TODAY at the El Gouna International
04 Apr, Qualifying Finals:
Five out of Eight for Egypt
There were Eight places in the main
draw up for grabs today at the Movenpick, and to the delight of
the home crowd Egyptians grabbed five of them.
(Egy) 3-1 Gregoire Marche (Fra)
11/4, 11/9, 7/11,
11/8 (50m) v Shorbagy
Abouelghar (Egy) 3-1 Alan Clyne (Sco)
9/11, 11/4, 11/4,
11/6 (49m) v
Leo Au (Hkg)
3-1 Mohamed Reda (Egy)
11/7, 11/3 (63m) v
Tuominen (Fin) 3-2 Joe Lee (Eng)
11/6, 8/11, 11/6 (69m) v Mosaad
Adnan (Mas) 3-0 Rex Hedrick (Aus)
Fathi (Egy) 3-2 Tom Richards (Eng)
5/11, 11/6, 11/8 (64m) v Rodriguez
Meguid (Egy) 3-0 Shaun Le Roux (Rsa)
(Egy) 3-2 Henrik Mustonen (Fin)
11/8, 8/11, 11/5 (58m) v Rosner
(Egy) 3-1 Gregoire Marche (Fra)
11/4, 11/9, 7/11,
ALI SOOO CLEVER
Ali Farag, one of the nicest players around, 22 and ranked 73,
was facing a difficult task, beating one of his friends with
whom he just trained for a week in Cairo, Grégoire Marche, 25
and ranked at his best ranking up to now, 26.
as ever, an Egyptian on home soil is a different kind of
Superman, and it’s like they reach another level. And that’s
exactly what happened today really. Greg didn’t play his best
squash, pressure was on him, and it’s never easy to play a good
friend. But it is all credit to Ali, who truly played an
excellent accurate and mature squash, taking his time to build
up his rallies.
Soft hands, clever tactic, nice hold and round high lobs, it was
difficult for French Acrobat to put enough pressure on his
opponent, and make him out of his comfort zone. Plus, they knew
each other’s game rather well, and Greg couldn’t count on the
surprise effect anymore….
game was all about Ali, playing with apparently no fear or
pressure, “easy” thanks to a few mistakes from a tense Greg,
11/4. Second, the battle was on, 3/3, 5/5, 6/6, 7/7, 9/9, and
two nice winners for the Egyptian to finish the game, 2/0 up the
young man was.
Third, Greg gave it a big push, while Ali was a bit mentally too
relaxed, he had gone three quarters to the mountain top, and
stop to have a breather really. Greg was more assertive, the
length excellent and his short game well in place, 11/7 Greg.
The last game seemed to be won for Ali as he went up 6/2, but
Greg is not a top 25 for nothing, he clawed back, patiently,
long rallies, very intense pace, 7/7. But it was like Ali was
not to be denied, and he turned the tide yet again, taking the
match on his second match ball with a superb return of serve
am soooo relieved. I have been thinking about this tournament
for a long time, and I made the promise to myself that if I was
to qualify for the main draw, I would play my best squash. Now,
I have to keep that promise.
You know what it is, when you are playing home, you are putting
too much pressure on yourself, and that was of course the case
today. Plus, it is very difficult to play against somebody
who is such a good friend, it’s hard to be hungry, aggressive
against such a mate.
Outside, I was trying to be calm, but from the inside, I was
firing all guns. And training with your opponent could be a good
thing and a bad thing, because you know each other’s game very
well. Today, it was a good thing for me. Normally I watch
SquashTV to study my opponent’s game if I don’t know him. Today,
I didn’t have to…
Now, I am trying to improve the way I finish the points. I think
I’m building my rallies well, but I am not sharp enough when it
comes to winning the point."
was bizarre, I just completely lack confidence in my short game
today. And in the first game, no length at all, against somebody
like him that cuts out trajectories that well, it wasn’t good
I’m truly disappointed with the second, I was leading 9/7, and I
made silly errors at the end of the game. And being down 2/0,
it’s difficult, and it gave him a lot of confidence, which makes
it very hard then to beat him.
