):
[1] Nouran Gohar (EGY) v [2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY)

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