2015 Day ONE - men's qualifying begins   open in new window

I’m training in Belgium, with Shawn Moxham, and last year was a very good year for me, I had some good results, and I became greedy, training a lot, and I didn’t notice the fact I was becoming weaker and weaker.

My body just got into the habit of pushing itself beyond reason, and now I find myself not being able to push when I need to.

Greg played really well, he got me out of my comfort zone and I was not able to find a way to prevent him from controlling the game.

Now, back to base, and trying to sort out myself physically for next season.

Greg Lobban (Sco) 3-0 [13] Mahesh Mangaonkar (Ind)
              11-5, 11-5, 9-3 rtd (30m)

Greg, Good Tactical game

It was a shame that Mahesh couldn’t find enough energy to finish the match, 9/3 in the third, but after chatting with him, he has been suffering from a disorder that rendered his blood results very low he told me after the match, hence unable to perform as you need at that level of squash…

Today was a very tactical match. It was obvious that Mahesh was not comfortable with the long rallies, while he managed to win most of the short ones! So Greg made sure he was lobbing his shots, varying the height on his shots, and truly slowed the pace down, keeping the accuracy to a max.

Mahesh surprised the Scot several times in the return of serve, and found some really lovely nicks. But Greg just grinded his opponent, both mentally and physically today. Literally.

I have played Mahesh twice before, and every time, he beat me. I know how good he is in the middle, he’s got excellent straight drop shots and he can really dominate the front as well.

So by playing slow balls and playing high shots, I managed to push in the back, and stayed at the front enough.

Another big match tomorrow.

[11] Zahed Mohamed (Egy) 3-1 Charles Sharpes (Eng)
      13-11, 11-4, 9-11, 11-9 (63m)
Richie Fallows (Eng) 3-0 [7] Olli Tuominen (Fin)
           11-6, 11-5, 11-4 (35m)


I did concentrate on the Zahed/Charles match, while Ritchie seemed to quickly get control of Olli: by the time Zahed finally took a crucial first game 13/11, Ritchie just finished the 2nd one…

I didn’t see Olli doing much wrong in the third, but just Ritchie not being too impaired by the fast Fin’s pace. A few shots where I would have liked to see the English boy – 18, 78WR to clear the ball better, but nothing to write home about on that front today.

I hadn’t seen Ritchie play for a few months, and I find his game has matured considerably. His movement is now very fluid, he added some nice layers to his shots panoply, varies nicely the short game, and was really graceful to watch today. Whatever you are doing, keep doing it, you are on the right track…

As for Zahed/Charles, where to start? With how great Charles kept pushing and pushing, clinching game 3, and nearly game 4? Or I’d realllllly would like him to stop commenting every decision – not sure it’s helping his concentration, and it does make it a lot of stop/starts.

Could also say that I would rather Zahed play the ball a bit more instead of switching here and there to “fishing expedition” mode… but apart from those little tweaks, it was a very intense game of squash, with Zahed truly lucky not to find himself forced to play a decider…

First game was truly close, nothing between the players, with Charles getting two game balls, but Zahed clinching it 13/11 on his first one. Second, the English paying the price for the efforts in the first, 11/4 Egypt. The third looked like it was going to be a painless 3/0 for Zahed, but a huge push from Charles that forced Zahed to go for too much, 11/9 Charles.

And the 4th started like it was going to be the mirror of the 2nd, the Egyptian dominating the game right to the middle, and again, huge effort, great spirit from Charles that kept coming back, and finally, 9/9 in the 4th!

That’s when Zahed finds the nicest shot of the match, straight winner, and a last decision, stroke, 11/9. That was faaaaar too close for comfort of the Alexandria’s man who needs to stop switching his brain off every time he is in the lead, bless him…

I had played Charles once before, it was in the World Juniors, in Ecuador, I lost 3/1, so I came here to take my revenge on this match…

Every time I’m in the lead, it feels like I ‘m trying to finish the points too quickly, or just stop thinking clearly, play the wrong shot and just rely on my physicality to win. And it happened so many times now, every time I’m in the lead, I’m thinking, don’t do what you did the last match, and of course, I start doing it!

I’m sooo lucky in the 4th, at 9/9, I play a winner, and I get a stroke to finish!


I want to be a top 10 one day, so I had to add to my game. I have a great coach during the week, Ben Ford, who is onto me about “developing my own game” all the time. I also work on my physicality with Gary Nesbitt, so I’m happy my movement is getting better.

My target in the next two years is to reach top 30, and I know there are a lot of things I need to work on. But on my day, I know I can beat those players, and consistently.


Eddie really slowed the pace nicely today, he took the pace of the ball completely, and I was often looking at the ceiling in frustration, he did that brilliantly.

He lobbed so well as well, I couldn’t play my shots I couldn’t attack. But I’m happy with the way I play to win. I had to be patient – that’s not my strongest point, and wait for the opportunity.

Really happy with my performance today.


