England's Sarah-Jane Perry retains Oracle NetSuite Open squash title as Farag defeats ElShorbagy
A sublime performance saw Egypt’s Ali Farag defeat World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy in the final of the 2018 Oracle NetSuite Open to claim his first major title in nine months as England’s Sarah-Jane Perry stunned World Champion Raneem El Welily to successfully retain her title.
Farag, who lost four of five meetings with ElShorbagy during the 2017/18 campaign, underlined his intention to challenge his compatriot for the coveted World No.1 ranking spot this season with a clinical display that saw him nullify ElShorbagy’s power and pace to prevail an 11-9, 13-11, 4-11, 11-9 winner.
There was little to separate the pair as they battled it out for 64 minutes of spell binding action on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, trading points tit-for-tat during a series of physically punishing rallies to the delight of the crowd. But it was Farag who settled quicker, using his relaxed attacking style to edge a tight opening game, before doubling the lead courtesy of a dramatic second-game tie-break.
ElShorbagy replied in style to dominate the third game before Farag once again enjoyed the better of the exchanges in the fourth to come through and win his first tournament since February’s Swedish Open.
“I’m feeling great right now, I’m very, very happy to have won this title,” said Farag.
“Tonight against Mohamed I had to be on my mettle throughout. He’s a great champion and such a determined fighter – which he showed even when I was ahead in the fourth game, so I’m very glad I managed to get this last few points.”
After storming through the women’s draw to book a place in the final without dropping a game El Welily, the 29-year-old World No.2, picked up where she left off during the opening exchanges of the women’s final as she raced into an early 6-1 lead to set up what looked certain to be a comfortable opening first game.
But World No.8 Perry responded to the challenge, finding her own lethal streak mid-way through to swing the game on its head and take the opener 11-9 against the run of play. Buoyed by her comeback in the first, Perry continued to enjoy a purple patch as she dominated the second to double her advantage – leaving El Welily searching for a way to stop the onslaught.
The Egyptian though responded in kind, lifting her level once again to engage Perry in rally after rally of physically testing and tactically probing squash. With the finishing line in sight at 9-7 though a series of errors from the racket of Perry gifted El Welily a reprieve, and she took full advantage to gain a lifeline on the scoreboard before taking the fourth in just eight minutes to level the scores.
The crucial fifth and final game began with a series of cat-and-mouse exchanges with little to separate them but from 4-4 Perry turned the screw to set up match ball at 10-4. A series of sumptuous winners saw El Welily threaten to extend the match into a tie-break but Perry finally sealed the match, and her second Oracle NetSuite Open title, 11-9, 11-7, 9-11, 7-11, 11-7.
“I’m speechless,” said Perry afterwards. “She was making me work so hard and any time there was even a slight chance she was punishing me.
“I had to play as clever as I have ever done before and I was absolutely knackered in that fifth game but I just forced myself to keep pushing. I knew I was playing well and that I didn’t have to chance much tactically, I just had to execute.
“But even at 10-4 up she was coming back and she hit some fantastic shots to get it back to 10-7 so there was a lot of relief at the end alongside the elation.”
Result – 2018 Women’s Oracle NetSuite Open Final
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 3-2: 11-9, 11-7, 9-11, 7-11, 11-7 (57m)
Result – 2018 Men’s Oracle NetSuite Open Final
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-1: 11-9, 13-11, 4-11, 11-9 (64m)