11:14 am
21 Apr 2024

Elaraby Stuns World No.3 Gohar In Detroit Semi Thriller

10 Feb 2024

Egypt's Rowan Elaraby came from 2/1 down to claim her first-ever victory over compatriot Nouran Gohar in a thrilling 61-minute semi-final victory over the world No.3 at the DAC Pro Squash Classic in Detroit.

The world No.10, who had lost all nine of her prior encounters against Gohar - the first of which was in the World Junior Championship final in 2016 - progressed to the climax of the PSA World Tour Silver event with a performance full of quality and determination in equal measure. 23-year-old Elaraby will face defending champion Olivia Weaver in the final after the American defeated Canada's Hollie Naughton in four games.

The all-Egyptian affair began in feisty fashion, with the opening game littered with refereeing decisions and interference in the middle of the court. Both players attempted to assert themselves at the T, but it was Gohar's powerful strokes into the back two corners that gave her the edge in the opening exchanges. Despite spurning three game balls, the 'Terminator' made no mistake at the fourth time of asking, moving into a 1/0 lead thanks to a stroke decision.

Despite holding a one-game advantage, Gohar re-entered the court in edgy fashion, with Elaraby capitalising on a couple of soft early errors. The No.3 seed moved Gohar around the court well and hit her targets with devastating effect, sailing into a 9-0 lead and subsequently levelling the match.

The match flipped emphatically back in Gohar's favour in the third as the top seed cruised into a 6-0 lead, with Elaraby visibly struggling with some of her movement towards the latter stages of the game. After the top seed claimed a one-sided third game to move 2/1 up, Elaraby called for the physio.

Despite this issue, Elaraby raised her levels again in the fourth, rediscovering her impeccable length from the second game. Strokes were awarded to both players as the game progressed, but it was Elaraby who moved into an 8-5 lead. The 23-year-old's impressive execution into the front two corners and ability to keep the ball away from Gohar's volley was evident in the latter stages as she forced a decider following a tight 11-9 fourth game.

Elaraby continued to force Gohar into a number of tough retrievals in all four corners of the court as the match entered the fifth, racing into an early 5-3 lead. From there though the No.3 seed claimed five out of the next six points to hold six match balls on her own racket. Gohar hit some quick-fire counter-punches to save four match balls in a flash and pile the pressure back on her opponent, but at the fifth time of asking, Elaraby finally sealed victory, screaming in delight after claiming one of the biggest wins of her career.

"I'm really, really happy," said Elaraby later. "I've been waiting for this win for so long and I think I worked very hard to get this win today. I've been playing my best squash ever since the start of the season so I just needed a win like that to prove to myself that I can beat the top players.

"One thing I wanted to do today was not be very passive. My game plan was to just move her around, keep the ball away from her volleys and don't be afraid to attack.

"I need to calm myself down now for tomorrow because the tournament is not done yet, so I'll be happy for the next couple of hours and then go back to grounding myself for tomorrow. It's another match tomorrow and I'm looking forward to it."

In the second semi-final of the evening, world No.6 Weaver kept her title defence alive in Detroit following a hard-fought victory over Naughton.

The No.2 seed started the match in an impressive manner, finding her length and pushing Naughton into the back two corners. The American moved through a strong first game to take the opener by an 11-6 scoreline after nine minutes of action.

Naughton bounced back in the second game, managing to get more of a grip in the middle of the court and moving Weaver well with some powerful strokes. Despite missing out on three game-balls when 10-5 up, the Canadian No.1 successfully levelled the match at the fourth time of asking.

With the match firmly in the balance at the beginning of the third, both players were happy to engage in some lengthy rallies before looking for an opening to attack; trading points up to 4-4. However, from that point, it was Weaver who began to assert her dominance, taking seven of the next eight points to retake the lead in the match.

After the impressive end to the third game, Weaver continued to grow in confidence, not just relying on her renowned physicality but also using a smart variety of shots to upset the rhythm of Naughton. After racing into a 7-2 lead in the fourth, the match never looked in doubt, with Weaver booking her spot in the final after 39 minutes of action.

After the match, Weaver said: "I'm really happy. I feel Hollie played great today, it was a battle out there and I feel like I had to fight for every single point. Obviously, in the second game I felt like I lost my length a little bit, but I'm really proud with how I bounced back and really pleased with how I finished the match.

"Every opponent you come up against, you know some of their strengths and some of their weaknesses, but I have just been looking at myself and playing my game and trusting that. So that was my plan, and for phases of the match, I executed it again."

On her upcoming final against Elaraby, she added: "Rowan has been in incredible form. She had a great run at ToC and obviously taking out Nouran is going to be massive for her confidence. I haven't played Rowan in a while, so I'm looking forward to it. It's a big opportunity for both of us, so I'm looking forward to it."