Move over Superman, it’s Super Momen in Doha!
Egyptian Tarek Momen plays the game of his life to beat New Zealand’s Paul Coll and lift the world title for the first time.
Even Superman has his limits, especially when he is up against someone as inspired as Tarek Momen, at a venue one could have easily mistaken as being located in his hometown Cairo.
Momen put up an inspirational display to overcome New Zealand’s Paul ‘Superman’ Coll 11-8, 11-3, 11-4 and lift his maiden PSA World Squash Championship title at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex on Friday.
The title showdown had been billed as a battle of wits between two of the world’s best players, but only one of them fired on all cylinders on the day and he was the Egyptian.
Momen’s win created an interesting piece of trivia as he is married to a former world champion — 2017 winner Raneem El Weleily.
The 31-year-old Arab player, appearing in his second straight World Championship final, attacked from the word go and put his opponent on the back-foot, never giving him breathing space. Coll, the first New Zealander in 34 years to make the final, seemed overawed and unsettled by the raucous Egyptian fans.
He fought hard for every point in the first game, but got tired quickly as Momen cleverly placed his shots to different corners of the court.
Trailing 1-5 in the second game, Coll got a bit worked up trying to unwrap spools of plaster taped to his right thigh. Once it came off, he seemed to move a little bit easier, but the heart he showed in earning a come
back semifinal win over Marwan El Shorbagy was clearly missing.
Perhaps, being in his career’s first major final affected the 27-year-old Kiwi as he made several uncharacteristic mistakes.
At the other end, Momen remained calm and composed until the tournament-winning shot. He then fell to his knees, touched his forehead to the court and shed tears of joy.
The tears still flowed as he walked up to the audience area, searching out his wife and hugging her tightly.
He said the whole tournament had been an emotional rollercoaster ride for him.
“I suffered from a specific heel injury which would hurt bad, go away gradually during the game, and return once I’d warmed down. I struggled with it initially, but then learnt to live with it. But it also meant I had the worst-ever preparation for a World Championship. It’s unbelievable that despite all setbacks, I still won the world title at 31. I’d started dreaming about it when I was three,” said Momen, who took home $45,600.
“I usually relax after each win, waiting until next morning to get back into the competitive mood. But that wasn’t the case in Doha. I was tense throughout and the pressure kept mounting. It’s only now, with the trophy in hand, that I’m finally relaxed. It’s been a rollercoaster,” said Momen.
Coll was gracious in defeat.
“Tarek was making me do a lot of work from the first rally. He took me in fast and short and I had to do a lot of lunges. I felt a pain in my leg in the second game and that affected me. But full credit to him as he delivered on the big stage when it mattered the most. At the same time, I’m proud to have put New Zealand back on the world squash map after a long time,” he said.
Qatar Squash Federation President Nasser Ghanim Al Khelaifi and Tournament Director Tareq Darwish Zainal awarded the winners.