World Champions Nour El Sherbini and Ali Farag claimed opening day wins at the CIB PSA World Tour Finals as they came from behind to beat World No.6 Nour El Tayeb and World No.5 Paul Coll to ensure that they moved to the summit of Group B.
Held on an all-glass show court at the brand-new EDNC SODIC venue in Cairo, the CIB PSA World Tour Finals features the top eight male and female players on the CIB Road to Egypt Standings, with points for the standings on offer at all PSA World Tour events throughout the 2022-23 season. The group stage uses a round robin, best-of-three games format as players bid to qualify for the knockout stages.
This season’s event is trialling two new rules, with Power Plays giving players the opportunity to win two points if they win the corresponding rally, while sudden death deciders are used at 10-10. El Sherbini fell foul of this in the opening game as El Tayeb took a one-game lead, but she soon saw the new rule go in her favour in the second, overturning a match ball opportunity for El Tayeb into a 1-1 scoreline.
El Tayeb was struggling with a leg injury and pushed El Sherbini hard, but the two-time World Tour Finals champion was able to close out the win by a 10-11, 11-10, 11-7 scoreline.
“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.”
El Sherbini sits at the top of Group B with three points, while World No.1 Nouran Gohar tops Group A following her comfortable 11-6, 11-0 win against Belgium’s Nele Gilis in a rematch of the El Gouna International final. World No.3 Hania El Hammamy is second in Group A after her 2-0 win against World Tour Finals debutant Olivia Fiechter.
Gohar said: “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.”
In the men’s event, World No.1 Ali Farag tops Group B after he came back from a game down to beat New Zealand’s Coll.
Coll used the Power Play at 9-9 to win the opening game, but Farag assumed control from the second game onwards to complete 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.”
Defending champion Mostafa Asal tops Group A after taking the maximum four points on offer courtesy of a 2-0 win against Frenchman Victor Crouin, who was making his debut at the event. World No.1 Diego Elias sits second after he beat Egypt’s Mazen Hesham. Elias is also on four points, but sits below Asal due to Asal having a higher percentage of points won.
“We played in a good spirit in the beginning and my speech [on court with Crouin at the end] was about stopping this right now,” said Asal, who has been involved in a social media spat with Crouin in the past.
“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.”
The CIB PSA World Tour Finals continues tomorrow (June 21) and play starts at 19:30 (GMT+3). The action will be shown live on SQUASHTV.
Men’s Group A
 Diego Elias (PER) bt  Mazen Hesham (EGY) 2-0: 11-8, 11-5 (38m)
 Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt  Victor Crouin (FRA) 2-0: 11-3, 11-9 (32m)
Men’s Group B
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Paul Coll (NZL) 2-1: 9-11, 11-3, 11-7 (46m)
Women’s Group A
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Nele Gilis (BEL) 2-0: 11-6, 11-0 (22m)
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Olivia Fiechter (USA) 2-0: 11-6, 11-7 (27m)
Women’s Group B
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 2-1: 10-11, 11-10, 11-7 (43m)