US SQUASH

Egypt’s Gohar and Farag are 2019 U.S. Open Champions

2019 FS Investments U.S. Open champions Ali Farag and Nouran Gohar

Twenty-two-year-old Nouran Gohar fought off a championship ball in the third game to comeback and claim her first FS Investments U.S. Open title in a monumental five-game comeback, while world No. 1 Ali Farag dethroned Mohamed ElShorbagy in three games lift his second trophy at Drexel University’s Daskalaskis Athletic Center Saturday, October 12, in Philadelphia.

One of the greatest women’s finals in U.S. Open history graced the ASB GlassCourt in front of a vocal capacity crowd. The match appeared to be going in only one direction after the first two games with El Tayeb in fine form, firing off winners and nicks at will to take the opening two games 11-3, 11-8.

Gohar regained her composure in the third, imposing her powerful game to earn an early lead 4-1 and remaining level with El Tayeb at 9-all. Gohar earned her first game ball at 10-9, but an El Tayeb responded with two winners of her own to hold a championship ball at 11-10, which Gohar fended off. Pivotal extra-time rallies ensued going both ways until Gohar converted her third game ball at 14-12.

In the fourth, El Tayeb sped to a 5-1 lead, appearing to have regained her devastating form, but Gohar once again staged a comeback to pull away from 8-all and force a fifth 11-8. The decisive fifth remained close until 7-all at which point Gohar forced two strokes and two errors to clinch the match 11-7, bringing the crowd to their feet.

“I was trying to impose my game, but Nour was playing better in the beginning,” Gohar said. “She studied my game plan really well and she caught me off guard in the China Open as well and she was keeping the same style. I was really nervous, and I thought ‘just fight, you didn’t work that hard to just let it go’, so for each point I was just telling myself to fight. I tried to adapt, I knew that my plan wasn’t working and I thought when the opportunity came to just take a risk and see how it goes.”

At twenty-two years old, Gohar is the youngest male or female player to engrave their name on the U.S. Open trophy. The Cairo native will reclaim her career high ranking of world No. 2 next month as a result. The U.S. Open is Gohar’s third PSA Platinum title, adding to the 2019 British Open and 2016 Hong Kong Open. Gohar is the third straight Egyptian women’s champion following El Tayeb in 2017 and Raneem El Welily in 2018.

“I can’t believe it,” Gohar said. “It was so tough out there, I felt my legs burning and like I was doing court sprints with Nour out there in the first two games. I just tried to hang in there and I didn’t want the crowd to be upset about a bad final match. I was thinking ‘that’s the worst final ever’, but it turns out and I hope it was a good one. The crowd was amazing and the best ever, I think even better than an Egyptian crowd. It’s really nice for us to have such a good crowd and it cheers you on when you are down.”

Similar to the 2017 finals, Farag watched El Tayeb contest the women’s final before his own, but unlike two years ago the match ended in visible frustration for the married couple. Despite the negative result, Farag was able to regain his focus to take on ElShorbagy, the defending champion and world No. 2.

The two players put on a clinic for the crowd in the opening rallies, some of which exceeded 100 strokes a rally. The Harvard graduate began to force errors from ElShorbagy to pull away and take the first 11-4. ElShorbagy remained within reach throughout the second, but Farag rattled off three straight points from 8-7 to take the second. The third was one sided as Farag emphatically raced away with the title 11-2 after forty minutes.

“To be winning not only a major, but the U.S. Open which is one of the most prestigious tournaments we have on the calendar, it feels amazing,” Farag said. “Obviously I’m very proud with how I played as well, Mohamed has had an unbelievable start to the season, to be unbeaten in twelve matches in a row, and I was one of the victims, to get the win today feels amazing. I’ve said before that I’m at my most comfortable when Mike [Way] is around, we set a game plan and I’m glad I stuck with it.”

Farag’s second U.S. Open title is his fifth career PSA Platinum title and third of 2019. Farag, the reigning world champion, has held the world No. 1 ranking since March and further cements his position atop the rankings.

The 2019 U.S. Open enjoyed its second year of title sponsor from FS Investments and ninth staging of the tournament at Drexel University.

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