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Joel Makin (left) and James Willstrop (right) in action at the 2020 CIB Black Ball Squash Open

Black Ball Open: All-Time Best Matches

Ahead of the CIB PSA Black Ball Squash Open starting this week, we are taking a look back at the best of the action from the Black Ball Sporting Club over the years.

Despite the event’s short history, with the first edition of the tournament only taking place in December 2018, there have been some amazing matches in front of the cameras.

We have picked out five of the best from both the men’s and women’s events over the last four years, including some title-winning performances, and some surprising results.

2019 Women’s Quarter-Final: Camille Serme v Nour El Sherbini

Our first offering comes from the 2019 women’s event, and the quarter-final between France’s Camille Serme and Egypt’s Nour El Sherbini, with the pair doing battle for the 21st time on the PSA World Tour.

Their previous three encounters had all hit the hour mark, and they would do the same for the fourth time in the 2018-2019 campaign at the Black Ball Sporting Club in Cairo.

It was a match that swung back and forth, with World No.4 Serme taking the lead twice in the match, before the now-four-time World Champion battled back, going on to win the decider, and booking her spot in the last four.

[2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [5] Camille Serme (FRA) 3-2: 4-11, 12-10, 6-11, 11-7, 11-8 (64m)

2019 Women’s Final: Raneem El Welily v Nour El Sherbini

As it so often was in the latter part of the 2010s, Raneem El Welily and Nour El Sherbini, the top two in the World Rankings, went head-to-head in a final.

Their meeting at the 2019 Black Ball Open was the 11th straight battle for a title, with the ‘Warrior Princess’ holding the 6-4 advantage in the previous ten.

It would be the now-retired El Welily that took the victory to claim the PSA Gold level crown, coming back from a 2-1 deficit to win the last two games of the match.

[1] Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt [2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-2: 9-11, 11-2, 6-11, 11-1, 11-5 (53m)

March 2020 Women’s Quarter-Final: Raneem El Welily v Nour El Tayeb

In what was the first of two visits to the Black Ball Sporting Club in 2020, we were treated to some epic squash, including the quarter-final between Raneem El Welily and Nour El Tayeb.

It was one of the closest matches on the PSA World Tour in a long time, with all five games split by the narrowest of margins, four of them finishing 11-9, while the fourth game went into a tie-break.

While husbands Tarek Momen and Ali Farag were in London at the Canary Wharf Classic watching on, it was El Tayeb that got over the line in the end, knocking out the World No.1 after 72 minutes of incredible action.

[5] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt [1] Raneem El Welily (EGY) 3-2: 11-9, 9-11, 9-11, 12-10, 11-9 (72m)

March 2020 Women’s Final: Nour El Sherbini v Hania El Hammamy

The last match on the PSA World Tour before its enforced six-month suspension due to COVID-19 saw one of the best matches of the year, as Hania El Hammamy caused shockwaves in the squash world.

The World No.10 took on four-time World Champion Nour El Sherbini in the final of the CIB Black Ball Women’s Open in March 2020, having never beaten the ‘Warrior Princess’ on Tour before.

That would all change though, as El Hammamy rounded off her incredible run at the event, having already downed Camille Serme, Amanda Sobhy and Sarah-Jane Perry to reach the final. She defeated El Sherbini to become the sport’s newest Platinum level winner.

[9] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt [4] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-2: 11-6, 9-11, 12-10, 8-11, 13-11 (71m)

December 2020 Women’s Final: Hania El Hammamy v Sarah-Jane Perry

Our last women’s match comes from the December 2020 final, and it was another epic five-game battle featuring the defending champion, Hania El Hammamy.

‘The Gazelle’ was aiming to retain the crown she had won so amazingly nine months previous, and she took a commanding two game lead in the final over England’s Sarah-Jane Perry.

After securing the third game to stay in the match, the Englishwoman then had to save match balls in the fourth game, before summoning the strength to go on and win the title, the biggest of her career to date.

[5] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt [4] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 3-2: 4-11, 9-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-9 (75m)

2018 Men’s Semi-Final: Karim Abdel Gawad v Tarek Momen

The very first Black Ball Open came back in December 2018, with a Platinum level men’s tournament. The top-notch squash came immediately, and we start the men’s section with the semi-final between Karim Abdel Gawad and Tarek Momen.

World No.9 Gawad had not had the best of years in 2018, but battled back admirably in Cairo at the end of the year and had already taken out World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy in straight games to reach the last four.

The ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’ did battle with Momen for the 12th time on the Tour, and he was able to maintain his great record over his compatriot. In one of the longest four-game clashes on the PSA World Tour, lasting an hour and a half, Gawad took the victory 3-1, booking his place in the final of the event.

[7] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt [3] Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-1: 12-10, 6-11, 11-9, 15-13 (90m)

2018 Men’s Final: Karim Abdel Gawad v Ali Farag

That final came a day later against World No.2 Ali Farag, with Gawad aiming to level up his head-to-head record against his fellow Egyptian, trailing 7-6 going into this clash.

The World No.9 had lost his last five matches against Farag, including at his last three events, but he was able to turn the tables in the final and lift the trophy.

After a second game tie-break, Gawad was in control of the match, and although Farag took the third and threatened to make a comeback, it was the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’ that won on home soil in Cairo.

[7] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt [2] Ali Farag (EGY) 3-1: 11-6, 13-11, 7-11, 11-8 (62m)

2020 Men’s Round 2: Mostafa Asal v Paul Coll

Following their titanic tussle at the CIB Egyptian Open earlier in the year, which saw over 100 minutes of squash and one of the most infamous celebrations the sport has event seen, Mostafa Asal and Paul Coll met in the second round of the Black Ball Open in December 2020.

Although there wasn’t the high level of drama that we saw in front of the Pyramids six weeks earlier, the level of squash was still at the very top.

No.11 seed Asal was able to get the victory over World No.4 Paul Coll, on his. Way to reaching another semi-final at a Platinum level event.

[11] Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt [4] Paul Coll (NZL) 3-2: 6-11, 11-8, 11-3, 4-11, 11-8 (85m)

2020 Men’s Round 2: Joel Makin v James Willstrop

Just a few hours after that Asal-Coll duel, the Black Ball Sporting Club held one of the matches of the year, as the British pair of Joel Makin and James Willstrop went head-to-head.

The duo had only met twice on Tour in the past, and that came at the Pyramids earlier that year, where the Englishman took out Makin in a surprise win.

This time, it was Makin’s turn to settle the scores, and it came following an incredible match of the highest quality. There was the infamous triple dive from the Welshman, on his way to winning an 80-minute five-game battle for the ages.

[7] Joel Makin (WAL) bt [15] James Willstop (ENG) 3-2: 11-7, 8-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-9 (80m)

2020 Men’s Final: Ali Farag v Fares Dessouky

The last match on the PSA World Tour in 2020 takes the final spot on our list of the greatest matches at the Black Ball Open of all-time, as Ali Farag and Fares Dessouky played for the title.

The Egyptian duo were meeting in the final of an event for the first time, and Farag came in with a 100% record over his compatriot. It looked like it would stay that way as the World No.1 won the first two games with relative ease.

However, ‘Fearless Fares’ was not done, as he battled his way back from the brink to take the victory, and with it, his biggest title on the PSA World Tour to date.

[9] Fares Dessouky (EGY) bt [1] Ali Farag (EGY) 3-2: 5-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-8 (73m)

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