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


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TODAY at the El Gouna International 2015
Top four through to semis

The home crowd at the Abu Tig Marina tonight three had Egyptians to cheer on, but English fans - and there are a few here enjoying an Easter holiday - in the event it was the top four seeds - two of them Egyptian - who won through in contrasting fashions ...


[3] Nick Matthew (Eng) 3-1 Omar Mosaad (Egy)
               8/11, 11/4, 11/9, 12/10 (82m)

[2] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 3-0 Daryl Selby (Eng)
                11/4, 11/3, 11/1 (25m)

[1] Mohamed Elshorbagy (Egy) 3-0 [8] Peter Barker (Eng)
               11/7, 11/8, 11/9 (53m)

[4] Ramy Ashour (Egy)
3-1 James Willstrop (Eng)
               11/7, 14/12, 9/11, 11/4 (56m)

Quarter-final Roundup

First up was Nick Matthew, playing his 600th PSA match against Omar Mosaad, who had never beaten the Englishman in six previous PSA matches.

It was the Egyptian who took the first game though, in a match that was never less than tough, often brutal. After Matthew struck back to lead two-one, Mosaad had two game balls in the fourth and was awarded a stroke on the second, overturned by the video ref into a let.

Matthew took advantage, taking the next three points to advance to the semi-finals.
In the second match Gregory Gaultier improved his 11-1 record against Daryl Selby, the Englishman unable to put up much resistance after two brutal and exhausting matches totalling 189 minutes on the Movenpick traditional court in the last two days - compared to Gaultier's 98 minutes on the glass court.

Top seed Mohamed Elshorbagy made it three nationalities in the semis as he delighted the crowd with a hard-fought win over Peter Barker. Trailing in all three games, the Egyptian's determination finally pulled him through in three tough games.
The final match of the night pitted defending champion Ramy Ashour against James Willstrop, both returning to action after injury layoffs.  Ashour took the first, and the next two were shared - although both could have gone either way - before Ashour found the extra in the fourth to keep his grip on the title, for now at least.

[3] Nick Matthew (Eng) 3-1 Omar Mosaad (Egy)
               8/11, 11/4, 11/9, 12/10 (82m)


How do I know? I never saw him playing that patiently EVER! I’m told he did the same in the ToC, but it was one of the few matches that were really too late for me to watch on SquashTV.

It’s amazing how, from a “rugby” style, too much contact, blocking, poor fitness tins one out of two rallies, Mosaad is now able to play patient & fluid squash, have great fitness and drop the errors rate to an extreme minimum. Work and training talks my friends…

How important that appearance was for Omar? He actually went to the hairdresser for the occasion bless him.

Thing is, the glasscourt is shown on National Television here, commented by Promoter/Coach/Adorable Man Ashraf Hanafi, who has coached 90% of the Egyptians you see shine today. So, when the whole of your neighbourhood is looking, you want to look good… Blessssss….

Very hard conditions indeed, the humidity/warm was extremely high, the VIP sofas around the court were dump, and the “court stewards” as one of the refs called them were not left to rest…

Nick took an excellent start, 4/0, but the rest of the game was pretty close, as Mosaad shook off the nerves he had in the beginning, 5/4 Nick, and the Egyptian overtaking the English with a superb patient and powerful style, scoring 4 points from 6/8. Two unforced errors for Nick, only one for Mosaad, 11/8 in a long 22m.

In the second, Mosaad pays for the work Nick made him do in the 1st, with the English collecting the dividends nicely, thank you very much, 3/0 6/2, 11/4 in 10m, one error each.

Third our Mosaad is now rested, the combat may start again. Very little between them, 3/3, 4/4, Nick seems to dominate, but back at 7/7, 8/8, 9/9. Mosaad, falling into precipitation trap, tins twice in 4 points. And with a tin and a stroke, Nick takes that crucial third, according to David Pearson, coach to the English Stars plus a few others, 11/9, another very long 19m.

Fourth will be superb of drama and intensity, with Nick having a “scrambled brain” moment, as he described it, finding himself from 2/0 up to 7/3 down. A bit of forcing from Mosaad at the crucial time, 2 tins, and Nick doesn’t realllllly want a 5th. Big push. But Mosaad is too strong, game ball 10/7.

