12:09 am
14 Jun 2024

Soares & Azman Upset Odds In El Gouna Openers

20 Apr 2024

Portugal's Rui Soares saved two match balls to upset Egypt's Yahya Elnawasany and reach the second round of a Platinum-level event for the first time since 2022 as the 2024 El Gouna International Open got underway in the Red Sea resort in Egypt.

World No.64 Soares started well against the world No.38 and took the opening game 11-9, only to go 1/2 down as Elnawasany fought back.

Soares regained his composure in game four to force a fifth game with another 11-9 win and looked to be coasting through when he opened up an 8-3 lead in the decider.

Elnawasany, who beat Soares 3/0 at last year's Czech Open, then came back brilliantly and earned two match balls against the Portugal No.1.

In a gripping finish, Soares saved both, before clinching the victory with a 13-11 win.

Afterwards, Soares said: "I was a bit nervous to start with but also quite relaxed because he was obviously the higher ranked player, so he was the one under pressure.

"It was such a relief to win that fifth game and I'm proud to win!"

In the women's event, Aira Azman overcame the odds and injury as the Malaysian world No.41 got the better of Egyptian world No.30 Hana Ramadan to pick up a win on her El Gouna debut.

The 19-year-old came flying out at the beginning of the encounter, with her attacking gameplan paying off as she took a 2/0 lead after hard-fought 13-11, 11-6 wins.

The Malaysian's progress was checked in game three, however, with Azman needing lengthy injury treatment to her knee before Ramadan took the game 12-10.

In a nerve-wracking finale, Azman held her never to complete the upset - after seeing one match ball saved - to the cheers of her older sister Aifa, who was watching from the stands after beating Egypt's Nour Aboulmakarim 3/1.

"[My knee] is a bit swollen but my physio is here so it should be fine, I'm in good hands!" Azman junior said.

"Aifa came over right after her win, so I felt much better, I felt the support, and that support meant a lot to me."