Veteran Alison Waters so close to a shock win over world No.2 Nouran Gohar
By SEAN REUTHE – Squash Mad Correspondent
World No.2 Nouran Gohar and defending champion Hania El Hammamy survived five-game battles against World No.16 Alison Waters and World No.12 Nele Gilis, respectively, to reach the quarter-finals of the women’s CIB Black Ball Squash Open, PSA World Tour Gold event earlier today.
Gohar overturned two match balls in a gripping 67-minute clash against 36-year-old Waters, coming back from 2-1 down to win it 9-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-8, 14-12, making it back-to-back five-game wins after her 3-2 victory over 18-year-old Farida Mohamed in the previous round.
Gohar wasn’t at her best and had to deal with a heel problem but held firm to keep Waters at bay.
The experienced English player, a former world No.3, started well to go one game up as she utilised her clever shot selection to cause problems for an out of sorts Gohar. The former World No.1 came back well, though, as the two players continued to trade blows and exchange leads with Gohar drawing back level once again in the fourth.
The fifth proved to be the tightest battle of all with Waters staying within touching distance of Gohar and going on to save three match balls.
It looked as though that had edged Waters ahead, as she looked to claim her first victory over a top five player since 2018 – which coincidentally also came over Gohar. However, the Egyptian battled back strongly to save two match ball attempts from Waters and show nerves of steel to convert on her fourth attempt.
The 23-year-old Gohar will go on to face New Zealand’s world No.8 Joelle King in the last eight.
“I don’t think I’m the type of player like [Karim Abdel] Gawad who plays a lot of five setters,” Gohar said.
“Every tournament has something special and this tournament it seems like I’m playing five games, I just have to adapt and take it as it is. Alison played really well, it was very enjoyable out there even though it was tough at times. I felt tactically, we play at quite a similar pace and it was all about who would adapt and inject the pace and play the bigger points.
“I had a niggle in my heel in the middle of the game but overall my body is holding itself.”
El Hammamy also had to dig in to avoid a surprise upset as the World No.5 initially surrendered a two-game lead against an inspired Gilis, with the first four games being separated by just two points, including three tie-breaks.
However, inside the Black Ball Sporting Club, the Egyptian had enough left in the tank to prevail in a one-sided decider, earning a 12-10, 12-10, 11-13, 9-11, 11-3 victory in 89 minutes, which is the longest match of the tournament so far.
“I definitely kind of enjoyed it and didn’t enjoy it at the same time,” El Hammamy said afterwards.
“I think Nele and I are the most physical players on tour. I really enjoyed it because I know it’s my strength and I know it’s Nele’s as well. I would say if I was playing this match against Nele a year ago then I would have lost this match.”
World No.1 Nour El Sherbini had a more straightforward path into the quarter-finals as she got the better of USA’s Sabrina Sobhy by a 16-14, 11-8, 11-5 scoreline.
El Sherbini, a two-time Black Ball Open runner-up, saved two game balls in the opener after a strong start from World No.22 Sobhy, who had upset World No.10 Salma Hany in the last round. From there, the Egyptian finished the next two games well to set up a last eight fixture with Sobhy’s older sister, Amanda.
“Sabrina is really good,” said El Sherbini. “We are the same age but haven’t had a chance to play a lot against each other. She came through a very tough first round, beating Salma Hany 3-2. Amanda [Sobhy] is left-handed and Sabrina is right-handed, so there’s a huge difference between both of them. It’s been a long time since I’ve played Amanda, so I’m looking forward to it.”
World No.9 Tesni Evans will take on El Hammamy in the next round after she overcame USA’s Olivia Clyne in five games.
Evans had made a slow start to life at this tournament after dropping the first game of an eventual 3-1 win over England’s Lucy Turmel in the previous round, and had to dig in once again against Clyne to complete a 13-11, 11-6, 5-11, 7-11, 11-7 triumph in 62 minutes. That win will see her compete in the Black Ball Open quarter-finals for the first time.
“The last time, I only lasted 17 minutes against her because I got injured [at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in January, 2020] so I am happy I got the win, but she is tough to play, that’s for sure,” Evans said.
“More than anything, it was mental. I needed to be a bit more positive and I had to leave it all out there today. I just want to give it everything and see where I am at. I will always leave everything I have on the court, I just want to get better and that’s all I can do.”
France’s Camille Serme and England’s Sarah-Jane Perry will go head-to-head in the other last eight fixture courtesy of respective wins over Tinne Gilis and Hollie Naughton.
The quarter-finals take place tomorrow (December 10) with play beginning at 17:30 (GMT+2). All of the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour (excluding Europe & Japan).
Women’s 2020 CIB Black Ball Squash Open, Black Ball Club, Cairo, Egypt.
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Sabrina Sobhy (USA) 3-0: 16-14, 11-8, 11-5 (32m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Nadine Shahin (EGY) 3-0: 11-5, 11-3, 11-1 (21m)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) bt  Olivia Clyne (USA) 3-2: 13-11, 11-6, 5-11, 7-11, 11-7 (62m)
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Nele Gilis (BEL) 3-2: 12-10, 12-10, 11-13, 9-11, 11-3 (89m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Tinne Gilis (BEL) 3-0: 11-8, 11-6, 11-7 (30m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Joshna Chinappa (IND) 3-1: 11-7, 12-14, 11-2, 11-5 (41m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt Hollie Naughton (CAN) 3-0: 11-9, 11-2, 11-9 (30m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 3-2: 9-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-8, 14-12 (67m)
Quarter-Finals: (December 10):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Amanda Sobhy (USA)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) v  Hania El Hammamy (EGY)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
 Joelle King (NZL) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA