The last four players remaining in the Houston Open are in action tonight, as the PSA World Tour Gold tournament’s semi finals get underway at 15:00 (GMT-6).
World No.1 Ali Farag is the first in action at the Houston Squash Club, he takes on Egyptian compatriot and World No.5 Mostafa Asal.
In the day’s final match, two players vying for a spot in their first Gold final clash, as Egypt’s World No.13 Mazen Hesham takes on France’s World No.12 Gregoire Marche.
You can check out the head-to-head stats in our preview and we'll also have reports and reaction from all the matches below.
Order of Play
All times are local (GMT-6)
Farag comes back to down Asal
Farag had to do things the hard way against World No.5 Asal
World No.1 Ali Farag is through to the final after downing Egyptian compatriot and World No.5 Mostafa Asal 3-2 in a match that was at times exhilarating and at others fractious.
The top seed went into the match with a 9-1 record against Asal, though the razor-thin margin of Farag’s win in the pair’s most recent match –
In a fascinating clash of styles, Asal started in his typically aggressive manner and looked to dominate Farag. The World No.1, meanwhile, struggled to find his range in the first game, which Asal deservedly took 11-6.
In true World No.1 style,— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) January 8, 2022
AliFarag</a> is fighting his way back into this contest, and this one looks like it could go the distance!<br><br>All the action is LIVE on <a href="https://twitter.com/SquashTV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">SquashTV #HoustonOpen pic.twitter.com/Uh19QFhrAI
Farag, though, came roaring back in the second, blowing Asal away 11-2 to restore parity before edging a 28-minute third game 13-11 to seize the momentum.
This time, though, it was Asal’s turn to recover, as the Raging Bull returned to his explosive best to crack the match wide open with an 11-4 win and take the match to five.
In the decisive fifth game, it was Farag’s experience that appeared the difference, with the 29-year-old holding his nerve as errors crept into a frustrated Asal’s game. While Asal attempted to wrestle back the momentum, he found himself too frequently on the wrong end of refereeing decisions, and Farag was able to close out the match with an 11-3 win.
"Some matches you have to scrape through like this, and I am just glad that I am through!"
It was a tough semi-final, but World No.1
AliFarag</a> is into yet another final, this time at the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HoustonOpen?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HoustonOpen</a>! <a href="https://t.co/Kjkv44h17P">pic.twitter.com/Kjkv44h17P</a></p>— PSA World Tour (PSAWorldTour) January 8, 2022
Speaking after the match, Farag said: “It’s never easy playing Mostafa. I think both of us are better squash players than what we produced today.
“Today was very [fragmented], with lots of stoppages and I think we enjoy playing more free-flowing squash. The crowd deserves more free-flowing squash, but it is what it is. Some matches you have to get through like this. I’m just glad that I’m through.
“Thanks to Mike Way, my head coach at Harvard. Ever since my Harvard years, he taught me that – and I know it’s a cliche – but you can only control the things you can control. I try not to get distracted by any outside circumstances; I try to focus on the task at hand.
“In the fourth, I was totally blown away. It wasn’t good. But I had to let it go to regroup in the fifth and thankfully I did that. But again, it wasn’t the prettiest squash.”
When asked whether it was harder to reach World No.1, or defend the position, Farag said: “Both I guess! I’ve been asked before and I’m never able to answer to be honest. Getting there, you have those doubts over whether you’ll ever be able to do it.
“These doubts always haunt you whenever you’re on court and you’re very close, you get too desperate. I remember in the Black Ball Open when I lost, if I had won, I would have been World No.1 and I wondered if I’d ever get the chance again.
“Now that I’m on top, consistency is key. It’s never easy and now you’re the hunted, you’re not the hunter anymore! People study how you play.
“Mostafa’s only 20 years old and we’ve already played over ten times. It’s a testament to how good he is. He’s reaching the latter stages of tournaments from a very young age. I wish I was like that when I was his age! The scary thing is that he’s only going to get better from here.
“It’s tough to stay [at the top], but – again another cliche – you have to focus on the performances and the results and rankings will follow. Laura Massaro said it best when I was younger, she said: ‘Once you reach it, you don’t need it anymore, you want it,' so it takes that desperation away from you and makes you play more freely, so I hope I manage to do that and tomorrow’s going to be another tough task.”
Result:  Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Mostafa Asal (EGY) 3-2: 6-11, 11-2, 13-11, 4-11, 11-3 (82m)
Hesham beats Marche to reach first Gold final.
Hesham produced one of his career-best performances to reach his first Gold final.
Egypt’s World No.13 Mazen Hesham is through to his first PSA World Tour Gold final after producing a near-perfect performance to beat French World No.12 Gregoire Marche.
The fun has started here in the second semi-final, with— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) January 8, 2022
Thesquashfalcon</a> slotting this right into the nick perfectly! <br><br>See what's going on LIVE on <a href="https://twitter.com/SquashTV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">SquashTV here https://t.co/LOtxkGoVww#HoustonOpen pic.twitter.com/EspThAnw5C
Both men went into today’s clash having already made personal history, with this match representing the first time either player had made a PSA Gold tournament semi final.
Marche went into the tie with a marginally better head-to-head record, and having beaten Hesham 3-0 at last month’s CIB Squash Open Black Ball, though he was pushed all the way in each game.
This time, though, the ever-attacking Hesham was able to gain revenge and looked confident after surviving game balls at 10-9 and 11-10 down to win the first game 13-11.
Buoyed by this win, Hesham further raised his game in the second, with the mercurial player showcasing his full array of winners in a rapid 11-5 win.
Marche appeared to have steadied himself in the third, looking more composed on his way to a 10-8 lead, only for Hesham to produce more aggressive high-risk squash to stun the Frenchman and snatch a memorable victory with another 13-11 win.
"I am here playing, enjoying my squash again, showing what I can do and playing the brand of squash I want to play!"
Thesquashfalcon</a> after he made his way into a first Gold level final on the PSA World Tour! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HoustonOpen?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HoustonOpen</a> <a href="https://t.co/hfXiLqEMIl">pic.twitter.com/hfXiLqEMIl</a></p>— PSA World Tour (PSAWorldTour) January 8, 2022
After the match, Hesham said: “First of all, I’m really happy with the way I am at the moment. Im here playing and enjoying my squash again, showing what I can do and playing the brand of squash I want to play, entertaining people and entertaining myself, hearing people cheering and loving squash every day.
“I have mixed feelings to be honest. If you’d told me a week ago that I was going to be in the final, I would say I think I deserve it. Of course, after what God gave me, and with God’s blessing, I did enough hard work. I’ve been working, battling injuries for six or seven years now and even yesterday I was battling injuries.
“Ali Farag and I are good friends. Of course, he’s World No.1 and even though I have [beaten him], the head-to-head record goes to him. So I need to come back for one more day tomorrow, put on a show, match him up and hopefully the crowd will enjoy it. May the best player win!”
Result:  Mazen Hesham (EGY) bt  Gregoire Marche (FRA) 3-0: 13-11, 11-5, 13-11 (52m)