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


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TODAY at the El Gouna International 2015
05 Apr, Round One, Top:
Day of the comeback as Ghosal and Hesham surprise in El Gouna
After three days of qualifying which saw five Egyptians added to the main draw, it's on to Round One, with the top half of the draw today, four matches at the Movenpick, and four on the Glass Court in the Marina.

At the Movenpick Max Lee and Mathieu Castagnet both came from two games down to dent their opponents an upset win, but Simon Rosner's attempted comeback fell short as qualifier Mazen Hesham recorded one of his best wins to progress.

At the Marina Tarek Momen came from two games down against Saurav Ghosal, saved five match balls in the fourth but ultimately fell 11-9 in the fifth.

Nick Matthew, Peter Barker and top seed Mohamed Elshorbagy all won in straight games, although top seed Shorbagy had his work cut out fending off the challenge of fellow Egyptian qualifier Ali Farag ...

Round One, top half, Marina:   Match Stats from SquashApp

[3] Nick Matthew (Eng) 3-0 [wc] Zahed Mohamed (Egy)
            11/7, 11/6, 11/6 (47m)
[8] Peter Barker (Eng) 3-0 Adrian Waller (Eng)
            11/5, 11/7, 11/3 (47m)
Saurav Ghosal
(Ind) 3-2 [7] Tarek Momen (Egy)
            12/10, 11/1, 7/11, 12/14, 11/9 (85m)
[1] Mohamed Elshorbagy (Egy) 3-0 [Q] Ali Farag (Egy)
             11/9, 13/11, 11/5 (45m)

Round One, top half, Movenpick:

Max Lee (Hkg) 3-2 [Q] Nafiizwan Adnan (Mas)
              7/11, 8/11, 11/5, 11/5, 11/8 (76m)
Omar Mosaad (Egy) 3-0 [Q] Olli Tuominen (Fin)
              11/5, 11/8, 13/11 (42m)

Mathieu Castagnet (Fra) 3-2 [Q] Omar Abdel Meguid (Egy)
              7/11, 6/11, 11/5, 12/10, 11/9 (88m)
[Q] Mazen Hesham (Egy) 3-1 Simon Rösner (Ger)
              12/10, 11/7, 11/13, 11/7 (56m)

Max Lee (Hkg) 3-2 [Q] Nafiizwan Adnan (Mas)
              7/11, 8/11, 11/5, 11/5, 11/8 (76m)


One of those matches, you know is going to go in 5…. Max was not in the best of form when he started his match against a buoyant Wan, all confidence up from his victory the day before against Rex, 3/0! He knew the court, he knee his opponent, roughly the same age, so those two must have played a few times in the Asian Games on top of their 4 matches in PSA (2 each, with the last 2 going to Max).

Wan had nothing to lose and it showed. He played superbly sharp and attacking squash, getting a sluggish reaction, if no reaction at all, from his opponent. In no time, and with uncharacteristic errors from Max, Wan was up 2/0, 11/7, 11/8, his boast and counterdropping working perfectly.

But Max woke up bless him. And if Wan didn’t do many errors in the first two games, he started to make a few of them, especially when he was in front – which he was systematically in every game….

Complete melt down for the Malaysian in the 3rd, 6 unforced errors, but a good start in the 4th, yet again, only to be caught up, losing it 11/5. And we were in a decider.

The closest/most disputed game of the match, from far, each player going ahead only to be caught up. At 8/8, it’s all up in the air, but Max eventually, finally, manages to close it down, 11/8…

It was not there. Nothing was there. Pace, speed, shots, length, seeing the ball, nothing. I haven’t played enough squash – as in not at all – since Canary Wharf, went back home for 2 days, then back again. So the body system is shutting down I guess. And I keep telling myself that I’m not tired. But I guess I am!

In the first two, I was trying to be aggressive, but I didn’t manage to get a proper start, in either of the game. He always had 3, 4 points ahead, and I would catch up. I had to go back to basics, my short shots were not working, my game was not there, so I just tried and hung in there.

In the 4th and 5th, I’m lucky because he made a few errors in a row, and that allowed me back in again. But I played so few short shots, I was not confident really, maybe a bit better in the end, but not that much better…

Frustrated of course after losing the firs two games that quickly, under 20m, but really happy to get through, really happy to get to play another day, excited to win!!!

