El Hammamy Beats Gohar In 99-Minute Florida Epic

14 Jan 2024

Hania El Hammamy and Nouran Gohar produced another classic on semi-finals day at the SmartCentres Kinetic Florida Open, with El Hammamy emerging victorious over the No.2 seed after 99 minutes of breathtaking action.

Almost seven months since their record-breaking encounter at the World Tour Finals - the longest PSA Tour women's match ever - the Egyptian pair put on another show, this time with a spot in the PSA World Tour Gold event final on the line.

They split the opening two games before Gohar took command of game three, quickly moving to 5-0 up and then closing it out 11-5 following a video review.

Back came El Hammamy once more, though, with a new ball in play to start game four, and she ensured the match would go to a decider after winning the game on a stroke.

It looked as though that might have taken the wind out of Gohar's sails, too, as El Hammamy was quickly 5-1 up in the fifth, with victory in her sights.

But this time it was Gohar who fought back, eventually forcing a tie break after some more brutal rallies.

El Hammamy had already squandered one match ball at 10-9 up when the tie break began, and missed another two at 11-10 and 12-11, with the tension inside the arena now palpable.

Gohar would then have a match ball of her own, saved by El Hammamy on a short backhand volley, but the drama would finally come to an end moments later.

After bringing up another match ball on a stroke decision, El Hammamy clinched victory in sensational fashion, diving for a forehand and then hitting a backhand from her knee, before Gohar hit the tin to bring an end to the match.

"It's always physical against Nouran, it's always long," El Hammamy said after her win.

"I just heard it was 99 minutes, so yeah, it's always tough. I think today was more about squash, so I'm definitely glad about my performance, I'm glad that I managed to fight."

Discussing what she was thinking during the fifth-game tie break, El Hammamy added: "I knew how I was losing my match points, I made a lot of errors.

"I had two match balls that I think I lost with an error, so maybe on the third or fourth, I tried to play safe. Even if I wanted to go short, I tried to play safe, not hit a winner, and I think with that dive I saved myself from one of those winners that Nouran likes to play. I dug deep in that last rally and I'm very pleased and very proud of myself."

El Hammamy also touched on the help of Laura Massaro, with whom she's been working remotely.

"We called twice this morning," she said. "She tried to prepare me mentally as much as possible for this match.

"This matchup is not always about squash. For the last three meetings, it was more than squash, it was more about interactions with the ref, interactions between both of us, so she prepared me mentally for these scenarios, she prepared me well to know how to deal with them, so thanks to her, and thanks to my coach Omar AbdelAziz as well."

That match capped a breathtaking semi-finals day in which two other matches also went the distance.

Mostafa Asal came back from 2/1 down to beat his idol, Mohamed Elshorbagy in five games, after Mazen Hesham had upset top seed and home favourite Diego Elias in the first match of the day.

Playing at his home club, Elias came into the match with an impressive record against the Egyptian, winning 12 of their last 15 meetings, including each of the last nine, but the Peruvian was unable to add another win to that record, going down in 77 minutes on the glass court.

"I'm very, very pleased," Hesham said after his win. "I haven't beaten Diego in God knows how long."

"It's been a few years and he's been at the top of the rankings for around the last two years. He's improved so much, mentally and physically, and he's such a nice guy outside of the court as well.

"Inside the court, I think both of us were a bit feisty but that happens with this sport. We respect each other so much, and I was really pleased with how both of us fought and kept our composure at the end, and I was really lucky that it went my way. Other times, it wouldn't go my way, but it did today."

Nour ElSherbini was the only player to record a straight-games win, beating Olivia Weaver 3/0 in the other women's semi-final.