Semi-Finals : Gohar downs Sherbini, Asal ends Farag run

The CIB PSA World Tour Finals move into the knockout phase tonight in Cairo, with four semi-final matches.

Former champion Hania El Hammamy won her all-Egyptian clash with Nour El Tayeb to reach the final for a third time, where she’ll meet another former champion in Nouran Gohar, who came through a thriller to depose defending champion Nour El Sherbini.

Men’s top seed Deigo Elias made it through to the final for the first time as he beat two-time champion Mohamed ElShorbagy in straight games, and he’ll face a rematch of his pool match against defending champion Mostafa Asal, who ended the 22-match winning streak of World #1 Ali Farag in straight games.

Read on for Match Reports and Quotes …

CIB PSA World Tour Finals 2023 : Sat 24th Jun, Day FIVE, SEMI-FINALS

[3] Hania El Hammamy (Egy) 2-0 [6] Nour El Tayeb (Egy)  11-3, 11-8 (21m)
[1] Nouran Gohar (Egy) 2-1 [2] Nour El Sherbini (Egy)  11-7, 10-11, 11-8 (56m)

[1] Diego Elias (Per) 2-0 [3] Mohamed ElShorbagy (Eng)  11-5, 11-6 (30m)
[4] Mostafa Asal (Egy) 2-0 [2] Ali Farag (Egy)  11-2, 11-5 (37m)


Reports and Reaction

[3] Hania El Hammamy (Egy) 2-0 [6] Nour El Tayeb (Egy)  11-3, 11-8 (21m)

Hammamy takes out Tayeb to reach third final

World No.3 Hania El Hammamy has reached the CIB PSA World Tour Finals title decider for the third time in her career after an accomplished 11-3, 11-8 victory over fellow Egyptian Nour El Tayeb at Cairo’s EDNC SODIC.

It was a repeat of the 2019-20 World Tour Finals title decider, with El Hammamy coming back from two games down to claim victory in that match.

El Hammamy, who was also a beaten finalist at the 2020-21 edition, made a slow start to proceedings with a couple of unforced errors early on but she soon grew into the match and dominated the rest of the opening game.

El Tayeb, the runner-up in Group B of the women’s event, has been managing a hamstring issue on her right leg throughout the tournament and she struggled to match her opponent on the backhand side in particular, with El Hammamy finding a number of winners there as she mixed up her angles to great effect.

The second game started with El Hammamy running away to a 4-1 lead as she continued to move El Tayeb around the court with the aim of putting work into her right leg. El Tayeb, one of the gutsiest players on the PSA Tour continued to battle away, later saving two match balls.

But El Hammamy wasn’t to be denied, eventually finishing her opponent off with a forehand kill to reach her 21st PSA final and her fifth of the season

“Nour has been playing this week with an injury that she’s been carrying for some time,” said El Hammamy.

“I admire her and she inspires me in so many ways, from giving birth to coming back and reaching the top, facing all the injuries she’s been facing and finding courage and motivation to come on court and play this way. I have huge respect for her.

“It’s definitely tricky to play against someone who is carrying an injury, she played wiser than she would usually because she needs to use her brain more to reduce the physicality she would need on court. I’m glad I managed to win.”

El Hammamy will play either World No.1 Nouran Gohar – who beat defending champion Nour El Sherbini – in the best of five games final and she was full of praise for both of her compatriots.

“They have proved themselves at the top of the game, they’re No.1 and No.2 and Nour El Sherbini is a seven-time World Champion,” El Hammamy said.

“I’ve played against Gohar so many times this season and I haven’t played against Sherbini that much in the second half of the season. I’m really looking forward to watching them play and hopefully I will be ready for tomorrow.

“With the duration of matches I’ve been playing throughout the season, I’m more than ready for a best of five match. I’ve trained enough and have had enough physical match to get me ready for tomorrow’s play. The best of three made me fresher than normal, so I think I should be fine tomorrow.”

[1] Diego Elias (Per) 2-0 [3] Mohamed ElShorbagy (Eng)  11-5, 11-6 (30m)

Elias first South American to reach the final

The second game was one of the most entertaining of the event so far, with both players treating the crowd to a high-quality, free-flowing spectacle.

ElShorbagy was equal to his opponent for much of the game as his attacks began to pay off, but Elias showed a masterful defence game when required, lifting the ball away from the reach of the Englishman to alleviate the pressure.

He was able to pull away from the mid-way stage, sealing the win with a successful use of his second Power Play, which allows players to win two points instead of the usual one.

Elias will now take on either defending champion Mostafa Asal in what will be his 28th PSA final and his eighth of the season.

“I’m very happy with my performance today after a tough week and a tough season,” Elias said afterwards.

“I’m happy I can be in another final. It’s always tough playing Mohamed, we’re very good friends and I think the last five or six times it’s been one win each. Today was my turn.

“I’ve played this tournament four or five times and I’m always tired after a long season. It’s very tough playing against the best players in the world day after day and I’ve never been past the groups. I’m happy I was mentally strong this week and hopefully I can keep going tomorrow.

