11:54 pm
24 May 2024

Asal & El Sherbini Kick Off New Year in Style At Florida Open

15 Jan 2024

Mostafa Asal and Nour El Sherbini claimed the first PSA World Tour titles of 2024, winning their respective finals at the SmartCentres Kinetic Florida Open in Boynton Beach.

Asal, the men's No.2 seed, beat compatriot Mazen Hesham 3/1 in the first final of the day, before El Sherbini saw off Hania El Hammamy 3/0 in another all-Egyptian final.

Both Asal and Hesham had come through tough, five-game matchups in the last four, and it was Asal who made the better start here, capitalising on some unforced errors in the early rallies to open up a 7-3 lead in the first.

He soon had six game balls but only needed one, converting his first opportunity with a hard backhand winner to the forehand side, but the tables were turned in game two, with Hesham giving himself three game balls at 10-7.

Asal saved the first two with some desperate retrievals, but he had no answer to Hesham's winner at 10-9, with an overhead cross-court backhand volley hitting the nick and rolling.

The No.2 seed stood in disbelief for a few moments after that winner, but he regained his focus in what would prove to be an extremely quick third, needing just five minutes to take it 11-1 and move within one game of glory.

Hesham had requested a new ball to start game four, but it made little difference, with the younger of the two Egyptians flying out to a 5-1 lead in the blink of an eye.

He would not have to wait long for glory either, winning the next six points to wrap up victory, securing his first title of the season and his 13th overall.

Speaking moments after his win, Asal gave some honest thoughts about how he nearly walked away from the sport last year.

"It's kind of a relief," he said. "I'm super, super happy with that. Champions find a way, always find a way.

"Even in the ups and downs, there was lots of learning on the road. There were lots of downs, up a little bit and up again from the dead. I'm saying up from the dead because I was completely out, I was quitting when I knew I had the third ban.

"I actually didn't want to play again and there were lots of things happening. No one knows what's inside of you, even if I have a bad attitude or a good attitude, it was tough for me as well.

"It's a learning process, and I learned a lot about finding the balance between everything in my life. I'm 22 years old and trying to improve myself and like I say, champions find a way.

"I have been wrong a lot, but I'm maturing. I'm still 22 so I'm finding the right balance with the right people. Thankfully, the third time when I was banned, I learned a lot of things and I went to the right people."

Asal's win was followed by glory for El Sherbini in the women's final, capping a dominant week in which the world No.1 did not drop a game.

That was a stark contrast to her opponent El Hammamy, who had needed four games to beat Amina Orfi in the quarter-finals and then come through an epic 99-minute matchup with Nouran Gohar in the last four.

Given that difference in minutes on court, it was perhaps no surprise that it was El Sherbini who made the better start, controlling the early rallies before closing out game one when an El Hammamy lob went out.

Any thoughts of another comfortable game for the top seed were quickly dispelled in game two, as El Hammamy found herself 9-4 up inside 10 minutes, but El Sherbini proved her class, reeling off seven points on the bounce - the last two on stroke decisions - to snatch the game away from her opponent.

Determined not to give up without a fight, El Hammamy continued to throw everything at El Sherbini, even giving herself whiplash after a sprawling dive on the backhand side.

But her efforts would ultimately prove to be in vain, as El Sherbini made the most of her freshness to clinch game three 11-7 and secure the 38th title of her PSA career.

"I'm very pleased, very happy with my performance," she said after victory.

"I'm really pleased with how I'm playing, how I'm attacking, and I think I've improved from the first round until the finals. I'm definitely playing good squash that I'm really happy with.

"Hania definitely wasn't playing her best and she was feeling it from the past couple of matches, but I'll just take the win keep going."