It has been two years since the PSA World Tour last visited the shores of El Gouna, following the cancellation of the 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2021 El Gouna International Squash Open will take place at both the Squash Complex (for side court action), and the brand new Conference and Culture Centre, where the glass court will be housed.
A week away from the start of the 2021 edition, we are taking a look back at the story of what happened two years ago, when the action took place at the Abu Tig Marina, in the open air.
Unseeded Europeans Cause First Round Shocks
There were several upsets in the opening round of the 2019 El Gouna International, with the majority of those seeing European players make the breakthrough into the second round of the Platinum level event.
The Spanish duo of Edmon Lopez and Iker Pajares Bernabeu both came through lengthy battles to reach Round 2. The former went the distance in a 77-minute clash with Hong Kong’s Leo Au, while Pajares downed Frenchman Lucas Serme in a 55-minute three-game battle.
Edmon Lopez in action against Leo Au
There were victories for two Brits over Hong Kong stars, as Scotland’s Alan Clyne and Englishwoman Julianne Courtice got the better of Tsz Fung Yip and Joey Chan, respectively, to book their places in the second round.
Belgium’s Tinne Gilis wrapped up the European shocks, with a victory over Egyptian Mayar Hany, while Canada’s Danielle Letourneau also scored a surprise win, beating Dutch No.1 Milou van der Heijden en route to Round 2.
Gawad Fights Back From Two Down
2018 World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad was looking down and out during his third round clash with compatriot Omar Mosaad, but he produced an epic comeback to secure his place in the last eight in Gouna.
The ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’ found himself two games down to the former World Championship finalist, with Mosaad having won both the opening games by an 11-9 scoreline. However, Gawad fought back, and wrestled the momentum back his way after an 11-1 win in the third.
He continued that fight back to win both the fourth and fifth games to assure himself of a place in the quarter-finals on home soil in El Gouna.
Wildcard Fares Dessouky continued his fine run in the tournament, knocking out No.6 seed Miguel Rodriguez in four games to reach the last four. In the women’s draw, US No.1 Amanda Sobhy propduced the only upset of the third round, knocking out former World Champion Laura Massaro.
Dessouky Becomes First Platinum Wildcard Semi-Finalist
Having made it through to the last eight, Wildcard Fares Dessouky came up against World No.2 Mohamed ElShorbagy, and the Egyptian went on to make history by beating his compatriot to become the first ever wildcard to reach the last four in a Platinum level event.
The first game was crucial, and when ‘Fearless Fares’ took it in a tie-break, 15-13, he looked set to go on and secure victory. That was compounded by a comfortable 11-4 scoreline in the second game. However, ‘the Beast’ would fight back.
ElShorbagy took the third to make things tense, but Dessouky was able to wrestle back the momentum to take the victory, claiming the fourth 11-9 to secure the win in 61 minutes, booking his place in the last four.
Elsewhere in the men’s event, there were wins for Ali Farag, Tarek Momen and Karim Abdel Gawad, as an all-Egyptian quartet made the last four.
Sobhy & Gohar Take Out Top Dogs
Along with Dessouky’s heroics in the men’s draw, there were also big shocks in the women’s event, as the two finalists from the 2018-2019 PSA World Championships, held just six weeks earlier in Chicago, were both defeated.
Now-four-time World Champion Nour El Sherbini was knocked out by Nouran Gohar, with ‘the Terminator’ winning an epic final game 12-10 to secure a 3-2 win in 74 minutes against the World No.2.
US No.1, and the tournament’s No.13 seed, Amanda Sobhy, got the better of Chicago’s losing finalist, Nour El Tayeb, despite having been on the brink of the defeat.
The American lost the first two games in quick time, with. Less than 15 minutes on the clock. However, the left-hander fought back, and was able to win the final three games to secure a surprise victory, one no-one would have expected after the opening salvo.
Farag Survives Against Momen While Gohar Continues Knockout Run
After getting the better of Nour El Sherbini in the quarter-finals, ‘the Terminator’ continued her great run in the tournament by overcoming the French challenge, in No.4 seed Camille Serme.
She won the first game in emphatic style, allowing ‘La Panthere’ to put just a single point on the board, and although the Frenchwoman levelled at 1-1, Gohar took control once more, winning the match in four games to advance to the final where she would play Raneem El Welily.
In the men’s semi-finals, World No.1 Ali Farag had to come back from the brink against the man he defeated in the World Championship final just six weeks earlier, ‘the Viper’ Tarek Momen.
It was the World No.3 who started the stronger of the two, with Momen taking a convincing two-game advantage. However, Farag would not be stopped, and after winning the third, he held the momentum.
It would not be easy for the reigning World Champ though, with the final two games ending 11-9, 12-10, Farag winning the clash in a final game tie-break to book his place in the final at Abu Tig Marina.
Farag & El Welily Victorious In Gouna
The women’s final saw Raneem El Welily take on Nouran Gohar, her fellow Egyptian, and the woman that would eventually take over as World No.1 when El Welily retired in the summer of 2020.
The then-World No.1 took the opening salvo before ‘the Terminator’ levelled at one game apiece. However, El Welily showed her class to secure victory in just over an hour, winning out 11-8, 7-11, 12-10, 11-6.
The men’s final was a more clear-cut affair, as Ali Farag brushed off his 90-minute battle with Tarek Momen, which took place less than 24 hours before the final, to dispatch Karim Abdel Gawad in straight games.
He won the first 11-9, before taking the second on a tie-break, essentially sealing the victory and the title there and then. After going two games up, he allowed his compatriot to tally just three points in the third game, with Farag securing the win.
Raneem El Welily and Ali Farag with the El Gouna International trophies