Former World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy crowned his return to the PSA World Tour with a scintillating performance to capture the Squash On Fire Open title in Washington DC, while Nour El Sherbini came from behind to win her first tournament of the year.
After spending four months away from the Tour, there were concerns that No.1 seed ElShorbagy could be rusty against Joel Makin in his first final since September’s Egyptian Open.
Whilst there were some nervous moments for the 31-year-old earlier in the tournament, today ElShorbagy looked imperious.
Accurate, calculating, and possessing legendary power, ElShorbagy blew World No.8 Makin away in the second half of the first game, quickly moving from a narrow 5-4 lead to take a commanding 11-5 win.
Makin recovered well in the second game and kept the Egyptian within reach with his typical drive and energy and at 9-9, the crucial second game was there for the taking for both men. Despite the best efforts of Makin, who threw himself across the court in a desperate attempt to keep the rally, and his scoring momentum, alive, he could only watch, marooned, as ElShorbagy smashed a winner before wrapping up the 31-minute game 11-9.
Buoyed by this morale-raising win, ElShorbagy continued to attack in the third game and, although the Welshman was able to save one championship ball, he could do little to prevent the resurgent ‘Beast’ from seeing out the match with an 11-8 victory.
After the match, ElShorbagy said that he had come to Squash On Fire looking to make a statement and that he was ready to try to reclaim his World No.1 crown.
““I’m really proud of how I performed here. It’s been a good week for me to win like this. I wanted to try and win three love as well, to send a message that I’m trying to come back again. I’m definitely going for the number one spot. I want to go for it for another time in my career. I know I have it in me. I know I can do it.”
He added: “To be out for four months and come back in your first event, I definitely didn’t feel comfortable at the beginning of the tournament, losing the first game.
“I would say it was my best performance of the tournament, because I had to raise my level. If I played Joel in the semis, I would have probably have had to raise my level the same way.”
Nour El Sherbini
In the women’s final, World No.1 El Sherbini survived a scare from New Zealand’s No.2 seed Joelle King to record a comeback victory.
Ahead of today’s match, El Sherbini boasted a 12-1 record against King, with the Kiwi’s last win coming in the first round of the 2012 U.S. Open.
If King was intimidated by this record, she certainly didn’t show it on court. The 33-year-old came flying out, taking eight unanswered points after falling behind on the way to an 11-6 win.
While El Sherbini still didn’t look her best in the second game, there was a marked improvement on the first, and the Egyptian began to show more of her old accuracy in an 11-8 win.
With the scores level, both players went all out in an 18-minute third game In a nail-biting finish, both players had game ball, before eventually El Sherbini took advantage to claim a 16-14 win.
King battled hard in the fourth, and drew applause from the crowd when she saved two championship balls with the scores at 10-8 to have a game ball of her own at 11-10. King, though, was unable to convert as El Sherbini fired back to take the game 13-11 and the match 3-1.
After the match, El Sherbini said: “I’m feeling really good after a tough match, Joelle played really, really good. She surprised me a little bit, I think she was playing very good squash today. I think I wasn’t 100 percent focused on my game plan and then was up and down the whole match, but I’m happier now that I won.”
“I just tried to relax a bit “[after losing the first game]. I tried to think of what I’m supposed to do and find my myself more I tried just to place myself and be ready for all her shots and to change it a bit in my game plan.
“Today is the only day I can celebrate and then I need to try to forget this week and focus on the next week [for the Windy City Open, which begins 23 February]. So a small celebration today and then I’ll try to regroup and focus for next week.”
Result – Men’s Final: Squash On Fire Open
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Joel Makin (WAL) 3-0: 11-5, 11-9, 11-8 (69m)
Result – Women’s Final: Squash On Fire Open
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 3-1: 6-11, 11-8, 16-14, 13-11 (55m)