The final event of the year will be the CIB Squash Open Black Ball, as the PSA World Tour returns to the Black Ball Sporting Club once again, this time for a Gold level tournament.
The last time we had a PSA World Tour Gold level event at the Black Ball Sporting Club was twelve months ago, when the event ran for twelve days last December, with the women’s tournament being followed by the men’s draw.
There was plenty of action, along with some shocks along the way, as England’s Sarah-Jane Perry and Egypt’s Fares Dessouky both claimed the biggest titles of their respective careers.
This is the story of how the 2020 CIB Black Ball Squash Open went.
Naughton and Sobhy Make Second Round
The first round of both tournaments ran over two days, and in the opening couple of days of the women’s tournament, and the North American pairing of Hollie Naughton and Sabrina Sobhy both took down seeded players.
The American took on World No.10 Salma Hany in the first round, and proceeded to take a well-earned two game lead, with the momentum firmly in her favour after taking the second on a tie-break 13-11.
However, the Egyptian, who made it through to the final of the Oracle NetSuite Open in September 2021, fought her way back to send the match into a decider, but it was Sobhy that took the win after an hour’s play, claiming the fifth game 11-9.
Elsewhere, Canadian No.1 Hollie Naughton took down No.13 seed Rowan Elaraby in a four-game duel, despite having gone behind. She came back from a game down to win 3-1 in 40 minutes to book her place in the last 16.
Gilis And El Hammamy Play Match Of The Season Contender
Arguably the match of the tournament, and one of the matches of the season, came in the second round of the CIB Black Ball Squash Open, as Nele Gilis and Hania El Hammamy did battle for an hour and a half.
The pair, who are very similar in both physique and the way they play, could barely be separated over the first four games, with three of those going all the way to tie-breaks, as El Hammamy took a two-game lead.
The young Egyptian, who made her big breakthrough at this very event when she claimed the title in March 2020, found herself in front after winning both the first two games by a 12-10 scoreline, but the Belgian No.1 fought back.
Gilis would not be beaten easily, and she came back to win both the third and fourth games, with the third going all the way to 13-11. She then won the fourth 11-9 to send the match into a decider, but it was eventually El Hammamy that took the win, after 89 minutes of action, to keep her title defence on track.
Gohar Survives Two Five-Gamers
World No.2 Nouran Gohar had to fight her way through the opening two rounds of the tournament, as she went to five against both compatriot Farida Mohamed and England’s Alison Waters, and even had to save match balls in her opening round of the competition.
Her first round contest with Mohamed did not go her way to begin with, as ‘the Terminator’ found herself two games down in quick time, as the then-World No.35 took the first two games 11-9 and 11-8.
Gohar fought back though, and managed to the contest all the way to a decider, as she won both the third and fourth against Mohamed, who made her breakthrough with a win over Joelle King in the March edition of the tournament.
The World No.2 eventually got over the line to make it through to the second round, as she defended match balls before taking the final game 16-14, to book her place in the last 16 against England’s Alison Waters.
Once again, she went all the way to a fifth game tie-break with the Englishwoman, as the No.14 seed came back from behind twice to send it to a decider. Gohar got over the line again, winning it 14-12 to reach the quarter finals of the competition.
Sobhy Takes Down Top Seed El Sherbini
The top eight seeds all made it through to the quarter finals of the CIB Black Ball Squash Open, but from there, only one of the top four seeds would reach the semi-finals, with the biggest shock seeing the World No.1 knocked out of the tournament.
In an evening of surprises, US No.1 Amanda Sobhy got the better of World No.1 Nour El Sherbini to book her place in the semi-finals of the CIB Black Ball Squash Open in Cairo.
The American had not gotten the better of the ‘Warrior Princess’ since 2016, and she made it difficult for herself in this contest, as she found herself behind after both the first and third games.
After El Sherbini had taken the lead on both of those occasions, the American fought back, and it went to a decider, where Sobhy took the win with an 11-9 scoreline to book her spot in the last four.
