The CIB PSA World Tour Finals get under way at the new EDNC SODIC venue in Cairo tonight, with six best of three Round One Pool matches. Top seeds Nouran Gohar and Diego Elias get the action under way, with defending women’s champion Nour El Sherbini and man-in-form Ali Farag rounding off the day’s play. You can Watch Live on SquashTV, follow on Live Scoring and our social feeds, and we’ll have reports and reaction right here.
Reports and Reaction
Gohar Dominates Gilis In Opening Match
World No.1 Nouran Gohar was in scintillating form to kick off this year’s CIB PSA World Tour Finals, winning in straight games, including a second-game bagel.
The opening rally took almost three minutes in hot and bouncy conditions in Cairo. After a slow start, Gohar then took a string of points to hold a commanding advantage in the latter stages of the opening game. The Belgian saved a couple of game balls in the opener, but Gohar fought through to win it 11-6.
‘The Terminator’ then ran out into an incredible lead, and at 7-0, Gohar opted to use the first of her Power Plays. She won it to increase her advantage to 9-0, before opting for a second Power Play. She won that one as well, taking the second game 11-0 to secure a perfect opening victory.
“It is very different. I wasn’t sure how to use it [the Power Play] to be honest so I thought it was best to save it till last,” Gohar admitted.
“It is a bit challenging, there are always new rules and you have to keep track of them but at the same time you can’t lose focus on what you are doing on court. We were talking a lot about the tactics with the reviews and the Power Plays.
“It is always tricky to start first. You can’t give her anything loose or cheap in the middle. Obviously, with someone in that form, she can chop anyone on her day. The first few rallies were long, but I just wanted to show that I was tough, and I wasn’t going to give away anything cheap.
“You are not used to losing a match and then coming back. Usually you lose and take your bag straight to the airport. In this tournament, you have to refocus, regroup and come back. You always have a chance, sometimes the points and the games play in your favour. You can’t give away cheap games either. Everything counts and there are ranking points for them. Obviously, I am a player that doesn’t like to lose.”
Result Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Nele Gilis (BEL) 2-0: 11-6, 11-0 (22m)
Elias Opens Up with Win Over Hesham
Men’s top seed Diego Elias began his title challenge with a 2-0 victory over Egypt’s Mazen Hesham which sees the Peruvian move to the top of Group A.
Elias, who has not advanced beyond the group stage in three previous attempts, pulled away from 6-6 in the opening game to open up a 10-8 lead.
Hesham asked for a Power Play – which would have given the World No.8 two points had he won the next rally and forced a sudden death decider.
However he was unable to take it after a punishing rally, playing a boast from the back of the court into the tin, much to his annoyance.
The second game was a ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ type of performance from Hesham who showcased his excellent shot-making skills but also made a number of errors every time he threatened to put his opponent under pressure.
Elias, on the other hand, cut a composed figure and, at 7-5 ahead, called for a Power Play for the following rally, with Hesham subsequently hitting the tin. Elias then called for his second Power Play and lightning struck twice, Hesham again finding the tin to hand his opponent the win.
“I’m very happy with my performance today, Mazen is a very dangerous opponent, so I’m pleased to win in two games,” said Elias.
“I saw that [Gohar use a double Power Play] in the match before and I tried to save them. If the first game went my way then I wanted to save those two Power Plays until I got to 7 in the second game.
“It’s the first time for everyone and they are learning how to use them. I won, so I guess it’s working!”
Result Diego Elias (PER) bt  Mazen Hesham (EGY) 2-0: 11-8, 11-5 (38m)
El Hammamy Downs Fiechter
2020 winner Hania El Hammamy began her event with a 2-0 win over debutant Olivia Fiechter to end the day second in Group A.
Fiechter – who was a late entry to the World Tour Finals following compatriot Amanda Sobhy’s withdrawal through injury – put in a gritty performance and tested the World No.3 throughout the 27-minute contest.
But El Hammamy was able to find her winners when she needed them and, despite failing to convert her Power Plays towards the end of the second game, she was able to emerge victorious courtesy of an 11-6, 11-7 scoreline.
“This is the fourth time I have played here and I’ve definitely got used to playing a best of three [tournament] at the end of the season,” El Hammamy said.
“I feel like the Power Play rule made it equal for both of us in terms of experience. It was tricky and we had to be very careful and wise using it.
“I was glad I played third tonight, I was able to see what the other players did in the first two matches. They gave me a couple of hints and I got the opportunity to do two Power Plays at 7-5 and 9-5. Unfortunately the second one didn’t go my way, but it was fun.
“Tomorrow’s match [with Gohar] won’t be as long as the previous matches! I’m not sure how much quicker, but with the Power Play and sudden death it will be shorter. I’m glad it will be shorter at the end of this season. I will recover and hopefully be ready for tomorrow.”
