Egypt’s Nouran Gohar will return to World No.1 in April after overcoming a tenacious Sarah-Jane Perry in three games in tonight’s quarter-finals.
Current World No.2 Gohar went into the match against No.5 seed Perry knowing that a win would mean that she would overtake current occupier Nour El Sherbini regardless of her compatriot’s result against Georgina Kennedy.
If this fact was preying on her nerves, she certainly didn’t show it. Against a wily opponent, who when in form is capable of beating anyone on the tour and won the Gold tournament here in 2020, Gohar was magnificent.
The 24-year-old played her usual relentlessly aggressive squash against a strong-looking Perry, taking the first two games 11-9 and 11-8.
Perry threw absolutely everything at Gohar in the third game and came close to having a foothold in the match when she took a 10-9 lead. ‘The Terminator,’ however, pulled level with a tidy forehand volley to the front, before eventually seeing out the match with a 13-11 win.
“I’m over the moon. In my past interviews, if I’m honest, I was saying that I wasn’t thinking about the ranking, but I wanted it badly. I was working hard every day, but I don’t want it mentioned before matches because it’s freaking me out.
“I wasn’t initially aware. I only found out before the match. Even when I was speaking to my husband, he didn’t know and he wished me luck like it was a normal match.”
Gohar’s opponent in tomorrow’s semi final will be New Zealand’s No.6 seed Joelle King, after the Kiwi downed No.4 seed Amanda Sobhy in straight games. While Sobhy may have enjoyed the higher seeding, she went into the match having lost her last five matches against the 33-year-old, who enjoyed a whopping 9-1 advantage in the head-to-head record.
Sure enough, the form book proved to be correct, as King dismantled the attack-minded Sobhy’s game with a masterful defensive display. Try though she might, Sobhy could not break King’s flow of points, with the Kiwi returning almost every attempted winner the American hit to claim a 3-0 win in 31 minutes.
After the match, King was in a contemplative mood. “I’m trying to make the most of my time this year. Time is short, we don’t have long being professional athletes and I just want to make the most of every chance I have to be on the tour and play these big matches,” she said.
El Tayeb had captured the headlines in the last round as she put in her best showing since returning to the tour to shock No.3 seed Hania El Hammamy, but was left powerless today by a statement performance from 21-year-old Elaraby.
The first game was an epic that set the tone for the match, with Elaraby eventually breaking through 15-13 having seen four game balls saved and then overturning three of El Tayeb’s.
“I’m out of words,” Elaraby said afterwards. “We all look up to [El Tayeb] and it’s amazing I played with this performance against her. I’m really happy with my performance today, I worked hard for this moment, I’m overwhelmed.”
Standing between Elaraby and a maiden Platinum final is current World No.1 and defending Black Ball Open champion Nour El Sherbini, who put in a ruthless display to quickly dispatch England’s Georgina Kennedy 3-0.
While Kennedy’s pace at times troubled the reigning World Champion, El Sherbini’s path to a third-successive Platinum Black Ball Open never looked in true danger, and the 26-year-old needed just 24 minutes to secure her place in the last four.
Afterwards, El Sherbini threw down the gauntlet to her rival for the No.1 spot, promising to fight to win it back.
She said: “It’s hard of course to maintain [the World No.1 ranking]. This day is going to come and it’s never the end of the world. I’m always trying to win tournaments and that’s going to help me get back to World No.1.
“I’m definitely not going to leave this spot easily.”
Action from the semi finals will be shown live on SQUASHTV as well as the channels of the PSA’s broadcast partners.