• El Gouna International Squash Open • 02-10 April 2015 • El Gouna, Egypt •


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TODAY at the El Gouna International 2015
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.

Ali Farag (Egy) 3-1 Gregoire Marche (Fra)
           11/4, 11/9, 7/11, 11/8 (50m)      v Shorbagy
Mohamed Abouelghar (Egy) 3-1 Alan Clyne (Sco)
           9/11, 11/4, 11/4, 11/6 (49m)          v Gawad

Leo Au (Hkg) 3-1 Mohamed Reda (Egy)
            11/9, 7/11, 11/7, 11/3 (63m)       v Dessouki
Olli Tuominen (Fin) 3-2 Joe Lee (Eng)
            7/11, 11/8, 11/6, 8/11, 11/6 (69m) v Mosaad

Nafiizwan Adnan (Mas) 3-0 Rex Hedrick (Aus) 
            11/7, 11/6, 11/4 (45m)                     v Lee
Karim Ali Fathi (Egy) 3-2 Tom Richards (Eng)
            11/7, 4/11, 5/11, 11/6, 11/8 (64m) v Rodriguez

Omar Abdel Meguid (Egy) 3-0 Shaun Le Roux (Rsa)
            11/7, 11/9, 11/7 (46m)                 v Castagnet
Mazen Hesham (Egy) 3-2 Henrik Mustonen (Fin)
            9/11 13/11, 11/8, 8/11, 11/5 (58m) v Rosner

Ali Farag (Egy) 3-1 Gregoire Marche (Fra)
           11/4, 11/9, 7/11, 11/8 (50m)


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.

But 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….

First 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 nick…

"I 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."

It 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 enough.

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…

Mohamed Abouelghar (Egy) 3-1 Alan Clyne (Sco)
           9/11, 11/4, 11/4, 11/6 (49m)


Alan 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 better.

Abou 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.

"Very 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…"

Leo Au (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….

Takashi – 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 different.

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…

Olli Tuominen (Fin) 3-2 Joe Lee (Eng) 
            7/11, 11/8, 11/6, 8/11, 11/6 (69m)


There 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.

The 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…

"Just 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 like that.

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 game!

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 worked.

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."

Nafiizwan Adnan (Mas) 3-0 Rex Hedrick (Aus) 
            11/7, 11/6, 11/4 (45m)

Adnan advances

Rex 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.

Karim Ali Fathi (Egy) 3-2 Tom Richards (Eng)
            11/7, 4/11, 5/11, 11/6, 11/8 (64m)


A 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.

Tom 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.

Of 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….

In 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.

Omar Abdel Meguid (Egy) 3-0 Shaun Le Roux (Rsa)
                 11/7, 11/9, 11/7 (46m)


As Shawn mentioned the day before yesterday, those two hadn’t played on the PSA Tour yet, and within 10 days, they are playing twice!

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 it.

Nevertheless, 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 discussion/troubles.

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…

Mazen Hesham (Egy) 3-2 Henrik Mustonen (Fin)
            9/11 13/11, 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.

Mustonen 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.

"Have 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…"

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