Wednesday,20 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1392, (3 - 9 May 2018)
Wednesday,20 February, 2019
Issue 1392, (3 - 9 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Home heroes

Egypt’s Raneem Al-Welili and Marawan Al-Shorbagi were crowned champions of the 2018 El Gouna International Championship, reports Inas Mazhar


Raneem Al-Welili and Marawan Al-Shorbagi
Raneem Al-Welili and Marawan Al-Shorbagi

It was an all-Egyptian men’s and women’s squash final at the 2018 El Gouna International Championship. While squash fans all over the world have grown used to the fact that finals worldwide now feature mainly Egyptians, this time the encounters of local teammates wasn’t abroad but at home, in Egypt’s elite, fabulous resort El Gouna in Hurghada.

Al-Welili and Al-Shorbagi beat Nour Al-Sherbini and Ali Farag at the PSA World Series tournament held in El Gouna’s marina. It wasn’t just the all-Egyptian final at home that drew attention, but the fact that both winners were a spot behind their rivals in the world squash ranking.

In the women’s event Al-Welili, the world ranked No 2, overpowered her compatriot, world No 1 Al-Sherbini while fourth seed Al-Shorbagi defeated third seeded Farag in the men’s.

Al-Welili came back from a game down to avenge her defeat to Al-Sherbini in the final of the PSA Women’s World Championship 12 months ago at this very venue. The Alexandria-born player played some spell-binding squash to go 2-1 up and five match balls up in the fourth before nerves kicked in and she began to find the tin with her shots, resulting in Al-Sherbini fighting back to force a tie-break.

However, a crucial tin from the two-time world champion handed the initiative back to the 29-year-old Al-Welili and she converted this time to get her hands on the title courtesy of an 11-8, 11-5, 11-4 victory.

“What a match that was. Nour played fantastic and was fighting back all the way to the end,” Al-Welili told the World Squash official Website after the game.

“Even at 10-5 down at the end she wasn’t letting go all the way to 11-10. I still can’t believe that. Last time it happened I lost that match.

“I was thinking too much about that today, so I’m very happy that I managed to win it at the end and that I pushed myself,” the new champion said.

In the men’s event, it only took Al-Shorbagi 39 minutes to crush his opponent and snatch his first World Series title of his career and complete a 3-0 clean victory.

The 24-year-old brother of the world champion Mohamed Al-Shorbagi had won three of his five head-to head matches against Farag on the PSA World Tour. However, it was the first time they met in a final as all of their previous encounters came in semi-finals, including in the last four of December’s PSA Men’s World Championships where Al-Shorbagi came through a vivid epic five-game, 75-minute thriller.

But El Gouna was different as Al-Shorbagi was, this time, rarely troubled by an out-of-sorts Farag as he dominated the US Open champion and played an immaculate and flawless match of squash, surpassing his fellow countryman to take an 11-8, 11-5, 11-4 victory to win a World Series final at the third attempt, joining his brother on the list of El Gouna international tournament winners in the process.

“To win my first ever World Series title here in Egypt means a lot to me,” Al-Shorbagi told World Squash Online following his precious triumph. Al-Shorbagi now moves up a place forward as he will overtake France’s Gregory Gaultier to a career-high as world No 3 ranking on 1 May.

“Especially to win it here at home means the world. I’m so happy, I’m over the moon and I can’t even describe how I feel. I’ve lost a few major finals before, but coming into this one I just had to learn from the losses I had and I had to be more relaxed and more focused. I believe my coach and myself had put a good game plan together before the match.”

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