Asal and Gohar capture U.S. Open titles
Egyptian duo Mostafa Asal and Nouran Gohar are the 2021 U.S. Open champions after they overcame compatriots Mostafa Asal and Hania El Hammamy on a thrilling finals night at Philadelphia’s Arlen Specter US Squash Center.
20-year-old Asal has become the youngest ever U.S. Open champion after launching a monumental comeback from two games down to capture his first PSA World Tour Platinum title.
It brings an end to a gruelling tournament for Asal, who battled through a 103-minute fixture against third seed Paul Coll in the quarter finals, a 96-minute humdinger with Diego Elias in the semi finals and a 91-minute title decider with Momen.
The eighth seed 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,” said Asal 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, my physios, mentally for me to be able to recover after all of these matches is something unbelievable. Lastly, I want to thank US Squash and the PSA, Lee Beachill [PSA Chief Operating Officer] and everyone behind this tournament. Thank you guys for having us again and I can’t wait for the next event for this tournament.”
Meanwhile, Gohar has captured back-to-back U.S. Open titles after coming back from a game down to beat third seed Hania El Hammamy 9-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-3 in 74 minutes.
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 El Hammamy. 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 U.S. 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, many losses, were in the back of my mind, so I just took the experience and was trying to execute it today.”
Gohar and Momen take home $19,000 in prize money for their efforts in Philadelphia this week, while Momen joins Gohar and Ali Farag in qualifying for the season-ending CIB PSA World Tour Finals, which will take place in Cairo in June, 2022.
Semis : Asal and Hammamy produce semi-final upsets
Egypt’s Mostafa Asal will line up in the final of a PSA World Tour Platinum event for the first time after he came through a brutal five-game thriller against Peru’s Diego Elias in the semi finals of the U.S. Open presented by Truist at the brand new Arlen Specter US Squash Center in Philadelphia.
Asal has already established himself as one of the sport’s finest players after winning his first major PSA title in July’s CIB PSA World Tour Finals, and the 20-year-old will have the chance to add the U.S. Open trophy to his collection after beating World No.8 Elias by an 11-7, 11-8, 3-11, 2-11, 12-10 scoreline.
It looked as if Elias would have the distinction of becoming the first Peruvian Platinum finalist after he battled back from two games down to level. Asal looked spent physically, but the Egyptian summoned whatever strength he had left to fight back from 7-2 behind and then two match balls down to seal his place in the title decider.
“I’m thankful I came through today and played this amazing match, it’s been a pleasure to play in front of the US crowd. I came into this tournament with a bit of an injury in my shoulder, and I’ve been trying to fix it in since San Francisco
.“I’m going to recover now and play some FIFA to relax a little bit. I have confidence that I can win the tournament tomorrow, I did before at the World Tour Finals.”
Asal will take on fourth seed Tarek Momen in the final after the Egyptian defeated Welshman Joel Makin to reach his first U.S. Open final.
Makin caused one of the tournament’s biggest upsets when he overcame defending champion Ali Farag in the quarter finals, but he was unable to get the better of Momen, who battled to an 11-9, 5-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-8 victory. Both Momen and Asal will now aim to win their first Platinum titles, and Momen will look to avenge his defeat to Asal at the Oracle NetSuite Open a fortnight ago.
“He’s unreal, he never gives up, it’s one of the best qualities he has, and I don’t think anyone on tour has this quality, the way he fights despite being extremely tired and fatigued is just unreal,” said Momen.
“The way he was fighting kept me going, I was thinking ‘Look at what he’s doing, look how hard he’s pushing, you need to push hard as well’. I think he just lifted me up today… I’m really proud with how I fought today, the fourth and fifth games were super tough.”
The women’s title decider will see Hania El Hammamy line up in her first U.S. Open final opposite the defending champion Nouran Gohar following wins against Nour El Sherbini and USA’s Olivia Fiechter.
El Hammamy found herself a game down after a strong start from to seed El Sherbini, who is a three-time runner-up at this tournament. However, El Hammamy stepped it up in the second game and punished El Sherbini as the match went on, eventually emerging victorious courtesy of an 8-11, 11-7, 12-10, 11-7 triumph.
“It would mean a lot to win the U.S. Open title,” El Hammamy said.