Or is he? Nick scores the following 5 points, and it’s all happening in there, strokes, even a review that transform a stroke for Omar into a let, winners from Nick, and a nice Eid gift to finish, two loud tins to end the match, 12/10 in 21m. In that game alone, Mosaad made more errors than he did the rest of the match. Pressure, tiredness, old demons.

But he was not far off. I know that, because the “Nick come on” from Hedley Matthew, and the “Come Nick” from mum Sue in the VIP seat were louder and louder, and more frequent than I heard them this week!!.. Inside information me….

It was a brutal match against Matthew. I was so close in z 3&4 (hard luck) this time ,it's time to get ready for Swiss open, thx for z support:)

   on twitter

Brutal, brutal match today.

It’s strange, like Mathieu yesterday, we seem to have similar kind of battles with Mosaad too.

The last one in New York was quite similar, only difference, he manage to push me to 5, this time, I kept it to 4.

I’m lucky that at the end of the 4th, he pushed it too hard, for the first time of the match. A great relief not to go to 5!

When you are playing the first match of the day, the conditions are incredibly hard, I don’t think I ever played in such much humidity conditions. It was such a challenge, that’s probably why I was happy to take it at the end.

He really wanted it, but so did I! I always want to win, even at scrabble or monopoly!

Yes he was patient, but he is always patient when he plays against me! It was impossible not to be patient in those conditions, there is a lot of fluid to replace now!!!

It’s so energy sapping, it sorts of scrambles your thought process, you relax for just a second, you think you are fine, and suddenly, like in the 4th, you find yourself 7/3 down! So it’s better to take a bit of rest between the points, let go, go down, and up again.

He has improved so much, physically, he is there…. Tough conditions, tough match.

I’m looking forward to play at a later time tomorrow, in cooler conditions, cause now, there is a lot of recovery strategy to put in place!!!

Just been told that this was my 445th victory in PSA. Funny, Esme my wife was asking me how many wins I had in my whole career. I thought about 500, that’s with all the nationals, leagues, teams etc. So, 445, not bad. Another 55, and I’ll retire…

[1] Mohamed Elshorbagy (Egy) 3-0 [8] Peter Barker (Eng)
               11/7, 11/8, 11/9 (53m)


Loved the match, as we had a Pete that completely changed his approach for this match, instead of going for the gruelling first game, trying to wear his opponent down with a typical English style, he probably though, when in Rome, if it works for them here, might as well work for me as well!

And it made a great match, with the English attacking at will from the first rally! Mohamed, a bit nervous in front of his crowd, made a few errors tonight, all credit to Pete’s pressure really.

From 7/7 in the first, Mohamed scores 6 points, that sorted that one, 14m, 3 tins from the Egyptian, none from the English.

The second much closer all the way, from 1/1 again to 7/7, a little “Ref, watch, in that rally, I didn’t have a chance to get to the ball twice there” from Pete, but no real complain to the ref or bad atmosphere between the players, very few calls as well. Forced to defend a lot, Mohamed still takes the second, but it’s hard work, on his second game ball, 3 tins Shorbagy, 1 Barker, 11/8, 18m still…

A bit of a scare at the start of the 3rd for Pete, a sharp pain in the knee, he stops running for three points, but it’s fine and goes away. Even more disputed that game, Pete seems to have the upper hand, 8/5, 4 points Shorbagy then 9/9, a little conduct warning for chatting too much with the ref for the Egyptian, a little slip for Pete allied with a nice drop shot from Mohamed, match ball, and a tin to finish, the only one Pete did that game, 11/9, 17m, not one error from Mohamed in that closing game…

Despite the fact I lost 3/0, I was not a million miles away.

We always have good battles, all of them have been pretty fair, you are getting as good as you give, and at the end of the match, you shake hands.

I think the conditions helped him, but tactically, I played well, in patches that is. But my boast, normally my best shot, didn’t work at all today, it was too hot and too bouncy, so I had to find other ways to put him under pressure.

I’m disappointed to lose, obviously, but I played all right…

He has so much experience, he has been in the top 8 for 8 or 9 years now, and I watched him play when I was going up the rankings, and I learned a lot from him.