Omar Mosaad (Egy) 3-0 [Q] Olli Tuominen (Fin)
              11/5, 11/8, 13/11 (42m)


The Gods of Squash bless Mosaad and Olli, who basically make a competition to whom will hit the fast/harder shots. And in my book, it’s a tie….

One of those matches you know are going to go fast, win or lose. It’s fast, it’s furious, it’s entertaining, with some stunning winners and blasting tins! Got to love it.

It’s nice that Mosaad doesn’t build his former Wall of China anymore. Today, he got away with a nice stroke when going for his opponent body, but that’s all.

Which is a great great great change from way back when he was not giving his opponents a chance to go to the ball. It’s soooo much more fluid, pleasant squash to watch… Thanks Omar.

First two games were straight forward, 5, 8, but the 3rd was much closer, when Omar started to pile on the tins (5 tins at 5/2 Olli), and Olli took again confidence.

The Finn went up, 7/2, 8/5, and game ball 10/8. But Mosaad just gave it a big push, didn’t want to waste too much energy on the court, and he takes the match on his second match ball, 13/11…

"I think Olli likes this court, he seems very comfortable in it, and it’s like Finland, hard courts.

He managed to put me under pressure, and I couldn’t play my game as well as I wanted. He was particularly strong on the backhand, and that’s where I made the most errors, whereas it’s normally my strongest shot. I tried to vary the pace, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t…

It’s always difficult, your first match, you are not 100% comfortable, not 100% focused, and I struggling to find my shots. Still very happy to make it in 3, and I hope I’ll play better in my next round, winner between Saurav or Tarek.

OK, now, time to get to the beach, have my lunch… plus a day of rest tomorrow…

bye Fram…"


Mathieu Castagnet (Fra) 3-2 [Q] Omar Abdel Meguid (Egy)
              7/11, 6/11, 11/5, 12/10, 11/9 (88m)


What a great match that was. Yes, there was a bit of contact here and there. And Meguid was told that he had to move a different way out of the ball or make a different choice of shots by the Central Ref, but Mat also got penalised for staying in the way. To summarise, they both gave as much as they received. And on a traditional court, bouncy today as the temperature outside got up, two big boys, loving to volley, run and take the ball early, it was to be expected.

First and second, all about an accurate Meguid, just too precise, especially on the backhand wall, gluing the shots and prevent Mathieu to attack, from 6/6 in the 1st, nice winners, 11/7, then from 4/4 in the second, again Meguid calm and composed, finding the shots, while Mat is running for them.

But in the 3rd, little drop of mental energy probably, Mathieu is top 13, Omar 28, he must have been a bit surprised to get up there “that” easily. So a bit of relaxation, taking the ball a bit later, and Mat feels it, taking advantage, 11/5 in no time, helped by many tins from Meguid.

Mathieu goes on with the momentum in the 4th, 5/1, 7/3. Patiently, accurately, intensely, the Egyptian claws back, playing as well as I ever seen him play. Mathieu is responding, but a bit short on the ball, 9/9. Mathieu gets the game on his second game ball, it’s probably where Omar lost the match…

In the 5th, it’s anybody’s call. Both players are giving the crowd stupendous rallies, I personally never saw Omar play that well, ever. He is top 10, moving well, Mathieu the same, it’s magical to watch them really, so intense, so.. squash how we like it. OK, maybe a tiny too many lets to make it the best ever, but hey, not far off!

Omar is up 6/3, back comes Mat, 6/6, 7/7, 8/8. A few contact, Omar on the floor, it’s all happening, stroke, 9/8n no let, 10/8, match ball, stroke for Omar, 9/10, 2nd match ball, a no let (maybe a bit harsh from where I’m sitting, but I was far left, won’t take position), match Mathieu.

I know Omar will be bitterly disappointed. But it was a great match. And Mathieu, well, Iceman strikes again… More of this please.

I have some pretty busy and intense 5 months squash wise, I win Montreal, do a final in the British Grand Prix, then WR13 on the 1st Feb, and to crown it all, I win at last my first French Champion title.

And that got to me. For some strange reason, I lost all confidence in myself, and when I arrive in Chicago, I play against a Marwan, who got his confidence back by beating me!

So, with my team around me, we tried and spent a month to make sure I would get my confidence back, my fighting spirit, my concentration, my “Iceman” qualities as you call me. Add to that, two injuries in the past month, quads and calf, so, it put a bit more pressure on myself.

