Squash champions

Tuesday 15 Oct 2019

Farag and Gohar

Egyptian duo Nouran Gohar and Ali Farag captured the 2019 FS Investments US Open Squash Championship titles at Philadelphia’s Drexel University on Sunday 13 October after overcoming compatriots Nour Al-Tayeb and Mohamed Al-Shorbagi.

World No 5 Gohar has also made it back-to-back Platinum titles after also taking the honours at the British Open in May, but the 22-year-old had to battle back from two games down and championship ball down to claim the 10th title of her career.

Al-Tayeb won the 2017 edition of the event alongside husband Farag as they became the first married couple in sporting history to win the same major title on the same day. And it looked like a repeat could be on the cards after a blistering start from Al-Tayeb saw the world No 3 power to a two-game lead, while she had the championship within her grasp at 11-10 in the third.

But Gohar dug in to send the match into a fourth, and the tide turned immediately as she put together a series of well-constructed rallies to take the fourth as well. Al-Tayeb stayed with Gohar until 7-7 in the decider, but Gohar pulled away to claim a 3-11, 8-11, 14-12, 11-8, 11-7 victory which sees her win her third major PSA title, while she will go to world No 2 in the November PSA world rankings.

“I can’t believe it,” said Gohar after the match. “It was so tough out there. I felt my legs burning and it was like I was doing court sprints with Nour out there in the first two games. I just tried to hang in there and I didn’t want the crowd to be upset about a bad final match. I was thinking ‘that’s the worst final ever’, but it turns out, and I hope, it was a good one.”

On the other hand, Farag made no mistake in adding to his 17 PSA Tour titles as a master class of a performance saw him end Al-Shorbagi’s unbeaten start.

Al-Shorbagi had already won the J.P. Morgan China Open and Oracle NetSuite Open over the past month, beating Farag in the final of the former, while he was on a 12-match unbeaten run coming into this event’s title decider.

But the three-time US Open champion was powerless to prevent his opponent from taking a 3-0 win. Farag was sublime as he controlled the rallies right from the off, and after claiming a comfortable 11-4 victory in the opening game, he went in for the kill in games two and three, with an off-the-pace Al-Shorbagi failing to lunge properly in the final game.

Farag becomes the third Egyptian to win the US Open twice after Al-Shorbagi and the legendary Amr Shabana, while it is his first PSA Tour title of the season.

“To be winning not only a major, but the US Open which is one of the most prestigious tournaments we have on the calendar, it feels amazing,” Farag said.  

“Obviously I’m very proud with how I played as well. Mohamed has had an unbelievable start to the season, to be unbeaten in 12 matches in a row, and I was one of the victims, so to get the win today feels amazing.”


 *A version of this article appears in print in the 17 October, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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