The PSA World Tour returns to the Great Pyramids of Giza this weekend for the 2020 CIB Egyptian Open, with the tournament having the privilege of being the first Platinum event of the new season.
With strict protocols in place at both the Manchester Open and the CIB PSA World Tour Finals over the last few weeks, the PSA World Tour has been able to return during these difficult times, following on from a six-month enforced suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Great Pyramids of Giza will be the stunning backdrop for the CIB Egyptian Open for the second straight year, with last year’s tournament running alongside the CIB PSA Women’s World Championship 2019-20.
Nour El Sherbini celebrated her birthday in the perfect way in Giza last year, as she turned 24 on the day she won her fourth World title. Prior to that, Karim Abdel Gawad lifted the men’s Egyptian Open crown. The two will return just less than 12 months on to try and win on the same court once more.
Here is a look back at the story of what happened at the Pyramids last year.
Subramanium Knocks Out The US No.1
There were several surprises throughout both tournaments, but arguably none more so than on the opening day of the CIB PSA Women’s World Championship, as US No.1 Amanda Sobhy was beaten by Malaysia’s rising star Sivasangari Subramanium.
Sivasangari Subramanium (fore) in action against Amanda Sobhy in Giza
The 20-year-old produced some amazing squash to overcome the then-World No.8, as she fought back from a game down twice in the match, before winning the deciding game to take arguably her biggest win on the PSA World Tour.
The Malaysian then followed that up with a second round victory over No.30 seed Milou van der Heijden to reach the last 16 of the Women’s World Championship. She ultimately came undone at the hands of Egypt’s Hania El Hammamy, but the youngster had made her name known at the highest level.
There were plenty of other shocks on the opening day of the biggest event in women’s squash, with South Africa’s Alexandra Fuller overcoming No.20 seed Emily Whitlock, while Hong Kong’s Tze Lok Ho beat Egypt’s No.23 seed Mariam Metwally. World No.122 Aifa Azman also created some waves on the first day, beating Hong Kong’s Joey Chan in a five-game epic.
Five Of The Top Eight Taken Out In Round 2
From shocks in the Women’s World Championships, to several major shocks in the early rounds of the CIB Egyptian Open, as five of the top eight seeds were knocked out in just the second round.
There had already been some surprises, as the French duo of Victor Crouin and Baptiste Masotti, and England’s Nathan Lake, had beaten higher-ranked players, but it reached another level in the last 32, when the seeded players made their bows in the competition.
The biggest of those surprises saw World No.3, and the soon-to-become World Champion, Tarek Momen, drop out of the tournament, as Welshman Joel Makin put on a clinic to defeat the Egyptian on home soil.
Masotti also caused another big upset, as he took out No.8 seed Miguel Rodriguez in straight games. The Egyptian pairing of Mostafa Asal and Fares Dessouky also got the better of higher-ranked opponents, beating No.7 seed Diego Elias and No.4 seed Simon Rösner respectively. Englishman Chris Simpson also pulled off a big surprise by beating No.6 seed Mohamed Abouelghar.
Makin Reaches First Platinum Semi-Final
Beating Momen would not be the end of Joel Makin’s run at the CIB Egyptian Open in 2019, as the British No.1 made it all the way the semi-finals, reaching the last four in a PSA Platinum level tournament for the first time in his career.
After getting the better of ‘the Viper’, Makin then overcame challenges from the French duo of Victor Crouin and Baptiste Masotti, bringing an end to the fine runs that the pair were also having in the tournament.
Crouin reached the third round of the major tournament for the first time in his fledgling career, while Masotti made it through to the quarter-finals in Giza, also securing a career-best finish at a Platinum event. The latter would go on to represent France at the WSF Men’s World Team Squash Championships in Washington, D.C. six weeks later.
The Welshman made it through to the semi-finals, where he came up against an inspired Karim Abdel Gawad, as the Egyptian took a comfortable victory in 50 minutes. However, Makin made himself known as a major player on the PSA World Tour, and one to certainly look out for in the latter stages of major tournaments in future.
El Hammamy Downs Serme – The Start Of A New Rivalry
19-year-old Hania El Hammamy had already made her way into the top 16 of the World Rankings by the time the CIB PSA Women’s World Championship was held in front of the Pyramids of Giza in October 2019.
However, she announced herself on the major stage by coming back from the brink to defeat World No.4 Camille Serme in an epic quarter-final, and with it, securing her passage through to the last four of a major tournament for the first time in her career.
She had overcome England’s Jasmine Hutton, Australian Donna Lobban and Malaysian starlet Sivasangari Subramanium to reach the quarters, where Serme was the challenge. It looked like it would be too much for the young Egyptian, as she fell two games behind, but she bounced back to win the last three games to take an amazing victory.
This was the first of four wonderful battles the pair had over the course of the next twelve months, and the newest rivalry on the PSA World Tour was born.
Gawad Wins At The Pyramids Again
Three years on after winning the Al Ahram International at the same venue, former World Champion and World No.1 Karim Abdel Gawad was victorious at the Pyramids once again, as he defeated then-World No.1 Ali Farag in the final.
The ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’ came through the tournament relatively unscathed, as he dropped just two games en route to the title, with his unique and skilful style being too much for anyone that dared to cross his path.
After receiving a bye in the first round, Gawad downed Scotland’s Greg Lobban in three, before then needing four games to get the better of Hong Kong No.1 Leo Au and fellow countryman Marwan ElShorbagy. He then beat Welshman Joel Makin in straight games to reach the final.
The final lasted an hour, but Gawad did not seem fazed at all, winning out in straight games to claim the fifth major title of his career, following wins at the 2016 Wadi Degla PSA Men’s World Championship, 2016 Qatar Classic, 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions and the 2018 CIB Black Ball Squash Open.
El Sherbini Secures Fourth World Title
Once again, the final of a major tournament saw the top two women in the World Rankings, in Raneem El Welily and Nour El Sherbini, go head-to-head for the spoils. It was the third time the pair had faced off in the final of the World Championships, after doing so in both finals in 2017.
Both came into the final having already won the World Championship crown before, with El Sherbini the holder after her victory over Nour El Tayeb in Chicago in February 2019.
More impressively though, the ‘Warrior Princess’ was taking part in her first competitive event since the season-ending CIB PSA World Tour Finals four months earlier, as injury had prevented her from returning prior to the Pyramids.
It made no difference though, as she celebrated her 24th birthday in the perfect way, winning 3-1 to secure a fourth World Championship crown. Only three women can match her achievements on the sport’s greatest stage, with Nicol David having eight World Championship titles, Sarah Fitz-Gerald five, and Susan Deovy level with El Sherbini on four.