So, no trust at the front for me, plus he is such a good player,
and I hope he’ll go far in this event…
(Egy) 3-1 Alan Clyne (Sco)
9/11, 11/4, 11/4,
ABOU, NOT BAD…
Clyne, ranked just above Abou, #29 for 32 Abou, is exactly the
kind of player that can frustrate the heck out of such a
Birdsbrain player. The Scott has got a very strong all around
game, he is as fit as it comes, very determined, strong mind,
and added a few nice attacking shots to his strong length game.
And it paid off in the first, 11/9, nice game, never more than a
point between the players, long rallies and very well
constructed from both, with Alan just finishing off the points
dominated the second completely, and had the momentum in the
3rd, 4/0 as well. Alan, getting back in the rallies got a very
harsh calls I though (I counted three), which could have made a
difference, mentally really. There is a big difference between
being led 6/8 or 8/3…. It wasn’t to be, and the Egyptian, making
very few unforced errors, takes a crucial third, 11/4.
Now more confident, and Alan more and more frustrated, Abou
dominated the game, 5/0, 7/2, 10/4, only to get a bit nervous,
two tins, but still taking the match, 11/6. Crowd was not
unhappy about the result, I tell you.
happy. Very happy really.
I don’t know if it’s because I played better, or if I put less
pressure on myself this time, but I never won in Egypt yet. It’s
the first time I qualify in a big event in Egypt… It’s just, I
saw some familiar faces – except my mum, she couldn’t handle it
– and I just didn’t want to let them down.
After I lost the first game, I slowed down the pace, by lobbing
more, because against somebody as quick as Alan, you just cannot
fire away. And it seemed to work. I’m happy with the way I
adapted my game and varied the pace…"
(Hkg) 3-1 Mohamed Reda (Egy)
11/9, 7/11, 11/7, 11/3 (63m)
Leo Powers through
A very good performance from the Hong Kong player today. Never
easy to play Reda at home – ask Bozza, he kept losing in the
first round to him in Egypt….
– as he is called here, moved to Philly last year, and is now
coaching full time, so not easy to keep the level of fitness
required to perform in a World Series. I guess if he had taken
the first game, as he was comfy up, things could have been
Still, he took a very close second game, nothing between the
players up to 6/6, then Takashi finding some superb lines that
Leo just couldn’t return.
But those two games took a lot out of the Egyptian, and although
he never stopped trying, he lost the third, 2/7, 7/9, 7/11. In
the last one, he got penalised with 5 strokes, plus 4 unforced
errors. Leo only had to score 2 points…
(Fin) 3-2 Joe Lee (Eng)
11/6, 8/11, 11/6 (69m)
JOE WANTED IT TOO MUCH
is still some life in that old dog of Olli, 35, bless him, still
running, still kicking, still hitting as a young kitten! But he
was helped by a Joe that suddenly had focus lapses…
First game, Joe up comfy, 7/3, taking the game 11/7, you know
the drill with Olli, hit hard and run, and fight for every shot.
Joe responded very well, playing exactly the same kind of
pace/style. And it looked like we were going for a short
victory, when the Englishman, 10 years younger than his
opponent, went 7/3 again, then 8/5. And that’s when a had
experience versus lost of focus. Experience won, scoring 6
points to take the game 11/8.
third, Joe probably thought back and ruminated the previous
game, 11/6 to Olli. Still, all credit to Joe, he switched on
again, in the 4th, a very intense, hard hitting and fast pace
game, 4/4, 8/8, where the difference was made at the end of the
game, with Joe Clever Boy anticipating two hard hitting drives
from Olli, counterattacking immediately and winning the points.
We were back at 2/2, 11/8 in the 4th.
