TODAY at the El Gouna International
 Ramy Ashour (Egy) 3-2
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (Egy)
4/11, 10/12, 12/10 (94m)
The Match that redefined
It took me a while to be able to write about what happened in
that final. After speaking with Mohamed and Ramy, on and off the
record, I had so many information in my head. And I’m a blond
female. Takes time to sort it out…
“How is your blood pressure, Fram” laughed Nick right
after the end. Exactly…
I thought/expecting Mohamed to win tonight. And I believe it
would have been only fair. Last year, in the semis, he had a
mammoth match against Greg, and beat him for the first time ever,
while Ramy had an easy one as Shabana never got into the match.
And Mohamed still took a game in the final, giving it everything.
It would have been fair for Mohamed to win here, in Egypt as
So when poor Nick’s body decided that it had enough beating for
a while, I thought, fair enough. The Angels are giving it back.
And it should logically go Mohamed’s way. But once again, it
wasn’t to be.
If Mohamed was not at his best against Nick in the semis at the
start, appearing nervous, he was much more comfortable today
apparently anyway. In control from the start, he imposed his
pace to a Ramy that hadn’t download the “I shall play at the
World Number 1 pace” file. Mohamed not only surprises Ramy with
his shots/speed, but also reads the World Champion’s short game
beautifully. Ramy is struggling, but once again, doesn't do the
unforced errors he can normally in the opening games, only 1.
So Mohamed starts well, leading the opening game 6/4 and 8/5,
taking an awful long time between the points compared to his
normal routine. Is he really completely recovered from his burn
out after Chicago? I wonder… Ramy slowly gets used to the pace
again, find his marks, levelling at 8-all, forcing errors from
his opponent (5), putting him under tremendous pressure, and
taking the lead 11/9, 17m.
As we just start the second, a little funny moment when the
waiter from Moods arrives with the coffees, interrupting play,
with a very Minister of Sport bless him, who passes the cups to
everybody himself to avoid disturbing the players. Only in Egypt!
That second is hard work again, 14m, very close up to 6/7
Mohamed serving. And I can see, how can I say, it’s like Ramy is
getting into Mohamed’s head. He is making him doubt, hesitate
before making his shot selection, a split 10th of a second. But
just enough... Ramy takes the following 4 points, he is now
leading 2/0, 11/6, and looking very good indeed. Against all
Basma, Mohamed ‘s mum, is as ever advising him between the games.
Intense, with all the passion and love pouring out of her, she
pumps up Mohamed again, who comes back on court a different man.
Whatever she said, it worked. More aggressive, his length
tighter, he takes the game to Ramy, capitalising on a fast start
to the third to pull a game back 11/4, 9m, still very low errors
counts for both, 1 each in the 2nd and third…
The 4th should be studied in the coaching camps. We had all the
dramas you can imagine, and more. It started with “Stroke? We
are both laughing” from Mohamed on the first point, “I’m not
laughing” giggles Ramy.
Then Ramy’s little finger plaster falling on the floor from a
previous match at 3/3 – Mohamed arguing his case that he should
be awarded the game, the Central Ref stating that the referees
didn’t see it that way, and the decision having been made, he
should carry on playing, eventually giving a conduct warning for
delaying play to Mohamed that keeps on stating that “rules are
rules, and it’s my game”! It was all happening I tell you!
Needless to say that after that, they both update their “I'll
play squash continuously at a Ridiculous Pace”! Amazing, truly
amazing rallies. 5/5. 6/6. A lot more contact between the
players than previously, 9/6 Ramy.
Mohamed offers Ramy his first “championship ball” – yes, that’s
the new name for it apparently, what wrong with Match ball? –
with an rare tin, 10/8. A volley nick takes care of that one.
And after several lets and breathtaking rallies, Ramy tins his
second match ball, we are at 10/10.