“I’ve never reached anything in this tournament, I used to lose in the first or second round. I’m loving the new venue, it’s amazing, I’m loving the court, the atmosphere, and the crowd is amazing.”
Gohar ended US hopes at the tournament after overcoming the country’s No.3 player Olivia Fiechter 11-5, 11-2, 11-3.
Fiechter was appearing in her maiden Platinum semi-final after causing a major shock against compatriot and World No.3 Amanda Sobhy in the third round. But she was put to the sword in a dominant Gohar display, and the Egyptian will now aim to capture back-to-back U.S. Open titles.
“I have great memories of two years ago, it was amazing,” Gohar said.
“Having the crowd today, even if most of the time they were cheering against me, I love it. I love having a great crowd watching and enjoying the game. It makes me feel really happy, and I really appreciate what I’m doing on court.”
Quarters : Top three men’s seeds beaten as Fiechter advances
Joel Makin and Diego Elias sent top seeds Ali Farag and Mohamed ElShorbagy out of the 2021 U.S. Open presented by Truist at the quarter finals stage, while Mostafa Asal beat third seed Paul Coll at the Arlen Specter US Squash Center.
Makin, the World No.9, had never taken more than a game in three previous defeats to World No.1 Ali Farag but put in an almost flawless performance to reach the semi finals of the U.S. Open for the first time and end Farag’s title defence.
“I brought a lot of intensity into the match and I took it to him. I don’t want the match to be us saying ‘great shot’ and clapping each other’s shots, I wanted to take it to him, get across the middle and dominate the court.
“He got quite a few decisions wrong in crucial stages and that’s going to happen in sport. I had to deal with it as best as I could, it probably wasn’t the best squash I played after that because it was stop-start, but I was up for it, it didn’t effect me, and I was trying to get on top. There were a couple of errors but then I came back from 10-7, and I’m happy with how I did that.”
Makin will take on Tarek Momen – the highest ranked player left in the tournament – in the semi-finals after the Egyptian ended the fairy tale run of England’s James Willstrop who, at 38 years of age, was the oldest man ever to reach the quarter finals of a major PSA event.
The other semi final will pit Elias against Asal following their wins over World No.2 ElShorbagy and World No.3 Paul Coll.
Elias was under huge pressure for the opening game and a half, but after the Peruvian fought through to take the second, ElShorbagy’s energy levels soon nose-dived. There was no let up from Elias as he powered through the third and fourth games to seal the win.
“I could see he wasn’t moving that well and I was a bit nervous at the start, I didn’t know if I should start putting pace on the ball because he’s good at that, or try to play smart. In the first game he was playing really smart, hitting the perfect shots and I got a bit frustrated.”
Asal made it three wins out of three over Coll after winning the longest match of the tournament so far at a gruelling 103 minutes. Tonight’s results mean that there will be a new name on the men’s trophy come the night of the final.
Meanwhile, the home crowd at the Specter Center will have a USA player to cheer on, on semi finals night as the country’s No.3 Olivia Fiechter beat Belgium’s Nele Gilis in straight games to reach her first Platinum semi final.
Fiechter stunned close friend and USA No.1 Amanda Sobhy in the previous round to reach her maiden Platinum quarter-final and, buoyed by passionate home support, put in a magnificent performance to beat Gilis 11-7, 11-6, 11-7.
“I was trying to enjoy the moment in front of my home crowd and at this new centre they’ve built for American players,” said Fiechter.
“I don’t think I could be more pleased with that performance. Throughout the day you go through moments when you’re hanging out in your hotel room and you’re trying not to think about it, but obviously you’re trying to prepare for it and get yourself ready. I was trying to take it point by point and focus on my game plan. I knew if I thought about the situation and the moment too much then things could unravel quickly.”
Fiechter will take on defending champion Nouran Gohar for a place in the title decider, with World No.2 Gohar beating England’s Sarah-Jane Perry 3-0.
“Playing a U.S. player in the semi final is very exciting. When you have the crowd cheering for anyone, it’s great for our sport and is great for the game. I’ve had this in Egypt and I’m really excited to see it. It happened a few times with Amanda, but to have a new player with the home crowd is great for the sport and I’m very excited for tomorrow.”
Nour El Sherbini and Hania El Hammamy will contest the other women’s semi-final following wins against France’s Melissa Alves and New Zealand’s Joelle King.