Elsewhere, Hania El Hammamy was the only member of the top four seeds to make it through, while Joelle King and Sarah-Jane Perry also caused upsets, defeating Nouran Gohar and Camille Serme, respectively.
Perry Comes Back From the Brink To Beat El Hammamy
The final of the 2020 CIB Black Ball Squash Open saw England’s Sarah-Jane Perry take on Egypt’s Hania El Hammamy, the defending champion, and it was an absolute thriller.
The young Egyptian started quickly, in her aim to retain her title, and found herself two games to the good, before also holding a lead in the third. However, Perry was able to win that third game to keep the contest alive.
The Englishwoman then had to save match balls in the fourth game, before taking it 12-10 on a tie-break to send an enthralling match into a deciding game. Both women looked to take the momentum in the final game of the event, but it was eventually Perry that secured the biggest title of her career, as she won the fifth 11-9 to down the defending champion.
Rodriguez, Asal and Elias All Survive First Round Five-Gamers
The first round of the men’s tournament saw plenty of lengthy contests, and three of the big names had to survive five-game battles, with Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez coming through one of those, against Egypt’s Youssef Soliman.
The pair did battle for 84 minutes on the opening day of the men’s event, less than 16 hours after Perry had claimed the victory in the women’s tournament. Rodriguez found himself behind after the first game, before leading 2-1. Soliman came back to send it into a decider, but the former British Open champion advanced.
There were also close contests for Mostafa Asal and Diego Elias, who both also needed to go the distance in their first round clashes with Mahesh Mangaonkar and England’s Declan James, respectively.
Makin & Willstrop Go Toe-to-Toe
The Welsh and English No.1s went head-to-head in the second round, and it was another battle that Went down as one of the matches of the season, and also produced an infamous triple dive.
Makin took the first, but the former World No.1 then found himself in front after the third game and it looked like he was about to cause one of the shocks of the tournament.
However, the Welshman was able to fight off his fellow Brit to take the victory, fighting back to win the fourth on a tie-break, before then taking the fifth to book his place in the quarter finals of the competition.
Asal Shocks Coll Once Again
Along with the epic Makin & Willstrop contest, there were three other five-game battles in the second round of the tournament, with the biggest surprise coming as Mostafa Asal got the better of Paul Coll for the second time in quick succession.
The pair had battled it out for 103 minutes at the CIB Egyptian Open, where Asal eventually took the victory, leading to one of the most outrageous celebrations the sport has ever seen.
Perhaps not a surprise, but their second meeting on Tour also went to five, and once again, it would be the ‘Raging Bull’ that got the better of ‘Superman’.
Both players took the lead during the match at the Black Ball Sporting Club, but it was eventually Asal that took the victory, winning after an epic 85-minute battle, to secure his quarter final spot.
Dessouky Defeats Gawad, Elias & Momen To Reach Final
The tournament’s No.9 seed, Fares Dessouky, caused several shocks in the tournament, starting with a win over Karim Abdel Gawad in the second round of the competition.
He beat the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’ in five, before then using another upset in a lengthy four-game battle with Peru’s Diego Elias, as the pair were on court for more than 75 minutes in their last eight battle.
In the semis, Dessouky came up against compatriot, and the then-reigning World Champion, Tarek Momen, and it was the lower-ranked of the two Egyptians that would come out on top.
Dessouky took the lead after the third game, but then scored just a single point in the fourth and it looked as if ‘the Viper’ had the momentum to take the victory. However, ‘Fearless Fares’ was able to continue his knockout run by taking the fifth 11-7 to reach the final.
Dessouky Downs Farag In Five
That epic run continued in the final, as Dessouky came up against World No.1 Ali Farag, and again, it was the lower-seeded man that took the win, and with it, the biggest title of his fledgling career to date.
It was Farag that got off to a lightning start, and he was two games ahead in quick time, but that was not the end of matters, as Dessouky came roaring back.
He took the third game to swing the momentum in his favour, before then taking the fourth game 11-8 to level the contest at two games apiece. That run kept going, and after beating Karim Abdel Gawad, Diego Elias and Tarek Momen, Dessouky defeated top seed Ali Farag to win the biggest title of his career.