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Women's Matches of the Year

As we come to the end of 2020, we are taking a look back at one of the strangest years in recent history, and this time, it is the best matches of the year.

In the first of this two-part piece, we will focus on the women’s game, which has seen shocks, spoils and triumphs throughout the last twelve months.

Former World No.1 Raneem El Welily announced her retirement in the summer, as she is expecting her first child with husband Tarek Momen. A few months later, Nour El Tayeb announced similar news, but she is hoping to come back to the tour once her’s and husband Ali Farag’s baby is born.

Nouran Gohar took over the World No.1 mantle before Nour El Sherbini came to the fore once again, with the four-time World Champion ending the year as the best in the women’s game.

But what about the matches of the year then? Well, there have been some absolute crackers, both before and after the tour’s six-month suspension, and our panel of experts have selected their top five.

5. Raneem El Welily v Nour El Tayeb – CIB Black Ball Women’s Squash Open Quarter-Final

At No.5, it’s a match between the two leading ladies who are now expecting future squash champions, Raneem El Welily and Nour El Tayeb, and their wonderful contest in the quarter-finals of the CIB Black Ball Women’s Squash Open.

The pair were meeting for the 23rd, and ultimately the last, time on the PSA World Tour, with the World No.1 coming into this clash holding the 14-8 advantage over her younger compatriot.

It was El Tayeb that started the stronger of the two though, taking the first game, but she would then have to fight from behind as El Welily took both the second and third by an 11-9 scoreline.

However, it would be the ‘Black Widow’ that took the victory, as she won the fourth on a tie-break to stay in the match, before taking the final game 11-9 to win a gruelling battle in just over 70 minutes.

[5] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt [1] Raneem El Welily (EGY) 3-2: 11-9, 9-11, 9-11, 12-10, 11-9 (72m)

4. Nour El Tayeb v Hania El Hammamy – CIB World Tour Finals Final

Coming in at No.4 on our list of the best matches of the 2020 calendar year is another clash featuring Nour El Tayeb, this time up against the rising starlet Hania El Hammamy, with the pair facing off in the final of the season-ending CIB PSA World Tour Finals in Cairo.

El Tayeb came into this one having only lost once to the 20-year-old in seven matches on the PSA World Tour, and it looked like she would be taking this clash, and with it the title, with relative ease, after winning the first two games 11-9.

However, ‘the Gazelle’ was having none of it, and as the sport’s newest major winner, having gone the distance at the CIB Black Ball Women’s Squash Open six months earlier, she knew she could fight her way back to win again.

That is exactly what El Hammamy did, coming back from two games down to win 3-2, finishing strongly to restrict her fellow Egyptian to just seven points in the final two games. As a result of the victory, she made a move inside the top six in the World Rankings.

[5] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt [2] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 3-2: 9-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-3 (81m)

3. Camille Serme v Hania El Hammamy – Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family Third Round

The second of three matches in our top five to feature the young El Hammamy is one of several clashes with Camille Serme, in what is one of the newest rivalries in the women’s game.

The pair had already met twice in the 2019-2020 season, with Serme winning in straight games at the Open de France – Nantes, while a month later, the young Egyptian had fought back from two games down to shock the Frenchwoman in the quarter-finals of the CIB PSA Women’s World Championship in front of the Pyramids.

Unsurprisingly, this one ebbed and flowed, with Serme, the then-World No.3 taking the first game 11-7. It was never going to be easy for the Frenchwoman, though, with El Hammamy winning both the second and third, the former on a tie-break, to take the advantage in the match.

‘La Panthere’ had to save match balls in the fourth game, before winning it 14-12, and she went on to eventually claim the victory after more than 80 minutes of scintillating action in the Cathedral Hall of the University Club of Chicago.

The pair would go on to face each other four more times in 2020, They battled at the CIB Black Ball Women’s Squash Open, the Manchester Open, CIB PSA World Tour Finals and the CIB Egyptian Open, with El Hammamy winning three of those remaining four clashes. It is a rivalry that could go on for a few more years yet.

[5] Camille Serme (FRA) bt [9] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 3-2: 11-7, 10-12, 7-11, 14-12, 11-9 (81m)

2. Nour El Sherbini v Hania El Hammamy – CIB Black Ball Women’s Squash Open Final

One of the defining moments on the squash calendar in 2020 came in the final of the CIB Black Ball Women’s Squash Open, as Hania El Hammamy announced herself to the world as the sport’s newest superstar, as she downed four-time World Champion Nour El Sherbini to win the title in Cairo.

Coming into the final, the 20-year-old had already knocked out three higher-ranked players, in Camille Serme, Amanda Sobhy and Sarah-Jane Perry, and she was full of confidence. It showed early on, as she took the first game 11-6.

From then on, the match turned this way and that, with both players trying to get themselves in front. It eventually went to a deciding game, where ‘the Gazelle’ took it on a tie-break, with both players having match balls.

El Hammamy became the sport’s newest major winner, and used the victory as a platform, moving inside the top five in the World Rankings come the end of 2020, after she won the CIB PSA World Tour Finals.

[9] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt [4] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-2: 11-6, 9-11, 12-10, 8-11, 13-11 (71m)

1. Camille Serme v Nouran Gohar – J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions Semi-Final

Our choice for women’s match of the year takes us right back to the very first televised tournament of 2020, the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, held in the stunning Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal.

Serme had already knocked out World No.1 Raneem El Welily to reach the last four, and she came up against the woman that would take the top spot in the World Rankings after El Welily retired in the summer, Nouran Gohar.

The Frenchwoman never found herself with the advantage in the match until the very end, as she had to fight her way back into the contest having gone behind twice.

However, ‘La Panthere’ was able to take the match into a deciding game, and what a game it was. It went deep into a tie-break, with both players having chances to win the match and book a place in the final.

It was Serme that did so, winning the final game on a tie-break 16-14, and she would go on to win the Platinum level event after beating Nour El Sherbini in the final. It was her first major triumph in three years, after winning the same title back in 2017.

[5] Camille Serme (FRA) bt [3] Nouran Gohar (EGY) 3-2: 7-11, 11-9, 9-11, 12-10, 16-14 (78m)

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