Hania El Hammamy (Egy) 3-1  Nouran Gohar (Egy) 11-7, 11-13, 11-3, 11-4 (87m)
Going into the match, World No.1 and defending champion Gohar enjoyed a 11-3 head-to-head record against World No.3 El Hammamy – who will rise to World No.2 in tomorrow’s rankings – and won the last match, a fiery encounter at the World Tour Finals, 2-0.
El Hammamy, though, has inflicted plenty of hurt on Gohar in recent times, beating the World No.1 in the finals of the Platinum-level Allam British Open and the El Gouna International last season.
Let me set you the scene: on my left, Catherine, who calls herself Nouran’s Chinese mum, from America. Next to her, Nouran’s Uncle, the loudest supporter on the planet, and next to him, Nouran’s Dad, discrete and supportive. In front, Hossam Shaddad, Nouran’s fitness coach, and in front of me, Rodney Martin, Nouran’s coach.
Next to me on the other side, Ashraf Hanafi, promoter and commentator for ONTIME, official sports TV partner. Next to him, Hania’s mum and dad, Ayman and Nevine.
And let me tell you there is no love lost between them at the moment. There is only a space at the top.
The very very loud support from Nouran’s uncle was a bit unsettling at times, especially when he shouted “You are better Nouran, You are smarter, Nouran, much smarter!” God love him.
It’s a well known fact that Nouran is not afraid of a few physical contacts. She is very strong, and moves very fast on the ball, knows how to take and impose her space. But today, Hania was not going to let herself out of her own space…
Superb start for Nouran. Accurate, calm, she takes a good lead, 3/0, 5/1, 6/3. An accidental contact between Hania’s racquet and Nouran’s cheek stops the game. “It’s not bleeding, Miss Gohar” goes the ref. “Well it is, can’t you see??” replies Nouran.
Off she goes to get treatment with Derek Ryan, while Mr Hussein Abaza and Ahmed Nazih, the indispensable piece of the IEvents puzzle, look for – and find – Nouran’s contact lens that was ejected with the shock.
About 6m later, Nouran comes back but she has lost her confidence and poise. And although Nouran takes the first rally, 7/3, Hania will string 7 points, to 11/7. The Gazelle made 0 errors, Nouran only 2, for a 26m official length, 20m real play.
The second is a match in itself. 24m of intense, gloves off squash. It’s obvious to us all there is no lost love between the two girls. 2/0 for Hania, then 5 points for Nouran, 5/2. Nouran is refused a court cleaning: “there are only a few drops,” says the ref. “It’s not about the drops, it’s about THE DUST,” stresses Nouran.
At 5/7, Hania plays a shot that hits her opponent: it’s a stroke, Nouran is not happy, her camp neither, and the ref warns Hania not to play the shot next time, as it could be seen as dangerous play. That didn’t EXACTLY relax the atmosphere….
Hania levels 7/7, then again 9/9 after a no let and a video referee decision that concludes with a stroke. But Nouran is controlling the rallies, playing some lovely lobs, and will take the game 13/11 on her third attempt.
After only 2 games, we had played 51m….
Huge game from Hania in the third, Nouran didn’t look well at all, like if she was dizzy, light headed. 6/0, 7/2, 11/3 in 11m. Nouran requests a new ball but that won’t unfortunately for her make much change, as she goes down 2/0, 7/1, 9/2, 10/3, 11/4.
87m match. And at no time did Hania look stressed or doubting of herself. Like she had no pressure at all… But a thought for Omar Abdel Aziz, who nurtured Nouran for years. Having to coach Hania against her was not something easy, take my word for it.
Omar Abdel Aziz, coach to Hania
“It has not been easy to face Nouran, as I was her coach for so long but it’s our job, this is our career. Now, I’m happy with what I’m doing, I’m trying to do my best, getting the best out of my players.
I want to congratulate Nouran for reaching this level, she is playing amazing. Today they had a good plan but so did we. But as I told you yesterday, it was all who was going to adapt to the situations. You can see the different scenarios, and if you can see the different scenarios, you are going to be closer. And sometimes, when the scenario in your head doesn’t go your way, you can simply break down.
And that’s what we are working on, adapting to the conditions, the court, the referees, the interferences, even accidental. And it was not in the plan. So yes of course it’s about squash and improving the tactical stuff, but it’s also about changing your way of thinking. How to smile during the rallies, how to be happy when you are playing, how not to feel the pressure, relieve that pressure, and I think Hania is implementing this greatly.”
Dad Ayman: We are over the moon. It feels amazing.
Mum Nevine: She made a very big effort. Well deserved, well . Well deserved. I talked to her about the match because it’s a bit tense between the players at the moment. And I told her to use her mind, don’t listen to anything outside the court, and keep calm.
She was very calm today and she could mentally managed the match. And that for me is more important than winning the title and the tournament. It’s the way she did it.
Magued Sherif Sodic CEO
We are very proud of Hania and we feel that we made the right choice. She is the perfect fit and we are very proud she is wearing the SODIC brand on her shirt.
“First, I just want to say I’m really proud of everything I’ve done, not only as a player but as a person as well. Reaching the final three times in a row isn’t easy at all. Obviously, sometimes I’m being harsh on myself as I want to win everything. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way and I’m happy with the way I’m improving.
“Just one word I want to say: these small setbacks just make me come back even stronger than ever and I can’t wait to be back on court.”
“I don’t know where to start, to be honest! It’s been an amazing tournament, it’s been very tough on me, I’ve faced a lot of challenges, it was the first tournament of the season and all of us were ready for this one and we’ve been ready to show what we’ve been working on throughout the pre-season.
“I wanted to start the first game really well. I wanted to have a sharp start and a strong one, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to do it. Definitely, coming back from very far away against Nouran gives you huge confidence. After winning the first, especially with a bouncy ball like this one with Nouran gives you big confidence.”
“I didn’t want to put myself in a tough situation, coming back from 2-0 against her is very tough. The toughest in the world. I wanted to try as best as I can to not let myself go 2-0 down and find my way back. Winning the first gave me that edge.”
My goal to be World No.1 was definitely really important. I knew that after my last match yesterday I was going to be World No.2, but I didn’t want to stop there. I didn’t want to be satisfied with this. I wanted to come here today and win the match and prove it’s not where I belong, to be World No.2, it’s even bigger than this and I’m really glad I managed to prove it to myself today.
There’s a lot of people and a great team I would love to thank. I want to start with my parents – they’ve been supporting me through my ups and downs and it’s been tough on both sides, my parents and myself, so big thanks to them.
A massive thank you to my team. I’ve had a new member in my team who’s been doing plenty of work with me in the pre-season, so a massive thank you to Omar Abdel Aziz. The amount of work he’s been putting in with me is unbelievable. Also Omar Mohy as well doing a great job with me. My fitness coach, Sami Farag, who’s not here today, but I would love to thank him.
I would love to thank a lot of physios who have been working with me during this tournament. I have been struggling since the first round and without these physios I wouldn’t be able to capture the title or be here today, Derek Ryan of course, PSA physio and Dr Khaled. They’ve been handling my mood swings with everything I’ve been going through.
I would love to thank the sponsors of the tournament: SODIC and Dr Magued Sherif for everything, CIB and Mr Hussein Abaza, Amr Mansi for everything. The organisers who have done a great job in this tournament and this venue – we’re all happy playing here and we’ve performed the best.
The crowd is amazing so thanks for coming! It gives us a huge push, especially the Egyptians. And last, but not least, I would like to thank my sponsors SODIC and CIB the main sponsors, Wadi Degla and Karim Darwish for the great support I have received for the past two years, and Tecnifibre for the massive support. Thank you all for coming.”