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


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TODAY at the El Gouna International 2015
03-Apr, More Qualifying

Day Two, and another eight first round qualifying matches at the Movenpick, the bottom half of the draw.

There were another three Egyptian winners today, but they all had to work for it, Karim Ali Fathi taking 71 minutes to get past Kristian Frost, Omar Abdel Meguid being tested by his training partner Youssef Soliman, and Mazen Hesham coming through an intense encounter with Karim El Hammamy to finish the day.

Qualifying Round One, bottom half:

Nafiizwan Adnan
(Mas) 3-0 Ahmed Effat Ashoush (Egy)
              11/4, 11/6, 11/5 (26m)
Rex Hedrick (Aus) 3-0 Raphael Kandra (Ger)
             11/8, 11/5, 11/5 (42m)

Karim Ali Fathi (Egy) 3-1 Kristian Frost (Den) 
             11/13, 12/10, 11/7,11/6 (71m)
Tom Richards (Eng) 3-0 Youssef Ibrahim (Egy)
             11/6, 11/9, 14/12 (30m)
Omar Abdel Meguid (Egy) 3-0 Youssef Soliman (Egy)
              11/7, 11/5, 13/11 (38m)
Shaun Le Roux (Rsa) 3-0 Todd Harrity (Usa)
              11/9, 11/6, 11/6 (34m)

Henrik Mustonen (Fin) 3-0 Adel El Zarka (Egy)
             11/6, 11/9, 11/4 (18m)
Mazen Hesham (Egy) 3-0 Karim El Hammamy (Egy)
              11/2, 18/16, 11/4 (38m)

Qualifying finals from 12.00 Saturday at the Movenpick


Nafiizwan Adnan (Mas) 3-0 Ahmed Effat Ashoush (Egy)
             11/4, 11/6, 11/5 (26m)


Ahmed Effat Ashoush, brother of Haitham, sparring partner to Ramy when he is in Cairo and coach to several other top players, is like a puppy who has grown too fast.

Only 20 years old, although that beard make him look around 30, SHAVE IT, but as tall as Adrian Waller, he seems too big for his legs! It makes it hard for him to move fast to the front, and Wan took full advantage of that.

A few nice shots from Ahmed, but the Malaysian was in control more or less the whole match. Still, a bit too casual shots, and a few errors that he’ll have to cut if he wants to make any mark in this event against tougher opponents…

I was a bit nervous, and I felt the pressure in particular in the first game, as I wanted to make amend for Chicago, where I had a chance to make it to the main drawn, and I feel I let myself down, losing against Cesar Salazar.

Plus, first match into a tournament, playing an Egyptian, in Egypt, anything can happen! But after the first game, I managed to close it down.

From a personal point of view, I’m trying to work and progress year by year. As for my country Malaysia, we have two main goals, the Commonwealth Games in 4 years and the Asian Games, which I’m hoping to win…

Rex Hedrick (Aus) 3-0 Raphael Kandra (Ger)
            11/8, 11/5, 11/5 (42m)


I haven’t seen Rex play such a consistent game for a long time. He made 2 unforced errors the whole match, 1 in the first, 1 in the 3rd. He basically took Rafa by the throat in the first rally, making the pace a surreal fast one, and never let go.

Rafa is a strong boy, and needs a fraction more time on the ball than Rex does. And today, the Australian was ruthless, twisting and turning his German opponent, who never ever had a chance to settle in the match.

The first few rallies were crucial. I feel – I could be wrong – that the point per point up to 5 all, played at a ridiculous pace, took the oxygen away from Rafa, and from that point on, he just didn’t get his thought process in place. He kept trying to match his opponent at his own game, instead of frustrating him by slowing down the pace.

Only in the 3rd, the German started to slow down, to try and take his time. But it was unfortunately too little too late although I want to stress that the severe score doesn’t reflect either the quality of the game, nor the work produced by both players.

"I "I haven’t focused that well for a match in a long time. I have been thinking of this tournament for weeks, building up for it. I don’t get to play that many World Series, so they are extremely important for me when I get the chance. And if I have been struggling to play well in the past two weeks, I guess it’s because I was just thinking about this.

And I didn’t have any pressure in fact, I just arrived and played relaxed. I have a very hard draw, but in fact, it was better, because I had to be focused from the start.

First game was crucial, it was hard work, and I kept trying to play straight because I know he likes when you open the court. But half way along the match, I realised he was not reacting to my crosscourts that well, so I started hammering those shots, and it seemed to work.

Tom Richards (Eng) 3-0 Youssef Ibrahim (Egy)
            11/6, 11/9, 14/12 (30m)


It took a whole 30m for Tom Richards to shake off the Boy that wouldn’t be shaken off! Youssef Ibrahim, winner of a British Junior Open Title, only 16 and 422 in the PSA rankings, is one of those players you have to be weary about… Afraid of nothing, limit cocky border Football player bit of a drama queen, bless him, he is 16 and very good at it.

