The 2021/22 CIB PSA World Tour Finals get under way today at the Mall of Arabia with six first round Group matches, all on the glass court with the new ASB Glass Floor.
Top seeds Ali Farag and Nouran Gohar both have a day off with just one match taking place in the ‘A’ Groups and two in each ‘B’ Group.
You can Watch Live on SquashTV and follow the matches on Live Scoring and our Social Feeds. We’ll have reports and reaction right here with a roundup to follow at the end of the day.
WB R1  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 2-0  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 11-6, 11-8 (18m)
MA R1  Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) 2-1  Mazen Hesham (EGY) 11-4, 9-11, 11-5 (36m)
WA R1  Joelle King (NZL) 2-1  Georgina Kennedy (ENG) 7-11, 11-5, 14-12 (44m)
MB R1  Tarek Momen (EGY) 2-1  Paul Coll (NZL) 9-11, 12-10, 11-8 (58m)
WB R1  Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 2-1  Rowan Elaraby (EGY) 11-8, 8-11, 11-9 (43m)
MB R1  Mostafa Asal (EGY) 2-1  Joel Makin (WAL) 11-7, 3-11, 11-7 (53m)
Reports and Reaction
Reigning World Champion Nour El Sherbini is the first player to put points on the board as she confidently beat Sarah-Jane Perry in two games.
It was a scrappy opening, but it wasn’t long before the six-time World Champion found her rhythm and started to ask questions of Perry in the front of the court.
After securing the opening game 11-6, El Sherbini looked more commanding in the second game and despite some winners from Perry in the back end of the game, the World No.2 took the win in 18 minutes to reach the top of group B.
The court floor is made from glass in this week’s event and El Sherbini spoke about the new court and the challenge of being the opening match after her win:
“It’s quite different, just the top eight players in the world and trying a new court is very challenging. For me, SJ is always tough and challenging and I’m never comfortable playing her, first match as well so a few obstacles but I’m glad I got the 2-0 win so that’s a plus for me.
“If it’s best of three it’s not going to be faster, you still have to play a good two or three games. I have a different mindset, I have to be ready from the first point because if I lose a game I’m in trouble so I prepare a little differently than in a best-of-five match.
“Since there’s no coaching I like to see myself on the screen, did I do the right shots with where my opponents are and if my plan is working or not. It’s very short rallies so I hope they can put more in there so I can review the game quickly.”
Result :  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 2-0: 11-6, 11-8 (18m)
ElShorbagy takes men’s opener
The first men’s match was between recently crowned British National Champion Mohamed ElShorbagy and World No.8 Mazen Hesham.
ElShorbagy showed no signs of fatigue as he dominated the opening game of the match and forced several errors from the racket of Hesham to take the game comfortably 11-4. Hesham responded however and cut the errors down which forced ‘The Beast’ into several tough movements at the front of the court, Hesham levelled the match 11-9.
Mohamed ElShorbagy got back to business in the third game however and started to control proceedings again. The World No.3 stepped up the court and after some tough rallies worked ‘The Black Falcon’ into submission as the Egyptian ran out of steam to see ElShorbagy take the win.
“I really like to glass floor, I think that was the first test today. I think it’s great for the sport that we’re trying something different, something that can clearly work and is a good use of technology in our sport. It’s a step forward, I’m a big supporter of it and I’m looking forward to being back on it in two days time.
“It’s a different court so you have to adapt to it, I think we played every point better, in the second game I was in big trouble so I had to try and find something different which I did and we had that big rally in the third and I can’t wait to come back and play again.”
Result :  Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) bt  Mazen Hesham (EGY) 2-1: 11-4, 9-11, 11-5 (36m)
King battles past Kennedy
Next onto court was the opening match of women’s group A between No.5 seed Joelle King and England’s Georgina Kennedy.
Kennedy opted not to play in the recent British National Championships to be better prepared for this week’s World Tour Finals. This decision looked to have been the right one as Kennedy raced out of the traps in the opening game to take it 11-7.
King found her length in the second game and stopped leaving balls short around the middle of the court for Kennedy to move onto and attack. This partnered with fewer errors made for a difficult time for the Englishwoman who struggled to push King into the corners as well as she was doing previously.
After levelling the match, Kennedy came out to a brilliant start in the deciding game, leading 7-2. King came back however and started to stretch Kennedy into all four corners of the court, and utilising a deceptive forehand crosscourt to wrong foot Kennedy several times. The game entered a tiebreak and after saving a match ball, it was King who converted 14-12 to take the match.
“I think it was a game of two halves really, Gina played better than me in the first, in the second it was neck and neck up to 5-5 but then I figured out what I was trying to do and I got the better of her in that game, then it was all to play for. I felt a little sluggish in parts of the match but tried to stay positive.
“It surprised me [the court floor], in practice I thought it was a bit slippy but after playing a match on it and not thinking about it, it’s actually a nice court. Looking forward to playing on it more.