Like in the Worlds in Qatar, when Ramy was 10/5 up match ball,
Mohamed finds his best squash, his best shots, and floats above
the ground in the Zone… He looks at his camp. Fist pump. It’s
like Time stops and freezes. Another tin from Ramy (his 3rd one
of the game), and a sublime backhand drop shot, and we are 2/2.
The game has lasted 22m.
The Kids from Ramy’s academy are wailing behind me. Not shouting.
Not crying. Wailing. Like their entire family has been killed in
a car crash. Incredible atmosphere, while half the crowd – next
where Mohamed is taking his rest is chanting Mohamed’s name, the
rest is stunned and cannot believe what just happened.
“I will fight until my last breath” had stated Ramy at the end
of his semis the night before. Money time, Ramy. Show us. Put
your money where your mouth is, seems to say the audience.
We ALL think it was over. And like I said, it’s only fair. I’m
thinking how I am going to organise myself to speak to both,
should I go first to Mohamed, or Ramy, what I am going to say to
Ramy to make him feel better, and I’m thinking what it will mean
for Mohamed after the bad time he had to finally beat Ramy in
such a manner, thousands of thoughts. As far as I’m concerned,
I'm in the gym waiting for the players to write their quotes.
Rallies are getting shorter and shorter. The huge effort
defending and retrieving those attacks from Mohamed finally gets
to Ramy. Mentally, he cannot focus anymore, and it’s going too
fast for him.6/2, 7/3.
And then… well, then… The Artist switched into his Alien Mode.
Relaxing, playing the shots that only he can think/execute, Ramy
mirrors Shorbagy at the end of the previous game. Point, after
point, after point, Ramy comes back. And again, he gets into
Mohamed’s head, making him doubt.
At 6/7, the World number 1 seems lost. He asks for the cleaners,
to try and regroup. It works. Those precious seconds allow him
to stop the points bleed and gets 3 points, 9/6. These will be
the last points he’ll score.
The Alien will not be stopped. He doesn’t feel the pressure
anymore. He is not afraid of letting people anymore.. He cannot
hear the Demons whispering in his ears anymore, he silenced them.
He is the same Alien that won the World Champs not having played
a match in 6 months. And he quickly scores 6 points, to take the
match 12/10, the last two points being two errors from Mohamed.
“How is your blood pressure, Fram”… What blood pressure…
Three words for you: Watch. Match. SquashTV.
day at the office…
Mohamed is such a fighter, he is stubborn, and I’m stubborn as
well. I love his spirit, it pushes and motivates me, his
sportsmanship pushes me, and I think we set a good example of
how beautiful how game can be played, and the calibre it should
be played at. I think we push each other and we raise the bar.
I was just talking with Mohamed, and we both agree that this
match was a much better match than the one in the Worlds Final.
Everybody talks about that final, but actually today, the match
was so much better, the pace was so much better. Neither of us
wanted to let go of anything.
Tonight, I just realised he is the most dangerous and the
strongest when he is down in the score, because he goes into a
relaxed and carefree mode. That’s when he plays incredible
shots. He did here in the 4th, when I was up 2/1 and 10/8, where
on paper it seems easier to win than when you are 2/2 and 10/5!
But that’s on paper. A lot of variable enter in play and can
change the direction of the match, of the rallies.
I tried to stick to my game plan, and figure out what he was up
to because he kept changing his game, and he did everything, I
mean absolutely everything to try and win tonight, he used all
his weapons. And it worked for him.
So when he got to 10/6 match ball, I thought, hey, why can’t I
do that. Why can’t I just go carefree and play my best shots. Of
course that was in my head, and it was another thing to put it
in practice, on court! But I’m glad things went my way….
I’m so proud to be able to perform here in El Gouna, as I said
at the start of the week, this is not a perfect place to fight,
but hey, all week we have perfect weather, and we ate well,
relaxed as well. I really need to give a big hand to the man who
put all that together, who has got the responsibility of it all,
Promoter Amr Mansi, and his team, Omar El Sherbini and all who
have worked, from the court cleaners to all here. I am proud to
most of all, I’m proud of my come back. Of all my come backs,
come back from injuries, again and again, come back from 10/6
down, come back only for my second tournament in the season, I
think I start to like the concept of come back actually!!!
