Paul Coll becomes first New Zealander to win British Open men’s squash title
A “super proud” Paul Coll made history by becoming the first New Zealander to win the prestigious British Open squash title.
The 29-year-old third seed defeated world champion Ali Farag (Egypt) 6-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-8 in 65 minutes, breaking a 1-13 win / loss record for winning his biggest title of his career at Hull on Sunday (Monday morning, New Zealand time).
Coll, from Greymouth, joins Dame Susan Devoy and Leilani Joyce, the two New Zealand winners of the tournament.
Only the second New Zealand man to advance to the final – and the first since Ross Norman’s loss in 1986 – Coll struck the air with delight after his winning shot in Game 4 to win the top prize of 32,000 $ NZ.
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The fourth-largest player in the world rushed to call his tearful girlfriend Nele in Amsterdam and his parents Julie and Michael in Greymouth after his historic victory before receiving the trophy on the pitch.
Coll told the crowd he was “super proud and super happy” to win the most prestigious squash tournament outside of the world championships.
“It’s been a long journey for me to be afraid of juniors as I had to leave home at a young age,” said Coll, who moved from Greymouth to Christchurch as a schoolboy to pursue his dream of squash.
“This moment here is worth it. “
Coll said it was “really special” to have your coach and a good friend next to the court, and said “my parents were supposed to be here, but due to Covid they obviously can’t travel” .
“I just want to thank everyone in New Zealand who has helped me throughout my career, to get me to this point. There are too many people to make out, but thank you all, and I would like to thank all of New Zealand for getting up at 2am to watch … ”
When asked if he has dreamed of winning the British Open since he was a child, Coll said his journey was “probably a little different for everyone”.
“I didn’t start my squash until a little later. I went through the juniors with Ali [Farag] and he probably would have beaten me 3-0 11-0 in every game [back then].
“This is the pinnacle of squash apart from the world championships, getting my first major title here against a good friend and one of the best players in the world means everything to me.”
Coll said his girlfriend Nele Gilis (a talented Belgian squash player) at her home in Amsterdam was crying when he called and then “called my parents and they were crying too”.
He was also grateful to his sponsors who had “become friends with me” and to the sponsors of the tournament for hosting the British Open “in such difficult times”.
The victory cements Coll’s place at the top of world squash after defeating four-time British Open champion Mohamed ElShorbagy in the semifinals and Farag – a two-time world champion in search of his first British Open title – in the match for the gold medal.
In the final, Coll slowly began to try to find his length, dropping the opener 6-11 and struggling to stay in the trade.
Coll, the third seed, became more aggressive in the second and third games and put pressure on the Egyptian. After winning games two and three, Coll entered the fourth with confidence as Farag pushed desperately and was able to stay close to Coll after winning a number of brutal rallies.
Coll, however, might just be the best suited player for this type of game, such is his physical form. The world No.4 was content to exchange long exchanges with Farag, finally winning the match, and the championship, with a well-deserved 11-8 victory.
Coll’s victory was New Zealand squash’s biggest result in over 20 years.
Dame Susan Devoy won the women’s British Open title eight times – seven in a row – between 1984 and 1992, and Leilani Joyce was the women’s champion in 1999 and 2000.
Ross Norman lost to 10-time champion Jahangir Khan in three games in the 1986 men’s final.
Sporting success is in the blood of the Coll family. Paul’s late uncle Tony Coll was a captain of the West Coast, South Island and the Kiwis in the 1970s and was renowned for his physical form.
The women’s final saw Egyptian world No.1 Nour El Sherbini win her third British Open title after coming back from 2-1 to win 9-11, 13-11, 5-11, 11-7, 11-2 against World No. 2 and 2019 champion Nouran Gohar.