Entirely Egyptian

Abeer Anwar , Tuesday 12 Oct 2021

Mustafa Asal and Nouran Gohar are the latest Egyptian US Squash Open champions, reports Abeer Anwar

Mustafa Asal and Nouran Gohar
Mustafa Asal and Nouran Gohar

As usual, the final of the US Squash Open was an all-Egyptian affair for both men and women.

Mustafa Asal and Nouran Gohar beat their teammates Tarek Momen and Hania Al-Hammami in a breathtaking final at Philadelphia’s Arlen Specter US Squash Center.

Not only the champion but setting a new record, 20-year-old Asal has become the youngest ever US Open champion after capturing his first PSA World Tour Platinum title.

In his journey towards the title, Asal battled in a thrilling 103-minute match against world No 3 Paul Coll in the quarter-finals, a 96-minute humdinger with Diego Elias in the semi-final and a 91-minute title decider with Momen.

The world No 10 was second best for the first two games but found a new lease of life in the third and fourth games to draw level, overturning a championship ball in the latter. Asal’s mental strength was unwavering in the decider as he retrieved ball after ball to claim a stunning 5-11, 5-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-3 victory.

“I don’t believe the feeling,” Asal told the tournament official website after his sixth PSA title.

“I have all the respect for Tarek. He was 2-0 up and I think it was a great battle today. I’ve been having so many 3-2s in the last couple of days and I cannot believe it until now. I was having problems before the tournament, whether I would enter or if I couldn’t, but I managed to win the title.

“I want to thank everyone, my coaches and my physios who helped me mentally to be able to recover after all of these matches which is something unbelievable.”

Gohar captured the US Open title after coming back from a game down to beat world No 6 Al-Hammami 9-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-3 in 74 minutes.

Gohar – who overturned a 2-0 deficit and a match ball against compatriot Nour Al-Tayeb to win the 2019 US Open – found herself a game down and 9-4 behind after a rampant start from her opponent.

But a change in tactic from the 24-year-old saw her go on the offensive, and the momentum shifted in Gohar’s favour as she moved on to claim a seventh successive win over Al-Hammami. It is Gohar’s second successive Platinum title after winning the CIB Egyptian Open in September and her 12th PSA title overall.

“I can’t really believe it, but it seems like I have to always be down in the final of the US Open,” said Gohar afterwards.

“Last year I was match ball down. This year thankfully I was only 1-0 and 9-4 down. I just wanted to stick around most of the time, and I’m just glad with the way I dealt with it. I felt I was the most experienced today, so that made a huge difference.

“I’ve been in these situations before against the top players… I think what made the difference is that I just wanted to stick to my game plan and adapt a little bit. I played better, I thought about it more and that made the difference today. I think many matches and many losses were in the back of my mind, so I just took the experience and was trying to execute it today.”

Gohar and Asal take home $19,000 in prize money for their efforts in Philadelphia this week.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 October, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekl

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