Second Seeds Ousted As Sobhy & ElShorbagy Advance To Black Ball Semis
6 Mar 2023
USA's Amanda Sobhy and England's Mohamed ElShorbagy knocked out the Black Ball Open No.2 seeds Nour El Sherbini and Ali Farag, respectively, at the Black Ball Sporting Club in Cairo to reach the semi-finals of the PSA World Tour Gold event.
Coming into the women's quarter-final match, Sobhy's last win against six-time World Champion El Sherbini came back at the 2020 edition of this tournament when she prevailed in a gripping five-game battle, while the pair also met in the final of the 2021 instalment, with El Sherbini getting the win on that occasion.
This time around, Sobhy was able to vanquish the world No.2 after coming back from 2/1 down to secure a 9-11, 13-11, 10-12, 11-6, 11-8 victory which will see her line up in the semi-finals of a PSA Tour event for the first time in 2023.
"I'm at a loss right now," said world No.5 Sobhy after the match.
"I felt like I had a good chance, she beat me at the ToC but I had patches where I played really well. It was more about staying positive and being able to play that way from start to finish. I did that tonight, which I'm proud of.
"Last time I beat her was here in December 2020 and I won it on a stroke. I know you want a good ending, but I'll take what I can get and I'm really happy to be able to redeem myself and play the squash that I know that I'm capable of."
The match will be Sobhy and world No.3 El Hammamy's first meeting on the PSA Tour since the quarter-finals of the 2020-21 PSA World Championships, with Sobhy winning 3/0 on that occasion. However, it's El Hammamy who has generally had the measure of the American, with four wins to Sobhy's three.
"We both like to get the ball back and it's always physical," said El Hammamy.
"We gave it our all today and I'm definitely pleased with the way I was able to change my game plan and find a way after she got the second. I feel with every round I'm improving and finding the right balance and right shots on court. Every court is different and Black Ball is such a bouncy court."
World No.1 and defending champion Nouran Gohar also earned her place in the semi-finals after getting the better of No.7 seed Sarah-Jane Perry in four games, and her opponent will be New Zealand's No.4 seed Joelle King, who dispatched No.8 seed Georgina Kennedy 3/0.
Meanwhile, ElShorbagy and Farag were meeting for the 26th time on the PSA Tour, with ElShorbagy narrowly edging the head-to-head record with 13 wins to Farag's 12 ahead of the Cairo encounter.
Farag is playing only his second tournament since returning from a four-month knee injury layoff and he couldn't match the ferocity of ElShorbagy's hitting. A dominant ElShorbagy - known on tour as 'The Beast' - stormed to an 11-7, 11-3, 16-14 win to end a run of four straight defeats to the world No.3, which included the previous two PSA Men's World Championship finals.
"I told Ali at the end of the match that I need him back because I'm back," said ElShorbagy.
"Last season I was not there at all, I didn't play a good season while he did. We're the two biggest rivals on tour right now, we're the two biggest names on tour right now. We've played each other at the highest level, we've played in each venue in each final and it's always good to go on court with him even if he's not 100 per cent."
The former world No.1 will contest a mouth-watering semi-final fixture with Diego Elias. The No.3 seed from Peru - who shook off the challenge of No.8 seed Mazen Hesham - will become the first South American world No.1 if he wins the tournament, and the Peruvian beat ElShorbagy in December's Hong Kong Open.
ElShorbagy's younger brother - 2021 Black Ball champion Marwan - saw his tournament come to an end after losing out to Welshman Joel Makin following a gripping 93-minute contest. Makin won 14-12, 7-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8 to reach the semi-finals of this event for the second time.
"I'm in a good place," Makin said.
"When I'm like that physically I can push and I can get through these top guys. If I can get those straight drops in and work it in well, then I can cause problems for them no matter how well they're playing."