Back-To-Form Gawad Grabs Black Ball Glory
9 Dec 2018
After 20 months without Tour title success, Egypt's former World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad showed that he back to his former best by winning the CIB Black Ball Open trophy today in his home city Cairo - the PSA World Tour Platinum crown coming hot on the heels of his Pakistan Open triumph last week in Karachi.
Seventh seed Gawad defeated compatriot Ali Farag in the final at the Black Ball Sporting Club - thereby denying the world No.2 the world number one ranking in the PSA list next month.
The Black Ball Squash Open is the first major tournament to take place in Egypt's capital since the men's 2016 PSA World Championship. Alexandria-born Gawad, who reached the final after upsets over world No.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy and world No.4 Tarek Momen, prevailed in a four-game battle with Farag.
The title is Gawad's first at a PSA Platinum event since the 2017 Tournament of Champions.
26-year-old Farag was competing to not only win the title, but also to become the world No.1 for the first time in January. However, the nerves looked to have got the better of the No.2 seed as Gawad opened up a two-game lead.
The start of the third saw Farag come out fighting to take four points without reply to build up a strong lead, with the world No.2 also being able to hold off a late surge from Gawad as Farag took the third to get a foothold back into the match.
However, it wasn't meant to be for Farag - Gawad held his nerve to claim back-to-back titles after winning the Pakistan Open PSA Bronze tournament last week.
"I had so many times where I was down," said Gawad following his win. "All those months, all those days, I pushed and pushed. There were bad times, really bad times, but my team handled those bad moments. It finally paid off this week, and I'm back to my form.
"I wasn't 100% there physically but thanks to my team, I had a good recovery until 4am this morning and I didn't feel exhausted today.
"It's been a very tough tournament, especially for me as I've not been playing at this level for so long now and to be back and winning this major tournament means a lot to me.
"I've been working so hard to try and get back to my form that I used to play and I'm really happy to be back and end the year with a major tournament.
"Ali is my brother, we've grown up together and we've played so many times at juniors. He has been handling so much pressure this week and I've been there before, so I know how he feels. I had two or three times to become world No.1 and I kept losing every time, so I know how hard it is but sooner or later he will be world No.1 because he's very consistent."
Farag added afterwards: "Karim was by far the best player all week. He thoroughly deserved that win. Karim was a world No.1 deservedly and he had a bit of a dip in his form last season because of some injuries but he very much deserves to be where he is today.
"I'm really happy for him and his team."
World No.9 Gawad takes home over $25,000 in prize money - and the 20th PSA title of his career.