FINALS : Asal and El Sherbini claim first major titles of 2024
Mostafa Asal and Nour El Sherbini claimed the first PSA World Tour titles of 2024, winning their finals at the SmartCentres Kinetic Florida Open.
Asal – the men’s second seed – beat compatriot Mazen Hesham 3-1 in the first final of the day, before top seed El Sherbini saw off Hania El Hammamy 3-0 in another all-Egyptian final.
Asal started the stronger, going 10-4 up in the first before taking the lead 11-5, but Hesham went 10-7 up in the second and held on to level 11-9. It was all Asal after that, taking the next two games for the loss of a solitary point in each to claim his 13th PSA title.
“It’s kind of a relief,” he said. “I’m super, super happy with that. Champions find a way, always find a way. “Even in the ups and downs, there was lots of learning on the road. There were lots of downs, up a little bit and up again from the dead. I’m saying up from the dead because I was completely out, I was quitting when I knew I had the third ban.
“I actually didn’t want to play again and there were lots of things happening. No one knows what’s inside of you, even if I have a bad attitude or a good attitude, it was tough for me as well. It’s a learning process, and I learned a lot about finding the balance between everything in my life. I’m 22 years old and trying to improve myself and like I say, champions find a way.
“I have been wrong a lot, but I’m maturing. I’m still 22 so I’m finding the right balance with the right people. Thankfully, the third time when I was banned, I learned a lot of things and I went to the right people.”
El Sherbini capped a dominant week in with a fourth straight three-nil win, although El Hammamy posed her sternest challenge to date before the World #1 claimed her 38th PSA title.
“I’m really pleased with how I’m playing, how I’m attacking, and I think I’ve improved from the first round until the finals. I’m definitely playing good squash that I’m really happy with.
“Hania definitely wasn’t playing her best and she was feeling it from the past couple of matches, but I’ll just take the win keep going.”
SEMIS : Hammamy wins 99-min thriller as Hesham downs Elias
A dramatic semi-finals day in Florida saw three of the four matches go to five as Mazen Hesham downed men’s top seed Diego Elias and Hania El Hammamy overcame Nouran Gohar in a 99-minute women’s thriller.
Six months after playing the longest women’s match ever in the World Tour Finals, Gohar and Hammamy were at it again as they split the first four games, Gohar twice taking the lead only for Hammamy to level. A 5-1 start for Hammamy in the decider but Gohar fought back at the score reached 9-all. Hammamy would get the first match ball opportunity, and two more before Gohar got her one chance, but it was Hammany who eventually took it 15-13 on a Gohar tin.
It’s always physical against Nouran, it’s always long,” El Hammamy said after her win. “I just heard it was 99 minutes, so yeah, it’s always tough. I think today was more about squash, so I’m definitely glad about my performance, I’m glad that I managed to fight.”
Elias was playing at his home club, and after losing the first took a two-one lead over Hesham, but the Egyptian fought back to take the final two games to complete the upset.
Elsewhere Mostafa Asal beat Mohamed ElShorbagy in five, taking the last two games for the loss of just three points, and Nour El Sherbini ended home interest with a straight-game win over Olivia Weaver to ensure two all-Egyptian finals.
QUARTERS : Top seeds through to semis in Florida
Quarter-Finals day at Boynton Beach produced wins for the top four seeds in the men’s and women’s $110k draws.
It was a special day for third seed Mohamed ElShorbagy, who celebrated his 33rd birthday by becoming the youngest player to notch up 700 PSA matches with a four game win over Gregoire Marche.
I’m really proud,” he said. “I’m not sure how many players get to 700 – I know Greg Gaultier and James Willstrop were in the 700s – and I’m really, really proud of the achievement of being the youngest ever to do it. But hopefully I have a few more years left in me, hopefully I can think about 800, and why not think about the 1,000th match one day, as long as I can keep myself healthy.”
He’ll face second seed Mostafa Asal, who eased past Sebastien Bonmalais in three.
In the top half of the men’s draw top seed Diego Elias and fourth seed Mazen Hesham both won in straight games to set up a semi-final clash.
USA’s fourth seed Olivia Weaver is the only non-Egyptian left in the women’s draw after ending the run of Hong Kong’s Chan Sin Yuk in straight games, setting up a last four clash with top seed Nour El Sherbini, while in the bottom half second and third seeds Nouran Gohar and Hania El Hammamy meet.
Day THREE : Gohar back in action as French duo advance
The third day of play of the first PSA event of the year saw the quarter-finalists in the bottom halves of the draws decided.
It was Egypt all the way in the women’s draw as second seed Nouran Gohar returned to action after a lengthy injury layoff with a three-nil win over compatriot Zeina Mickawy. She’ll face eighth seed Farida Mohamed for a place in the semis, with Hania El Hammamy and Amina Orfi facing off in the other bottom half quarter-final.
In the men’s draw French duo Sebastien Bonmalais and Gregoire Marche and ousted 7th and 8th seeds seeds Miguel Rodriguez and Mohamed ElSherbini. Marche, who took 83 minutes to complete a five game win over ElSherbini, now faces third seed Mohamed ElShorbagy who beat Nathan Lake in three close games while Bonmalais is up against second seed Mostafa Asal.
Day TWO : Chan upsets Abbas to reach quarters
Hong Kong’s Chan Sin Yuk upset seventh seed Nada Abbas to reach her first ever PSA Gold event quarter-final on day two of the SmartCentres Kinetic Florida Open.
The 21-year-old is ranked #51 in the world, 34 places below her Egyptian opponent, but defied those rankings to emerge victorious in five games.
Chan was joined in the quarter-final draw by both the men’s and women’s top seeds, with Nour El Sherbini and Diego Elias recording 3-0 wins in the evening session.
Day ONE : Lake Survives Scare on Opening Day
England’s Nathan Lake avoided a major upset in round one of the SmartCentres Kinetic Florida Open, coming from 5-2 down in the deciding fifth game to beat wild card Jeremias Azaña.
Lake, the World No.29, needed more than an hour in total to get past his Argentine opponent, who was making the most of home-court advantage and a vocal crowd cheering him on, and pushed the experienced lefty all the way. Ultimately, though, Lake came out top, clinching victory with a crisp backhand winner to set up a second-round clash with compatriot Mohamed Elshorbagy.
Lake’s victory was one of five matches to go the distance on an exciting opening day in South Florida, with Nicole Bunyan among the other players to record a 3-2 win. The Canadian endured a tough first half of the season, but twice came from a game down to level her match with Mariam Metwally, eventually winning in 48 minutes to kick off 2024 in style.
Gregoire Marche, Abdulla Al-Tamimi and Leonel Cardenas also won in five, with Cardenas needing six match balls to eventually see off Egypt’s Yahya Elnawasany.
Round two begins from 12:00 (GMT-5) on 10th Jan. Watch the action live on SQUASHTV.