It seems like it has been a lot longer than three months since we last visited the Black Ball Sporting Club, for what was the last PSA World Tour event of 2020.
Now, as the calendar for the rest of the 2020-2021 season gets underway, we return to Cairo, with Sarah-Jane Perry and Fares Dessouky as the defending champions.
This were the major talking points from December, when the CIB Black Ball Squash Open last took place.
Gilis Takes El Hammamy All The Way
Following a couple of shocks in the first round of the women’s tournament, as the North American duo of Hollie Naughton and Sabrina Sobhy made it through to the last 16, there was a monumental clash in the second round.
Hania El Hammamy was the defending Black Ball Open champion after her sensational victory in March 2020, but she faced a tricky test in her second round encounter, coming up against World No.12 Nele Gilis.
The Belgian gave the young star a huge challenge, as the pair met for the first time since the 2019 British Open, despite the reigning champ taking a two game lead, winning a tie-break in each of the first two stanzas.
However, Gilis came fighting back, and after winning the third game 13-11, she wrestled the momentum back. The Belgian then won the fourth game as well, but El Hammamy was able to hold on to take the victory and move through to the last eight, after a 90 minute battle.
Elsewhere in the last 16, No.8 seed Tesni Evans needed five games to dispatch Olivia Clyne, while World No.2 Nouran Gohar had to come from a game down to beat England’s Alison Waters in five.
Sobhy Knocks Out El Sherbini
The top eight seeds all made it through to the quarter-finals of the CIB Black Ball Squash Open in December, but it was in the last eight where the shocks started to come, as three of the lower-seeded players took victory to move into the semis.
The biggest of those shocks saw World No.1 Nour El Sherbini dumped out of the tournament by American left-hander Amanda Sobhy, with ‘Southpaw’ fighting her way back from behind.
El Sherbini, who reached the final in March’s edition of the tournament, took a 2-1 lead in her quarter-final clash with the US No.1, but Sobhy would not be beaten.
The World No.7 won the fourth and fifth games by a scoreline of 11-9, to turn the match on its head and knock out the woman at the summit of the World Rankings.
From Match Ball Down, Perry Takes The Title
After victories in their respective semi-finals, Hania El Hammamy and Sarah-Jane Perry met in the final of the CIB Black Ball Squash Open in December 2020.
‘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 the English No.1.
After securing the third game to stay in the match, Perry 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.
Asal Downs Coll… Again
The men’s event saw no shocks or spoils in the opening round, as all 16 seeds safely made their way through to the second round, and it was on day three that the fireworks started.
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, as he knocked out World No.10 Miguel Rodriguez en route to the last four.
The other big shock of the second round saw Fares Dessouky take out the 2018 champion, Karim Abdel Gawad, and that would be a sign of things to come for ‘Fearless Fares’.
Dessouky Takes Out World Champion Momen
After defeating his compatriot in the second round, Dessouky then overcame the ‘Peruvian Puma’, Diego Elias, in the quarter-final, to set up a last four clash with World Champion Tarek Momen.
The World No.11 came into this clash with Momen having yet to beat his fellow Egyptian on the PSA World Tour, and having lost to him just a couple of months earlier at the CIB Egyptian Open, in front of the Pyramids.
It looked like he would lose for a fourth time, as he lost the first game, but Dessouky battled back to take both the second and third games to turn the match around.
Momen took the fourth to send the match into a decider, but it would be Dessouky that came out on top to knock out a third higher-seeded player in three days, advancing to the final.
’Fearless Fares Follows In Perry’s Footsteps
Alongside Dessouky would be World No.1 Ali Farag, who was aiming to secure a third straight title, after victories at the CIB Egyptian Open and the Qatar Classic in the two months previous to the Tour’s trip to Cairo.
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.