Top Seeds Toppled As El Sherbini & Farag Take British Open Titles In Birmingham
17 Apr 2023
Egyptians Nour El Sherbini and Ali Farag were crowned British Open champions after overcoming the challenges of favourites Nouran Gohar and Diego Elias, respectively, at The Rep Theatre in Birmingham.
The women's final saw Egyptians El Sherbini and Gohar go head-to-head in a British Open final for a third time. The current world No.3 had won both of those previous meetings, back in 2016 and 2021, with a win over Raneem El Welily coming in between those. Meanwhile, 'the Terminator' Gohar - the current world No.1 - was aiming for her second British Open title after winning the event in 2019.
This was the ninth successive meeting between the pair in a Tour final, with El Sherbini having won their most recent battle, at the Tournament of Champions in January. Both women looked in fine form in the opening exchanges of the contest, with a selection of high-quality shots taking points. El Sherbini was able to pull off an incredible backhand cross court drop winner to take the opener 11-9.
Once again, the second was tight, with both players hitting quality lines and winners. Midway through the game, the 'Warrior Princess' had to go off court to receive treatment, after rolling her left ankle whilst reaching for a ball in the back right corner.
After five minutes off court, she came back on and hit winners galore to end the second game, winning four straight points. That continued into the third game, which was a quick-fire demolition of the world No.1. El Sherbini allowed the favourite to score just a single point, as she went on to win in straight games. With the win, El Sherbini becomes the seventh woman to win the sport's oldest trophy at least four times.
"It's amazing. The British Open is a dream for every player to put their name on it and I've done it four times, which is something I'm really proud of. It's an achievement I will always remember," she explained.
"Coming here, I always wanted to win, but at the start of the week, it wasn't going my way and I didn't think I was going to be standing here. But I kept pushing and just saw what was going to happen in each match and I'm really happy to be standing here right now.
"I kept calling my whole team this week and I thought 'I never speak to them this much'! They gave huge support - having Greg [Gaultier] here and my coach back home, and they talk to each other every day. They put a plan together and we keep talking and they have been the main supporters this week.
"As well as them, my fitness coach and my sponsors - they are the whole team behind me. My family, my parents, my brother and my fiancée and everyone giving me the support they should be giving me! It's tough for them to watch me this week, especially during Ramadan. They're having food now and watching and thank you for all the support. It's a lot of people, but it's not only me - it's a group and I couldn't do it without the support of each and every one of them."
Despite observing Ramadan, and therefore not eating and drinking during daylight hours, Egypt's Ali Farag was able to produce a momentous performance to overcome Peru's soon-to-be world No.1 Diego Elias to win his first British Open title.
This was Farag's fourth consecutive appearance in the British Open final. However, he was still yet to win a major title on British soil, having been defeated by Mohamed ElShorbagy in 2019, followed by losses to New Zealand's Paul Coll in the last two years. Meanwhile, the Peruvian was featuring at this stage of the British Open for the first time, having never made it past the quarter finals before.
The opening game was as expected, quick in pace and high in quality. It was Elias who had the first two game balls, but errors on both meant he was unable to convert. Instead, Farag got the job done at the first opportunity, hitting a jumping cross court nick to finish the game, winning 13-11 to hold the early lead.
The Peruvian showed why he is becoming the sport's first South American world No.1 on Monday, though, fighting back to win the second comfortably. He ran out into a quick 8-3 lead, and never looked like relinquishing it. He won the second 11-5 to level the contest at one game apiece.
A run of errors from Farag's racket gave Elias a 4-0 lead but the former world No.1 then went on a run of seven points in eight to lead once more. Elias hit a couple of errors at a crucial time to allow Farag to hold game ball, and a controversial no let decision, which was upheld on video review, gave the Egyptian a 2/1 lead in the match.
He was able to stay with the Peruvian in the fourth game, with Elias maintaining a small cushion throughout. However, a quick burst of points at the end of the game saw Farag come through to take it 11-9, and to win the British Open for the first time in his incredible career.
"So many great emotions at the time winning the 'Wimbledon of Squash'. This is something that has been eluding for me the past few years and I've been trying very hard to do it. I came up short against some great champions in the past, and I was up against another great champion today," Farag said.
"It was lucky it went my way but a quick word about Diego [Elias] - coming out of Peru and becoming world No.1 is an unbelievable achievement. In our part of the world we have so many great champions in the past who gave us belief and we look at their pathway to get there. It's not handed on silver platter and we have to work really hard to get there! But for his side, growing up on his own with his dad working hard every single day and seeking the advice from the best like Jonathon Power and Wael El Hindi - he's done extremely well for his goal and he's got there. Kudos to him!
"There is a lot confidence that gets taken away from you and you need people behind you back to make you believe that you've still got it. The first one is always going to be Nour [El Tayeb]. She sees the worst of me and the worst of me is not easy to deal with! She's been brilliant and patient with me and she's been going through it with her shoulder injury so I've been very blessed to have her on my side in that regard.
"Last and not least - you guys! We've played in so many great venues before but this is definitely up there as one of the best venues we've ever played at. You are probably the most knowledgeable crowd we play in front of - the English crowd are the ones who understand the most about squash. This is where the sport started and this is where the legacy is. To play in front of you guys is an amazing feeling."