By RJ Mitchell
Jonah Barrington has described last week’s women’s U.S. Open as a “stunning tournament” while also hailing champion Nouran Gohar as “unlike any other player on the PSA World Tour.”
The father of the professional game is a huge fan of the women’s tour and has regularly described the current elite as providing the greatest depth of world class quality produced during the professional era in the female game.
But following on from his exclusive review of the men’s championship, the six-time British Open champion reckons that the bristling rivalry between Nouran Gohar and Hania El Hammamy that sparked in the final in Philadelphia will supply a long-lasting rivalry that will continue to light up the women’s game for a considerable time to come.
While Barrington believes that with six nationalities represented in the quarter finals and World No.1 and World Champion Nour El Sherbini dispatched by El Hammamy in their scintillating last four encounter, the depth of world class talent at the top of the women’s game will continue to serve enthralling squash for the foreseeable futures, as new rivalries are forged, and old ones continue to clash.
“What a stunning tournament! A state – of – the – art squash centre and two excellent glass courts set the standard and the players, as they always do, responded,” enthused the seventies squash icon.
“The women’s final was an amazing one both fierce and full of drama, but Nouran Gohar is Nouran Gohar and unlike any other player on the tour.
“From the very start both Nouran and Hania battled for domination in the first and Hania took it to Nouran and refused to relinquish the middle area, Nouran was quite unsettled by the sheer scale of attack and defence and Hania edged into what seemed like a vital lead.
“El Hammamy’s all – round pressure just didn’t allow Gohar to play her usual remorseless game and she was clearly now getting the better of an adversary so accustomed in recent times to dominating procedures.
“But, as I said, Gohar is Gohar and unlike any other on the tour. At 2-7 down in the second she produced a pacey cross court volley nick off a poor service that changed everything, although this ancient observer would have to say that both players were lax in that area and almost treasonable in this respect.
“But all of a sudden Nouran was on the march winning nine successive points to claim the second in what was an unbelievable change of fortune. Indeed, that momentary lapse and poor attention to detail changed the course of the match.
“Gohar came out for the third still running hot and took the first four points, 13 on the spin! El Hammamy finally got back in hand, but Nouran was in typically relentless mode, as only she can be, 10-4 game ball and holed out at 11-7 with Hania continually digging in, making every single rally tough but to no avail.
“The fourth at 11-3 looks like one-way traffic but not a bit of it and we had 16 minutes of terrific cut and thrust, but Gohar had her play and wasn’t going to let go.
“Ultimately it was a furiously feisty encounter with no quarter asked or given and it needed a strong referee and there is nothing wrong with that. Yet it was undoubtedly another manifestation of the plentiful world class squash being produced in every tournament at the top end of the women’s game.
“While the next battle between Nouran and Hania will be most eagerly awaited, I think that perhaps they will not be off on holiday together anytime soon!”
However, while the Gohar/El Hammamy denouement provided a fitting finale to the U.S. Open, there were other performances that caught the eye of the great Barrington.
USA No.3 Olivia Fiechter, whose giant killing run included the slaying of her more celebrated compatriot Amanda Sobhy in the third round, displayed a short game and temperament that impressed the sage Barrington on her run to the semis.
“There were six different nationalities in the women’s quarters, Egypt, France, New Zealand, England, Belgium and the USA but not Amanda (Sobhy) and Olivia Fiechter upsetting the local apple cart there.
“Mention must be made of Melissa Alves making the quarters and keeping the French flag flying high in the absence of Camille Serme.
“But the semis produced another special match up with Nour El Sherbini and El Hammamy. Nour’s classically fluent technique with its hypnotic subtle holds and a much-underestimated athleticism in combat with the hungry Hania, so brilliantly competitive and with that wonderful lithe mobility.
“With Sherbini on course and taking a high quality first game and then Hania edging the next three the margins between victory and defeat were very slight, yet a further example of Hania’s mission to be the best in the world.
“Gohar as expected was much too strong for the giant killing Fiechter, but the young American continued to impress and progress, playing with considerable promise and produced some really excellent short work and such a good temperament against the terminating machine.
“But really the Arlen Specter US Squash Center is simply a stunning venue for squash in the 21st century and I think the players really responded to that and the great atmosphere translated very well on the SquashTV coverage.”
For more information on the rerelease of Jonah’s fascinating three books: “Murder in the Squash Court,’ ‘The Life of Jonah’ and ‘Jonah: The Official Autobiography’ please visit wwwjonahbarrington.com.