Monday, June 24, 2024

World Squash 2024: Cairo witnesses semi-final thrillers

It was after 2am in Cairo when Mostafa Asal finally cast aside Paul Coll to set up a brace of eagerly-anticipated finals on Saturday night. They were four pulsating, febrile semi-finals, all lasting over 70 minutes. The question now is who has the stamina to lift the title.

Firstly, Peru’s World No.4 Diego Elias became the first South American to reach the final of the world final after he ended a six-match stranglehold losing streak against defending champion Ali Farag at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation.

Elias proved no pushover in a tight, congested and riveting clash. He had won just three of 25 matches against the World No.1 coming into the match, with his only win over the Egyptian on a glass court coming in the final of the 2022 U.S. Open – a match in which Farag retired injured after just two points.

But Elias was finally able to vanquish an opponent who had bested him so often in the past, battling to an 11-5, 11-8, 7-11, 11-7  victory to end Farag’s run of three successive World Championship titles.

Elias said: “Playing Ali [Farag] is always tough and I’ve lost to him more than 20 times, he’s one of the best ever and I’m super happy. Sometimes after the first game against Ali I give up and I get tired and I don’t push. But tonight I pushed as hard as I could and I think that was the difference.”

Elias’s final opponent will be Egypt’s World No.3 Asal after he got the better of New Zealand’s World No.2 Coll after a five-game, 83-minute contest to reach the World Championships final for the first time.

Asal has now also reached four successive PSA Tour finals for the first time in his career after he beat Coll by an 11-7, 11-6, 8-11, 3-11, 12-10 scoreline, with their match finally coming to an end at 02:06 local time.

A tenacious Coll fought back from a two-game deficit and then overturned three match balls, but two costly strokes handed the match to Asal. Asal has won nine of his 12 meetings with Elias going into the title decider and it will be the first non all-Egyptian final since the 2019-20 World Championships.

“It’s crazy, I love to play here and I love to compete in Egypt,” said Asal afterwards.

“The crowd gave me a boost. Today was very physical and tough. Fair play to Paul, he’s an amazing athlete coming from 2-0 down. In between games, at 2-2, he [James Willstrop, Asal’s coach] said to me, ‘Come on, it’s a World Championships. Why aren’t you giving it 100 per cent’? All credit to him, it’s a turning point having this legend behind me.”

Meanwhile, World No.1 Nour El Sherbini and World No.2 Nouran Gohar will contest the women’s World Championships final for the fourth season in a row after they beat World No.7 Olivia Weaver and World No.3 Hania El Hammamy, respectively.

El Sherbini is now just one win away from matching the legendary Nicol David’s record haul of eight PSA World Championship titles. The 28-year-old from Egypt has won the previous five World Championship titles in a row and has now recorded 35 straight victories at the sport’s biggest tournament following an 7-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-5, 11-5 win over World No.7 Weaver.

“It definitely wasn’t an easy match,” said El Sherbini. “I couldn’t lose in front of this amazing crowd, with every point they were cheering me and hyping me up. After being 2-1 down I said there’s no way I can leave this court by losing. I just want to keep going and I’m really happy I’m through.”

Gohar will now aim to end a run of three straight World Championship final defeats to her compatriot after she toppled El Hammamy by a 12-14, 11-2, 11-5, 11-7 scoreline after 94 minutes of action.

“Everyone that has seen me and been around me, especially my close ones, I’ve shown them some hard times because I always want everything to be perfect and I think I gave it my heart,” said Gohar.

“I have made a lot of sacrifices to be in this place right now… I don’t think I’ve enjoyed my squash as much as I am doing right now and I think it’s helping me perform well.

“Even with the pressure of the event, you think you can’t enjoy it, but today I did enjoy myself on court. I’m really proud of myself.”

Results – Men’s Semi-Finals: 2023-24 CIB PSA World Championships

[3] Diego Elias (PER) bt [1] Ali Farag (EGY) 3-1: 11-5, 11-8, 7-11, 11-7 (85m)

[4] Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt [2] Paul Coll (NZL) 3-2: 11-7, 11-6, 8-11, 3-11, 12-10 (83m)

Draw – Men’s Final: To Be Played May 18th

[3] Diego Elias (PER) v [4] Mostafa Asal (EGY)

Results – Women’s Semi-Finals: 2023-24 CIB PSA World Championships

[1] Nour ElSherbini (EGY) bt [8] Olivia Weaver (USA) 3-2: 7-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-5, 11-5 (71m)

[3] Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt [2] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 3-1: 12-14, 11-2, 11-5, 11-7 (94m)

Draw – Women’s Final: To Be Played May 18th

[1] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v [3] Nouran Gohar (EGY)

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