“I was focusing a lot on the defence and lobbing when I was under pressure. I was moving well and my body was feeling great.

“Farag and Asal are amazing players. Ali is No.1 and he’s won 20+ matches in a row, he’s in great form. Mostafa is also an amazing player, I hope they kill each other today and I’ll be ready for tomorrow.”

[1] Nouran Gohar (Egy) 2-1 [2] Nour El Sherbini (Egy)  11-7, 10-11, 11-8 (56m)

Gohar beats defending champ Sherbini in thriller

World No.1 Nouran Gohar has sent defending champion Nour El Sherbini out of the CIB PSA World Tour Finals after battling to a thrilling 11-7, 10-11, 11-8 victory to set up a mouthwatering title decider with World No.3 Hania El Hammamy.

Gohar hadn’t beaten El Sherbini in her three previous attempts, including in the final of the PSA World Championships last month, but played her game plan to perfection in the opening game to open up a 1-0 lead.

Gohar played at a relentless pace to unsettle her opponent, with El Sherbini – who beat Gohar in the final here 12 months – rarely afforded the time to use her hold and deftness of touch.

The second game in particular was typical of Gohar and El Sherbini, with a feast of attacking squash and exciting exchanges drawing raucous cheers from the crowd. With El Sherbini 9-7 up, both players used a Power Play, and it was Gohar who prevailed to bring the game level.

Two more points were then traded to set up a sudden death decider, with a frenetic rally finally seeing El Sherbini take it to send the match to a third game.

El Sherbini went up another gear at the beginning of the third, powering into a 5-1 lead and then an 8-5 advantage after Gohar had fought back to level. But Gohar once again showed immense powers of recovery, with each point won greeted with a fist pump from the 25-year-old and a cacophony of noise from a packed house.

After taking five points in succession, Gohar held two match balls and, despite El Sherbini calling for her second and final Power Play, she held strong, putting in a fabulous cross court drop to seal the win, cueing jubilant scenes.

Gohar, the 2020-21 champion, will renew her rivalry with 2019-20 winner Hania El Hammamy as both players aim to win their second World Tour Finals trophy.

As the final match of the women’s PSA World Tour season, it is fitting that Gohar and El Hammamy will contest it. The pair have met seven times already during the campaign, with three wins apiece.

Two of their last three matches have lasted over 100 minutes, while they have already played in the group stage of this season’s World Tour Finals, with El Hammamy winning 2-1 on that occasion.

“Usually they say I show little emotion on court, but I was very emotional today,” said Gohar after booking a place in her 42nd PSA final.

“Firstly, I want to say how great Nour is as a competitor. She shocked me completely the last two times and she is one of the main reasons I keep coming back to improve and work on my weaknesses. Sometimes it’s not so great to compete against her, but I enjoyed this one for sure.

“It’s great to finish the season as World No.1. You earn it yourself against the one who will take the spot and it’s all part of the process. Recently I’ve enjoyed having challenges and Haitham [Effat] has really helped me this week.

“I just wanted to enjoy myself on court tonight, I didn’t really think about the ranking or winning. I want to win every single match I play, but most importantly I wanted to enjoy it.

“You don’t usually play the same player twice in a week. It’s different, it will be a longer match and you remember where your weaknesses are and what you did wrong. Tomorrow is a new day, a new match, a new final.”

[4] Mostafa Asal (Egy) 2-0 [2] Ali Farag (Egy)  11-2, 11-5 (37m)

Asal ends Farag winning streak to return to the final

Defending champion Mostafa Asal put in one of his finest performances in his career to date as he outclassed World No.1 Ali Farag in their CIB PSA World Tour Finals last four clash to bring an end to Farag’s 22-match unbeaten run.

Asal had suffered defeat the last three times he had played Farag, including in the final of the El Gouna International earlier this month, which was the fourth tournament in a row that Farag had won.

But tonight at EDNC SODIC, Asal overpowered his opponent, who was powerless to prevent himself being caught up in the World No.4’s rampant pace of hitting.

Following an 11-2, 11-5 victory in 37 minutes, Asal will now take on top seed Diego Elias in the final match of the PSA World Tour season. The pair have already played this week, with Asal prevailing 2-1 in a scrappy Group A contest.

The 22-year-old is aiming to become the first man since Peter Nicol in 2001 to win three World Tour Finals in a row.

“It feels amazing to play in front of this crowd,” said Asal.

“All of this crowd today were coming to watch squash and I’m super proud of this view [of the packed crowd].

“Yesterday, I took the risk [to ease off in his final group match]. Yesterday Mazen played quite well and in the second game I pushed. I thought all of his shots were going to go into the tins, but then I realised he was playing and fighting.

“In the third I said to myself that if he’s hungry then leave it until tomorrow because I’m playing legends. I have no fear about anyone on tour. I’m just playing my squash, I’m believing in myself that I am one of the best, if not the best, players in the world.

“I’m looking forward to tomorrow for sure against Diego. He’s one of the best players on tour, I think it’s a good final for everyone, a spicy final. I’m super proud.”