The fifth is another example of Joe’s loss of focus, with the
Englishman up and controlling 4/1, only to see Olli win 7 points
in a row to get to 8/4. Olli, pushing himself, hitting so hard,
finding some lovely short game, took the gifts and went on to
take the match, 11/6 on his first match ball…
a little sparkle left, enough to get me through today…
I played some pretty good shots, although I can play sharper
rallies, get earlier on the ball, but I’m happy with the way I
changed the pace when I needed to. And he was playing very tight
too, it is hard to volley when your opponent hits accurate shots
He was trying so hard, maybe too hard. There were a couple of
times where I was out of the game, and he let me in again. He
was going for too much and it was a bit like watching myself
playing. So many times I have done that, losing myself actually
because I was trying too hard, and if the guy could match my
pace, that was it, I would lose myself… Too much, too early…
Today I was accurate enough to put it away. I was right to lower
the pace down, he was winning the rallies when I was playing as
fast as he was. Whereas by playing slower, and tighter to the
wall, he had to do something with it, and force it…"
"I was a bit lucky in the first, I was down 9/6, but he made
like 4 mistakes in a row, he let me back in and I took that
In the second, I realised how strong he was at the front, and
any loose shot he would kill me, and that I had to focus on my
length game. That’s what I did for the rest of the match and it
I never thought that I was going to win the match really, I am
not that kind of confident player, and I don’t think on those
terms. I just tried and focused on each and every rally."
(Mas) 3-0 Rex Hedrick (Aus)
Hedrick turned in good performance in beating Raphael Kandra in
the first round, but the Aussie wasn't able to reach those
standards today against a solid and steady Nafiizwan Adnan.
It wasn't for the want of trying on Hedrick's part, but Adnan
got a good start in each of the games and Hedrick, in between
being puzzled by a few of the referees' decision, could never
quite get on terms.
(Egy) 3-2 Tom Richards (Eng)
5/11, 11/6, 11/8 (64m)
KARIM SWITCHED ON THE NICK MACHINE…
clean game, lovely to see those two on court I have to say. Tom,
he has had some pretty bad time the past two, three seasons, and
it’s nice to see him pain free. As for Cheeky Smile Karim, he is
still one of the Five-Game Man of the circuit, that we love to
watch at the end of a long day…..
Started very well for the Egyptian, pumped up as ever when they
play home. Took the first game play good clean lines squash,
finding some powerful winners, Egyptian Flair crossed with Nick
Matthew’s Power. But Tom came back blasting in the 2nd, picking
up both pace and intensity, taking the ball to his opponent, and
making him doubt.
took the second and third, quickly and clearly.
Honestly at that point, there was no way back in my mind for
Karim. How wrong was I….
The fourth was close up to 3/3, with Karim finding the extra
gear in the middle of the game, 7/3 up, 8/5. And if Tom hadn’t
made a single error up to that point, he made 3 just in that
game. Karim takes it 11/6 to level it at 2/2.
course we were going to play a 5th….
Not more than a point between the players until 6/6, rallies
from hell and back, great squash for us to watch. And Karim, as
so many shot makers, just switched on the nick machine. Three
nicks in a row, 9/6 within seconds, literally. The crowd is
loving it, of course. Another point will give the Egyptian his
first game ball, 10/6. Tom, finding the switch of his own nick
machine scores two beautiful nicks, 8/10. But another lovely
backhand winner for Karim that finds the nick, and he can raise
his hands up. He is in the main draw of a World Series….
the first, I tried and took him by surprise, attacking most of
the time, not taking him absorb the pressure. And it worked
fine. But then in the second, I went up 2/0, and he went for me.
And I kind of panicked, I didn’t know what to do. So, off the
second game, third, bad, shocking squash.
And at the end of that third, my coach Wael and myself, we were
shouting at each other, and he was like, don’t give up, play
solid squash, play solid squash, keep fighting, keep fighting.