I need to thank first and foremost my parents, I will never be
able to thank them enough for what they have done to me, my
brother as well, my sponsors, Parco Pharmaceutics, Egypt Air,
New York, I need to thank my training partners in my club the
NYAC, Pat the manager and Eric Christianson and Clinton. In
Egypt, Haitham, my sparring partner for 5 years, and Hossam for
his amazing massages. And of course my doctors, Doug Sckendorf,
David Altcheck, Brian Shiple.
And to finish, all the people that believe in me, and on the
Social Network, those amazing people that believe I can come
back, that believe I can be what how they see me, who give me so
much energy and support.
I’m smiling so much my cheek muscles hurt…
continue to set another level of squash. It was another great
battle, and once again, I was one point away from beating him.
Actually I think that this time I was closer than the last time,
because last time, I was too bothered with his injuries, the
leg, the shoulder, I lost concentration. Whereas this time it
was close all the way. I never lost focus.
Well, maybe there were little drops of focus here and there, and
a few too many errors from me, and from him. But I never gave
up. I never gave up. And when I got to 10/6, I thought, it’s
going to come, soon. This match took everything out of me, and I
really gave it all.
You know, when I heard he was in the draw, I changed my training
regime completely, because he plays completely differently from
be honest, I didn’t expect to play at that level mentally, I am
drained from the mental point of view, I played the finals of
each major tournament this year, it took so much out of me, I
kept fighting and fighting, and I’ll keep fighting and fighting.
Like the last British Open last year, the last place I wanted to
be was on court, and I finished very weak that season, much
weaker than I am now thank God.
And to be even more honest, I am such a lucky boy I passed Nick
yesterday, because I don’t think I had two hard matches in me
this week. Actually I did ask Nick, how do you do when you
really can’t take anymore, when your body had enough. Nick said,
you have to have a clean break, not go anywhere near a squash
court for a while.
I would have like the Referees to do their job at 3/4 in that
4th. Ramy got rid of that tape around his finger that fell on
the floor very quickly, because he knew the rule, and he knew he
would lose the game. And when I asked him “is it your tape” he
said “yes, but is this really the way you want to win this
game”? And I replied “It’s not up to you to tell me how I should
win this game. It should be up to the referees to do their job,
to follow and apply the rule, because the rule is the rule. And
then, it should/would have been up to me to say if yes or no, I
wanted that rule to be applied, or not.”
like yesterday, when Nick got injured, I immediately called
Hossam our physio, because I knew that Nick had nobody. I didn’t
have to. But of course I did. It’s the same thing. I could have
let Nick like that. It was my decision….
I don’t think I ever saw Ramy tired. He is just incredible. I
don’t mind the fact he is not tired physically, but I mind the
fact he never BREATHE!!! I mean, you never seem Ramy breathing
hard ever. And he is incredibly strong, because yes, he gets
tired mentally, but never physically. Whereas I get tired
physically, and it’s my mental strength that get me back
physically. Ramy, he gets tired mentally, and it’s his
physicality that gets him back mentally. We are just the
opposite. And you know, I don’t know any other athlete that can
do that. Maybe Nadal. That’s it. That's talent.
truly want to thank my Mum, my Dad, my brother, Jonah, they
lived the hard time with me, for those two weeks after Chicago.
And two weeks before this event, I still didn’t take the
decision to do the event or not. And it’s only a week before I
said ok, let’s do this.
And to finish, I of course want to thank Amr Mansi for his help
training me in Alexandria and coaching me here, and also for
organising this tournament, amazing venue, amazing tournament,
thank his team too, they did such a great job, and I can’t wait
to be back next year.