Day TWO : Top seeds beaten on dramatic Day Two

The CIB PSA World Tour Finals continued at the new EDNC SODIC venue in Cairo , with six more best of three Round One & Two Pool matches.

Joelle King and Mohamed ElShorbagy got their campaigns off to a successful start as they beat Gina Kennedy and Tarek Momen, but two long and dramatic matches followed which saw Hania El Hammamy and Mostafa Asal beat top seeds Nouran Gohar and Diego Elias to move to the top of the ‘A’ Groups.

Nele Gilis and Mazen Hesham rounded off the night with their first wins to keep qualification from the ‘B’ Groups on the cards.

Read on for match reports and reaction …

CIB PSA World Tour Finals 2023 : Wed 21st Jun, Day TWO

WB R1 [4] Joelle King (Nzl) 2-1 [7] Georgina Kennedy (Eng)  5-11, 11-8, 11-9 (34m)
MB R1 [3] Mohamed ElShorbagy (Eng) 2-0 [8] Tarek Momen (Egy)  11-6, 11-4 (16m)

WA R2 [3] Hania El Hammamy (Egy) 2-1 [1] Nouran Gohar (Egy)   10-11, 11-10, 11-4 (56m)
MA R2 [4] Mostafa Asal (Egy) 2-1 [1] Diego Elias (Per)   10-11, 11-7, 12-10 (90m)

WA R2 [5] Nele Gilis (Bel) 2-1 [8] Olivia Fiechter (Usa)  11-10, 4-11, 11-6 (45m)
MA R2 [6] Mazen Hesham (Egy) 2-0 [7] Victor Crouin (Fra)  11-7, 11-6 (28m)


Reports and Reaction

WB R1 [4] Joelle King (Nzl) 2-1 [7] Georgina Kennedy (Eng)  5-11, 11-8, 11-9 (34m)

King comes from behind to beat Kennedy

New Zealand’s Joelle King overcame an ankle injury and a one-game deficit to overcome World No.8 Georgina Kennedy by an 5-11, 11-8, 11-9 scoreline to go second in Group B of the women’s event.

King, who also came from behind to beat Kennedy in the group stage of last year’s tournament, lacked her usual explosive moment as a result of her ankle problem, while Kennedy was cutting the ball in with accuracy towards the front corners as she took a comfortable opening game victory.

Kennedy surged into a 6-2 lead in the second game, at which point she signalled for a Power Play to give her the opportunity to win two points. King responded in kind though and was the victor, bringing her back to within two points and that saw the moment of the match shift in the Kiwi’s favour as she reeled in Kennedy and then overtook her to draw level.

While King’s demeanour following the first game was downbeat, she looked full of confidence coming out after the second, despite her requiring treatment from the physio on her ankle.

She was right to be confident as a shell-shocked Kennedy conceded the first five points in the third game. The Englishwoman was able to recover but, with the scores at 8-7, King pulled off a successful Power Play to hold three match balls.

Kennedy saved two of them, but King wasn’t to be denied and she found the nick on a crosscourt drive to claim the victory.

“I don’t think it was the prettiest squash from either of us, but the World Tour Finals is a different format,” said King.

“I think I took her by surprise in the second. Early on I was looking down and out, but I called a Power Play and I won it, and that switched the momentum. I’m so happy to be on the court and to get a win is a massive bonus, I’m very happy with that one.

“My ankle injury is 100 times better than it was, you never really know until you play a proper match. You can’t control it, but I’m happy with how I moved and there are a lot of positives.”

MB R1 [3] Mohamed ElShorbagy (Eng) 2-0 [8] Tarek Momen (Egy)  11-6, 11-4 (16m)

Relentless ElShorbagy axes Momen to top Group B

World No.3 Mohamed ElShorbagy put in a dominant performance to dismantle Egypt’s Tarek Momen in straight games, earning him a spot at the top of Group B.

The Englishman – a two-time World Tour Finals winner – was relentless as he overpowered Momen to complete an 11-6, 11-4 win in just 16 minutes, leaving him plenty in the tank for the rest of the tournament.

Momen was a late call-up for the event following the withdrawal of ElShorbagy’s younger brother, Marwan, due to a hip injury and had been enjoying some beach time prior to the event.

The lack of training time meant Momen struggled to match ElShorbagy’s intensity, with ElShorbagy soaring to the summit of Group B with a maximum of four points.