It was a very pleasant match to sort of finish the day, as it was decided that the Karim/Kristian match was to be finished at 6pm. And if Tom managed to win the first game rather comfortably, he just couldn’t make a clean break in the second, won only 11/9 (from 9/9!) and what about that third, where the English had match ball 10/7, and only managed to win 14/12 on his 5th match ball, thanks to two uncharacteristic tins from his opponent on the last two points…

"I never saw him play, but I knew he had won a British Open, and that he was going to be a good player. I was ready for him to fire in, which he did!

Obviously, I am happy not to lose that third, especially from a commanding position….

This season, I managed to stay healthy and fit, only that little niggle at the Dulwich BSPA, where I had to stop, more a precautionary precaution to be honest, I had taken the fact I was healthy for granted a bit, and I know the signs, so I preferred to stop.

It’s going to feel a bit like a cliché, but there only one month left for this season, and I’m truly enjoying squash, the training, the playing, which I didn’t do for a long time. So I’m just enjoying the game. And I will wait until next season to set up real solid goals and trying to go after the top guys, whereas this season, I just tried and stay healthy and enjoying my form…"

Karim Ali Fathi (Egy) 3-1 Kristian Frost (Den)
            11/13, 12/10, 11/7,11/6 (71m)


This match was a bit of a soap opera, and in several parts …

It started with the A team of referees (John central, Roy left and Mike C right) to try and prevent any troubles happening. Well, good boys, but a bit intense both…

First game went perfectly well, eventless as possible. Up to 8/8. Kristian did have a word with the ref. It didn’t fail, he tinned the next point….

At 10/8 for Karim, a superb drop shot from the Danish that the Egyptian can only put outside the court, and that’s a series of 5 points that Kristian will score, both players hitting the ball extremely hard, at a ridiculous pace. A little chatting from Karim after a no let, but nothing bad at all in that opening game.

Kristian carried on with the momentum of that end of game in the second, and zoomed pretty quickly to game ball, 10/4, with Karim just having lost his focus and playing some weird shots that didn’t do much for him.

At that point, Kristian, who had been playing an extremely positive and attacking game, just went negative. It was exactly what the Egyptian doc ordered, and you guessed, of course, Karim went on scoring the next 8 points, with only oe tin from Kristian at 10/10, as in, the Danish didn’t do anything wrong really. Karim relaxed, went for his shots, and Kristian just couldn’t stop him.

As Karim got off court, a disheartened Kristian stayed on court for a few extra seconds, and used the “F” word. John Massarella didn’t have any other choice that giving him a conduct stroke.

“Thanks John for that”, said Kristian. “Wouldn’t you be frustrated as well?”

“ You left me with no option”, replied John calmly “let’s leave it at that”.

It took a whole game to Kristian to get his head around what just happened. He just didn’t turn up for the 3rd, that Karim took pretty easily, short three shots rallies, 7/0, game ball 10/4, game 11/7.

Back for the fourth, Kristian had found his composure again, and we had a very good match yet again. Very intense, hard hitting, fast pace, and no discussions. At 5/6, Kristian serving, Karim played a superb backhand drop shot. Kristian, seeing the shot very early tried and run for it very quickly, as Karim was hitting it, and the Egyptian racquet clipped Kristian right eyebrow.

Blood injury, doctor called, and plaster was placed on the wound. But as Kristian was quite rightly feeling dizzy, Tom and Youssef went on court, and match was schedule to restart at 6pm, Karim leading 6-5.

As we restarted, John announced, "hand out, 7/5, Fathi to serve". Kristian didn’t like it for a second. “Are you asking for a decision?” asked John. “OF COURSE I’M ASKING FOR A DECISION”. “May I have a decision please?" John asked of his side refs. "Decision is no let.”

Needless to say Kristian didn’t like it, but didn’t dwell on it. Karim was just too confident by that time, and quickly took the game and match, 11/6, although we had some nice and disputed rallies…

A very frustrated Kristian shook the hand of his opponent, and stormed off court, stating that he was not happy with the decision made at the start of the restart.

It’s all happening in El Gouna. And we are here to witness it…

Omar Abdel Meguid (Egy) 3-0 Youssef Soliman (Egy)
              11/7, 11/5, 13/11 (38m)


“I train with Youssef a lot, he is an up and coming player I know he is going to be very good”, said Meguid at the end of his match against youngster 18 years old, WR 204.

And he is right. Youssef will be good. Only little thing, he is not taking the good line to the ball, and got himself penalised with a few no lets, whereas if he had gone to the ball and not the man, he would have been able to put Meguid under even more pressure, and probably take at least a game.

It really came down to very little, first game, they were 7/7, with Omar making his experience talk, 11/7. Second, more comfy, Youssef probably a bit out of breath there, 6/1, 10/4, 11/5, Meguid up 2/0.

