Coll Ends 37-Year Kiwi US Open Drought

14 Oct 2023

World No.5 Paul Coll became the first New Zealander to reach the men's US Open final in 37 years after coming from behind to end the title defence of Peru's Diego Elias at the Arlen Specter US Squash Center in Philadelphia.

After the long gap since Stuart Davenport and Ross Norman contested an all-Kiwi US Open final in 1986, Coll produced a tenacious performance to overturn a 2/1 deficit against defending champion Elias, winning 9-11, 11-8, 6-11, 11-6, 11-8 after 82 minutes of gripping action.

Coll will line up in his first PSA World Tour Platinum final since the CIB Egyptian Open 13 months ago and his opponent - just as it was in Cairo - will be Ali Farag after the world No.1 came back from match ball down to beat 2021 runner-up Tarek Momen.

"I've had an off-season for the first time in three years, so I put in some work, the body's feeling the best it's felt in three years, I've put in a good two months and that's been crucial," said Coll.

"I've been planning my season better and having these training blocks and that's what makes me feel good, I see Rob [Owen] for a week to prepare properly and that's what makes me feel like I'm ready for an event and I can back these matches up. I was very happy with that and my body's feeling great.

"I was trying to be more aggressive with everything I did in terms of volleying. You could see when he slow-balled me down that backhand, his control was so good and I couldn't do anything and I got stuck behind him and he picks me off. I was trying not to get stuck there and shift it a bit better than I normally shift it."

Farag advanced to his seventh successive PSA World Tour Platinum final after beating Momen by an 8-11, 6-11, 13-11, 11-2, 11-9 scoreline.

Farag has been the man to beat on the PSA Tour in 2023 and had lost just once in his last 36 matches ahead of today's encounter, while he was in the midst of a 10-match winning run against Momen.

The form book was almost thrown out of the window by an age-defying performance from 35-year-old Momen, who caused significant issues for the two-time US Open champion and was full of confidence after ending a 12-match losing streak against world No.4 Mohamed ElShorbagy in the previous round. However, after overturning a match ball in the third game, Farag took the next three without reply to seal his spot in the final.

"It's not hard to put 110 per cent in, in front of this amazing crowd," said Farag, who is aiming to win a fifth consecutive Platinum event.

"But then you come up against an unbelievable player in Tarek. I saw him play so well the other day and I thought that I was ready for it, but I wasn't. In the first two I was outplayed, probably in the third as well, and I got a little lucky today."

World No.1 Nour El Sherbini and world No.3 Hania El Hammamy will meet in the women's final after they sent US duo Olivia Fiechter and Amanda Sobhy out of their home event on semi-finals day.

It was the first time in the tournament's storied history that two women from the USA were lining up in the last four of the US Open, but Fiechter saw her tournament come to an end after being beaten in four. El Sherbini will appear in her fifth US Open final with the aim of getting her hands on that trophy for the first time.

"She's improved a lot from the beginning of the season, she's been playing really well and beating Nour El Tayeb and Salma [Hany] is amazing," El Sherbini said afterwards.

"She was definitely playing well, but I wasn't playing well. I don't know why I dropped off, but I'm glad I came back and stuck to my game plan."

El Sherbini and El Hammamy will now meet in the final of a Platinum event for the second time in succession after the latter ended the run of US No.1 Sobhy, winning 11-5, 11-4, 9-11, 11-5 in 47 minutes.

The 23-year-old pulled off her game plan to perfection, dictating the tempo of the match and withstanding a late fightback from Sobhy to earn her spot in the final of this tournament for the second time following her runner-up finish in 2021.

El Hammamy credited former world No.1 and World Champion Laura Massaro for the work the two have been doing off court, saying: "I know how much experience she has and how tough she was when going through experiences like this. I thought that she would be a great supporter for me and I'm very happy and excited to have her on board."