The 2021/22 CIB PSA World Tour Finals continue today at the Mall of Arabia with six more Group matches, all on the glass court with the new ASB Glass Floor.
Top seeds Ali Farag and Nouran Gohar start their campaigns in today’s opening matches which conclude Round One, followed by two more matches in each of the ‘B’ groups.
Gohar Kicks Off Title Defence In Style
World No.1 Nouran Gohar got the defence of her CIB PSA World Tour Finals title off to the perfect start with a comprehensive display to win in straight games against US No.1 Amanda Sobhy.
The pair were the last two women to take to the all-new glass-floored court after the other three matches on Tuesday evening, and from the off, it was ‘the Terminator’ who was in complete control of the contest.
After running out into a quick lead in the first game, she went on to take it 11-4, before then seeing the second game follow the same pattern, as the American started to look slightly lethargic in her movements. Gohar joins Joelle King as the opening round winners, moving to the top of Group A thanks to the four points she took with the straight games victory.
“Very happy actually! I have said it before, it is always to gift to play the World Tour Finals. It proves you have been one of the best players on Tour for the past year and obviously I am very happy to do it for the seventh time in a row.
“It is always special and it is good to have a change. The format is completely different with pool matches. Even if you lose, you are going to still lay the next day so it is good! You don’t have the pressure of wanting to win, so it helps to enjoy your squash a little bit. It is the end of the season, so you’re excited to finish in a good way, so I only have positives for it!
“I am very pleased with the floor. It is amazing, it’s an amazing feeling, it is softer than the usual [wood] floor. I just think the bad thing is to then get used to the other floors again! It is a very new technology, it’s very nice, but the World Tour Finals is a prestigious one, so the first time to use it is at a tournament like this!
“We keep on having new stuff in our game, with SquashTV, with everything. I am just happy with the way that squash is evolving right now, and I am happy to be a part of it!”
Result :  Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Amanda Sobhy (USA) 2-0: 11-4, 11-5 (19m)
Farag downs Elis to secure #1 spot
With a victory over Peru’s World No.5 Diego Elias in his opening match of his CIB PSA World Tour Finals campaign in Cairo, Ali Farag has guaranteed that he will be the World No.1 to end the season.
The opening rally of the contest lasted more than two minutes, but it was not a sign of things to come, as the rallies got quicker, and both players started to hit winners. Elias took the first game, continuing the form that saw him win in Mauritius, but on a contested call in the middle of the second game, one which went the way of Farag, the ‘Peruvian’ lost his focus.
From there on, it was all Farag, as he was able to keep calm, and maintain his level. He kept his eyes on the prize, and turned the match on his head to win in three. The three points gained from the contest see him tie the top of Group A alongside England’s Mohamed ElShorbagy, while the rankings points from the victory will make sure he remains at World No.1 in July, ending the season at the summit of the world rankings.
“Obviously, you look at the World Tour Finals and every match is tough so to get a win is always a great one. It is never just a win, it is a good win, so I am happy to come through today, especially after going 1-0 down,” Farag said.
“As per my calculations, if they’re right, this win guarantees that I will end the season as World No.1, so that’s an extra bonus and now I can play without extra pressure for the rest of this tournament. I have never gotten my hands on this trophy, I have never made it to the finals here in Egypt, only once in Dubai, so hopefully I can keep progressing and take it one match at a time until I hopefully, achieve the title.
“It was neck and neck, he was 1-0 up but I was 6-4 at the time. He completely lost his focus, and I am very proud that I kept mine. Very proud because when he loses his focus, sometimes it gets to you, but I kept on with my gameplan until the very last moment.
“It’s key in every match but more so in the best-of-three format, because he is halfway there if he wins the first. It is always edgy, sometimes you want to execute a certain game plan in the second game, but you can’t if you lose the first because you don’t have the time, and you can’t risk losing it.
“Also, we play with more intensity because we can only go for three full games so we go for it, we volley more. I tried to step up the ’T’, especially after 1-0 down. It is interesting, the best-of-three is definitely a bonus for our sport.”
Sherbini books semi-final spot
World No.2 Nour El Sherbini became the first player to guarantee themselves a spot in the semi-finals of the competition, after a second consecutive 2-0 victory, as she beat Rowan Elaraby in straight games.
