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Egypt’s Nouran Gohar Wins Women’s Squash Black Ball Open

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By- Aditi Maheshwari

Nouran Gohar, a professional squash player, beat her Egyptian counterpart Nour El Sherbini who was forced to retire in the final of the Black Ball Open in Cairo. Gohar was leading by two games and had taken the first two points of the third game when she called it a day after receiving treatment on a hip injury. Gohar now will take over as world number one from El Sherbini when the new rankings are released this April.

Nouran Gohar received her first Tour title at the Prague Open in December 2013 at 16 years of age. World No.2 Nouran Gohar got her first CIB Black Ball title and her fourth consecutive Platinum trophy. However, this triumph will undoubtedly be bittersweet following the mid-final retirement of World No.1 Nour El Sherbini due to injury.

Ahead of this match, talks had been all around about the rivalry between the two, with Gohar set to replace El Sherbini as World No.1 in next month’s rankings. However, both were confident in their place as Gohar had gone into the match hoping to carry forward a magnificent run that had seen her win 23 of her prior 24 matches, while El Sherbini would have taken confidence from her 19-5 head-to-head record against the Cairo native.

However, fans enjoyed a barnstorming first game in which El Sherbini initially seized the momentum, finding openings from nowhere on the way to a 10-6 lead. Facing the daunting task of saving four game balls, Gohar went on the attack, moving up the court to bring her brutal power to bear. To the delight of Gohar’s fans, they witnessed ‘the Terminator’ picking off each game ball before flipping the match’s momentum with a 17-15 win.

As El Sherbini experienced a dwindling performance, it soon became evident that something was troubling her; with her movement becoming tough, Gohar wrapped up the first game, and the 26-year-old received physio treatment on her hip immediately after leaving the court. In the second game, despite the best efforts of El Sherbini, it was clear that she was struggling to perform smoothly, with Gohar continuously able to push her in the corners on the way to an 11-8 win.

However, after receiving post-game physio treatment once more, El Sherbini initially attempted to return to the court despite the health issue for the third game. That game lasted only seconds, with El Sherbini forced to call a premature end to what had at one stage looked to be one of the matches of the season.

After the match, Gohar said: “I’m not happy with how it ended. I wish her a speedy recovery. I can’t wait for our next battle. I’m very proud of having the rivalry with Nour El Sherbini. I’ve always looked up to Nour. She’s a great player, and [the rivalry] is something I’m so proud to have.

“[My advice to young players is] never give up. I’ve always tried hard, and I never gave up, even when it wasn’t going my way. Certainly, it didn’t go my way many times. Now I’m just living better days, and I’m happy with it. I’m not taking it for granted; I want more. Always having hunger and determination are the main things that you always have to have. Just believe in yourself.”

Gohar added that she wanted to thank her family, husband, coaches and sponsors for their support, adding that the fans who had come out were what made Egyptian squash so great: “I want to thank you all for coming out today. It has been an amazing evening. Having you here makes it extra special for us. That’s why I like to play in Egypt. Thank you so much for coming. That’s why we’re good at squash, because of you guys. Thank you so much for the support.”

El Sherbini, meanwhile, said that she had picked up the injury after her semi-final win over Rowan Elaraby, but until the end of the first game, it had not troubled her. She added: “I’m disappointed to end it like this. Actually, I thought it was a perfect match, and both of us were playing well, so, unfortunately, it had to end like this. “I think Nouran is the best player right now, and you can’t play her when you’re not your best. I hope I made the right choice; you always have to listen to your body, and hopefully, I will come back again.”

Result – CIB Black Ball Open final:

[2] Nouran Gohar (EGY) beat [1] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-0: 17-15, 11-8, 2-0 retired (33m)

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