Egypt’s World No.1 Nour El Sherbini and World No.2 Raneem El Welily will go head-to-head in today’s women’s AJ Bell PSA World Championship final at Manchester Central Convention Complex as they vie for the biggest prize in women’s squash at 17:00 (local time/GMT).
It is familiar territory for the two Egyptians who met just eight months ago in April’s final of the sport’s most prestigious tournament, where El Sherbini triumphed on home soil in straight-games to seal her second successive World Championship title at just the age of 21.
Both players have a long-standing history with the PSA World Championships, with today marking El Welily’s third appearance in the final and El Sherbini’s fourth. The latter has enjoyed double success at the tournament, reigning victorious in both 2016 and April this year.
Should she win today, World No.1 El Sherbini – who recently claimed the Hong Kong Open title – would seal her third successive PSA World Championship crown and join Australia’s Michelle Martin and Sarah Fitz-Gerald, New Zealand’s Susan Devoy and Malaysia’s Nicol David in the history books with three World titles to her name.
“I think it’s a huge achievement and I’m really proud that if I win I’ll be alongside the names that have won it three times,” said El Sherbini.
“It would be a huge achievement for me and I would love to add this title to my list and to my career.
“Being the World No.1 is a good thing and you always want to achieve that and maintain the same thing. It’s really hard because last year I was No.1 and I didn’t win any major tournament, just the World Championship, so I have to do both at the same time.
“It’s nothing if I’m the No.1 and losing so that’s what I’m trying to do this season. I already won the Hong Kong Open and I’m still No.1 so I’m trying to maintain the same levels and the same performance and just keep going.”
For 28-year-old El Welily a win today would see her lift her maiden World Championship title, however, she has been in familiar territory twice before.
Alexandria-born El Welily reached her first World Championship final in 2014 where she faced Malaysian icon David and held four match-balls before David fought back to claim a historic eighth World Championship title.
El Welily also reached the final last season where she came up against El Sherbini and failed to get her hands on the iconic title once more. However, the 28-year-old says she is feeling more relaxed this time around.
Raneem El Welily (back) and Nour El Sherbini (front) contest April's World Championship final
“I’m feeling really excited to play and I just can’t wait to get on court and enjoy it,” said El Welily.
“It has been great so far and I’m really enjoying the atmosphere here. The crowd has been absolutely fantastic. We play at so many venues with big crowds like here, but the crowd here has been really exciting.
“I was so overwhelmed the last time I played in the finals but I’m not in the same place this time and I’m really excited to play.
“I have been under so much pressure the last time and it didn’t work out so I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as I can and be as relaxed as possible. If you’re tense even 1% against [Nour] El Sherbini then it’s not going to help so I am trying to be as relaxed and as positive as possible and try to carry out the attitude that I have taken throughout the tournament into the final and hopefully it will be a good day for me.
“The pressure is always there somehow and managing it is not very easy but I think this time I’m dealing with it well so far.”
The two Alexandria-born Egyptians know each other’s games well, having played a total of 13 times on the PSA World Tour, with the most recent meeting coming in the final of the Hong Kong Open last month, where El Sherbini got the better of her compatriot.
“We’ve have been playing a lot,” said El Sherbini.
“Not just this season but we played in the last World Championship, we played in Hong Kong and we’re playing again so we definitely know each other’s game and we have trained together here so I’ll just try to mix the plan and change some things.
“I just want to be mentally strong and try to start from the first game and take the lead as much as I can from the first point of the match.
“I know she has been playing well and she is always physically good, she always has a problem from the mental side so I just need to play my squash.”
Despite, falling to defeat in April’s final clash -where the pressure of the home crowd seemed to get the better of her – El Welily insisted she is in a much better place going into today’s final.
“I think I’m playing better squash this year then I was last year,” said World No.2 El Welily.
“I’m showing more character and more attitude and that has helped me a lot in the past tournaments this season, but it is a different day, a different tournament, a different match – anything can happen, so I have no expectations at all. I’m just going in to play my best and see how it goes.
“I’m absolutely not thinking about the last time, I’m hoping it will be completely different this time and the aim is to just take it one point at a time and focus.”
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