So today, after losing the first two games, I didn’t get excited, I didn’t lose my calm, and I am lucky I had Grégory and Grégoire to give me a tactical plan, and motivation.

In the 3rd, I saw that he was dropping a bit physically, he was taking the ball a bit later, and from wining the 3rd, I knew I could win the 4th, and when I saw that I was feeling good at the start of the 5th, it gave me confidence.

When I knew I was going to win, we are at 6/5, and he tins one of his favourite shots for the first time on the right side. And I thought aha! And after that, a few nice shots, yes, contact, but I manage to win the match.

Omar played a superb match, he took his chances, and it was a great match. As for me, I’m so happy, I’m back baby!!!!!!

[Q] Mazen Hesham (Egy) 3-1 Simon Rösner (Ger)
              12/10, 11/7, 11/13, 11/7 (56m)


More important that the victory, was Mazen’s demeanour today. He was CALM. Yes, you read it well. A bit like saying that Fram is diplomatic, nobody will believe it, but he was!!! He only got excited once, when he got a no let on his second match ball in the third game, and for about 5 seconds. That’s all. And for those who know Mazen, it is a bit of a miracle in itself…

And that gave him the victory. Because he went for his shots, didn’t go bezurk when he tinned one, didn’t argue with the refs, the ball, the court conditions, his hair, nothing. That was the Lethal Mazen at his best. Inventive. Incredibly fast. A Boneless Wrist backhand that is basically impossible to read, with a backhand dropshot combined with a backhand kill that very few people could retrieve.

Simon did very little wrong. Actually, nothing wrong. He tried and weathered the storm, surely, he is bound to make errors at some point, SURELY he can not go on playing spotless squash forever. Well guess what. He did.

First game is crucial I guess, confidence wise. Simon is dominating, and goes rather fast to game ball 10/5. Annnnd Mazen just switches on the nick machine. 6/10, nick. 7/10, nick. 8/10, nick. 9/10, tin Simon. 10/10. With Mazen having completely unsettled Simon, taking a crucial first, 13/11.

Simon is a bit lost at sea, against a young player that he KNOWS can be very dangerous. He won a 5 setter against him a few months ago in Colombia. Did he start doubting? Did Mazen felt it? Second game in no time, 11/7 Mazen.

The end of the 3rd would have pierced the heart of any youngster. He had done everything right. He was patient when he needed to, 8/8, 9/9, very long rallies, he got a first match ball, he tinned it after an intense long rally, got a second match ball, lost it on a no let, and lost the game eventually 13/11.

Did he go mad? Did he lost his footing, or game plan? No he did not.

He came back in the 4th game, “as if nothing happened”, and went up 5/2, 7/4, 10 match bal. A bit of trembling in the arm – are you surprised, Simon is ranked 10, he is 30, a big upset in the can. Simon switches on the Experience Machine button. And saves 1, 2, 3, match balls. But he can’t save the 4th, Mazen win 11/7 on a stroke.

I know, I was calm. I came back in the fourth as if nothing happened.

I always doubt, I can never be sure of what’s going to happen, so many variables, court, ball, opponent, ref, temperature, it can all change/go wrong, and even if I’m ready, maybe he is even more ready than I am!

In the first game, I think he was really unlucky. And that mentally, it must have hurt. I got like 4 or 5 nicks, and he made only 1 error. I was tooo lucky.

I’m happy I was patient when I needed to be patient, I played the right pace when I needed to, and I stick to my plan. That's the thing, having a plan and sticking to it. And since the beginning of the year, I have had so many matches where it went, nearly there, nearly winning, and I thought it’s never going to happen, I’m never going to win, and Omar Abdel Aziz my coach was repeating, it will come, it will come. And it came, here, in front of my mother, and my father, and my coach, and my friends, in Egypt, in El Gouna, that was the way to do it…

Simon (on twitter)

Well, not too much I could have done better today. Mazen played shots from everywhere and kept errors to a minimum.

Time to regroup and get ready for the next one! #OnwardsAndUpWards

[3] Nick Matthew (Eng) 3-0 [wc] Zahed Mohamed (Egy)
            11/7, 11/6, 11/6 (47m)            SquashApp Stats
[8] Peter Barker (Eng) 3-0 Adrian Waller (Eng)
            11/5, 11/7, 11/3 (47m)

English winners on the glass

Action on the glass court at the marina started with two English winners, both in straight games, both in 47 minutes.

