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30 May 2024

Unseeded Gawad Overcomes ElShorbagy To Gatecrash World Final

11 May 2023

Egypt's unseeded Karim Abdel Gawad battled his way into the final of the PSA World Championships presented by the Walter Family after taking out world No.2 Mohamed ElShorbagy in Chicago just seven months after being consigned to a wheelchair following treatment for a heel injury.

World No.17 Gawad, the 2016 World Champion, was out of action for 10 months between May 2022 and March 2023 due to a plantar fasciitis issue which left his career hanging in tatters. The 31-year-old has become the first unseeded player since Rodney Martin in 1991 to reach the final of the sport's biggest tournament.

It marks an incredible return to the upper echelons of the game for Gawad, who followed up a quarter-final victory over world No.1 Diego Elias with a 10-12, 11-5, 7-11, 11-8, 11-7 victory over ElShorbagy to reach his second World Championship final and end his opponent's chances of taking the world No.1 ranking next week.

"I'm over the moon after a very tough time, there were a lot of doubts," said Gawad.

"I only had like a month and a half training before I began playing tournaments again. I was thinking a lot about whether it was too early to come back in March or not. I just took the decision because I had three tournaments that would expire [from his ranking] in March and I had to play or I would have gone too far back in the rankings. So I said I'll play in March and see how it goes.

"I gave it everything in that month and a half. I actually trained like I've never done before. Tomorrow will be a great final. Hopefully everyone in Chicago and watching on SQUASHTV is looking forward to it."

Ali Farag will be his opponent in the title decider after the reigning World Champion ousted world No.3 Mostafa Asal, winning 11-5, 11-8, 11-13, 11-2 to reach his fourth World Championship final in a row.

Farag, who spent four months on the sidelines earlier this season due to a knee injury, has a 100 per cent record in World Championship finals but has lost 10 of 19 matches against Gawad.

"It means a lot [to reach the final] because I had a clear plan on the way back from injury and it was to peak for the World Champs," said Farag.

"I was lucky enough that it happened a tournament earlier and what a tournament for it to happen at being the British Open. It makes it even more meaningful when you go through hardships and come back from them. So I'm extremely grateful to be where I am at the moment."

World No.1 Nour El Sherbini has become the first woman in the sport's history to reach nine World Championship finals after the Egyptian defeated New Zealand's Joelle King in four games.

Six-time World Champion El Sherbini has now eclipsed the record of eight World Championship finals, which she previously shared with Malaysian legend Nicol David.

El Sherbini is now one of only three players - with the great Jahangir and Jansher Khan being the other two - to have reached the title decider of the prestigious event nine times and she will look to capture a seventh World Championship title tomorrow following her 11-8, 11-6, 6-11, 11-4 victory over world No.4 King.

"It's always a pleasure to put my name amongst these legends," said El Sherbini

"It's another final and I'm just going to give it my all and try to focus and be ready for the match. I'm definitely happy to break this record and it's something that I'll always be proud of."

Her opponent will be world No.2 Nouran Gohar - the woman she replaced at the summit of the PSA World Rankings on Monday - in a repeat of the 2020-21 and 2021-22 PSA World Championships finals, with El Sherbini winning both.

Gohar got the better of world No.3 Hania El Hammamy in a nail-biting 105-minute encounter, which equalled the record for the longest women's World Championship match of all time, while it's also the joint fifth longest women's PSA match in history.

Gohar overturned three match balls en-route to a 6-11, 12-10, 11-9, 9-11, 14-12 victory and the 25-year-old will now appear in her third World Championship final. The world No.2 has won seven of her 25 matches against El Sherbini so far.

"I'm glad that I got the win at the end," said Gohar.

"It was going to be physical. I was believing so much that I was going to win this at the end, even if I was 10-7 down. I've come back in the US Open final, I've come back on big stages, so I knew I had it in me and I knew what to do."