Whilst an Egyptian double in today’s WSF World Junior Individual Squash Championships finals was a foregone conclusion, the winners were not after top seed Rowan Elaraby retained the women’s title as anticipated, but Mostafa Asal upset the seedings after defeating favourite and defending champion Marwan Tarek in straight games in the men’s final at the Express Avenue Mall in the Indian city of Chennai.
The women’s climax was a repeat of the 2017 final – for the first time in the event’s 37-year history. But despite boasting two successive world junior championship wins over second seed Hania El Hammamy, Elaraby had lost to her compatriot on the previous four occasions – and trails world No.20 El Hammamy 11 positions in the PSA World Rankings.
Elaraby took the opening two games before a packed crowd at the Chennai shopping mall – then failed to convert three match-balls in the third before Hammamy took the game 12-10 to force a further game.
But the 17-year-old from Alexandria regained her composure in the fourth to close out the match 11-4, 11-9, 10-12, 11-9 in 65 minutes to win the title for a second successive year.
Elaraby becomes the fourth Egyptian to win back-to-back women’s titles after Raneem El Welily in 2007, Nour El Sherbini in 2013 and Nouran Gohar in 2016.
“It feels amazing,” said Elaraby later. “I’m so happy! That was my last World Juniors and if I hadn’t won I know I would have been so sad.
“When I got four match balls in the third I started thinking about my birthday, about celebrating with my friends, I just freaked out and went completely out of the court.
“I knew I had to get back to my game plan and concentrate all the way in the fourth. I almost lost that too, at 9-7 down, I fought really hard to try to make it not go to five.
“Looking at the players who have won it twice, Nicol (David), Ramy (Ashour), Raneem (El Welily), Marwan (ElShorbagy), and especially Mohamed (ElShorbagy) – he’s my role model, I can’t thank him enough, he’s helped me so much and is always there for me.
“That may be my last junior match, it depends on the British next year, but if it is my last I’m happy to finish with that one!”
The men’s final also featured the top two seeds and whilst Asal was the second seed, the 17-year-old from 6th of October City is by far the highest-ranked player in the men’s field – at 71, compared with Tarek’s 281.
Furthermore, the match was the pair’s first clash in international competition, though Egyptian sources report two wins by ‘underdog’ Asal over Tarek in recent national junior events.
Asal reached the final without dropping a game – and continued his ‘clean sheet’ in Chennai as he romped to an 11-7, 13-11, 11-4 victory in 45 minutes over Tarek to claim the world junior title for the first time.
“I’m overjoyed to become World Champion,” said Asal. “It’s great that we had two all-Egyptian finals.
“I went into the match with confidence knowing I’d won in Egypt, but I really had to fight hard in the second to keep the momentum going.
“Thanks to Marwan for all the battles we had in Egypt, and I hope he has a great time in Harvard, we’ll miss him and he’ll miss us in Egypt! Thanks also to my coaches and family, and everyone who’s supported me, and especially Shaza Tamer.”
The WSF Men’s World Junior Team Championship gets underway on Tuesday (July 24) with Egypt seeded to reclaim the title lost to Pakistan in 2016. Of historic interest is the first appearance in any World Team Squash Championship of Saudi Arabia.
Asal added: “On to the teams now, let’s hope we can get that title back for Egypt.”
After two days of Pool action, the top two teams in each Pool progress to the last 16 knockout stage. The Pool line-ups (including team seedings) are as follows:
Pool A:  Egypt,  Australia,  Singapore
Pool B:  Canada,  Argentina,  Scotland
Pool C:  England,  Ireland,  South Africa
Pool D:  Malaysia,  France,  Germany
Pool E:  India,  Switzerland,  Saudi Arabia
Pool F:  Czech Republic,  Pakistan,  Zimbabwe
Pool G:  Colombia,  New Zealand,  Qatar
Pool H:  USA,  Hong Kong China,  Finland
 Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt  Marwan Tarek (EGY) 11-7, 13-11, 11-4 (45m)
 Rowan Elaraby (EGY) bt  Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 11-4, 11-9, 10-12, 11-9 (65m)