The third was typical of what can happen when you relax while leading comfortably. Omar was up 4/0, 7/2, and thought that’s it, I’m out of here. Next thing he knows, we are back at 8/8. Again a big push, 10/8, match ball for the Man-Who-Knows-What-Women-Want bless him. Yeah yeah yeah, it will take 4 match balls to close it out 13/11, having made 5 unforced errors in that last game only.

"I train with Youssef a lot, he is an up and coming player I know he is going to be very good.

I need to sort my head round, I only play well when I’m behind in the score. When I’m leading it seems like I’m relaxing. At first, I was playing well, taking my space well, hitting the ball really well.

But it’s a good start of the tournament. A few little tuning up to do, to get my head out…"

Omar Abdel Meguid

Shaun Le Roux (Rsa) 3-0 Todd Harrity (Usa)
            11/9, 11/6, 11/6 (34m)


A pleasant match to watch, with Todd creating a lot of trouble for Shawn, moment of brilliance, but overall, Shawn overpowered him today. Still, plenty of room for improvement, and it’s truly nice to see the American getting more on the majors…

He just won the Nationals a few weeks ago, he beat Julian and Chris, so I was weary of him. He really played some great squash at the start of the second especially, he changed his tactics and came out shooting. But I know that on this court, he couldn’t play 11 shots in a row, so I tried and contained him a bit, and wait for my time to attack, which is a bit my style of game anyway, being patient and then taking my chance.

Tomorrow, I’ll play Meguid, funny, we haven’t played each other ever, and suddenly we play twice like in a week, we played last week in the final of the qualifying in Canary Wharf. We didn’t have any trouble between us, right after the match, we were talking and everything. Just with the way the match was handled by the official, it was weird… Let’s hope that this time will be smoother…


Henrik Mustonen (Fin) 3-0 Adel El Zarka (Egy)
           11/6, 11/9, 11/4 (18m)

Henrik in a rush

Young Finn Henrik Mustonen completed quickest win of the tournament so far, but the way that Adel El Zarka attacked him, he surely felt he'd done more than 18 minutes' worth of work.

The 23 year old Egyptian hit some powerful winners from unlikely positions, particularly in the first part of the first two games. Mustonen took an early lead before Zarka levelled at 3-all, then a couple of long rallies set the Finn up to take control of the first.

Zarka started the second well, and led 8-5 thanks to more of those winners, but Mustonen stuck with it, pegged back that lead to take the game 11/9, and that was the end of that as a real contest, the third was over in a flash.

"That was tougher than the time says, he has some really good shots and he goes for them early - that's normally my game, people ask me why I go for the winners so early, but he was beating me to it!

"When I was down in the second I had to try to be patient and it worked, it's sometimes hard to get back into your rhythm when you drop a game to someone who attacks that much, so I was pleased to take the second, and I was happy with how I played generally.

Mazen Hesham (Egy) 3-0 Karim El Hammamy (Egy)
              11/2, 18/16, 11/4 (38m)


Of course I’m kidding.

Seriously. That boy, so talented, SOOOOO talented, takes the first game, 9/0, 11/2, frustrating the former British Junior Open Karim El Hammamy and not letting him breathe, then keeps on the same momentum in the second, 4/0 7/1, and zoom, switches off.

Thanks very much says Karim – who had to be reminded several times to speak in English as he kept address the central ref – and the two side referees also Egyptian – in Arabic, who starts lining the points like shooting ducks at the fair. Claws back, scoring 7 points in a row to reach 8/7. 8/8. 9/9. Mazen is getting more and more intense, clearly indicating in English that he feels his opponent is blocking him. Meanwhile Karim is explaining his side of the story, but in Arabic, so, can’t know what the heck he is saying, me.

Karim gets a game ball at 10/9, then another one at 12/11. While LaidBack Mazen will make 8 tins and will require 6 game balls to finally shake off his young opponent, 18/16. Drama all around, I tell you.

In the third, still a lot of fast and furious hitting and superb soft hands from both players, but it’s Mazen that shows his ranking 30, compared to the 126 of his opponent. But why make your life that difficult, Mazen.

Chill my friend, just… CHILL!!!!

Today, I felt I was boxed out, bullied away, partly because I was too loose at times, and my length was not always there. He is also very good at taking his space and he is moving very well.

I like Egypt a lot. I am coached by Mohamed Ali Anwar Reda now, with Scott Devoy as well, but Mohamed Ali just invited me to stay with him and his family for a week just before the tournament. And I have been hanging out with Egyptians all the time, his family or his wife family, and their hospitality is amazing, I truly enjoyed the family culture. It’s stronger than what I have back in the States, and it’s great.

I started playing on the PSA right after I graduated, as in 18 months ago. I don’t have a specific goal, if only to improve with each match. I’m trying to be a better payer, to gain more experience. My ranking at the moment is 68 I believe, the figure I have in mind is top 50, but then again, I’m not hung the number really. It may take 3 months, 6 months of a year, it doesn’t matter, it’s all about enjoying the process…


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