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Twenty-year-old Egyptian Nour El Sherbini became the youngest player to win the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions title Thursday night, ending the historic run of Team USA’s Amanda Sobhy in a four-game final at Grand Central Terminal.
The match got off to an edgy start for both players, then at 3-3, El Sherbini pulled away winning seven consecutive points before earning an early advantage 11-4. The Harvard graduate regained composure in a close second game in which the players remained within two points of each other, until Sobhy pulled away at 9-9 to level the match 11-9.
El Sherbini, three-time world junior champion, came out strong in the third game rattling off five points with her impressive shot-making on display. The American world No. 8 clawed back to level the game at 8-8, before earning game ball at 10-9. El Sherbini responded with three straight points to win the third 12-10 and go up 2-1.El Sherbini came out quickly once again in the fourth to go up 6-1, and held off a late come back from the hometown hero to win her first career world series title 11-8.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, I can’t express it, ” said El Sherbini. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling now. This one is really special and to win it is something that I’m never going to forget. We’re all at the same level and we’re all competing and everyone is beating each other.”
The final match up was a display of youth between players who faced off on the world junior stage as recently as 2011, and was the fourth encounter between the players on the PSA Tour with the record now even at 2-2.
“It’s really hard in the top ten now, ” El Sherbini continued. “A lot of the young players are coming, which you can see with me and Amanda being in the final. We used to compete against each other in the juniors.
“I’m really glad that I won this year, I’m really happy.”
Despite the final loss, Sobhy held her head high after her the best tournament of her young career so far. Sobhy’s unlikely run began with an upset over defending champion and world No. 2 Raneem El Welily in the round of sixteen. Sobhy then became the first American to reach the ToC semifinals with an emphatic three-game victory over 2015 finalist and world No. 9 Alison Waters in the semis.
In Wednesday’s semis, Sobhy, world No. 8, held off current world No. 10 and world junior champion Nouran Gohar, who had eliminated world No. 1 Laura Massaro, to reach her first career world series final, and surely not her last.
The Boston-based, Sea Cliff, New York-native was buoyed by a vocal home crowd the entire week into the final, and had the guidance of coach and former world No. 1 Thierry Lincou.
Sobhy lauded the tournament for following the Delaware Investments U.S. Open and Guggenheim Windy City Open for offering prize money parity for the first time.
“It’s an amazing time for women’s squash at the moment, there are so many players at the top of the game playing well and winning titles and to be in a position where we have equal prize money with the men in another major event, and now at all US World Series tournaments, is an incredible achievement for the sport, ” said Sobhy.
“Having parity is fantastic for us and gives us all extra motivation to push ourselves because we work just as hard as the male players do. To have our dedication and hard work recognised in that way is such a boost for all the players on tour.”
On the men’s side, world No. 1 Mohamed Elshorbagy successfully defended his title in a rematch of the 2015 final against world No. 3 Nick Matthew.
Like the 2015 final, Matthew came out on top in the first game, but the Egyptian responded to go up 2-1. Matthew forced a fifth game, where the Englishman produced an uncharacteristic number of unforced errors to help Elshorbagy to reach the title.
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