10:36 pm
19 Jun 2024

World's Top Two Set The Scene At Cairo World Championships

14 May 2022

Nouran Gohar and Paul Coll, the two world's number one squash players, overcame their first round hurdles at the 2022 PSA World Championships in Cairo - both seeking the sports' premier title for the first time as the event got underway at Club S Allegria in the Egyptian capital.

This year's PSA World Championships is the richest professional squash tournament in history as the players battle it out for $1,100,000 in total player prize compensation, which is split equally amongst the male and female athletes. Egyptian Gohar got her tournament off to the perfect start with a 3/0 victory over France's √Čnora Villard.

The match, which was delayed by 45 minutes due to adverse weather conditions, was over in just 28 minutes as the top seed adapted to the cooler conditions quickly and hit her targets at the front and back.

"It's always great when you're done 3/0," said the 2020-2021 event runner-up. "It's a 64 draw, there are a lot of matches, it's the biggest tournament of the year, and you just want to be as fresh as possible.

"I'm just trying to enjoy it. I'm not going to lie and say there is no pressure, obviously there is a bit of pressure, but I'm not trying to think about it too much. I'm trying to take it a match at a time and execute my game plan. I'm trying to focus on the small things, so I don't get too overwhelmed with the whole thing."

Gohar will face Farida Mohamed for a place in the third round after her compatriot came from a game down in a fiery encounter with Nour Aboulmakarim on the traditional courts.

"On the big points, I was trying to stay calm, especially when the rallies were long," said Mohamed afterwards. "It was so physical today. There was a lot of contact during the game, each point."

Joining them in the last 32 will be the USA's world No.4 Amanda Sobhy, who claimed victory over her compatriot Haley Mendez in just 17 minutes on the glass court.

The 28-year-old had won both of her previous meetings against Mendez in similarly dominant fashion - winning those matches in just 34 minutes of combined play time - and Sobhy wasted no time in making it a hat-trick of victories as she bounded round the court and hit winners at will.

The No.4 seed will go up against South Africa's Alexandra Fuller in the next round as she steps up her bid to become the first American ever to win the World Championships.

"I'm happy that I finished it quickly because it was cold and windy," said Sobhy. "I'm happy with how I played, the conditions were tough.

"We've [Sobhy and Fuller] never played. It's exciting to play someone new after so many years on tour. We have a rest day tomorrow, so I know she's going to feel fresh and I'm going to use the glass court to my advantage because she hasn't played on it, I'm going to try and make as fast a start as possible."

Fellow women's top seeds New Zealand's Joelle King and Egypt's Rowan Elaraby also safely made their way through to round two following respective wins over Hong Kong's Tsz-Wing Tong and England's Millie Tomlinson.

In the men's draw, Paul Coll, the only male New Zealander ever to make world number one, started his first World Championship as the top seed confidently as he overcame Egyptian wildcard Seif Shenawy in straight games.

Coll - who turned 30 four days ago - kept his composure to take a two-game lead and held off a comeback from his opponent in the third to complete an 11-5, 11-3, 11-8 victory in 40 minutes.

"Today, it was more about getting a feel for the court for me," said Coll. "With the outdoor court you've got to get used to it. There's a lot of external factors to deal with, but I felt more comfortable as the game went on. I'm happy with a 3/0 first round win and I got off there and did the job.

"The last couple of tournaments I've felt that pressure [of being the No.1 seed] more. It was really good being home training for four weeks, I got back into a normal routine. I'm feeling good on court, so I'm probably feeling less pressure at this tournament compared to the British Open."

Joining Coll in round two will be 2017 World Champion Mohamed Elshorbagy, who required just 25 minutes to record his first win in the championship, getting the better of Hungary's Balazs Farkas in straight games.

"It's very weird to go into a tournament being an underdog," said Elshorbagy. "I haven't had that for the last 10 years and that's due to my poor run of form this season. In my last three majors I have not even made it to the quarters. It's a very different stage in my career and I have never experienced anything like this.

"I've made some changes, I've started working with Greg [Gaultier] which has given me so much hunger and motivation back. Even though I lost the final in Manchester, I wanted to be on court mentally, the aggression was back, so I have a good feeling about this week. I'm being written off by so many people and I think that can put a lot of pressure on the other guys and not on myself."

Elshorbagy's fellow Egyptians Tarek Momen, Fares Dessouky and Mazen Hesham also successfully booked their places in the second round.

Momen, who won this tournament back in 2019 when he defeated Coll in the final, overcame a resilient Eain Yow Ng of Malaysia in 43 minutes to set up a last 32 clash with USA's Faraz Khan, who caused an upset on day one with victory over Egypt's Mohamed Elsherbini. While Dessouky and Hesham recorded respective wins over Portugal's Rui Soares and Canada's David Baillargeon.