I never played him before, he played truly well, he is a hungry young player and he is a very good hard hitter.

I managed to push him at the back, and played tight shots as well, and it was a good match for me.

Now Inshallah, I’ll play a good game against Abouelghar tomorrow.

[5] Mohamed Abouelghar (Egy) 3-1 Eddie Charlton (Eng)
              11-9 , 11-8, 3-11, 11-7 (45m)
[15] Nasir Iqbal (Pak) 3-1 Ashley Davies (Eng)
              11-5, 9-11, 11-6, 11-8 (44m)


I didn’t manage to even see a rally of Abou/Eddie, no comment there I’m afraid.

But I saw the end of Nasir/Ashley Davies, and I was truly impressed with the young English player, 20 years old and only 160WR.

A bit on the intense side of things – look who is talking – but I liked the way he moved his opponent around and also the power he puts on his shots. Intense, powerful, determined. I like.

Also, good effort from Nasir who just got to the semis of the Asian Champs, playing very long 5 setters, and must feel the legs a bit heavier than usual too. Good for the Pakistani to have pushed through his tricky first match.

[9] Shaun Le Roux (Rsa) 3-2 Steve Finitsis (Aus)
               9-11, 13-11, 4-11, 11-5 , 11-8 (95m)
[6] Omar Abdel Meguid (Egy) 3-0 Declan James (Eng)
                11-9, 11-4, 11-2 (34m)


Funny how those things works, don’t they. Players never play each other, and suddenly, three times in 6 weeks! It’s the case for Shawn le Roux and Omar Meguid, who played in Canary Wharf, in El Gouna and now here, at the same stage of the competition as well, final of the qualifying! Weird or what…

Contrasting ways to get there though. With the Egyptian getting rid of Declan James rather easily after a tough first game, 11/9, then 4, 2 in34m. “Too good”, simply stated Declan. A big change from their last encounter in Seattle, 3/2 in over 100m!

Now, the Le Roux/Finitsis was not a short and quick affair, those two like the drama of 3/2s. Two big boys, so a few lets, very few discussions – thanks Shawn! but the suspense until the end, it truly came down to a few splendid shots at the crucial times for the South African… So close…

As always, the nerves at the beginning of the match, but I feel I’m getting better at controlling them. After a little while I say “sc.. this, win, or lose, just enjoy it.” And it seems to work. I just try and play good squash, and move my opponent around…

We both attacked in different ways, in the first game, he volleyed a lot on the backhand side, and now I feel what the others must be feeling when I’m in front of them, volleying! But I adapted well, and from the second on, I privileged the deep backhand crosscourts, and anything I could I would volley in front of me.

I’m really enjoying my squash, I just take it one match at a time, and see where it is taking me.

I really made an effort to not get into discussions with the ref, I got punished heavily for arguing. And it’s about time I just get on with things, it was hurting my game anyway I feel.

It’s so difficult to play against Steve, he is just a tricky and skilful player, he can make you feel really stupid at times. So happy I managed to dig in…

Meguid again! We had a good match in El Gouna, but he has beaten me twice in a row now, 3/2 in Canary Wharf, 3/0 in Egypt. So this time, I’m going to try and get revenge…

[16] Rex Hedrick (Aus) 3-2 Joel Hinds (Eng)
             4-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-4, 11-8 (84m)
[4] Nafiizwan Adnan (Mas) 3-2 Jaymie Haycocks (Eng)
             7-11, 11-8, 13-11, 11-13, 11-5 (84m)


Really, two matches of 84m, there was our “gap”, you know, the one that’s supposed to allow us to go and have a cupper, or eat, or to just chat with people. I have six minutes to talk to you about two 84m… Yeah, like THAT’s going to happen…

Long story short, Wan, still mentally flat from not only having just played the Asian Individual Champs in Kuwait – and just arriving from there, but also having during the games lost his elder brother in a terrible traffic accident. Hard for him to concentrate for obvious reasons.

While Jaymie was happier with his last match in Andorra, like 20m or so against ‘Little Greg, saving a match ball in the 4th I’m told… Good match from the Tough Englishman.

As for Rex and Joel, both playing long rallies, gruelling squash, but in patches. Up one went score wise, only to be caught up for the other one. Up and down they both went. To be noticed that Joel really found some superb volley drop shots today, putting Rex under a hell of a lot of pressure there…. The Englishman seemed to run out of fuel at the far end, but what a match…

A bit flat mentally, I just flew back from Kuwait, and with the loss of my brother a few days ago, I find it hard to focus for long periods. And Jaymie played superb squash today, and from the start. Tomorrow, I’m playing Rex, looking forward to it.


It seems to happen a lot to me, switching off matches, and sometimes, I switch on too late to be able to come back.

Today, I switched on just in time, but I was down like 8/5 in the second, 1 game down, and I only clinched that 2nd 11/9!

Today, I was lucky to get back in, desperation kicked in the 4th and 5th, and a little tiredness from Joel as well.

