TODAY at the El Gouna International
02-Apr, Qualifying Begins
The 2015 edition of the El Gouna International got under way
today with eight first round matches at the Movenpick Hotel.
There was Egyptian interest in seven of today's first round
matches, with wins for three of them, including an upset over
Ong Beng Hee by Ali Farag. Qualifying round one
Check out the match reports below, and
today's photo gallery
Qualifying round one, top half:
(Fin) 3-0 Basem Makram
11/9, 11/4, 11/3 (26m)
Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 Ong Beng Hee (Mas)
11/4, 11 /6, 11/5 (26m)
Alan Clyne (Sco) 3-0 Adham Maher (Egy)
11/2, 11/6, 11/3 (22m)
Mohamed Abouelghar (Egy) 3-0 Shehab Essam (Egy)
11/7, 12/10, 11/8 (33m)
Leo Au (Hkg) 3-1 Peter Creed (Wal)
6/11, 11/6, 11/1, 11/6 (50m)
Mohamed Reda (Egy) 3-1 Ahmed Hussein (Egy)
6/11, 12/10, 11/4, 11/9 (42m)
Joe Lee (Eng) 3-1 Andrew Wagih (Egy)
7/11, 11/9, 11/3, 11/6 (50m)
Gregoire Marche (Fra) 3-0 Mazen Gamal (Egy)
11/5, 11/6, 11/6 (27m)
HAPPY TO BE BACK SAYS OLLI
a few niggles here and there, the Flying Finn was back in action
today. But he got a bit taken by surprise by his opponent fast
hands – a 29 year old Egyptian with a few tricks in his squash
bag and got down 6/0 within minutes!
Still, no panic, Olli just pushed on the pedal, made the rallies
harder and longer, and forced a few errors at the end of the
first game, from 8/9, three tins for Basem, 11/9 for Olli. The
following two games were much more comfy for the 35 years old,
formerly WR13, now 34, with Basem getting more and more tired as
the rallies went along…
had a few problems this autumn, with my calves, and had to
withdraw as well from Chicago, which was a pain. But now, I’m
back in form, been training for a few weeks now. It’s good to
get my strength back and good to be moving well on court. I just
hope I can play well tomorrow.
"Yes, at the start, he got some really good shots, it went very
quickly, nothing I could do really, so I didn’t panic, and just
kept going. It’s nice to win 3/0, if I had lost the first game,
it would have been a problem."
"I have stopped playing on the PSA Tour for three years, and
been working in Cairo, coaching the National U19 team and a few
players. Now I am back to try and improve my rankings – I give
myself about 2 years more on the Tour – because I would like to
have a chance to qualify for the World Champs in Bellevue, in
ALI SUPERB, BH NOT SO
don’t think this will be Beng Hee’s best ever squash memory.
Having spent a few weeks taking care and enjoying his daughter
Jannelle growing up, Beng Hee was maybe not at the top of his
fitness. Now ranked 41 at 35, he was facing a hungry 22 years
old, in front of his home crowd. And nothing is more dangerous
than a young Egyptian playing home…
Ali spent a few years in Harvard, playing the US Colleges
Leagues and graduated with a Mechanical Engineering back in May
2014. Since then, he got engaged to Nour El Tayeb, and is
serving his Military in Cairo, a duty he’ll have to perform
until December 2015.
match today was superb, well for a game and a half. No up and
down the wall, no observation round, no trying to run the other
one out. Just pure squash, inventive, varied, pace, angle,
height. So beautiful. And if BH lost the first game rather
quickly, he was in control in the 2nd, and it looked like we
were going to have a long battle.
But at 6/3, BH just run out of gas and allowed Ali to just run
away with the score, 8 points in a row. The third was pretty
much “une promenade de santé”, a stroll in the park for the
young Egyptian, only too happy to show his family and friends
that how talented with a racquet he is…
“TOO FAST FOR ME” says
superb smile, and a resigned calm: “I couldn’t do anything” said
the 17 years old from Alexandria. The truth to be told, I had
never seen Alan Clyne played that fast!!!! He was turning and
twisting the poor boy like a maniac, and never let him a chance
to get into any kind of rhythm.
