8:02 am
23 Oct 2018

Colombian Rodriguez Heralds New British Open Era

21 May 2018

Unseeded Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez heralded a new era for the British Open Squash Championships on the all-glass showcourt at the Airco Arena in Hull by becoming the first South American champion in the 96-year history of the 'Wimbledon of Squash'.

In an all-Egyptian women's final, world No.1 Nour El Sherbini defeated World Champion Raneem El Welily to win the title for the second time.

Rodriguez, the 32-year-old world No.14 from Bogota, contested one of the most dramatic finals the tournament has ever seen, overcoming Egypt's world No.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy in a gladiatorial 102-minute battle 11-7, 6-11, 8-11, 11-2, 11-9.

Top seed Elshorbagy, who prior to the final had spent almost an hour longer on court than his opponent, fought through the fatigue to take a 2/1 lead - but only won two points in the fourth as he recharged his batteries for one last push in the fifth.

What followed was a stunning display of squash from both players, with Elshorbagy sinking to the floor due to sheer exhaustion after a particularly gruelling rally in the latter stages.

The reigning World Champion fought on manfully but was unable to deny his opponent and, when the Colombian went match ball up and deceived him with a well-disguised boast, he called an attempted pick-up down to hand Rodriguez the title.

"I think everything was mental, I dreamed it," said Rodriguez after claiming the 27th, and biggest, PSA World Tour title of his career.

"I had emotions during the week but I am just speechless. I'm so grateful for this opportunity to win this major tournament, the greatest of all time. I'm so proud of myself, this is for my parents, my family and Colombia," added the jubilant Colombian, the first unseeded British Open champion in the modern era.

"It's huge, this is like winning the 'Wimbledon of Squash'. No one in South America has achieved this before, I'm a legend I think I can say. I couldn't believe that I was able to fight with a top player like Mohamed, he has achieved so many titles. I can't believe that I am 32 years old and I just won the British Open."

Women's world No.1 El Sherbini made it two British Open titles out of three finals after the 22-year-old put in a scintillating performance to overcome compatriot and world No.2 El Welily in straight games, avenging her defeat to the 29-year-old in the final of last month's El Gouna International.

The pair were meeting in their seventh successive PSA World Tour final with each player taking two wins apiece prior to the Hull final. El Sherbini became the first female Egyptian to win the British Open in 2016 and had also reached the final in 2012 at the age of just 16, while 29-year-old El Welily was contesting the title decider for the first time in her career.

And it was the younger Egyptian who prevailed in Hull, playing an immaculate brand of squash to record an 11-6, 11-9, 14-12 triumph in 47 minutes to win her 16th PSA crown.

"The British Open is the biggest tournament on tour, it was an honour to win it once and now I have two and I'm really proud," El Sherbini said.

"We always have very tough battles, it's never an easy 3/0 and I'm really glad it's ended this way.

"I'm glad I came back and won the third. Every time we play, it gets harder. We're really good friends and I learn from her a lot and she is a role model to any player. I hope this battle continues and we keep playing each other in the finals."

Both Rodriguez and El Sherbini take home over $24,000 in prize money after the tournament offered up equal prize money for the second year in succession.

The next stop for the world's greatest squash players - including all four British Open finalists - will be the ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals, which will take place at Emirates Golf Club from June 5-9.