First Nick Matthew beat Zahed Mohamed, the wildcard stayed with the third seed in each of the three games before Matthew pulled clear at the end of each.

Then Peter Barker took on fellow Londoner, fellow left-hander Adrian Waller, and the eighth seed took charge in the early stage of each of the three games with Waller unable to close the gap.

It was a tough match, I was weary of him, I knew he didn’t have to qualify, he was the wild card, meaning that he was thinking about this match for weeks. And in an opening night, so many things can go wrong, so many variables, the lighting, the wind, so I was prepared.

I am more relaxed now, when you have a daughter, it’s relaxing! And I’m so happy to be back here, I miss the previous two years, so it’s nice to be back here, in front of a knowledgeable crowd. I’m looking forward to the rest of the week, and actually, I don’t feel any pressure on me, it’s nice, not that I feel much pressure anymore nowadays, but I guess everybody expects the Egyptians to win, so I can just relax and enjoy my squash.

Funny you know, after Canary Wharf I was a bit flat, and I was playing Coppinger in PSA and I was one game down, game ball down, and I thought to myself, how much do I want this, how much am I ready to push? And I thought, let’s make it a mental exercise for when I play in Egypt. You know, they had the club packed of supporters, all shouting for Cops, and it’s exactly what happens if you play Shorbagy or Ramy in Saudi or Egypt, everybody supports their man. So every time I feel a bit flat mentally, I’m telling myself, it’s a mental training for Egypt: how to get aggressive in your body, and calm in your squash. That’s the key.

So like I said, I’m just here to enjoy my squash, as I do these days…

Saurav Ghosal (Ind) 3-2 [7] Tarek Momen (Egy)
           12/10, 11/1, 7/11, 12/14, 11/9 (85m)   SquashApp Stats


You’ve got matches where players give their best, and still you are not that fascinated. And then, you have Tarek playing against Saurav. “One more, just one more” they seemed to say to themselves after hitting a shot. Just one more. And one more.

Tonight, Saurav and Tarek went to their physical limit. I saw in the 4th Tarek nearly on the verge of asphyxia on the last match ball he saved. And he saved it….

Lord knows I’ve seen a few matches. It is the first official round, and I have already see 16 matches 24 matches. But I can’t remember two players playing that fast, retrieving that fast, in the four corners, consistently, from the first rally to the last. What Tarek attacked today is just incredible, and what Saurav saved and counterattacked as well, is just pure magic.

We had a normal slow start from Tarek, I guess that if he was winning the first match I would get worried now, especially as for once, he fought truly hard, although he still made 6 unforced errors. Very close all the way, not much between them, but Saurav was always ahead, and him only had game balls, three of them. The Indian takes the first game, 12/10. The second is much faster, but still Tarek is trying, the score doesn’t tell the whole story, 11/1…

The third sees the re-emergence of Tarek, who takes the lead for the first time of the match at 5/4. He won’t let go of it, taking the game 10/6, 11/7 in 12m (first game was 14, and the second 7).

The fourth is truly astonishing. Saurav takes a superb lead, and retrieved beautifully, forcing a few errors out of Tarek, and seems on his way to the second round, 9/4, 10/6. Tarek chooses that moment to play the best squash of the match, scoring 5 points in a row (only 1 error from Saurav), to get his first game ball at 11/10. Saurav will have overall 5 match balls he won’t be able to convert. If during the first 3 games, the Indian was pro-active, creating the opportunity as well as retrieving, he fell a bit in the old trap on only returning the ball. Still, each rally was just breathtaking, you’ve got to buy/see the replay on SquashTV. And Tarek – very tired – clinches it 14/12. Happy the crowd was…

Back to the mill for courageous Saurav who again is finding his targets at the back, and is more positive. He probably thought that keeping that 4th took a heck of a lot out of Tarek. And up the Indian goes again, 3/1, 6/2. Is he going to be able to maintain the lead this time? 5/6 Tarek comes close. Up again, 9/6 goes Saurav, again Tarek closes the gap, 9/9. But a tin, at such a crucial time, and yet another superb intense fast rally, and at last a drive that Tarek cannot get off the wall. 11/9, Saurav got the win he wanted for so long, on his 6th match ball.

We are all out of breath…

We're both similar players in the way we move and the amount of attacking play, we like to move the ball around. We both have to fight against our instinct that pushes us to go short, but I hope it makes for an entertaining match.

