Thursday, April 18, 2024

Top seeds Ali Farag and Nouran Gohar sparkle under the Grand Central chandeliers to lift ToC titles

No fairytale finish for Amanda Sobhy as Diego Elias pushes Farag all the way
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor

Top seeds Ali Farag and Nouran Gohar delivered an Egyptian double triumph at New York’s Tournament of Champions.

As the chandeliers sparkled above them in the Vanderbilt Waiting Hall, Farag and Gohar’s quality and consistency lit up finals day at one of the world’s most hallowed squash events.

There was to be no fairytale finish for America’s Amanda Sobhy as she once again found Gohar’s game impossible to break down.

Farag was fully tested by Peru’s No.2 seed Diego Elias and the Egyptian world champion dropped his first game of the week before winning a high-quality contest 16-14, 9-11, 11-9, 11-5 in 76 minutes.

The women’s final between Gohar and American world No.4 Sobhy was a rematch of the 2016 ToC semi-final won by Sobhy. Gohar overpowered Sobhy in last month’s British Open, but it was the American who started on the front foot in the first game earning a quick 5-1 lead to the delight of the noisy home crowd.

However, Gohar quickly recovered to win the next six points, which marked the last time the American would lead for the rest of the match.

The two players sparred with intense rallies in the first two games, but Gohar’s commanding form that she displayed all tournament made the different as the 24-year-old clinched her first ToC title 11-7, 11-7, 11-3 in 34 minutes.

After receiving her trophy, Gohar told the crowd: “It sounds awesome [to be champion], you guys are really fair!

“I thought no-one would clap for me because Amanda is the home favourite, but everyone is unbelievable and have been all week. Thank you for coming and supporting us.

“It feels really good to win the title. I’m over the moon, I’ve wanted this title for so long, it’s one of the best venues that you can play at and I really wanted to add my name on a prestigious trophy like this one. I wanted it badly and I thought this year seemed like a good year for me so why not take it.”

Gohar, who recently moved to the States, adds the ToC title to her growing list of accolades this season including the Egyptian Open, U.S. Open, Detroit Pro Classic, Cincinnati Cup, Windy City Open, Black Ball Open and Egyptian Nationals. She will lead the PSA World Championships draw as the top seed next week in Cairo.

“Having a big entity like J.P. Morgan sponsoring the event is huge for the sport and I’m very proud of this and proud to be part of such a big event,” Gohar added.

“US squash has great female players playing right now and it’s good for our sport. I’ve always loved to play in Egypt because it’s my home, but since I moved here the U.S. has been treating me really well.”

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The ensuing men’s final pitted world No.2 and 2019 ToC champion Farag against first time finalist and world No.5 Elias. Farag flawlessly reached the final without dropping a game and held a 14-2 head-to-head record over the Peruvian.

The match began with fireworks in the first game that Farag pulled out 16-14 after a blistering 27 minutes.

Clearly up for the fight, Elias continued to push in the second and forced the Egyptian to drop his first game all tournament 11-9, which ended with a moment of sportsmanship as Farag acknowledged his double bounce and called off a video review.

Farag edged a close third game 11-9, which helped him grind down the Peruvian’s legs before closing out the match 11-5 in the fourth after 76 minutes.

Farag said: “I’m over the moon; the ToC is one of the biggest titles you want to win.

“I got to world No.1 on this court (in 2019) for the very first time, so I’ve got nothing but great memories. New York is always a great city to come back to, the vibe, there’s a lot of familiar faces. This crowd is extremely knowledgeable.

“Diego, we played an incredible match. It was very physical, very technical, required a lot of skill and stamina, I think it had everything in there and it was played in good spirit as well. It wasn’t easy.”

The 2022 ToC marked the 24th year the tournament has been staged in Grand Central in its 87th year.

Before the finals, the ToC honoured MetroNorth workers on court for their crucial role in keeping the nation’s most important train station functioning throughout the pandemic, and their integral role in ensuring the success of the ToC every year.

Farag added: “Thanks to John Nimick (Tournament Director) and his Squash Engine team for the great job they’ve done and the challenges they’ve had to face with omicron and everything.

“I have missed it. The ToC is one of the tournaments you really look forward to and this time I’ve got my parents and my aunt watching as well, so I’m really happy to lift this trophy in front of them.”

Gohar and reigning champion Farag will now be switching their attention to the biggest event on the sport’s calendar, with the PSA World Championships taking place in Cairo from May 13-22.

All the action from Egypt will be streamed live on SQUASHTV, with the later stages of the tournament held outside the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization being shown on broadcasters around the world.

Related article: Record $1.1m prize money offer at Cairo World Championships

The J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions will return in January 2023. Stay tuned for more information on the event website

2022 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central Terminal, New York, USA.

Men’s Final:
[1] Ali Farag (EGY) bt [2] Diego Elias (PER) 3-1: 16-14, 9-11, 11-9, 11-5 (76m)

Women’s Final:
[1] Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt [2] Amanda Sobhy (USA) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-3 (34m)

Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour and US Squash (with special thanks to Matt Coles (PSA Media) and Chris McClintick (US Squash) for their considerable support and service throughout the week)


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