Gawad & Makin Set Up Surprise Grasshopper Cup Final
22 Oct 2023
Egypt's Karim Abdel Gawad knocked out an ElShorbagy brother for the second day running to reach the Grasshopper Cup final where he will face Welshman Joel Makin for the men's PSA World Tour Gold title. Meanwhile, Nour El Sherbini and Hania El Hammamy will meet in a third successive Tour final in the women's draw.
Less than 24 hours after edging a thrilling best-of-three quarter-final 2/1 against top seed Mohamed ElShorbagy, fifth seed Gawad returned to the glass court in Halle 622 to beat England's Marwan ElShorbagy, the No.3 seed, in straight games in the semi-finals.
The Egyptian saved two game balls at 10-8 down in the opener, eventually winning 12-10 on a forehand volley, which followed a brilliant boast that was described as 'gut-wrenching' in the SQUASHTV commentary box.
It was then Gawad who found himself at 10-8 up in the second, but unlike Englishman ElShorbagy, he took his opportunity to move within one game of the final.
The English No.2 had more chances in the third, once again squandering game balls, this time from 10-7 up. He lost the third on a backhand into the tin, and Gawad let out a huge roar after moving to match point by winning the next rally.
A trademark backhand drop sealed victory for the Egyptian, sending him into a final against Welsh No.1 Joel Makin.
"Playing Marwan is always tough," he said after the match.
"Today I won 3/0 but all the games were very close. I was down in all three games and things can change at any time.
"Luckily, I pushed mentally until the end and just tried not to give Marwan any chances."
Looking ahead to the final, the 32-year-old added: "I think this is [Makin's] best time of his career. He's playing some amazing squash and moving very well on court.
"He's had a lot of upsets this season and he's playing his best squash now. I think I'm playing my best squash too so tomorrow is hopefully going to be a great final.
"I'm looking forward to a good recovery, good sleep and to come back tomorrow as fresh as in the first match of the tournament."
Makin had booked his place in the final earlier in the day, beating Baptiste Masotti 3/0 in 56 minutes.
The No.5 seed will be playing in just his second final at a PSA Gold event, after losing to Paul Coll at the Canary Wharf Classic earlier this year.
He is yet to drop a game in Zurich this week, though, and speaking after the match, he was pleased to have had such an efficient tournament so far.
"This is what I've been targeting doing," he said.
"It's nice when you get a week where you put it together and I haven't had to exhaust myself too much to get to this point. I've got a big effort in me tomorrow. I really want to win one of these and this is as good a chance as any.
"Normally when I get to this point in tournaments, I've had 100 minutes three times by now.
"The best-of-threes helped, it gets me in a good frame of mind and gets me playing well. I've managed to get rid of Baptiste who had a 3/2 with Paul [Coll] last week and beat [Mostafa] Asal this week. I was aware that that could've been dangerous."
The women's final will be a familiar sight, with El Sherbini and El Hammamy battling it out for glory for the third time in the last five weeks.
El Hammamy clinched a dramatic five-game win at the Qatar Classic in September before El Sherbini gained revenge in the US Open final.
The pair also met in the final of the Grasshopper Cup a year ago, and will now run it back for glory in Zurich once more.
El Sherbini produced a dominant display to be the first player into the final, beating Georgina Kennedy 3/0.
The world No.1 - champion here last year - had to save a game ball at 10-9 down in the first, but after coming back to claim it 12-10, she stepped up a gear.
El Sherbini dropped only seven points across the next two games, wrapping up victory in style with a backhand drop from the back of the court.
"I think I was a little bit nervous at the beginning, thinking a little bit too much about our last meeting," she said.
"Once I relaxed and started thinking about my game plan, I think I played better. It was also very important to win the first game, and I'm definitely happy that the last two games ended like they did.
"I'm trying to play at the top of my game. I still feel I'm missing little things but I'm improving every day and I'm happy with the way I'm playing, and just being in the final is proof for me that I'm playing well."
Fellow Egyptian El Hammamy also won her semi-final 3/0, seeing off the threat of Nele Gilis.
Coming into the match, El Hammamy had only lost one of her previous eight matches against the Belgian, and took the first game 11-9 despite a host of uncharacteristic errors, particularly on the backhand.
Like El Sherbini, El Hammamy upped her game after the first, cruising through the second 11-4 before winning six of the final seven points in game three, moving from 6-5 down to 11-5 to seal victory.
"It's always tough playing against Nele, it's always physical," she said, moments after victory.
"We just had a quarter-final battle at the US Open 10 days ago. It was very tough as well, very physical, so I was ready for it and prepared myself for it.
"I'm over the moon to get it done in three. I didn't want it to go to a fourth or a fifth. It's already physical playing against her, even playing and winning 3-0 is still physical."
Looking ahead to the final against her compatriot, El Hammamy added: "It's always tough playing against Nour, for sure.
"She's the world No.1, she's the world champion, so it's never easy playing against her, but it really depends on me, and how I'm playing on that day.
"Last week, it was a bad day for me in the final of the US Open, so I'm going to make sure I give it a fight tomorrow and I'm not going to let it go easy like last week."