Teenage sensation Nouran Gohar confirmed her talent and Ramy Ashour reminded the world of his as the Egyptian pair lifted the crowns at the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Squash Open on Sunday.
It was the maiden World Series title for the 18-year-old Gohar, undoubtedly the rising star of the game, while for the Ashour it was the first since 2013 – and his third in Hong Kong overall – as the 28-year-old put a few years of injury woes well behind him with the victory.
Gohar recovered from a slow start in her final against Amanda Sobhy as the 23-year-old American poured on the pressure early.
But at one game and 4-10 down in the second, the Egyptian steeled herself for battle and ground her way back into the contest before winning 6-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-8.
Gohar had ended the 10-year run in Hong Kong of Malaysian star Nicol David in the semi-finals and she showed flashes of her idol’s composure, not the least in that second game when things were going wrong.
It was testament to Gohar’s talent – and, she said afterwards, the support she had received from someone very close to home – that the world number five was able to refocus, given the enormity of the situation at this stage of her career, and of her life.
“Tired, exhausted but really happy,” was the immediate response. “I can’t believe it. I was just trying to take it one match at a time here, to play my best squash each match and not think about the title. It worked in the end.
“At 4-10 I was just thinking I didn’t want to lose 3-0, so I just concentrated even harder. My mother was there, cheering me on and supporting me.
“She is the reason behind every achievement I have in life, not just in squash. She understands me more than I understand myself. She didn’t plan to come, but without her I couldn’t do it.”
Ashour was another who’d come to Hong Kong not really giving himself a chance after working his way – slowly – back to full fitness after a few years of injury struggles.
The world number 12 found compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad in a stubborn mood in the final, but relied on his trademark flashes of pure magic to eventually win 11-9, 8-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-6.
“I played against a very tough opponent today – he is one of my favourite players on tour to watch, but not so much to play,” said Ashour.
“Coming back from injury is often a story of how much you want it, and I want it very much.
“It’s the only thing I want to do in my life, it fulfils everything I need inside of me. It is such a blessing to be back and I want to keeping doing this for as long as I can.”