We seem to go, he wins one, then I win one. So we looked at each other in the TOC, like, it was your turn. I guess I’m lucky tonight it was my turn.

Tarek showed real guts to come back when I was 2-0 up today and he played unbelievable in the fourth game especially. I guess I didn’t control the ball as well as I did in the first 2, but it’s all credit to him, from the third onwards, the way he played, he put me under so much pressure, and the ball had gone a bit softer, it was harder to find your length and make it bounce where I wanted.

Maybe I should have closed it in the 4th, but I don’t think I played badly on any of my match balls. He played so well, and I was ecstatic and relieved to stick one on the wall and win the match on my first attempt in that 5th…

[1] Mohamed Elshorbagy (Egy) 3-0 [Q] Ali Farag (Egy)
             11/9, 13/11, 11/5 (45m)       SquashApp Stats


I have discovered Ali Farag I only knew from reputation up to now. Him and his brother Wael are famous for their well behaved attitude, their honestly, their talent and their charm. Well, I second all that.

Against The Acrobat Greg Marche, Ali played superbly, fair and clean, intense and yet calm. What an example.

Again tonight, against a not that comfortable out there after a bit of a bad time burn out Shorbagy Senior, he showed how strong mentally he is, how honest, how intrinsically honest he is. He wouldn’t a double bounce if a world title depended on it, I would bet my life on that.

Yes, I fell under the charm of this young man, who seems to have grown too quickly, long legs and arms, but my LORD does he move fast.

The best compliment Mohamed could give him, was that he made him nervous. “We used to have huge battles and play well against each other in our junior days. We never won 3/0, it was always, 3/1, 3/2. So I was prepared for him today.”…

First game, Ali took the game to Mohamed, leading 8/4. The world number 1 took it pretty seriously, and just tighten his shots, scoring 7 points in a row.

The second was in no way comfy for Shorbagy, who seemed in control, 5/1, only to be caught up at 6/6. He went up again 10/6, and it seemed the end of that. Meeeeeeh no, and Ali, with all guns, blasted his opponent all the way to a tie-break! Patient rallies, gruelling, forcing a few errors out of Mohamed… Ali even got a game ball on his own, 11/10, but experience won the game, 13/11. Pfew that was faaaar too close for comfort. I could hear Mum and Dad Shorbagy being vocal, supporting Mohamed. That means they felt he needed help…

The third will be more about Mohamed, having a lot of fun out there, trying on a few shots, coming back from 2/4 to lead 7/4, 9/5 and 11/6.

Great way to finish a long day…

I realise that roles have changed. I used to chase the top players, I just played Fares and my brother in Chicago, here I play Ali and Mazen the second round. All of them younger than me. It didn’t used to be like that. Things have changed a lot this past season, and I’m learning. They say sometimes you have to lose to learn. Well I’m trying to learn, but still trying to win as well.

Getting to the final of Chicago, when I was very ill, took a lot out of me. And I just had a breakdown after that. For example, I had troubles with my blood pressure for the first time of my life! It was so tough, and for a few days after, I just couldn’t move. I couldn’t train anymore. I was playing for 10m and I had to stop. There is nothing worse than the thing you love the most in life, you can’t do anymore.

Thank God I have a great team around me, and we managed to turn it around. Now for about 10 days, I feel fresh, to the point where I feel this is the first tournament of the season! Funny how things can turn around that quickly…

Ali is just a deceptive player, we never beat each other 3/0 in the junior years, always 3/1, 3/2. So that’s why I had to give my full focus from the first rally of the match, and maybe why I was a bit tense out there tonight. Because I knew I could well be out of the tournament. But thank God for the rest of us, he is still training with the Military, and hopefully, they will keep him over there for a few more years!!!!!!

The second round: Mazen. I played him last year, I had to play really well because of how good he is, and I’m sure he has learned a few things since then as well. I’ll have to give my 100%, that shows the respect I have for him. Hopefully he’ll make a few tins, he normally does!!!!

You know, they always say the top players keep their best game for the semis onward. There are very few players that can force you to play out of your skin, out of the top four. And for me, Simon is one of them. So I was not looking forward to playing him in the second round.

But if Mazen beat him, that means that Mazen must be playing really well! I will have to be ready.

SquashApp Stats

Overwhelmed… But step by step…

SquashApp Stats

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