1:34 pm
14 Jul 2024

Sobhy Stuns World No1 ElSherbini To Reach Hong Kong Open Final

2 Dec 2023

US No.1 Amanda Sobhy produced a sensational performance in the semi-finals of the TTI Milwaukee Hong Kong Open to oust world No.1 Nour ElSherbini and progress to the final of the PSA World Tour Platinum event for the first time in seven years.

Sobhy, runner up in 2016, was tactically immaculate against the reigning World Champion to seal her first appearance in a Platinum-level final since the CIB PSA Black Ball Open in Egypt in 2021.

On their 18th meeting on the PSA World Tour, Sobhy's accuracy was too much for ElSherbini to handle, as the American capitalised on many uncharacteristic errors from the Egyptian's racket to record an 11-8, 11-4, 11-3 win in half an hour.

"I feel great!" Sobhy said post-match. "That was really enjoyable squash for me to play. I think that's some of the best squash I've played, especially movement-wise.

"I felt so free out there which was such a nice feeling and you don't get many opportunities like this to go and play and compete for a final.

"I want to make the most of it and really challenge the big three - I want to put myself in that category! She made some errors and that probably wasn't her best squash, but I'm happy with how I played."

Standing in Sobhy's way of a maiden Platinum-level title is the defending champion Hania El Hammamy, the second-seeded Egyptian who ruthlessly dispatched Nele Gilis in straight games.

El Hammamy, who came out on top against ElSherbini in an epic encounter last year to lift the title in Hong Kong, dominated the middle of the court during all three games against the Belgian, who recently climbed to her highest world ranking of four.

The Egyptian was flawless with her squash, countering any threats made by Gilis, who was struggling to handle the ferocious hitting of El Hammamy who closed out an 11-5, 11-5, 11-1 victory in 32 minutes.

After the match, El Hammamy said: "I'm definitely pleased with my performance today, although I feel as though Nele wasn't at 100% today - usually we have more physical matches. She had a really tough run to make it to the semi-finals, so that probably affected her a little bit.

"I don't want to take anything away from me, I played so well today. The court we played on up to the quarters was very bouncy and here the court plays different, the weather is different and I think I adapted well on this court and found my targets well at the beginning of the match.

"I'm super excited [for the final]. I think it is the first time I have played against Amanda in a final, so it's going to be big. She had a huge win against ElSherbini today so she must be pumped up, and hopefully we can put up a good show."

In the men's draw, there will be a new name on the trophy after world No.1 Ali Farag knocked out reigning champion Mostafa Asal.

Farag, who has been a runner up on his two previous trips to the final in Hong Kong, has been impeccable having not dropped a single game.

The world No.1 continued that run against Asal in the semi-final, with Farag in complete control as he was equal to everything the 'Raging Bull' launched at him. Despite Asal's accuracy and length hitting improving as the match went on, Farag overpowered the young Egyptian in straight games 11-4, 11-9, 11-8.

"Mostafa is one of the most dangerous players on the planet, and even in the history of our sport," he said afterwards.

"Any loose shot he's lethal with his shot selection and accuracy. I think I started off really well finding my corners. In the second he started to getting me on the backhand side and taking that volley away from me. That got me confused a little bit but then it took me a while to get used to it.

"It's one of the tournaments with the biggest history in our sport. To put my name on that trophy alongside some of the greats would be great for me. I'll do everything I can to prepare for tomorrow's match."

Paul Coll will be his opponent tomorrow night, becoming the first male New Zealander to reach the Hong Kong Open final following his triumph over four-time champion Mohamed ElShorbagy,

Fellow Kiwi Joelle King has been victorious in Hong Kong previously, but there has never been a male representative from New Zealand since the tournament began back in 1985.

Coll, who landed the US Open title back in October against tomorrow's opponent Farag, executed his game plan to perfection in the first two games with his length down both sides as he won 11-4, 11-8 before ElShorbagy pulled a game back in the third. But Coll was too strong for the Englishman in the fourth, comprehensively winning it 11-3 for a final berth.

"I'm stoked," Coll said after the match.

"I was feeling really good out there today. It's a new venue and a new location here on the harbour with a new court so I was a bit nervous to adapt to the court. I know Mohamed is very experienced and he adapts to situations very well, so I knew that I had to come out and find my length early and be aggressive like I was yesterday."

Looking ahead to the final, Coll added: "We've played twice this season and it has gone to 12-10 in the fifth both times, so hopefully it's a 12-10 that goes my way tomorrow.

"We know how to play each other, we have played each other many times before, so it's going to be a good battle and I'm looking forward to it."