Ali Farag Overcomes a Determined Paul Coll to Claim the 2021 Oracle NetSuite Open

[Egyptian World No. 1, Ali Farag (l), had his hands full with New Zealand’s Paul Coll]

September 27, 2021

One unfortunate aspect of squash, especially when played at the impressively high level of the PSA World Tour, is that it’s not at all uncommon for errors to become the difference between winning and losing. In each of the first three games in tonight’s final between New Zealand’s Paul Coll and Egypt’s Ali Farag, that proved the be the case.

In the opening game, Coll survived three backhand tins on the left wall, after massively long points, to win it 11-9. Coll’s relentless coverage of the court and unique ability to straighten the ball to length on his backhand side prevented Farag from ever taking full control.

In the second game, it was Farag who overcame an uncharacteristic shot into the bottom of the tin when he was leading 10-9. Fortunately for Farag, a stroke call against Coll, followed by a drop shot just out of Coll’s reach, evened up the match at a game each.

In the third, Coll built a three-point lead to 6-3 before Farag orchestrated a string of long, grinding points, to claw his way back and overcome the deficit to draw even at 7-7. After five more long rallies, each of which ended with errors by one player or the other, Farag had gained control of the match by securing the game, 11-8.

Despite the errors, the quality of squash being played was superior. Both Farag and Coll imposed punishing length and severe drop shots on each other, and both players extended the points with jaw-dropping retrievals. Gasps from the crowd were constant. But, in the end, it was errors rather than winners that were proving to be the difference between success and failure. That is what happens when margins are being cut so close.

The same was true in the fourth game, except that at 5-5, Farag was dictating play to the point where Coll appeared to be running out of answers. While Coll briefly recovered from an 8-5 deficit to draw within a point, Farag closed out the match with timely width that Coll could not answer.

Sixteen times Farag and Coll had faced each other, and Farag had won 14, and most of their matches had extended beyond the 60-minute mark. Tonight their four-game encounter took just over 70 minutes before a packed house that didn’t let an hour-long rain delay dampen their enthusiasm.

“We both like to wear our opponents out,” said Farag afterwards. “We are not the flashiest of players who go for attacking shots, but I think we both did pretty well this week to adapt. I am really proud to be a part of these matches, and I am looking forward to a lot more in the future together.”

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