2022 Final Roundup

Nouran Gohar wins CIB Black Ball Open after El Sherbini injury retirement

World No.2 Nouran Gohar has collected her first CIB Black Ball title and her fourth consecutive Platinum trophy, though her recollection of tonight’s triumph will no doubt be bittersweet, following the mid-final retirement of World No.1 Nour El Sherbini due to injury.

Ahead of tonight’s match, much had been made of the intense but amicable rivalry between the two, with Gohar set to replace El Sherbini as World No.1 in next month’s rankings.

With little to choose between the two ahead of tonight’s match, both players had reasons to be confident. 24-year-old Gohar had gone into the match looking to continue a magnificent run that had seen her win 23 of her prior 24 matches, while 26-year-old El Sherbini would have taken confidence from her 19-5 head-to-head record against the Cairo native.

Fans were treated to a barnstorming first game in which El Sherbini initially seized the momentum, finding openings from nowhere on the way to a 10-6 lead. Facing the daunting task of saving four game balls, Gohar went on the attack, moving up the court to bring her brutal power to bear.

To the delight of Gohar’s vocal fans, this proved effective, with ‘the Terminator’ picking off each game ball before flipping the match’s momentum with a 17-15 win.

As El Sherbini saw her lead dwindle and then evaporate in the first game, it quickly became obvious that something was troubling her, with her movement becoming increasingly laboured as Gohar wrapped up the first game, and the 26-year-old received physio treatment on her hip immediately after leaving the court.

In the second game, despite the best efforts of El Sherbini, it was obvious that she was struggling to move, with Gohar continuously able to punish her in the corners on the way to an 11-8 win.

After receiving post-game physio treatment once more, El Sherbini initially attempted to return to court for the third game. That game, however, lasted only seconds, with El Sherbini forced to call a premature end to what had at one stage looked to be one of the matches of the season.

After the match, Gohar said: “I’m definitely not happy with the way it ended. I just wish her a speedy recovery. I can’t wait for our next battle. Having the rivalry with Nour El Sherbini right now is something I’m very proud of. I’ve always looked up to Nour. She’s a great player and the rivalry is something I’m so proud to have.

“My advice to young players is never give up. I’ve always tried really hard and I never really gave up, even when it wasn’t really going my way. Certainly, it didn’t go my way many times. Now I’m just living better days and I’m happy with it. I’m not taking it for granted, I just want more. Always having the hunger and determination are the main things that you always have to have. Just believe in yourself.”

Gohar added that she wanted to thank her family, husband, coaches and sponsors for their support, adding that the fans who had come out were what made Egyptian squash so great: “I want to thank you all for coming out today. It has been an amazing evening. Having you here makes it extra special for us, that’s why I like to play in Egypt. Thank you so much for coming. That’s why we’re good at squash, because of you guys. Thank you so much for the support.”

El Sherbini, meanwhile, said that she had picked up the injury after her semi-final win over Rowan Elaraby, but until the end of the first game it had not troubled her.

She added: “I’m definitely disappointed to end it like this. Actually I thought it was a very good match and both of us were playing really good, so it’s unfortunate it had to end like this.

“I think Nouran is the best player right now and you can’t play her when you’re not your best. I hope I made the right choice; you always have to listen to your body and hopefully I will come back again.”