Shabana falls early again
Amr Shabana, perhaps the finest squash player of the 21st
century, suffered his second surprising defeat in two weeks when
he fell at the first hurdle at one of his favourite venues.
The four times former world open champion from Egypt was beaten
11-8, 11-7, 11-6 by Simon Rosner, the German who has
risen to a career high world number 24.
The contest took place at the same Green Island location where
Shabana won the last of his world titles two years ago, and
where his memories are almost certainly among the happiest.
Last week in Hong Kong he lost in the quarter-finals to Azlan
Iskandar, the world number 13 from Malaysia. Now Shabana was
always trailing against with the calm, sensible and highly
“I have lost to him so many times,” said the world number 22
from Paderborn with a slightly dazed look. “Shabana used to be –
he still is – my big idol.
“I watched him when I was 12 and 13 years old. I watched him so
much that this seems amazing to me.”
Since beating Nick Matthew, the current world champion,
in the US Open final in August in Philadelphia, Shabana has
often looked short of full fitness and did not look up for a
prolonged battle here.
His length was indifferent on a cold court which made ball
control more difficult and his movement to the front was
After losing the second game, Shabana threw his head back in
dismay, and at the end left quickly before slipping away from
the venue discreetly.
Earlier Iskandar won in straight games against Jon Kemp, the top
30 Englishman and now has the chance of another giant-killing
feat, for he plays Greg Gaultier, the former world number
one from France.
Gaultier meanwhile explained how he hopes to climb back to the
top after reaching the last 16.
“Years ago I risked injury - now I don't,” said the man from
Aix-en-Provence after a 11-7, 11-2, 11-6 win over Omar Abdel
Aziz, the world number 40 from Egypt.
Gaultier, who won his first major title after an injury-spoilt
two years, the Qatar Classic in Doha earlier this month, now
revealed the extent of his wonderfully skilful stroke play.
“Years ago I risked injury. Now I do prevention exercises for
everything. The last injury I had - to my adductor - was really
painful, and it took me four months to get my fitness back.
“I am really working a lot on prevention now. I am really
serious about it. I really want to do well here, you can't
always be a hundred percent. I just do the best I can.”
Later Gaultier was joined in the last 16 by three other front
runners for the title - Matthew, James Willstrop, who
took the title in Hong Kong last week, and Karim Darwish,
the former world number one from Egypt.
The nearest to upset happened when Mohamed El Shorbagy,
the 7th seeded former world junior champion from Egypt, had to
save a match point to overcome Borja Golan, the former
top ten Spaniard who looks capable of regaining that status
“I never played four tournaments in a month before,” said the
19-year-old Egyptian after his 12-10, 11-7, 5-11, 2-11, 12-10
survival. “It’s a new experience for me.”
He added: ”I am both proud and disappointed with my performance.
I am really struggling physically. But, despite the heaviness,
it’s a win.”
El Shorbagy now plays Daryl Selby, the ninth-seeded
British national champion who had to battle very hard to
overcome the local hero Abdullah Almezayen and the home support
before winning 9-11, 11-3, 11-9, 5-11, 11-9.
Selby also won home hearts with his words. Almezeyan has the
skill to be “top 20 or even top ten,” he said. He may now find
he is better supported himself.