R1: Hania Camille, for the nth time ….

[5] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 2-1 [4] Camille Serme (FRA) 9-11, 12-10, 11-7 (51m)

What a match, again… I cannot believe the quality of the squash those two keep producing. And funnily enough, I feel their squash is starting to mirror one another really. Both love to attack from the volley, but both defend with stunning lobs, both are giving it all, retrieving the irretrievable… Both are extremely fit and both wanted  it very very badly.

Turning point in my view on the second. I had that strong feeling that if Hania was managing to clinch the second, she would somehow take the match. Because it’s not in my eyes a question of squash anymore. It’s a question of belief.

And at the start, Hania didn’t believe. The pressure of playing in front of her crowd, now she is with the Big Girls – her first CIBFinals – playing Camille that she knows she can beat – especially in front of an Egyptian crowd, plus, playing in front of her new fitness coach, Sami Farag, her parents, that’s a pressure she struggled with to start with.

I mention the fitness coach as I was impressed with her appearance after those months of unwanted rest. She looks truly amazing, and I feel today, the fitness made the difference. Sami, who spent a lot of time in Germany, then in the States, former PSA player now back in Egypt. “He understands squash” told me Ashraf Hanafi, famous coach and promoter.

Camille came on court with the confidence that comes from beating a player a few days before. It was not an easy match in Manchester, but without Philippe Signoret – always at her side – Camille managed to clinch that win. That was crucial.

So an excellent start for the French, 7/3. The Egyptian claws back to 7/9, and won’t let Camille take an easy opener, down 10/7, she’ll only bow 11/9 in 14m.

The second game is sublime squash. No other words to describe it. Amazing length from both, both positive, fighting to retrieve, lovely crosscourt lobs. So accurate, stunning squash. Could be a final in any major really. Not a point between them from 4/4 to 9/9. But Camille, maybe a bit tired at the end – not surprising really – makes two errors in a row, and it’s 12/10 to the Gazelle.

The third is nailbitting for both camps really. Hania seems to control the situation when she comes back from 0/2 to take a good lead 7/4, but Camille quickly equalises, 7/7. But now, Hania believes, she is relaxed, and goes for her shots. Camille fights but it’s not enough, and Hania takes the match, 117, another very long game, 15m.

“I should thank god that today it’s a best of three because it was a really tough match.

“I lost to Camille a few days ago in Manchester and that was really tough as usual. Today I gave it my all and I tried to dig in and I’m glad I managed to win that.

“I think after today’s match I have to go and recover really well, I’m playing the top eight players in the world, so it’s not easy at all to back it up and go the next day and be ready.

“It’s amazing playing in front of my family and friends in Egypt and in front of this amazing crowd. It’s the best for me and I always find myself putting in a good performance in Egypt.”