TODAY at the El Gouna International
05 Apr, Round One, Top:
Day of the comeback as Ghosal and Hesham surprise
in El Gouna
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
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
 Nick Matthew (Eng) 3-0 [wc] Zahed
 Peter Barker (Eng) 3-0 Adrian
(Ind) 3-2  Tarek Momen (Egy)
7/11, 12/14, 11/9 (85m)
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (Egy) 3-0
[Q] Ali Farag (Egy)
13/11, 11/5 (45m)
Round One, top
Max Lee (Hkg) 3-2 [Q] Nafiizwan Adnan
7/11, 8/11, 11/5, 11/5, 11/8 (76m)
Omar Mosaad (Egy) 3-0 [Q] Olli
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
12/10, 11/7, 11/13, 11/7 (56m)
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 5Ö. 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).
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 didnít do many errors in
the first two games, he started to make a few of them,
especially when he was in front Ė which he was systematically in
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, itís all up in
the air, but Max eventually, finally, manages to close it down,
was not there. Nothing was there. Pace, speed, shots, length,
seeing the ball, nothing. I havenít played enough squash Ė as in
not at all Ė 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 Iím not tired. But I guess I am!
In the first two, I was trying to be aggressive, but I didnít
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, Iím 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 betterÖ
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!!!
Mosaad (Egy) 3-0 [Q] Olli Tuominen
11/5, 11/8, 13/11 (42m)
FAST, FURIOUS, A NORMAL DAY AT 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, itís a tieÖ.
One of those matches you know are going to go fast, win or lose.
Itís fast, itís furious, itís entertaining, with some stunning
winners and blasting tins! Got to love it.
nice that Mosaad doesnít build his former Wall of China anymore.
Today, he got away with a nice stroke when going for his
opponent body, but thatís 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. Itís soooo
much more fluid, pleasant squash to watchÖ 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, didnít want to waste too much energy on the
court, and he takes the match on his second match ball, 13/11Ö
think Olli likes this court, he seems very comfortable in it,
and itís like Finland, hard courts.
He managed to put me under pressure, and I couldnít play my game
as well as I wanted. He was particularly strong on the backhand,
and thatís where I made the most errors, whereas itís normally
my strongest shot. I tried to vary the pace, sometimes it
worked, sometimes it didnítÖ
Itís 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 Iíll play
better in my next round, winner between Saurav or Tarek.
OK, now, time to get to the beach, have my lunchÖ plus a day of
Castagnet (Fra) 3-2 [Q] Omar Abdel
7/11, 6/11, 11/5, 12/10, 11/9 (88m)
ICEMAN STRIKES AGAIN
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 ďthatĒ 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, itís probably where Omar lost the matchÖ
the 5th, itís anybodyís 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, itís 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, itís 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 Iím sitting, but I was far
left, wonít take position), match Mathieu.
I know Omar will be bitterly disappointed. But it was a great
match. And Mathieu, well, Iceman strikes againÖ More of this
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
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 ďIcemanĒ 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 didnít get
excited, I didnít lose my calm, and I am lucky I had Grťgory and
Grťgoire 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, Iím so happy, Iím back baby!!!!!!
Hesham (Egy) 3-1 Simon RŲsner (Ger)
12/10, 11/7, 11/13, 11/7 (56m)
More important that the victory, was Mazenís 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. Thatís all. And for
those who know Mazen, it is a bit of a miracle in itselfÖ
And that gave him the victory. Because he went for his shots,
didnít go bezurk when he tinned one, didnít 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.
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.
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
He came back in the 4th game, ďas if nothing happenedĒ, and went
up 5/2, 7/4, 10 match bal. A bit of trembling in the arm Ė 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 canít save the 4th, Mazen win 11/7
on a stroke.
know, I was calm. I came back in the fourth as if nothing
I always doubt, I can never be sure of whatís going to happen,
so many variables, court, ball, opponent, ref, temperature, it
can all change/go wrong, and even if Iím 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.
Iím 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 itís never going to
happen, Iím 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 itÖ
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
Matthew (Eng) 3-0 [wc] Zahed Mohamed
 Peter Barker (Eng) 3-0 Adrian
English winners on the glass
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
was a tough match, I was weary of him, I knew he didnít 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, itís relaxing!
And Iím so happy to be back here, I miss the previous two years,
so itís nice to be back here, in front of a knowledgeable crowd.
Iím looking forward to the rest of the week, and actually, I
donít feel any pressure on me, itís 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.
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, letís 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 itís 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,
Iím telling myself, itís a mental training for Egypt: how to get
aggressive in your body, and calm in your squash. Thatís the
So like I said, Iím just here to enjoy my squash, as I do these
Ghosal (Ind) 3-2  Tarek Momen (Egy)
12/10, 11/1, 7/11,
12/14, 11/9 (85m)
ONE MORE, JUST ONE MOREÖ
Youíve got matches where players give their best, and still you
are not that fascinated. And then, you have Tarek playing
against Saurav. ďOne more, just one moreĒ they seemed to say to
themselves after hitting a shot. Just one more. And one more.
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 itÖ.
Lord knows Iíve seen a few matches. It is the first official
round, and I have already see 16 matches 24 matches. But I canít
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 doesnít tell
the whole story, 11/1Ö
third sees the re-emergence of Tarek, who takes the lead for the
first time of the match at 5/4. He wonít let go of it, taking
the game 10/6, 11/7 in 12m (first game was 14, and the second
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
wonít 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, youíve got to
buy/see the replay on SquashTV. And Tarek Ė very tired Ė
clinches it 14/12. Happy the crowd wasÖ
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 breathÖ
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 Iím 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
didnít control the ball as well as I did in the first 2, but
itís 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.
I should have closed it in the 4th, but I donít 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 5thÖ
Elshorbagy (Egy) 3-0 [Q] Ali Farag
13/11, 11/5 (45m)
ALI, A PROMISING FUTURE
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.
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
wouldnít 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
The best compliment Mohamed could give him, was that he made him
nervous. ďWe 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.ĒÖ
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 MohamedÖ
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 helpÖ
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 dayÖ
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 didnít used to be like that. Things have changed a lot
this past season, and Iím learning. They say sometimes you have
to lose to learn. Well Iím 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 couldnít
move. I couldnít 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 canít 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 quicklyÖ
is just a deceptive player, we never beat each other 3/0 in the
junior years, always 3/1, 3/2. So thatís 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 Iím sure he has
learned a few things since then as well. Iíll have to give my
100%, that shows the respect I have for him. Hopefully heíll
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.
OverwhelmedÖ But step by stepÖ