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Newest champions of the oldest tournament
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 23 - 05 - 2019

Egyptian duo Nouran Gohar and Mohamed Al-Shorbagi are the 2019 Allam British Open champions after they got the better of world No 4 Camille Serme and world No 1 Ali Farag in their respective final fixtures at the Allam Sport Centre in Hull.
The British Open is the sport's longest-running tournament, and Gohar, the world No 7, put her name into the history books with a sensational dismantling of Serme as she powered to an 11-3, 11-8, 11-3 victory in 30 minutes to win the women's event.
Gohar came runner-up to world No 2 Nour Al-Sherbini in the final of this tournament in 2016, and the hard-hitting 21-year-old ensured that she went one further this year as she stormed to a comfortable victory over 2015 winner Serme to lift her first PSA World Tour Platinum title since the Hong Kong Open in August 2016.
The win also sees No 7 seed Gohar become the lowest seed in the modern era to win the women's event.
“It means so much to me, especially because it is the British Open,” said an emotional Gohar after lifting the seventh PSA title of her career.
“I feel very comfortable. The environment, the city itself, it feels a bit like home. It is very cozy here and it really helps me to feel good on court. To have the accuracy, you have to be both relaxed and focused. I feel this attitude and environment really helped me.
“This morning after my hit, I started crying. I never did that before. Even in Hong Kong, I didn't do that. I think I was very young, so maybe I couldn't really comprehend how much it meant to me to be in the final of a major event. My mum kept telling me to enjoy the occasion and to relax. She told me to take the chance and if I played my best then I would take the win,” Gohar said.
The men's final saw world No 2 Al-Shorbagi capture the third British Open title of his career after he overcame Egypt's Farag by an 11-9, 5-11, 11-5, 11-9 scoreline in 66 minutes to add to his 2015 and 2016 triumphs.
Al-Shorbagi, who also finished as runner-up 12 months ago, had lost three of his four matches with Farag this season, but a fired-up performance from the 28-year-old saw him earn the win in the latest instalment of their rivalry.
Farag came through a brutal 77-minute semi-final with New Zealand's Paul Coll in the semi-finals, while Al-Shorbagi hadn't dropped a game throughout the tournament. And the latter hunted the ball down and engaged Farag in all four corners of the court to become the first Egyptian since Abdel-Fattah Abou Taleb in 1966 to win a trio of British Open crowns.
“I have such respect for Ali, what he achieved this season is unbelievable,” said Al-Shorbagi.
“Our last match last season in Dubai, he told me that what I did last season was inspirational. This time it is my turn to say that what he has done this season was inspirational. Normally, winning the US Open, Hong Kong and British Open in one season would be enough to keep me at No 1.
“Ali just showed consistency throughout and he was the toughest I had to face. We are going to improve each other for the rest of our careers and after a lot of great players have retired, I think squash now needs a new rivalry,” Al-Shorbagi said.
Gohar and Al-Shorbagi take home $22,800 in prize money, while Al-Shorbagi moves joint seventh on the men's all-time PSA title winners, with his 37th title putting him level with Canada's Jonathon Power.
The culmination of the British Open means that the qualification spots for the next month's PSA World Tour Finals – the season-ending tournament which takes place in Cairo from 9-14 June – have been confirmed.
Despite his defeat, Farag tops the men's PSA World Tour finals leaderboard, with Al-Shorbagi, Tarek Mo'men, Karim Abdel-Gawad, Coll, Simon Rösner, Mohamed Abul Ghar and Diego Elias all joining him in qualifying.
World No 1 Raneem Al-Welili, also of Egypt, finishes in first place on the women's leaderboard, and will be joined in Cairo next month by Al-Sherbini, Nour Al-Tayeb, Serme, Gohar, Joelle King, Sarah-Jane Perry and Tesni Evans.


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