8:30 am
23 Jun 2024

El Sherbini & Gawad Deliver Egyptian Double At Grasshopper Cup

23 Oct 2023

Karim Abdel Gawad and Nour El Sherbini masterminded an Egyptian double at the Grasshopper Cup, beating Joel Makin and Hania El Hammamy in the respective finals of the PSA World Tour Gold event in Switzerland.

El Sherbini - champion here a year ago - defended her title in ruthless fashion, beating her compatriot in the final for a second straight year.

El Hammamy would have been in little doubt over the quality she was facing, but if she needed a reminder, it arrived on the first point of the match.

Engaged in a steady rally down the backhand wall, El Sherbini unleashed a vicious cross-court winner out of nowhere to give herself an early lead.

With the ball flying around on the warm glass court at Halle 622 in Zurich, El Sherbini continued to impress the capacity crowd, punishing a loose El Hammamy drop with a delicate trickle boast to move 4-1 up.

A backhand into the tin with El Hammamy on the floor was a rare lapse from the world No.1, but the wry smile that followed showed how relaxed she was feeling.

She was soon 10-6 up and a yes-let became a stroke following an El Sherbini review, giving her a one-game lead in 15 minutes.

El Hammamy took the unusual step of staying on court between games one and two, and went toe-to-toe with the defending champion in the rallies that followed.

A small cut on El Sherbini's knee forced her to take an injury break at 5-3 up, but any chances of her losing momentum were soon dispelled with a sublime backhand drop from deep in the court.

The 27-year-old retained her lead for the duration of the game, though only after the video referee ruled that a sprawling pick-up from El Hammamy's racket was not good at 8-7.

Another brilliant boast, this time on the forehand, gave El Sherbini a two-game lead, but El Hammamy came out firing in the third.

She raced out to a 4-0 lead only to suffer the same fate as her opponent one game earlier, reluctantly being forced off court as blood leaked from her knee.

The stoppage didn't appear to derail her as she moved to 6-1 up, with both players now showcasing bandages on their knees.

As all good champions do, though, El Sherbini kept on coming.

The 6-1 lead soon turned into 8-7 and then 9-9, at which point El Sherbini was sensing glory.

A double hit from the younger player followed another El Sherbini trickle boast, to set up championship point, which resulted in a stroke to hand the No.1 seed the title.

"It feels amazing," she said after her win.

"I'm happy with my performance, happy that I won 3/0 and happy to retain my title.

"I think movement was the main key for me. Hania's game is very physical and you have to find the balance between the physical movement and the squash.

"I was trying to mix between moving well, getting her shots back and winning my points, but moving well today was definitely one of my main keys."

The win was a second straight victory in a major final for El Sherbini, and a second straight against El Hammamy, having beaten her 3/0 in the final of the US Open last week.

Discussing the matchup with a player she knows so well, El Sherbini added: "The final match is always different from any other match the whole week, it doesn't matter how I'm playing.

"I think I played even better today than in the final of the US Open, and beating Hania in two major finals 3/0 proves a lot to me.

"I'm really happy with the way I'm playing and hopefully I keep going like this."

Just over an hour later, Gawad wrapped up his second PSA Tour title of 2023, beating Joel Makin 3/1 in the men's final.

Fresh from knocking out both ElShorbagy brothers en-route to this final, Gawad made a dominant start against the No.5 seed, taking game one 11-6 on a volley boast winner.

At 5-0 up in game two, it looked as though it might be a short afternoon for the Egyptian, who wowed the crowd with a delightful bluff and drop shot to win the fifth of those points.

Makin, though, showed his resilience, clawing his way back to 5-5.

He was helped by a lapse in concentration from Gawad - who seemed to switch off mid-point when he thought a Makin lob had gone out - and then benefitted from a smart review, turning a let into a stroke at 3-5 down.

The Welshman went on to close out the game 11-9, avoiding the same fate as Marwan ElShorbagy, who had squandered all five of his game balls against Gawad in the semi-finals.

Makin then threw everything at his opponent in the opening rallies of game three, sending Gawad the wrong way with a crisp backhand drive on the game's fourth point.

The Egyptian, though, was ruthless, punishing anything even slightly loose from Makin's racket, moving back a game ahead when a Makin forehand lob went out at 10-8.

Game four was a similar story, with some brutal rallies keeping the crowd entertained, and every Makin point cheered louder in the hope of seeing a deciding fifth.

Gawad - who had El Sherbini coaching him between games - was in no mood to be charitable, arguably playing his best squash as an Egyptian double edged ever closer.

The moment of glory came at 10-6 in the fourth, when a back-wall boast from a scrambling Makin fell short of the front wall.

Speaking on court following his win, Gawad said: "I'm really pleased with the way I played this week, the way I fought in every match. It's been a great week, keeping my focus and pushing all my limits.

"In the second game, at 5-0 up he came back really strong. It was one of the best short games he's ever played.

"He was very sharp, so I had to be even sharper than him, not give him any easy chances in the middle of the court because he was hitting amazing winners from all over the court.

"I just wanted to push the ball to the back and control the middle of the court as much as possible, and after the second I tried to push the ball even more towards the back of the court and I'm glad it worked."

A former world No.1 and world champion, Gawad has had some tough draws in recent events after a difficult time with injuries, but now back inside the world's top 10, he revealed that he's loving his time on court again.

"I think I'm playing very good squash," he said.

"I'm moving well on court, mentally I'm much better than in the years before and I'm enjoying every moment on court.

"I'm enjoying the way I'm playing in the tournaments, and I'll just keep working as hard as possible to maintain that level."