Asal Saves Two Match Balls to Reach Maiden U.S. Open Final; El Hammamy Stuns World No. 1 El Sherbini

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Mostafa Asal (l) against Diego Elias

Egypt’s twenty-year-old Mostafa Asal and twenty-one-year-old Hania El Hammamy are both set for their U.S. Open final debuts after Asal saved two match balls in the fifth game and El Hammamy stunned world No. 1 Nour El Sherbini Tuesday, October 6, at the Arlen Specter US Squash Center in Philadelphia.

El Hammamy and El Sherbini opened up the semifinal session with matches all taking place on the Roberts Family Court in front of a packed gallery. El Hammamy had only defeated the five-time world champion once in five previous matches–a seventy-one minute five-game final win at the 2020 Black Ball Open. El Hammamy will now have an opportunity to win her second Platinum title after upsetting her compatriot 8-11, 11-7, 12-10, 11-7 in fifty-nine minutes.

“I’m over the moon with this win, Nour is such an amazing player,” El Hammamy said. “She’s such a legend, a five-time world champion, she’s won almost every single tournament this season, so I tried as much as I can to push and dig deep to stop her from winning this one. I definitely had to push hard and I needed to be consistent with my game plan and I think that made the difference. It would mean a lot to win the U.S. Open. I’ve never reached anything in this tournament, I used to lose in the first or second round. I’m loving the new venue, it’s amazing, I’m loving the court, the atmosphere, the crowd is amazing. You guys give me a huge push.”

The world No. 6 will face defending champion Nouran Gohar–who has defeated El Hammamy three times this year in Platinum semifinals–in the women’s final Wednesday after the world No. 2 ended Olivia Fiechter’s remarkable run to the dismay of the home crowd in three games.

“I’m feeling great, I just love coming back here,” Gohar said. “I have great memories of two years ago, it was amazing. Having the crowd today, even if most of the time they were cheering against me, I love it. I love having a great crowd watching and enjoying the game. It makes me feel really happy and I really appreciate what I’m doing on court because of you guys, so thank you for coming. I just want to say congrats to Olivia on a great tournament. She proved herself to be one of the most dangerous players on tour, not only in this tournament but back in Chicago, too. We practiced one time in Connecticut a month ago and I knew she was coming. She’s a great player and she has a great spirit, so it’s really nice to have her on tour playing like this. When the game is a bit close, it makes it extra special when the crowd is not on your side, so I just wanted to win early points and have a great lead, because I knew even if I’m game ball up, she could come back because of the energy they’re giving.”

Hania El Hammamy celebrates her win over Nour El Sherbini

The men’s U.S. Open trophy will bear a new name–and fifth Egpytian name–in either Asal or world No. 4 Tarek Momen. Both men’s semifinals proved to be 90-minute, five-game marathons.

Asal was on the cusp of a decisive win over world No. 7 Diego Elias, taking the first two games 11-7, 11-8, but the Peruvian turned the match around by commanding the third and fourth games 11-3, 11-2. Asal fought off both a 7-2 deficit in the fifth and two match balls to clinch the match 12-10 in ninety-six minutes.

“I think I want to tell US Squash I want some rest please,” Asal said. “It was a tough match, thank you guys for being here as well. It’s been a pleasure to play in front of the U.S. crowd. I hope you have enjoyed this action and I think we are all giving 150 percent. I came to this tournament with a bit of an injury in my shoulder and trying to fix it in a couple of days after San Francisco. This is a wonderful place to play and a wonderful court. I’m thankful I came through today and played this amazing match. I’m going to recover now and play some FIFA, to relax a little bit. I can’t believe it. I have confidence that I can win the tournament tomorrow, I did before in the World Tour finals. I’m happy to be through and I can’t believe that I was 7-2 down and my body was so loose and flat, to make it and be through to the finals.”

While youth will be well represented in the U.S. Open finals, Momen will bring the experience of one of the PSA Tour’s stalwarts. Momen, who made his U.S. Open debut a decade ago when the event was first held at Drexel University, outlasted an in-form world No. 9 Joel Makin in front of the late-night squash fans 11-9, 5-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-8 in ninety-three minutes. The 2019 U.S. Open semifinalist and 2019 world champion will vie for his second career Platinum title on Wednesday.

“I don’t know [how I kept my mental edge in the fifth]. He’s unreal. He never gives up, it’s one of the best qualities he has and I don’t think anyone on tour has this quality, the way he fights despite being extremely tired and fatigued is just unreal. The way he was fighting kept me going, I was thinking ‘Look at what he’s doing, look how hard he’s pushing, you need to push hard as well.’ I think he just lifted me up today and eventually we gave you guys a two-hour match – I don’t know how long it was. Is it midnight? I’m really proud with how I fought today, the fourth and fifth games were super tough. We were feeling it. It was extremely difficult for both of us and I was hoping, in the fifth, that my shots to the front would give me the edge because we’d done miles and miles on that court.”

Wednesday’s finals begin at 7pm ET.

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