It’s finals day at the Windy City Open Presented by the Walter Family, as the last players standing go for glory in the University Club of Chicago.
After coming from two games down to stun World No.1 Nour El Sherbini last night, women’s World No.3 Hania El Hammamy begins the day’s play against World No.2 Nouran Gohar.
This match is followed by an intriguing clash between Youssef Ibrahim – who is playing in his first Platinum final – and new World No.1 Paul Coll.
Order of Play
(All times are local, GMT-6)
Hania El Hammamy v Nouran Gohar
In an all-Cairo clash, World No.3 Hania El Hammamy takes on former World No.1 Nouran Gohar.
Despite their young age, both players are feared on the tour and at the peak of their powers. El Hammamy showed all her skills and powers of recovery in her huge comeback against El Sherbini, while Gohar is famed for her deadly power and accuracy on court.
At first glance, Gohar is the firm favourite, with the 24-year-old enjoying a convincing 7-1 record over El Hammamy, including a 3-1 win in last year’s U.S. Open final. It would be foolhardy for anyone to discount the 21-year-old, though, with El Hammamy looking convincing against Gohar in the pair’s last meeting, when injury forced Gohar to retire in the semi finals of last year’s CIB Squash Open Black Ball.
With both players looking to capture a first Windy City Open title, expect fireworks!
Gohar is the only player in action today to come into the final with an immaculate record. ‘The Terminator’ has spent 122 minutes on court so far, having beaten Danielle Letourneau, Joshna Chinappa, Georgina Kennedy and Joelle King without dropping a game.
El Hammamy, meanwhile, has accumulated 149 minutes of play. The No.3 seed secured 3-0 wins against Rachel Arnold, Mariam Metwally and Salma Hany, before mounting one of the comebacks of the season in fighting back from two games down to shock top seed Nour El Sherbini 3-2 in 66 minutes.
Despite just one place separating the pair in the World Rankings, SquashLevels make Gohar the firm favourite to win her first Windy City Open title. They give her an 85 percent chance of winning, with 3-1 the expected result.
Can El Hammamy upset the odds once more?
Youssef Ibrahim v Paul Coll
Both men go into their final hunting a personal milestone. Youssef Ibrahim, who is the first unseeded player to make the final since Pakistan’s Yasir Ali Butt in 2012 and today celebrated his 23rd birthday, will be hoping for a special gift in the form of a maiden Platinum title.
29-year-old Paul Coll, meanwhile, goes into the match looking to win his first tournament as the World No.1, with the Kiwi having taken Farag’s crown in the March World Rankings.
Coll may go into the match feeling it’s his to lose; the World No.1 has won all three of the pair’s previous meetings, and is yet to drop a game to Ibrahim.
Ibrahim, though, will surely take confidence from his strong recent form, with the rapidly improving southpaw jumping 18 places in the World Rankings over the last 12 months.
Both men come into the final with some serious time under their belts. While Coll is widely renowned for his superhuman fitness, he may well be feeling the effects of his 3-2 win in an 89-minute epic with Tarek Momen in last night’s semi final. Between that match and his victories over James Willstrop, Adrian Waller and Joel Makin, Coll has spent a total of 242 minutes on court.
Ibrahim’s time on court also stretches into the 200s, with the Egyptian having accumulated 205 minutes of total play. Ibrahim impressed in wins over Leonel Cardenas and Iker Pajares Bernabeu, but it was in his clashes with the ElShorbagy brothers that he captured the squash world’s attention.
Against former World No.1 Mohamed in the third round, Ibrahim fought back from two games down and overturned two match balls to secure a memorable win.
Then, in last night’s semi final, he once again came from behind to beat Mohamed’s brother, No.6 seed Marwan, who had himself downed top seed Ali Farag.
With 16 places separating Coll from Ibrahim in the World Rankings, it is perhaps unsurprising that SquashLevels make the World No.1 the odds-on favourite to claim the title. SquashLevels give Ibrahim just eight percent chance of victory, with a 3-0 Coll win the foreseen result.
Could Ibrahim defy the odds again and make it a birthday to remember?