Adham doesn’t have a “silly junior game” at all. He is patient
and tries and builds rallies up, but my Lord Alan was on fire,
shooting with all guns, killing the ball and pushing his
opponent in the four corners. Game time: 7m, 6 and 6…
am trying to bring that element at the front into my game, and
especially on this court, which is very dead. Yesterday we
played on there, but it was much warmer, the air con makes a big
difference today. And I know that later in the tournament if I
get to qualify, I will need to play well at the front, so I was
trying to practice…
Last year, the Commonwealth was massive, an event we were
building up for four years, so after that, I had to take a
little break, because I knew I was not going to be able to play
well, I don’t think I would have been anyway. But since January,
it’s been going rather well, the rankings are going in the right
direction, so I’ll keep working…
couldn’t afford to play silly today against his compatriot
Sheham Essam, as they train at the same place in Cairo Stadium,
they sometimes play together and more importantly, they are
watching each other play. And today, Sheham was not fooled or
surprised or afraid of Abouelghar.
And it showed.
The first two games could have gone either way, and the pace was
frantic, as you may imagine. First game was only 8m, the second
was crucial, with not much between them the whole way. Abou, who
didn’t make many errors up to them, of course tinned his first
game ball, to allow a decider 10/10, but soon got himself a
second one, 11/10. A superb long/intense rally, truly lovely,
and a nice winner to finish for Abou, 12/10 in 13m.
third was still intense but Sheham was now tired, and although
he kept fighting each point, he started to make unforced errors,
I counted 4. Now in control, Abou got his game match ball at
10/6, another long/superb rally, ending by a tin for Abou.
Another tin would follow, and it’s only on the third match ball
that the 21 years old, ranked 30, finally beat the 19 years old,
"Since I graduated, I have been
doing my military, but there is still a lot of time to train
thank God. And I’m working to get back in the game, slowly
slowly, step by step. I hope I can get to the World Champs,
sometimes the Military give us permission, sometimes they don’t,
we’ll just have to see and keep everything crossed.
"I am still based in Cairo, living in my parents house. Nour and
I intend to marry in the middle of next year, we haven’t decided
yet exactly when. She is so supportive, it’s so nice to have
somebody always bursting in energy, she is such an addition to
my life, I’m am so grateful for that, and I hope I can keep that
There is no easy match now….
It’s always like that when you play an Egyptian: you can never
shake them off. We know each other’s game well, even it was the
first time we played in PSA. We are the same age, so I’m sure
we’ll play a lot in the future.
I knew that if I was putting thing away, he would as well, so I
tried and kept it as tight as I could, until I had a chance to
Now, a nice rest day tomorrow, trying to refocus for my match
against Alan Clyne….
"I’m not sure how
I kept my focus or won the match, but the fact that Tom was
there was a great help. There was a feel of familiarity with his
presence, it was like he was a reminder of the process we’ve
been through for all those years, and of the training we do day
"The first two were quite nervy, messy shots, a bit too much
contacts, I really needed that second game, it relaxed me to
have won it. I kept as calm as I could after that…
"It was not my best performance, but I’m proud I won it, as it
was potentially a very dangerous game. And I’m not sure I would
have won it a few years back…"
Je ne le connaissais pas, et on doit toujours se méfier d’un
joueur local ici, car c’est potentiellement un danger, il faut
toujours le prendre au sérieux, et c’est ce que j’ai fait
Je suis très content de la semaine que j’ai passé ici, Ali Farag
m’a invité chez lui, et j’ai été traité comme un prince,
vraiment. Je suis arrivé un peu inquiet, car j’avais été blessé
à l’aisne, et donc je n’avais pas joué depuis plusieurs jours.
Mais petit à petit, je me suis remis dedans, j’ai joué
tranquille, et ce qui est vraiment bien, c’est que j’ai pu jouer
de vrai matches, avec de vraies conditions de tournois. Ca m’a
remis un peu de volume dans les jambes, après un début d’année
un peu brouillon on va dire. Mais là, j’ai bien bossé, et ça m’a
redonné confiance. Dommage que je joue Ali en finale des qualifs,
on avait réussi à s’éviter au premier tour, mais on avait une
chance sur 8 de se jouer. Alors, ça va être très dur de le jouer,
surtout que c’est vraiment devenu un ami. Il va falloir oublier,
et gagner quand même…
PETER IN CONTROL, BUT THEN…
This was a weird match. Peter Creed seemed in perfect control of
the match, and truly played an excellent squash to start with,
taking the initiative, along with the opening game 11/6, forcing
4 errors out of Leo.
then, he seemed to well, melt down really. Second, he went down
9/2 before getting his good length back, and get accurate on the
backhand, only losing 11/6. Third, he didn’t show up, 11/1, and
fourth again, he waited until 8/1 to start injecting some
energy/intention in his shots.
