World's Top Two El Welily & El Sherbini Set Up Black Ball Final Showdown
15 Mar 2019
The world's top two women will face each other in the final of the CIB Black Ball Open after world No.1 Raneem El Welily and reigning World Champion Nour El Sherbini defeated world No.8 Nouran Gohar and world No.5 Joelle King, respectively, in the semi-finals of the PSA World Tour Gold event in the Egyptian capital Cairo.
In the latest instalment of their rivalry, the Egyptian pair will face each other in their 11th successive meeting in a PSA World Tour final as they go head-to-head for the inaugural Black Ball title.
El Welily was pushed all the way to five games in an enthralling encounter with compatriot and former world No.2 Gohar to reach her 46th PSA final.
It was Gohar, who was celebrating her 200th PSA World Tour match, who got off to the better start as she attacked with relentless pressure in the opening exchanges to find her targets quickly and edge out El Welily to take a one-game lead.
Gohar continued her ferocious hitting to put the world No.1 under pressure in the second. However, the experienced El Welily was able to weather the storm to level the scores, before moving on to a 2/1 advantage.
Cairo-born Gohar hit back again though, producing some of her best squash to push the match to a deciding fifth, which El Welily was able to convert on the tie-break to close out a 9-11, 11-7, 11-5, 4-11, 15-13 victory in 66 minutes.
"It takes two players to play a good match and full credit to her today," said El Welily. "I'm just happy to be through today, it was such a crucial match and I'm glad I pushed myself.
"It would mean so much [to win the title], but I don't like to think about it that way. I'm just looking forward to playing another match tomorrow and glad to be through after that brutal match."
El Sherbini overcame New Zealand's No.3 seed King in a masterclass performance from the Egyptian.
The world No.2, who will play in her third successive PSA World Tour final following victories at the Tournament of Champions and PSA World Championships, showed no signs of fatigue from her epic five-game battle with France's Camille Serme 24 hours earlier as she stormed to a 2/0 lead over King.
The Kiwi fought back to take a lead in the third - but the Egyptian reasserted her authority to take the match on the tie-break and claim an 11-7, 11-4, 12-10 victory in 34 minutes.
"Yesterday was a really tough match," said Egypt's El Sherbini following her semi-final win. "I was sure today was going to be tougher, so I really wanted to be ready from the start and focused. As you could see she was coming back strong in the last game, but I was just trying to finish the last game, so I'm really pleased to sneak that one.
"The women's game is always improving and getting tougher. All of us are really fast and are putting the game at another level.
"Me and Raneem have been battling for a long time now and most of the matches have been in finals. Hopefully the better player will win and I'm going to take it as if it is just another match."