Big wins for Marwan and Camille upset rankings in late night of drama in Cairo
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Top seeds Ali Farag and Nour El Sherbini both lost on a dramatic opening day of the CIB PSA World Tour Finals at the Mall of Arabia in Cairo.
Defending men’s champion Marwan ElShorbagy beat Farag in their Group A battle, winning 10-12, 11-4, 13-11 in just over an hour.
France’s World No.4 Camille Serme got the better of World No.1 El Sherbini, winning 10-12, 11-3, 11-6 to boost her chances of qualifying for the semi-finals.
Despite using a best-of-three-games format, there were several long matches (plus a long injury break) and play finished at 1.50am local time.
The longest match featured Marwan’s brother Mohamed, who survived a cut above his left eye before returning to court to beat world junior champion Mostafa Asal in 93 minutes.
The Bristol-based ElShorbagy brothers sit at the summit of an all-Egyptian Group A following their opening day wins.
Marwan beat Farag in the semi-finals at this tournament last season and he made it three wins in a row against the No.1 seed with a 10-12, 11-4, 13-11 victory.
“If you look at how tough our group is, having my brother and Asal is really tough,” Marwan said.
“All the matches are 50-50. Tomorrow I play Mostafa and it’s going to be the same as today. Playing Ali is always tough, he is the toughest to play on tour, him and my brother.
“They are World No.1 and World No.2 and every session I practice, I always visualise competing against them because they are the best in the world and I want to try and beat both of them on a consistent basis.”
Mohamed ElShorbagy is hunting Farag’s World No.1 spot and, with the pair set to meet in the next round of fixtures, the 30-year-old has given himself a perfect platform to have a real crack at his compatriot following an 11-8, 7-11, 11-8 victory over Asal.
The match was subject to a 35-minute break due to a cut above ElShorbagy’s left eye, but the No.5 seed pulled through in the end.
ElShorbagy said: “He (Asal) is a superstar of our sport. He will take on the sport at some point, so I’m happy to go on court with him before I finish because it’s the kind of match I will remember for the rest of my life as he will run the sport one day.
“He is such a nice boy. I know him off court and he is such a nice guy. People don’t know him, he is one of the nicest guys I know on tour. It really annoys me when people talk badly about him on social media because they just don’t know him.”
The ‘Beast from Alexandria’ came into the tournament as the No.5 seed, and he will be happy to get over the line in the end, taking the win and three points from his first group match.
He added: “I think we played a high quality match. The first game was very very tough. It was a Nick Matthew-Shorbagy (type of) match you know, a typical Matthew-Shorbagy first game but he responded better in the second.
“The few errors I did in the middle of the second game is the result of the work we did in the first game. I thought I was making him pay but in fact, he was making me pay! Plus, he changed his game, volleyed more, and he didn’t allow me to slow the ball down, which was very clever of him to be honest. It shows his brain is working al the time.
“He is very mature, he reminds me a lot of myself when I was his age, you know. He did to me what I used to do to Nick. It was interesting, and the first of many many battles. It’s going to be a new rivalry and I’m very excited about it.
“The injury in the third was a complete accident. He didn’t mean anything, I know that. The match was played fair and in good spirit. I wanted to carry on and not go to the hospital to get stitches as I definitely didn’t want to come back after the other games. The physio did an amazing job to get me sorted.”
If Marwan and Mohamed both triumph in the next round of fixtures, they will qualify for the semi-finals.
Group B saw New Zealand’s Paul Coll and Egypt’s Tarek Momen go up against each other in a repeat of the 2019-20 PSA World Championship final, with Coll getting the better of his opponent to follow up May’s El Gouna International triumph over Momen. Coll triumphed 12-10, 7-11, 11-4 65 minutes.
In a tournament dominated by Egyptians, today sees a rare all-European tie as Britain’s highest-ranked player, Joel Makin from Wales, meets Frenchman Gregoire Marche, who came in as a late replacement for the injured Fares Dessouky.
The CIB PSA World Tour Finals features the top eight male and female players on the CIB Road to Egypt Standings, with points on offer at all PSA World Tour events throughout the 2020-21 season. The group stage uses a round robin, best-of-three games format as players bid to qualify for the knockout stages.
El Sherbini finished top of the women’s CIB Road to Egypt standings, but her chances of lifting a second title suffered a blow after Serme came back from a tie-break defeat in the opening game to win 10-12, 11-3, 11-6.
Serme said: “I am very happy with my game tonight. It has been a while since I had a good win, so I will take that one, especially against the World No.1. I was enjoying my game and really focused on what to do on court and that was really important.
“She can hit many winners as well, but today was more about errors and I will take that. This tournament is never easy anyway, it is a bonus and I am just happy to be enjoying my squash again.”
Serme sits in second place in Group A with 3 points, level with World No.2 Nouran Gohar, who overcame fellow Egyptian Salma Hany 2-1. Gohar leads the group courtesy of having a higher percentage of points won compared to Serme.
Serme and Gohar will go head-to-head in the next round of matches and either player can book their places in the semis if they win and results elsewhere go their way. Meanwhile, a defeat for El Sherbini against Hany could see the top seed bow out of the event.
Defending champion Hania El Hammamy and England’s Sarah-Jane Perry contested the day’s sole Group B fixture, with the Egyptian winning 11-7, 11-9 to become the first player to take maximum points from her first fixture.
“I was a little bit nervous before the match,” El Hammamy said.
“It’s the first pool match, so I have to be sharp from the beginning and it’s best-of-three. It is never easy against SJ, she is a very tricky player and she likes to play some tricky stuff.
“I try as much as I can not to think about being defending champion, because last time, when I thought about it [at the CIB Black Ball Open], it gave me a little bit of extra pressure on myself.”
Play continues today (June 23) and starts at the Mall of Arabia at 19:00 (GMT+2). The action will be shown live on SQUASHTV (worldwide) and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour.
2020-21 CIB PSA World Tour Finals, Mall of Arabia, Cairo, Egypt. First Round Results.
Men’s Group A:
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Ali Farag (EGY) 2-1: 10-12, 11-4, 13-11 (64m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Mostafa Asal (EGY) 2-1: 11-8, 7-11, 11-8 (93m)
Men’s Group B:
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 2-1: 12-10, 7-11, 11-4 (65m)
Men’s Group A Second Round (Today):
 Mohamed ElShorbagy v  Ali Farag (EGY)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Mostafa Asal (EGY)
Men’s Group B First Round (Today):
 Gregoire Marche (FRA) v  Joel Makin (WAL)
Women’s Group A:
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 2-1: 10-12, 11-3, 11-6 (34m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Salma Hany (EGY) 2-1: 9-11, 11-5, 11-2 (52m)
Women’s Group B:
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 2-0: 11-7, 11-9 (30m)
Women’s Group A Second Round (Today):
 Salma Hany (EGY) v  Nour El Sherbini (EGY)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
Women’s Group B First Round (Today):
 Joelle King (NZL) v  Amanda Sobhy (USA)
Squash fans can download the new CIB Road to Egypt App now to stay up-to-date with all the news from the tournament. Available from the App Store and Google Play.
Pictures courtesy of PSA