Joel was so strong on the T, I kept wondering what to do next, running out of ideas.

So in the end, I realised it was better to restrict him than to try and catch him out….

Wan tomorrow, he chopped me up in El Gouna, need to change that!

"Yes, definitely the best match I ever played, especially I’m from Hull, so playing in front of my home crowd! It just relaxed me, and allowed me to let the arm go, and play the squash I wanted to play, with no pressure on me at all.

I watched him play a few time, he is very quick, so I tried and kept the ball behind him, hold it and when I had the chance go for it, or go for it right away. I kept calm, relaxed, and didn’t overthink, if I lost a rally, I didn’t think about it anymore, onto the next. Truly playing one rally at a time.

I need to thank my Dad for coming down, my girlfriend, and England squash for the support they give me all year, having Camps (David Campion) here, and the physio, makes really a big difference. And of course, I need to thank my sponsor, Allam. It’s nice to finally give them something back for the support they give me too, along with my other sponsors…"

James Earles (Eng) 3-2 [3] Alan Clyne (Sco)
             4-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-7, 11-9 (69m)
Ben Coleman (Eng) 3-0 [10] Joe Lee (Eng)
           11-6, 11-7, 11-5 (39m)


Those two matches, you look at them and you think, oh well, easy 3/0 for Joe and Alan. Riiiiiight, think again!

Didn’t see a single ball from Joe/Ben match, but I saw a lot of Alan/James, and Alan didn’t put a foot wrong! James, playing in front of his home crowd, just played out of his skin and found shots I’m not sure he knew he could play!

Alan kept digging, and truly gave it all, tried and varied the angles and pace, but whatever the Scot was trying, the English boy had an answer to. The crowd, rightly vocal behind their man, created a good atmosphere out there, and was delighted with the upset.

"I’m very good friends with Joe, so I’m not going to go and pretend he is playing the best squash of his life at the moment.

But he is, with Waller, one of the players I looked up when I was coming up as a junior. He is a higher ranked player, I’m happy with the way I played today, and most importantly, I enjoyed it! I just hope that Joe goes and have a good rest and a nice holiday, and that he comes back in great form, just not against me!

I feel I played some of my best squash out there today, but Joe surely made more errors you would expect him to play at that level. Still, tomorrow, I’m looking forward to my match, I’m having a chance to qualify for one of the biggest tournament of the year!

[14] Lucas Serme (Fra) 3-0 Andrew Wagih (Egy)
              11-5, 11-4, 11-8 (35m)
[2] Tom Richards (Eng) 3-0 Farhan Zaman (Pak)
                11-1, 12-10, 11-7 (41m)


The score doesn’t tell the whole story in the first, the rallies were very intense and long, like they were in the second! Shame that Farhan kept playing a silly backhand supposed to be deception that kept landing at the front, right into Tom’s racquet though….

Farhan plays a bit like Saurav Ghosal, running that fast, moving well, but hits the ball harder than the Indian – losing a bit of the accuracy – still making it a very entertaining squash indeed.

Nice to see Tom playing with confidence, and pain free. Tomorrow, he’ll be playing Lucas Serme, just fresh from a good momentum – Finalist in Dublin 11/9 in the 5th against Ali Farag, and just got France the deciding game against Chris Simpson in the European Teams last week.

Full of confidence, Lucas never gave Andrew a chance to get into the match. Suffering from a recurring injury, Andrew is trying to get treatment in England for his injury – a three hours intervention – but some legal issues are getting in the way, and Andrew’s mind was never really on the game. But that was all credit to the hammering Lucas put his opponent under today, forcing a lot of errors out of the Worst Driver in History Wagih, bless him. Hope he’ll manage to get treatment soon…

"I didn’t know what to expect, I never saw him play, so I went and watch online some videos, spoke with a few people, and also Camps (David Campion) knew him from the juniors. I knew he was quick and agile, and that he would play a very attacking game. So I was prepared for it!

In the first game, I really didn’t put a foot wrong, my length was really good. Maybe he was expecting a few more openings which I didn’t give him. But in the second, the ball got much colder, and as his game plan didn’t work in the first game, he probably had a think between the games, and change his tactics, got a few more openings, and I made a few more errors. But even if I had lost that game, I was pretty confident, I could see he was working more than I was. Always nice to get a 3/0 against a player like that…

"I know Andrew has been injured, and it’s obvious he didn’t play his best squash today. It was like he got frustrated very quickly, and made so many unforced errors. Good for me, but it looked like his mind was not in it.

I am using the momentum from the European finals… Normally, I’m pretty nervous when I play the qualifying matches, but I couldn’t get more stressed than playing the decider against Chris Simpson for my country! So I used that today, I used that confidence, and it worked for me. I feel that I’m using that momentum since Ireland…

I played Tom a few months back in Charlottesville, I won 3/2, and tomorrow, I’ll have nothing to lose, and will take my chances, no pressure…"