‘It’s the battles, that’s what we come here for, it’s what we love,’ says Coll
By ALAN THATCHER and ELLIE MAWSON
For an outsider, winning in Egypt is always a tough task. But Paul Coll once again rose to the challenge to beat Tarek Momen in an epic semi-final battle lasting more than two hours to reach the semi-finals of the PSA World Championships.
New Zealand’s world No.1 Coll squandered two match balls in the third before beating the 2019 world champion Momen in a 122-minute thriller at the Egyptian National Museum of Civilization.
The two players have enjoyed some incredible clashes in the past, but Coll looked as though he was going to secure his place in the last four in straight games after winning the first two games 11-8, 13-11, despite some outstanding attacking play from Momen.
Coll went through the recent British Open without dropping a game and looked like he would continue that form in Cairo as he held match ball in the third, despite Momen throwing everything at him.
Coll pulled out one of his famous dives in the closing stages of the third to dig the ball out of the back left corner and Momen hit a simple forehand volley into the tin to put the New Zealander on match ball at 10-8.
However, Momen fought back and saved a second match ball before winning the game 12-10.
Coll appeared to be struggling with fatigue and his movement in the fourth as Momen blew him away to draw level for the loss of just two points. Both players then produced some of their best squash in the fifth to bring the match to a grandstand finish.
It was a controversial stroke decision on match ball that proved to be the killer blow for Momen’s comeback as 30-year-old Coll secured his place in the semi-finals of the tournament for the third time in his career.
“It was a tough match, it’s very hot out here and he was taking me into all corners of the court and wasn’t missing,” Coll said in his post-match interview. “I’m just very happy to claw my way out of that one. It’s the battles, that’s what we come here for, it’s what we love.
“He’s got the softest touch in the world and if he’s not missing, then you just end up going into all four corners of the court. It’s absolutely brutal.
“If he’s on his day, he’s one of the hardest players in the world. He makes you do a tremendous amount of work, just due to his great hands and his soft touches.”
Coll will face former World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy for a place in the final after he got the better of 2022 Canary Wharf Classic champion Fares Dessouky in the last match of the day.
ElShorbagy was at his best in the opening game to dismantle any hope Dessouky had of a good start as he took it 11-1.
Dessouky managed to grow into the match and ran ElShorbagy close in the following two games, but it was the experience of the 2017 world champion that helped him in the big points as he closed out 11-1, 12-10, 12-10 in 54 minutes.
“In the second and third, it was all to play for, it was so crucial and could have gone either way,” ElShorbagy said. “Maybe at a few points here and there, I just played the crucial point better than him, but it was a great and high-quality match and I’m glad to make the semis.
Looking ahead to their semi-final battle, ElShorbagy added: “Paul is the World No.1. When you’re the World No.1, it’s not because you’re beating everyone, it’s because you’re winning most of your matches.
“It was probably one of the most high quality matches I’ve watched in years. He’s the world No.1 for a reason and he’s going to show how fit he is in the semis.
“We haven’t played in a very long time and I’m so excited to play him. It’s been an experience being the underdog at this event and I’m going to give it everything to make another final at the World Champs.”
In the women’s draw, USA’s World No.4 Amanda Sobhy was forced to come from a game down to beat giantkiller Nada Abbas.
After losing a tight opening game 12-10, Sobhy fought back to book her place in the last four for the second year in a row.
Abbas had stunned New Zealand’s World No.5 Joelle King in the previous round and came into the match full of confidence. She carried that momentum throughout the first game as she caught Sobhy on the back foot to take the lead.
The American soon got her tactics right as she saw off the attacks of the Egyptian and dominated proceedings to take the next three games.
Sobhy said: “She (Abbas) played so well, a lot better than when we played a couple of weeks ago at ToC,” said Sobhy. “I think that she came out firing from the start, I’m glad that I got my momentum eventually and put a halt to that.”
Sobhy will take on World No.1 Nouran Gohar in a repeat of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions final, which took place earlier this month in New York.
Sobhy added: “There’s no pressure on me, I know that she’s [Gohar] going to bring it and give her all and I’d expect nothing less from her.
“I know it’s going to be a battle, so it’s just recovering, so I hope a little more of the crowd can be on my side.”
Meanwhile, Gohar showed exactly why she is top seed as she dominated compatriot Rowan Elaraby from the outset to comfortably prevail 11-1, 11-5, 11-4 in 30 minutes.
“Rowan is one of the most dangerous players on tour, so I had that in the back of my mind,” said Gohar. “She’s been playing really good squash lately, so I was just trying to play my best. I had my targets on tonight and just tried to be sharp and play good squash.”
The quarter finals of the PSA World Championships Cairo continue today (May 20) and play from the Egyptian National Museum of Civilization will start at 6:45pm local time (GMT+2) and will be broadcast live on SQUASHTV.
PSA World Championships, Egyptian National Museum of Civilization, Cairo, Egypt.
Men’s PSA Quarter-Finals (top half):
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-2: 11-8, 13-11, 10-12, 2-11, 11-9 (122m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Fares Dessouky (EGY) 3-0: 11-1, 12-10, 12-10 (54m)
Men’s Quarter-Finals (bottom half, May 20):
 Mostafa Asal (EGY) v  Diego Elias (PER)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
Men’s Semi-Finals (top half, May 21):
 Paul Coll (NZL) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
Women’s Quarter-Finals (top half):
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Rowan Elaraby (EGY) 3-0: 11-1, 11-5, 11-4 (30m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Nada Abbas (EGY) 3-1: 10-12, 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 (44m)
Women’s Quarter-Finals (bottom half, May 20):
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) v Nour El Tayeb (EGY)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v  Nour El Sherbini (EGY)
Women’s Semi-Finals (top half, May 21):
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v  Amanda Sobhy (USA)
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour