Elias Marks Historic World Tour Finals Breakthrough
25 Jun 2023
World No.2 Diego Elias became the first South American to reach the climax of the CIB PSA World Tour Finals when the Peruvian overcame two-time winner Mohamed ElShorbagy in the semi-finals of the PSA World Tour season-ending event at the EDNC SODIC in Cairo.
Elias, who finished top of Group A in the men's event, took a comfortable first game against the world No.3, hitting with purpose into the front corners and cutting the ball in effectively to nullify ElShorbagy.
ElShorbagy was equal to his opponent for much of the second game as his attacks began to pay off, but Elias showed a masterful defence game when required, lifting the ball away from the reach of the Englishman to alleviate the pressure. He was able to pull away from the mid-way stage, sealing an 11-5, 11-6 win to reach the 28th PSA final of his career and his eighth of the season.
"I'm very happy with my performance today after a tough week and a tough season," Elias said afterwards.
"I'm happy I can be in another final. It's always tough playing Mohamed, we're very good friends and I think the last five or six times it's been one win each. Today was my turn.
"I've played this tournament four or five times and I'm always tired after a long season. It's very tough playing against the best players in the world day after day and I've never been past the groups. I'm happy I was mentally strong this week and hopefully I can keep going tomorrow."
Elias's opponent will be defending champion Mostafa Asal, who outclassed world No.1 and fellow Egyptian Ali Farag to bring an end to Farag's 22-match unbeaten run, which had seen him win four tournaments in a row.
Asal - who beat Elias in a scrappy Group A contest earlier in the week - ultimately finished second in the group, ensuring he would take on Farag in a repeat of the El Gouna International final earlier this month, which Farag won. But the world No.4 was in sensational form against Farag, dominating proceedings and overpowering his compatriot in one of the finest performances of his career to date to win 11-2, 11-5.
"It feels amazing to play in front of this crowd," said Asal, who is aiming to become the first man since Peter Nicol in 2001 to win the World Tour Finals three seasons in a row.
"I'm looking forward to tomorrow for sure against Diego. He's one of the best players on tour, I think it's a good final for everyone, a spicy final. I'm super proud. I have no fear about anyone on tour. I'm just playing my squash, I'm believing in myself that I am one of the best, if not the best, players in the world."
Gohar hadn't beaten El Sherbini in her three previous attempts, including in the final of the PSA World Championships last month, but fought back from 8-5 down in the third game to win a captivating contest, booking a place in her 42nd PSA final and her 10th of a trophy-laden season.
"Usually they say I show little emotion on court, but I was very emotional today," said Gohar, who won the 2020-21 World Tour Finals.
"Firstly, I want to say how great Nour is as a competitor. She shocked me completely the last two times and she is one of the main reasons I keep coming back to improve and work on my weaknesses. Sometimes it's not so great to compete against her, but I enjoyed this one for sure."
As the final match of the women's PSA World Tour season, it is fitting that Gohar and El Hammamy will contest the final here in Cairo. The pair have met seven times already during the campaign, with three wins apiece.
Two of their last three matches have lasted over 100 minutes, while they have already played in the group stage of this season's World Tour Finals, with El Hammamy winning 2/1 on that occasion. El Hammamy earned her spot in the final after beating El Tayeb in a repeat of the 2019-20 edition, in which El Hammamy triumphed.
"Nour has been playing this week with an injury that she's been carrying for some time," said El Hammamy.
"I admire her and she inspires me in so many ways, from giving birth to coming back and reaching the top, facing all the injuries she's been facing and finding courage and motivation to come on court and play this way. I have huge respect for her."