Saturday, April 13, 2024

Top seeds crash on first day of World Tour Finals

Big wins for Marwan and Camille upset rankings in late night of drama in Cairo
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor

Top seeds Ali Farag and Nour El Sherbini both lost on a dramatic opening day of the CIB PSA World Tour Finals at the Mall of Arabia in Cairo.

Defending champion Marwan ElShorbagy beat Farag in the men’s Group A, winning 10-12, 11-4, 13-11 in just over an hour.

France’s World No.4 Camille Serme got the better of World No.1 El Sherbini, winning 10-12, 11-3, 11-6 to boost her chances of qualifying for the semi-finals.

Despite using a best-of-three-games format, there were several long matches and play

The CIB PSA World Tour Finals features the top eight male and female players on the CIB Road to Egypt Standings, with points on offer at all PSA World Tour events throughout the 2020-21 season. The group stage uses a round robin, best-of-three games format as players bid to qualify for the knockout stages.

El Sherbini finished top of the women’s CIB Road to Egypt standings, but her chances of lifting a second title at the CIB PSA World Tour Finals have suffered a blow after Serme came back from a tie-break defeat in the opening game to win 10-12, 11-3, 11-6.

“I am very happy with my game tonight,” said Serme. “It has been a while since I had a good win, so I will take that one, especially against the World No.1. I was enjoying my game and really focused on what to do on court and that was really important.

“She can hit many winners as well, but today was more about errors and I will take that. This tournament is never easy anyway, it is a bonus and I am just happy to be enjoying my squash again.”

Serme sits in second place in Group A with 3 points, level with World No.2 Nouran Gohar, who overcame fellow Egyptian Salma Hany 2-1. Gohar leads the group courtesy of having a higher percentage of points won compared to Serme.

Serme and Gohar will go head-to-head in the next round of matches and either player can book their places in the semis if they win and results elsewhere go their way. Meanwhile, a defeat for El Sherbini against Hany could see the top seed bow out of the event.

Defending champion Hania El Hammamy and England’s Sarah-Jane Perry contested the day’s sole Group B fixture, with the Egyptian winning 11-7, 11-9 to become the first player to take maximum points from her first fixture.

“I was a little bit nervous before the match,” El Hammamy said.

“It’s the first pool match, so I have to be sharp from the beginning and it’s best-of-three. It is never easy against SJ, she is a very tricky player and she likes to play some tricky stuff. I try as much as I can not to think about being defending champion, because last time, when I thought about it [at the CIB Black Ball Open], it gave me a little bit of extra pressure on myself.”

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In the men’s event, the Bristol-based ElShorbagy brothers – Marwan and Mohamed – sit at the summit of an all-Egyptian Group A following wins over World No.1 Ali Farag and World Junior Champion Mostafa Asal.

Marwan beat Farag in the semi-finals last season when he took silverware at this very tournament and he made it three wins in a row against the No.1 seed with a 10-12, 11-4, 13-11 victory.

“If you look at how tough our group is, having my brother and Asal is really tough,” Marwan said.

“All the matches are 50/50, tomorrow I play Mostafa and it’s going to be the same as today. Playing Ali is always tough, he is the toughest to play on tour, him and my brother. They are World No.1 and World No.2 and every session I practice, I always visualise competing against them because they are the best in the world and I want to try and beat both of them on a consistent basis.”

ElShorbagy is hunting Farag’s World No.1 spot and, with the pair set to meet in the next round of fixtures, the 30-year-old has given himself a perfect platform to have a real crack at his compatriot following an 11-8, 7-11, 11-8 victory over Asal. The match was subject to a 35-minute break due to a cut above ElShorbagy’s left eye, but the No.5 seed pulled through in the end.

“He [Asal] is a superstar of our sport,” ElShorbagy said. “He will take on the sport at some point, so I’m happy to go on court with him before I finish because it’s the kind of match I will remember for the rest of my life as he will run the sport one day.

“He is such a nice boy. I know him off court and he is such a nice guy. People don’t know him, he is one of the nicest guys I know on tour. It really annoys me when people talk badly about him on social media because they just don’t know him.”

If Marwan and Mohamed both triumph in the next round of fixtures, they will qualify for the semi-finals.

Group B saw New Zealand’s Paul Coll and Egypt’s Tarek Momen go up against each other in a repeat of the 2019-20 PSA World Championship final, with Coll getting the better of his opponent to follow up May’s El Gouna International triumph over Momen.

2020-21 CIB PSA World Tour Finals, Mall of Arabia, Cairo, Egypt, (Day One results).

Men’s Group A:
[4] Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [1] Ali Farag (EGY) 2-1: 10-12, 11-4, 13-11 (64m)
[5] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [7] Mostafa Asal (EGY) 2-1: 11-8, 7-11, 11-8 (93m)

Men’s Group B:
[3] Paul Coll (NZL) bt [2] Tarek Momen (EGY) 2-1: 12-10, 7-11, 11-4 (65m)

Men’s Group A Second Round (Today):
[5] Mohamed ElShorbagy v [1] Ali Farag (EGY)
[4] Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v [7] Mostafa Asal (EGY)

Men’s Group B First Round (Today):
[8] Gregoire Marche (FRA) v [6] Joel Makin (WAL)

Women’s Group A:
[6] Camille Serme (FRA) bt [1] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 2-1: 10-12, 11-3, 11-6 (34m)
[3] Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt [8] Salma Hany (EGY) 2-1: 9-11, 11-5, 11-2 (52m)

Women’s Group B:
[2] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt [5] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 2-0: 11-7, 11-9 (30m)

Women’s Group A Second Round (Today):
[8] Salma Hany (EGY) v [1] Nour El Sherbini (EGY)
[6] Camille Serme (FRA) v [3] Nouran Gohar (EGY)

Women’s Group B First Round (Today):
[7] Joelle King (NZL) v [4] Amanda Sobhy (USA)

Squash fans can download the new CIB Road to Egypt App now to stay up-to-date with all the news from the tournament. Available from the App Store and Google Play.

Pictures courtesy of PSA


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