I’ve seen what Peter can do, and today was a truly bad day at
the office – in my opinion. I saw him touch his right knee
several times. Maybe a trouble there?
As for Leo, he didn’t do anything special, or force it. He just
kept his head, and played a serious and focused game today.
losing the first game I realised I was playing at the pace he
likes to play and was opening the court too much for him. So I
tightened my length up, and as you said, didn’t do anything
special, just narrowing his choices.
It’s my first time in Egypt, and I didn’t know what to expect
really. I cannot believe how great this place is, it’s such a
TOO CLOSE FOR
underestimate an Egyptian, and especially not playing on home
soil. Today, Ahmed Hussein played an excellent squash, and
waaaaaay above his ranking of 252! At 22, there is a lot of room
for improvement, and he showed today he’s got the talent to
threaten the top guys.
He was facing Mohamed Ali (steve, please link to En brefs) now
settled in Philadelphia, and just back in Egypt for the
occasion. He had a lot of support, and I feel that made the
difference tonight, he just wouldn’t lose in front of his
game, Ahmed was just too good, too fast, and wrong footed
Mohamed on a regular basis, taking the opening game 11/6. And
the match would have probably had a different outcome had he
taken his game ball at 10/9 in the second. But a lovely winner
from Takashi/Reda and a few wrong footing shots, and the Philly
man took the second 12/10.
Third was all about Takashi being in control while Ahmed was
catching his breath. Fourth, Ahmed refreshed and a close game,
3/3, 4/4, 5/5. Takashi finds his groove, 10/6 match ball. But a
few nerves on one side, while the other side has got nothing to
lose anymore, and it’s only on his 4th match ball that Takashi
takes the match, 11/9 in the 4th, to the “grand soulagement de
son camp”, breath of relief of his support camp…
a habit of mine I feel, my first match in a tournament is awful,
it was the same last year, and it’s been the same for a few
months, I’m just too random in that first round. But he is very
talented, he goes for a lot of great shots, and I was not
reacting at the beginning, I was like a rock. After that, maybe
I was a bit better physically, and my shots started to get in.
It’s not a perfect match, but it’s a good match to win at the
beginning of the tournament…
JOE HAS IMPROVED
match that one. Andrew - the worst taxi driver EVER, bless his
lovely car but a heart of gold – was far far far too excited
when he started the match. Having been injured over the past 3
months, he didn’t feel that secured physically, and just asked
too much from himself, commenting – in Arabic – every error, far
too loudly, far too intensely, for his opponent’s sake, but
mostly for himself.
After taking the first game, he grew even more intense,
especially as Joe was playing better and better, taking the ball
away from him, increasing his frustration. Too much contact, not
a pleasant match it was becoming.
At the start of the 3rd, as we were 1 game all, the Central Ref
had a word with the Egyptian, explaining that the game had gone
too physical, and too loud. He asked Andrew to calm down and
“play the game in the spirit intended”. He was right to do so.
that moment on, the game became a much more pleasant one for us
to watch, although it was hard for Andrew to accept what was
told to him. He lost 10 points in a row, losing the game 11/3.
If Joe was now firmly in control, both mentally and squash wise,
Andrew gave it a big push, refocused in the 4th, but was a bit
short physically I felt – I guess the lack of preparation due to
his injury was a lot to do with it. A very solid Joe takes the
match 11/6 in the 4th, I personally was impressed by his
maturity, and the improvement he’s made on himself, his mental
focus and strength, over the past 5 years.
LITTLE GREG TO
If Mazen Gamal, 29, is now very low in the rankings, 344, he was
97 a few years back, and you can never underestimate an Egyptian
That’s what Little Greg had in mind when he played him today,
and never gave his opponent a chance to settle into the match.
didn’t know him, and you’ve got to be aware of a local here, as
it’s potentially trouble. You cannot take them for granted, and
I made sure I took gave him all due respect.
I’m over the moon with the week I just spend in Cairo, Ali Farag
invited me and treated me like a king really. I was a bit
worried when I arrived, as I had a bit of a groin injury, and
was out of squash for a few days.
slowly slowly, I got back in the groove of things, I played
relaxed, and what was great, I played a few matches in real
tournament conditions, and it gave me a bit of work back in the
legs. I found my confidence back, after a little bit of a
scrappy start of the year really.
Shame we have to play each other in the qualification finals, we
managed to avoid each other in the first game, but we had one
out of 8 chances to play each other and of course… It’s going to
be hard to play him, especially now we are really good friends,
but I’ve got to forget the week, and try and win…"