“I think all the players that are here should enjoy it,” said ElShorbagy.  “We’re here because we deserve to be. It’s the top eight players, men and women, and it’s great to be involved again. Here because there aren’t many players we’re at breakfast together having a nice discussion together.

“Obviously we’re still working hard, we still want to win the title and there are ranking points and big prize money too. You want to find the right mix and I’m happy to win today.

“The likes of Paul and myself have experience with the Power Play already, but the top players know how to adapt. Tarek is a great player and if I lost either of those Power Plays he would have made a comeback, so I focused today and I’m glad I won the match in the end.

“It’s so hard for him, he will be happy he made it in the end because we all want to be here, but his body will have to adapt. He was by the beach a few days ago and he didn’t know he was going to come in, so the preparation was brutal for him. I’ve never played Tarek like I have today, I was whacking it because I knew he would be slow today.

“He will get better tomorrow, he needed this match today and I was the lucky one that had him in the first round.”

[3] Hania El Hammamy (Egy) 2-1 [1] Nouran Gohar (Egy)   10-11, 11-10, 11-4 (56m)

El Hammamy ends three-match losing run against Gohar

World No.3 Hania El Hammamy has ended a three-match losing run against World No.1 Nouran Gohar after prevailing 10-11, 11-10, 11-4 in the latest chapter of their enthralling rivalry.

The pair have contested some of the finest – and longest – matches of the 2022-23 season and regularly meet in the final or semi-finals of the sport’s most prestigious tournaments.

The two previous matches between the pair lasted 105 and 107 minutes and while the best of three format tonight meant that their meeting at the EDNC SODIC was shorter at 56 minutes, it was nonetheless tightly-contested.

Both times El Hammamy has beaten Gohar this season – the CIB Egyptian Open and Hong Kong Open – the World No.3 has taken the first game and she looked on course to do so after building up a 10-7 lead in the opener.

Gohar though came back to 10-8, before calling for her first Power Play and winning the subsequent rally to draw level. With sudden death deciders in place at this tournament, the winner of the next point would take the opening game, and a costly tin from El Hammamy handed the 1-0 lead to Gohar.

The second game was nip and tuck until the mid-stage, when Gohar was able to pull away to 9-6. This time, her Power Play was unsuccessful, handing El Hammamy a lifeline, with the 22-year-old coming back to draw level at 9-9, before coming out on top of a high-octane rally to hold a game ball of her own.

Gohar saved it but then it was El Hammamy’s turn to win a sudden death decider, sending the match into a nail-biting third game.

That third game is where El Hammamy displayed her best squash as she picked up virtually everything Gohar threw at her and sent her opponent into all four corners of the court frequently.

Her win means El Hammamy will qualify for the semi-finals if USA’s Olivia Fiechter beats Belgium’s Nele Gilis later tonight in the other Group A fixture. That would then mean Gohar and Fiechter would face off for the second semis spot.

“I think I should be disappointed that I haven’t been able to get more wins against her since January,” said El Hammamy.

“But I’m definitely trying to end this season on a high with some good performances like tonight, hopefully I can keep playing like this for the rest of the tournament. I want to start with a new head to head [record] against her next season.

“In the second game I came back with a Power Play, so I’m glad we have them in this tournament. It’s not easy to get points against Nouran, especially if she is ahead in the score and leading by so many points, so the Power Play definitely gave me an advantage.

“If I want to win the tournament it doesn’t matter if I’m first or second in the group. I have to be able to win every match against every player, so I’m just focused on playing my best squash and trying to satisfy myself a little bit before the end of the season.”

MA R2 [4] Mostafa Asal (Egy) 2-1 [1] Diego Elias (Per)   10-11, 11-7, 12-10 (90m)

Asal battles past top seed Elias to top Group A

Defending champion Mostafa Asal came back from a game down against top seed Diego Elias to move to the summit of Group A.

It was their first meeting since December’s Hong Kong Open final where Asal came back from two games down to take the trophy and the opening game was a scrappy affair with a number of traffic issues.

Asal received a conduct stroke at 9-8 ahead, being penalised for impeding Elias with his racket having already been warned earlier. With a Power Play active, that meant Elias went to game ball, and a no let given against Asal handed the first game to the Peruvian.