“You can’t really think about it [the format], you’ve just got to think about winning every match. Quite often it comes down to the last day, someone beats someone and the other player beats them so you’ve just got to try and win every match.”
Result :  Joelle King (NZL) bt  Georgina Kennedy (ENG) 2-1: 7-11, 11-5, 14-12 (44m)
Momen overcomes resilient Coll
In a highly anticipated match between Tarek Momen and Paul Coll, it was the Egyptian who sealed the victory after 56 minutes of brutal squash.
Coll set his stall out early in there first game by hitting accurate straight lengths to the back to pin Momen in the back corners and mop up any loose balls that Momen supplied him with. This partnered with countless errors from Momen handed Coll the first game.
Momen came back however and continued to work the ball in short to trouble the movement of Coll. The new Zealander did a great job of lifting when under pressure but of the touch of the Egyptian was too good and after securing the second game 12-10 to level the match, Momen struck again in the third game and ran through to take the game 11-8 and end a seven match losing streak that he had to Coll.
“It was a match of two halves, like two Tareks on court! In the first game and a half, I don’t think I’ve ever hit that many tins and I was just thinking that I want to be out of here. I had a very tough season, I think I played well for the most part but was unlucky in a few tournaments and It just got to me and I was very frustrated when I started hitting those tins.
“I don’t know what happened but at 9-6 down in the second I just thought to give it one last try because it was unfair to the people who have come to watch me. It was still very very close and either one of us could have won it. I think because I know he is such a fighter I try and go so low, because I feel like I have to, and then eventually I miss but I’m very proud of the second half of this match, very proud.
“The crowd is amazing, you support me in all these tournaments in Egypt and you give me the motivation to keep pushing and I’m just very glad I could give you a win today.”
Result :  Tarek Momen (EGY) bt  Paul Coll (NZL) 2-1: 9-11, 12-10, 11-8 (58m)
El Hammamy wins all-Egyptian battle
In the penultimate match of the night’s play, an all-Egyptian clash between Hania El Hammamy and Rowan Elaraby went the way of the higher seed in an entertaining 43-minute clash.
El Hammamy struggled to get herself going in the opening rallies of the match as her length was slightly short which was being punished by a confident Elaraby. It wasn’t long before El Hammamy was firing again and after stringing together a series of winners, took the first game 11-8.
Despite Elaraby taking the second game, it was not enough to defeat the No.3 seed as El Hammamy recovered well to take time away from ElRaby and take away her front fo the court weapons. El Hammamy earned the first match ball at 10-9 and almost apologetically hit the back wall nick to seal the win.
“It was a very tough match, 11-9 in the third, I didn’t want to go to 10-10 it was very tough,” said El Hammamy.
“We’re teammates. We play league together, we spend a lot of time together, since the juniors, we haven’t played many times on the professional tour. We’ve played so many times over the years so we know each other really well on court so really glad I managed to get through.
“I try to keep playing long rallies, even when I was 4-0 down in the first I try to say to myself to keep playing longer rallies so I can get my length and my game plan so I’m glad I managed to get through it”
Result :  Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Rowan Elaraby (EGY) 2-1: 11-8, 8-11, 11-9 (43m)
Asal battles past Makin
The final match of the day saw defending champion Mostafa Asal overcome ‘The Golden Tiger’ Joel Makin in a slightly scrappy three-game affair.
Asal started well in the first game and adapted to the court conditions better than his opponent by taking the ball into the front of the court with good accuracy and precision. Makin struggled to find his targets which only made him more frustrated and played into Asal’s hands.
After securing the first game in a scrappy ending, Asal’s concentration seemed to wander as he got more caught up in refereeing decisions than the squash that was being played and Makin took full advantage of this, winning 11-3.
The tables turned in the final game however as it was now Makin’s turn to become annoyed at refereeing decisions. The Welshman still wasn’t finding his targets as well as he’d like which made for a lot of action around the middle. Makin struggled to find the right path around the body of Asal with the Egyptian not completely compliant with clearing either. Asal managed to string points together in the later stages to close out the match 11-7.
Asal was pleased to be playing in front of his friends and family as he spoke after the match:
“I’m playing here in front of my family and friends here in my city. I want to thank John Massarella for being an amazing ref, he’s controlling the game and it’s a masterclass actually, thanks once again and for everything I’m learning from him. Joel is playing really well, I thought the British Nationals would have an effect on him but I think everyone is affected by the tour so I think who’s mentally tough will win this tournament more than anything else. I didn’t lose here last year so I’ll do my best to do it again.
“It seems like we’re laying Fifa street, it’s a tough court and when the lights turned off me and Joel didn’t know what was going on. It’s never easy to win against Joel.”
Result :  Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt  Joel Makin (WAL) 2-1: 11-7, 3-11, 11-7 (53m)