And I listened to what he was saying and I kept fighting, I
extended the rallies, and he made a couple of unforced errors. I
was able to easy in the game again, and confidence came back
into my game.
At 6/6 in the 5th, I played 3 nicks in a row. Well, I was
getting tired, and made sure I kept my racquet up, and it worked
straight away. Then I did another one. And another one. And I
think it probably made him feel very bad. I know that at 6/6 in
the 5th if somebody did that to me, I would feel terrible, and
maybe he panicked a bit.
(Egy) 3-0 Shaun Le Roux (Rsa)
11/7, 11/9, 11/7 (46m)
A GAME UNDER HIGH SURVEILLANCE
As Shawn mentioned the day before yesterday, those two hadn’t
played on the PSA Tour yet, and within 10 days, they are playing
Their last encounter was in the final of Canary Wharf, in
Wimbledon, as in not show in SquashTV, but that went a bit ugly.
But I heard from both spectators, officials and the two players
themselves, that the official in charge probably didn’t help the
situation on court, making it probably even worse than it should
have been. Knowing the official in charge, I can easily believe
Meguid having been fined/banned for three months at the end of
2014 for another occurring in the States – forcing him to miss
out on the worlds in Qatar, he was under high surveillance, and
we had today Lee Beachill and Tim Garner watching the match,
making sure that the two players were behaving as they should.
Not a word from Meguid, and guess what. When he doesn’t lose his
focus chatting with the ref, or trying to prevent his opponent
to getting to the ball, he wins a difficult match, 3/0… All the
drama avoided, and a nice clean match/victory.….
Both boys are tall and strong boys, taking their space, moving
quickly onto to the ball, hence creating sometimes a bit of
traffic problems. But today, honestly, well kept under control
by central ref John Massarella, there was very little
Only at the end of the second, after a few very short chats
between him and John, Shawn exited the court addressing the
official “Do you realise how condescending you sound when you
speak with a player”. “Excuse me” replied John “ if you were to
speak to me in that manner again, I would use code of conduct.
You’d be better off talking to me after the match, in private”.
Neither player opened their mouth after that….
In the third, Shawn took an excellent start, 3/0, 4/1. It looked
like we were in for a 4 setter, even a decider. But a very
focused Egyptian clawed back to 5/5, up to 7/5, and never lost
the lead after that. First match ball at 10/6, saved.
7/10. Meguid asks for a let, and Shawn thinks it was a stroke,
shakes his opponent’s hand, and opens the door to walk out. “Yes
Let” announced the ref. “Oh give it to him, please”… Nice
moment… Meguid takes it on the replayed point, 11/7, 3/0.
Omar: I’m just going to enjoy the moment, and quieten my demons…
(Egy) 3-2 Henrik Mustonen (Fin)
11/8, 8/11, 11/5 (58m)
Mazen Marches on
The final match of
the day was one of the toughest, a fast and fiery shootout
between two players who had contrasting wins yesterday.
confesses that he 'over-attacks', but it paid dividends as he
raced through the first game - Hesham saved four game balls to
no avail - and had a 6-2 lead in the second too and a fifth
Egyptian qualifier looked less than likely.
Hesham fought back and levelled in a tense ending to the game,
then went ahead as he led throughout the third.
The roles were reversed as Mustonen held an advantage throughout
the fourth, but the final momentum swing saw Hesham dominate the
third, his reaction of relief rather than excitement on the
winning point indicative of his control in the decider.
you ever seen him play as well?!! I didn’t know what to do! He
was playing so tight, so tight… I can’t believe how well he
played, the shots he played… So I started with a game plan, then
had to change it again, and changed it again! Thank GOD Omar
Abdel Aziz was here to help me, and my mum, and my dad too…
My first World Series this year I qualify for, I am so happy,
it’s in Egypt. I didn’t play that well for the past three
months, or train that well, but suddenly, in Canary Wharf, I was
that close to beating Max Lee, so I know that I have to fin a
plan, and stick to it…"