The ‘Warrior Princess’ has never gotten her hands on the CIB PSA World Tour Finals trophy, but has started in great form this week, as she follows up her 2-0 win over England’s Sarah-Jane Perry with a victory over ‘Tinkerbell’.
The six-time World Champion had won both of their previous encounters, and that continued in this battle, their first in the best-of-three format. Although Elaraby troubled at times, El Sherbini seemed in control for the majority of the contest, and rounded out the win in 25 minutes.
“It’s the perfect start for me. I have only been to the semis once, so yeah it was in my head a little bit. two matches, two 2-0 wins, eight points. It is perfect for me and hopefully I keep going like this!” the World No.2 said.
“It was going my way, I was playing good. My length game was good and the wind did affect some of my shots, but I am happy with my performance today. I played better than yesterday, and that is what’s more important for me today!
“It’s definitely a different type of tournament and ending the group stages on top is important, to have the chance to play the 2nd player on the other side, you don’t know how it is going to be, but I will keep trying to win. It is the top eight anyway, so whoever it is, it will be a tough match.”
Result :  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Rowan Elaraby (EGY) 2-0: 11-8, 11-7 (25m)
Coll gets opening win over makin
After losing his opening match of the tournament on Tuesday, New Zealand’s World No.2 Paul Coll bounced back with a battling display to defeat Manchester Open champion Joel Makin in straight games.
The pair both came in with a single point to their names after their respective 2-1 losses on the opening day, and it was the Welshman that held a solid lead in the latter part of the first game. Five straight points saw Coll come from 8-5 down to lead 10-8, and he would eventually clinch the opening game on a tie-break 12-10.
He carried that momentum into the second game, and with Makin starting to tire ever so slightly, the Kiwi was able to get home in straight games, winning 12-10, 11-5 in 44 minutes to take home the full four points, and move top of Group B ahead of the last match of the event between Mostafa Asal and Tarek Momen.
“I spoke to my coaches, Rob [Owen] and Bart [Wijnhoven], I felt really good coming into this after speaking to them, and I am really happy with today’s performance.
“That was the main goal, to win 2-0 and to try and get as many points as possible. I am gonna rest up tonight, watch them battle it out [Mostafa Asal and Tarek Momen], and hey, who knows what’s going to happen with the points tomorrow. I am just trying to enjoy my squash again, there has been a lot of pressure on me this year. I am just trying to find myself on court again and finish strong.
“It is a very emotional time for me. There was a lot of pressure and a lot of emotions flying around. I spoke to a lot of people Greg Gaultier, I have spoken to a few times and he has helped, even Mohamed [ElShorbagy], relating to those guys is very helpful. These last few tournaments, I haven’t really been enjoying it as much as I was at the start [of the season], so in this one, I wanted to find myself again and start enjoying it!”
Result:  Paul Coll (NZL) bt  Joel Makin (WAL) 2-0: 12-10, 11-5 (44m)
Hammamy secures semis berth
World No.3 Hania El Hammamy has assured herself of a place in the semi-finals of the CIB PSA World Tour Finals after taking a second win in as many days, thanks to her victory over England’s Sarah-Jane Perry on Wednesday evening in Cairo.
This was the pair’s sixth meeting on Tour, with El Hammamy having won in the group stages of this event twelve months earlier as well. The first game was a tight encounter, with neither playing giving an inch, and it went deep into a tie-break.
Eventually, it was the World No.3 that took it 16-14, to take the advantage in the contest, and after a rapid start to the second game, she held full control of the match. Perry tried to fight back, but it wasn’t enough from the Englishwomen, with El Hammamy securing the win. She will face Nour El Sherbini in her last group match to determine who will top Group B.
“It was a feisty first game, very close and it could have gone either way so I am glad I managed to get it. Playing SJ is always enjoyable and I am always pleased when I get to share the court with her,” El Hammamy admitted.
“She is very tricky, and you have to be on your toes from the very first point. I had in my mind the match at Black Ball where I was 2-0 up and I lost so I knew that the second game tonight was very important and I had to start it well because she can come back easily. Really glad that I managed to focus at the beginning of the second.
“I never give myself credit and I never think about my age when I am playing these top players. They are all older than me so I never think about my age and I even forget that I am the youngest sometimes. I am really happy when people remind me that I am still young and I try to enjoy myself on court, pushing myself mentally even when I am not there physically.”
Result :  Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 2-0: 16-14, 11-5 (31m)