Coll and Al-Hammami celebrating their win
Egypt’s Hania Al-Hammami was crowned champion of the TTI Milwaukee Hong Kong Squash Open 2023.
Al-Hammami beat Amanda Sobhi of the US in the final to claim the title at the Platinum-level event. The world No 2 Egyptian retained her crown just 10 minutes into the final, in circumstances she wouldn’t have wanted after Sobhi was forced to retire in the first game due to injury. The score was locked at 5-5 when the US No 1 went down and was unable to continue.
The victory gave Al-Hammami her 13th title of her career and her second Platinum title of the season, having lifted the Terminals Qatar Classic back in September.
“Not great,” Al-Hammami replied to a media question on her feelings after the final. “I’ve never defended a title before and I’ve always wanted to do that, but I never got the chance. This is definitely not the way I wanted it to be, defending my title.
“It’s devastating what happened on court – we were midway through the first game, it was very close and all of a sudden, I see her, Sobhi, on the floor crying. It’s very sad, I feel bad and I don’t feel great, to be honest. It’s not a title I want to celebrate, but I want to wish her a speedy recovery,” Al-Hammami told the Professional Squash Association (PSA) official website.
En route to the final, Sobhi, of Egyptian origin, had displayed an exceptional performance to eject the world No 1 Nour Al-Sherbini and make it to the final of the Milwaukee Hong Kong Squash Open for the first time in seven years. Sobhi, who was runner up in 2016, was tactically immaculate against the reigning world champion to seal her first appearance in a Platinum-level final since the CIB PSA Black Ball Squash Open in 2021.
According to the PSA, it was the 18th meeting on the PSA World Tour for both Sobhi and Al-Sherbini, where Sobhi’s accuracy was too much for Al-Sherbini to handle, as the American capitalised on many uncharacteristic errors from the Egyptian’s racket to record a 3-0 (11-8, 11-4, 11-3) win in half an hour.
In the men’s event, Egypt’s Ali Farag lost the title to Paul Coll, who defeated Farag in an epic five-game battle 3-2 (10-12, 11-3, 11-8, 8-11, 11-9) in 82 minutes to become the first New Zealander to triumph in Hong Kong, which was his second major title of the season having defeated the Egyptian at the US Open earlier.
It was the third time that the world No 5 Coll and the world No 1 Farag went head-to-head demonstrating high-level quality squash. Both players were pushing high up the court from the off, as Farag drew first blood by taking the first 12-10.
Coll found great success with the forehand drop in the front right corner as he levelled the match before going 2-1 up by clinching the third 11-8.
Having been under huge pressure from Coll in the third set, Farag roared back as he held his nerve to level the match and send the epic encounter into a decider. Both players were going point for point right up to 9-9 when a no let decision went in Coll’s favour to give him championship ball. The Kiwi converted following an error from Farag to score the 22nd title of his career.
“I’m stoked,” said Coll after winning the game. “After the US Open, I was preparing for this one – I had Singapore as well but this was my main target. I really wanted to target the Platinum this year and I’ve got my team with me to try and win that.
“I’m happy with my performances – not just tonight but all week. I’ve really tried to play some aggressive squash and this brand that I’m going for. To get a second Platinum of the season is very good for my confidence with the way that I’m playing. I want to keep that going for the rest of the season,” Coll told the media following his victory.
Despite losing the title, both Al-Sherbini and Farag still lead the top PSA world ranking at No 1.
The PSA World Tour makes its final stop of 2023 at the New Zealand Open which takes place from Tuesday 5 December to Sunday 10 December.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 7 December, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly