On Sunday August 28, curtains came down on the 2016 Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Squash Open tournament with Egyptian Nouran Gohar and Ramy Ashour emerging as the new champions. 700 people watched the women and men’s finals on a festive Sunday from outside the four-sided glass court in Hong Kong as Nouran Gohar defeated USA’s Amanda Sobhy and Ramy Ashour overcame a tough challenge from his compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad. While Gohar took four games in beating Sobhy, Ashour had to fight a hard 5-game battle against the doughty Gawad before emerging victorious in a thrilling finish.
The day’s proceedings began with Women’s final between 18-year old Nouran Gohar and USA’s 23-year old Amanda Sobhy. Gohar had come through to the final by defeating 10-time champion and Malaysian legend Nicol David in the semifinal but she struggled at the start against Sobhy. The American dictated terms in the first game and led 1-0 with an 11-6 decision in her favor. But Gohar produced her best skills in the second game. It was a big fight between the two women and it looked like Sobhy would take the 2-game lead with the score standing 10-7 in her favor. It was here that the young Egyptian pulled back in a spectacular way by keeping the ball in play. She saved all the three game balls and leveled the score 10-10. Then Gohar carried the momentum further and edged out Sobhy at 12-10. With game scores level, the reigning world junior champion Gohar assumed a dominating stance in the next two games. Sobhy tried to stay in the match but the brilliant Gohar took the title in 43 minutes with a well-deserved 6-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-8 victory.
Men’s final was an edge-of-the-seat thriller between the two-time Hong Kong Open Champion Ramy Ashour and his young compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad. The former world no.1 Ashour had recently gone out of the reckoning because of a spate of injuries but is now showing improved performance. But Ashour found the first-time Hong Kong Open entrant Gawad a tough opponent and his third title victory at Hong Kong didn’t come on a platter. The match swung from one side to another for the first four games with Ashour taking the first and third games and Gawad kept coming back by winning second and fourth. However, the 28-year-old Ashour raised his game several notches in the decider to finally overcome a highly competitive world no.8 Gawad by scoring an 11-9, 8-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-6 victory to emerge as the champion. Ashour had earlier won the Hong Kong Open in 2010 and 2012 and after he beat world no. 4 and compatriot Marwan Elshorbagy in the second round, his progress to the final was unstoppable. With the world no.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy having already gone out of contention, Ashour’s chances of his third title victory looked clearly on cards. For the past two years, Ashour’s appearance in World Series tournaments has been restricted by hamstring injury but in the run-up to the Hong Open final, he played vintage squash to fork out another impressive win.
The victory for Ramy Ashour and Nouran Gohar secured them an early lead in the season-ending Dubai World Series Finals as they each collected 100 points after their victory. But Hong Kong is only the first World-Series tournament and they will need to keep their form intact to be able to qualify for the Grand Finale at Dubai Opera in June 2017.
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