Result Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Olivia Fiechter (USA) 2-0: 11-6, 11-7 (27m)
Asal Moves Past Crouin
Defending champion Mostafa Asal made it six wins out of seven against Frenchman Victor Crouin as he completed an 11-3, 11-9 victory to replace top seed Diego Elias at the top of Group A.
Asal and Crouin have both made negative comments about each other on social media in the past, meaning their matches always have a bit of spice, but it was one-way traffic in the opening game as a powerful performance from 22-year-old Asal saw him dominate his opponent.
Crouin improved in the second game though and made full use of two Power Plays to turn a 6-3 deficit into a 7-6 advantage. The first Power Play rally initially saw Asal awarded the point but further replays showed the Egyptian had hit the tin, meaning two points were given to Crouin.
Crouin appeared less than impressed with Asal not calling the shot down, and both players were given a conduct warning for delaying play after some lengthy discussion with each other.
The Frenchman wasn’t able to see out the game though as Asal came back to ensure he took the maximum four points on offer.
“It’s tricky with the Power Play, he won four points in a row,” Asal said.
“It was tough for me but I managed at the end to get the win.
“I hit the shot [in the second game] and he was smiling at me straight away. I saw it come out of the nick and when he smiled I thought there was something wrong, so I thought it was up. There was a discussion, he said it was down but my coach and the front row said it was alright.
“My coach realised there was something and then we weren’t sure, the referee wasn’t sure either. It was a bit controversial but the match was okay at the end. We played in a good spirit in the beginning and my speech [at the end] was about stopping this right now.
“It was maybe something immature from me, I was also speaking about him after matches and it wasn’t that good. We’re the same generation and we’re going to lead this sport in the future.
“All respect to Victor, it’s his first ever World Tour Finals this year and it’s something he should be proud of.”
 Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt  Victor Crouin (FRA) 2-0: 11-3, 11-9 (32m)
El Sherbini Battles Past El Tayeb
World Champion Nour El Sherbini came back from match ball down to avoid an opening day upset against 2020 runner-up Nour El Tayeb.
El Sherbini, a two-time World Tour Finals champion, hadn’t lost to El Tayeb since the group stage of the 2019-20 World Tour Finals and history almost repeated itself as El Tayeb took the opening game.
Despite being impeded by a leg injury, El Tayeb let her shot-making skills do the talking and she was rewarded with a one-game lead after winning the first game via a sudden death decider – a new rule which is being trialled at this season’s World Tour Finals.
El Tayeb fell victim to sudden death in the second game though despite having the opportunity to take the win as El Sherbini held her nerve and placed a superb volley drop just above to the tin.
The ailing El Tayeb took four of the first six points on offer in the third game, but again it was El Sherbini’s backhand which came to the Warrior Princess’s rescue as she found her targets to wipe out her opponent’s lead. She then pushed ahead to close out a 10-11, 11-10, 11-7 victory after 47 minutes of top-quality action.
“I haven’t played Nour the whole season and it was tough playing the first match of a tournament against a top six player,” said El Sherbini.
“I’m very happy I won this one and with the way I dealt with it after the first game. It’s always tough playing her, but I never look at the last time, whether I won or lost. I just study their game and try to focus on my game plan.
“Today I wasn’t a fan [of the sudden death]. It was a bit distracting for me, the whole match I was thinking about the Power Plays and sudden death and I was one point away from losing the match.
“I’m still not used to it but it might be exciting for the people watching. I’ll see this week how it’s going to go and then I will decide if it will be a good or bad thing.”
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 2-1: 10-11, 11-10, 11-7 (43m)
Farag Comes from Behind to Beat Coll
Men’s World No.1 Ali Farag came from behind against New Zealand’s World No.5 Paul Coll in the final match of the day to ensure that he has drawn first blood in Group B.
In his nine matches since winning the PSA World Championships in May, Farag has dropped the first game in eight of them and that proved to be the case once again as Coll utilised his Power Play from 9-9 to establish a one-game advantage.
Farag assumed control of the match though in the second as he was able to weave his web against the Kiwi and he dropped just three points as he levelled the scores.
Again the Egyptian made a strong start in the third, before holding off a resurgent Coll to close out a 9-11, 11-3, 11-7 victory.
“I didn’t start off well necessarily, but I got into the groove mid-game and then I was getting better as the game went on,” Farag said.
“But Paul played really well in the last three rallies and he played the Power Play really smartly. I wasn’t disheartened, I knew I had to do more of the same and attack a little bit more. Once I did that I think I had control of the second and the third.
“Paul, like the champion he is, came back strong at me, so I’m very happy to close that one out.
“Sudden death is something for me to try, but to be honest I’m not a big fan of the Power Play, you have to earn every single point you play. It’s exciting for the fans and the World Tour Finals is a unique event where you can try things out, but I don’t see them at the Platinum or Gold events.”
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Paul Coll (NZL) 2-1: 9-11, 11-3, 11-7 (46m)