The pair traded points in the second, with more frequent discussions with the referees. Elias was frustrated with Asal’s movement, but it was the latter who was more accurate into the back of the court to open up a range of attacking opportunities for himself, duly levelling the scores.

Backed by a partizan home crowd, Asal made a strong start to the third game, storming into a 4-0 lead, but Elias was able to raise his accuracy to draw level. The back and forth battle continued, with Asal receiving another conduct stroke for holding onto Elias’s wrist after playing a shot.

Asal had match ball at 9-8 up but, with both players using Power Plays, it was Elias who won the next rally to hold a match ball of his own, which Asal saved to set up a tie-break. The pace ramped up in the tie-break, with Asal eventually forcing Elias into an error to bring an end to a 90-minute battle.

“It’s always controversial between me and Diego,” said Asal, who is aiming to win three World Tour Finals trophies on the bounce.

“It was a little bit unfair towards me today, I got a conduct stroke for grabbing the racket and I didn’t do that at all. There were a few mistakes but I’m happy to go through it, I’m learning from all of this.

“I was in a situation today which was harsh and there were similar decisions towards him. I’m trying to deal better with the referees, you can’t continue squash like this.

“I’m always having the winning spirit, like my club Al Ahly. I’m happy I have fans coming from everywhere in Egypt to support me, they are amazing. Al Ahly is always number one in Africa and I’m happy to have this spirit.”

WA R2 [5] Nele Gilis (Bel) 2-1 [8] Olivia Fiechter (Usa)  11-10, 4-11, 11-6 (45m)

Gilis beats Fiechter for first World Tour Finals win

Belgium’s Nele Gilis picked up her first World Tour Finals victory as she found a way past USA’s Olivia Fiechter to move up to third in Group A.

The pair have met three times this season, with Gilis winning all three, including a 94-minute epic at the PSA World Championships. Gilis needed to win to be in with a chance of qualifying for the semi-finals and duly recorded an 11-10, 4-11, 11-6 victory.

Fiechter came within a point of taking the opening game, but Gilis employed a success Power Play to snatch it from 10-9 down.

Despite serving out at the beginning of the game, Fiechter was able to break up Gilis’s movement in the second game, playing a variety of angles to level the scores.

But it only served to momentarily disrupt Gilis, who immediately went on the attack in the third game to take a 6-0 lead, building on that to get the win over the line as the clock ticked towards 1 o’clock in the morning.

Gilis will now go up against Group A leader Hania El Hammamy, with a win guaranteeing her a spot in the last four.  Fiechter can also still qualify if she beats second placed Nouran Gohar and Gilis loses to El Hammamy.

“It was really tough, I didn’t know when to start warming up,” said Gilis.

“I was definitely feeling it, I was a bit tired and my legs were on survival mode. I’m very happy to get my first win at the World Tour Finals.

“The Power Plays and sudden death add a bit of extra pressure. Even though I wasn’t feeling my best today I’m happy I was able to dig deep. In the third I kept wondering when she was going to use her second Power Play and I forgot she had already used it in the first. It made me edgy.”

MA R2 [6] Mazen Hesham (Egy) 2-0 [7] Victor Crouin (Fra)  11-7, 11-6 (28m)

Hesham claims maiden World Tour Finals win

Egypt’s World No.8 Mazen Hesham claimed his first win at the World Tour Finals, beating Frenchman Victor Crouin 11-7, 11-6 in the final match of the day to stay in with a chance of qualifying for the semi-finals.

Hesham will take on Group A leader Mostafa Asal next and can qualify if he beats ‘The Raging Bull’ 2-0 and top seed Diego Elias beats Crouin.

Alternatively, he can also qualify if he gets the better of Asal 2-1 and Elias fails to beat Crouin.

“I’m very happy with the way I performed today,” Hesham said.

“Yesterday I wasn’t very happy with the errors I made at the crucial points. I’m trying to evolve and get better, but it’s going to take some time. I’m very happy to get my first win here and who knows, maybe I can win the next one and be in the semi-finals.

“The venue is very close to my home and very close to where we’re staying at, so it’s very convenient. I knew it was going to be a long night, so I prepared for a long night. I had coffee at 9pm, which isn’t normal for me but hopefully I can sleep tonight.

“These are the situations when you’re playing outdoors and you know it’s going to be late. The few people who stayed are probably my family and my friends and it’s amazing to have them here.”