In the women’s final of the 2nd Women’s World Championship in the Red Sea resort of El-Gouna, two Egyptian teammates, Nour Al-Sherbini, the world No 1, met Raneem Al-Weilili, world No 4, for the title. Both from Alexandria and both gifted, Al-Sherbini was the first Egyptian ever to win a No 1 ranking in any sport while Al-Weilili became the first ever Egyptian to become world champion, in addition to being world No 1.
Al-Sherbini played sublime squash consistently from the beginning to the end. Her attacking shots were as good as ever. They were lethal and each shot had a purpose. Al-Weilili, on the other hand, did her best except for a few errors.
In the first game, Al-Sherbini was flying 3/1, 7/3, 9/4 in no time before Al-Weilili started to get a chance at hitting the ball, coming back close to 8/9, but a superb return of serve, 10/8 and a hard backhand low drive made it 11/8 in nine minutes.
The second finished 11/9. Al-Weilili tried her best in the third set and drew a number of times but the match ball and the championship ball went to Al-Sherbini who won her second title in two years.
“I can’t believe it. I did it at last,” Al-Sherbini said after the game. “Raneem was a strong competitor but I did my best to win. I’m over the moon. Two or three months ago I wouldn’t have imagined that I would have won because I haven’t won a title this season. It felt like I wasn’t going to win this season anymore, but once I knew that it was going to be in Egypt, I was so excited and I wanted to come and play in El-Gouna.
“I’m really happy to win in front of my home crowd and it’s never easy to play Raneem. I’ve grown up learning a lot from her and she’s told me a lot of things off court and on court. She’s the best sister I could ever have besides my squash career and I am really thankful for everything she did for me.”
Al-Weilili congratulated Al-Sherbini. “She deserves it tonight.”
“I want to thank my team who have been working extremely hard for this,” Amr Mansi, the event’s organiser, said. “Of course, I need to thank Naguib and Sameh Sawiris for their support and their vision. They have been supporting for six years now, and without them, nothing would have been possible.”
Meanwhile, Karim Abdel-Gawad, Egypt’s world No 2 and who is fighting hard to reach the top of the ranking, lost the final of the El-Gouna International Championship to arch-rival and great competitor, the French Greg Gautier, world No 1, who played one of the best squash he has ever played all through the year. Gautier took Abdel-Gawad from the first minute to win the first game 1/1, 9/2, 10/4, 11/6 in just 10 minutes.
In the second game, Gautier was in the front, shooting in the four corner some stunning tight squash, so Abdel-Gawad resorted only to defence but could not put any pressure on the Frenchman to lose 11/8 in 17 minutes.
The third game was the same scenario as Abdel-Gawad lost to the oldest ever world No 1 who proved that he is still the best player in the world.
But the loss did not prevent Abdel-Gawad from being the next best player in the world when the new rankings come out.
On his defeat, Abdel-Gawad said, “I think Greg was playing incredibly well tonight, like he’s been since the beginning of the season. We played a great match, where we both played great squash. It was amazing squash. I have been playing squash since I was six, and it was the first time I played on a windy court, and I just didn’t adapt well. I couldn’t find my basic game, and I just couldn’t attack him. Secondly, when I heard that I was going to be world No 1 next month last night it was a great news. I tried and kept my focus but it was not easy.
“I knew it was going to be an unbelievable match,” Gautier said. “We’re both fighting to get that world No 1 spot. He took it from me yesterday, so all credit to him. Being world No 1 is not just about one tournament, it’s a 12-month thing and he’s always been a talented player. Two years ago, I sat down with (former Egyptian world No 1) Amr Shabana and we were looking at Abdel-Gawad and said that this guy is going to be world No 1 one day.”