He played so well today, I had to play so much better than I played the first two rounds, each match I have to raise my game.

Today, I had to find the right balance between being too relaxed and too tense, and I think I did good on court, and I’m really happy I got that third.

Tomorrow is the battle of the number one and two so it will be a big battle for sure.

We've played a lot recently and in the finals in New York and Chicago. I beat him in New York and he beat me in Chicago so hopefully tomorrow it will be my turn. Hopefully, I will do my best, and see how it goes…

[4] Ramy Ashour (Egy) 3-1 James Willstrop (Eng)
               11/7, 14/12, 9/11, 11/4 (56m)


Don’t think they’ll like I call them that. I LOVE YOU GUYS, but come on… Ramy, with his bionic leg and his nth knee surgery in Jan, and James with his hip end of last year, I even posted a pic of them two in New York with a crutch each bless them…

What made it special for them tonight, is that for Ramy, it’s the return on court, and trust me, he is LOVING IT, and for James, it’s the return to form, to fun, to happiness out there, instead of just going through the motions and being scared he is going to break down again.

First game, James is moving very well from the start, but Ramy is in a “let’s nick them all, yes I can” mode. Rallies are extremely intense, but short. 2/2, 3/3, James in control 4 points in a row 6/3, but back to 6/6, 9/6 Ramy, 11/7, with an astonishing unique tin for Ramy – for those who remember the 7, 8 tins in the opening game, but 4 for James.

The second is the most dramatic, 4/0 5/1 for Ramy, it looks like a quick 3/0. Ha ha ha. Ramy’s Demons get in play, with the start of the body check up between the point, wrist shoulder to start with – reminiscence of the injury he did against Greg in Qatar. I can see he is not at rest. Yes, of course, the file “am I going to break down again” is now fully downloaded AND updated.

James is on fire. He is moving well, and he is having the time of his life it I tell you. From corner to corner, stretching like a elastic, finding his usual “look, I do it on one foot” drop shots, he is truly magnificent. Ramy starts to get frustrated, as he can’t reach the drives that James plays. 6/6. 7/7, and 10/7 game ball the Artist.

And the “let’s fly, let’s break the bionic leg I just spent MILLIONS OF DOLLARS repairing” dives start, three in the space of 7 points (9/8 to 12/11). “It’s part of the normal healing process, I’m scared I may hurt my leg, so I don’t want to stretch it, and I dive.” Yes, that makes COMPLETE SENSE….

For the audience, it’s amazing squash, James saving 4 game balls, the match intensity is incredible, it’s ridiculous pace and squash, truly having a great time out there. Ramy finally closes it 14/12, 22m, James not having had a game ball of his own.

In the third, you may imagine how bruised/worried Ramy is feeling. The flying is never the problem is it. It’s the LANDING that is. The Demons come into play. Complete review of the body between each game, adductors, hamstring, knee flexion, back, it’s all been checked. James is thinking “ please don’t be injured mate, I’m more or less done, no WAY I’m playing another match tomorrow”… Ramy stops playing for a few points, still will find a few nicks, but James is in control, Ramy again dives on game ball, in vain, James 11/9 in 8m.

Off Ramy goes. No I mean, really, OFF HE GOES! Instead of just walking about as he does behind the court, he just goes, disappears. A few long seconds, no sign of Ramy. And the “15 seconds”. It’s fine, he comes jogging back. Pfew….

And he comes back on court, good face, he is fine. He checked the body, he quietened the demons, and he is in control again, he even stops himself from diving at 1/0 up, putting his fingers on his mouth as to say "you, shoush, quiet, leave me alone". 11/4 in 6m, 0 tin.

“You are scared. You feel it. You go away. You regroup. And you get back on court”

Did you see the way Ramy was mobbed! He is really a superstar out here. Mind you, I was mobbed too.. by about three and a half people….

It’s like a new lease of life!!!!

It was such a threat last summer, I thought I would never be able to do that ever again, and it was not a given, I mean, I’m old, there are so many young players coming up, and the top guys are improving, so, coming back, being part of it, and living
such a great moment, I’m thrilled to be out there again…

For three or three months, there were some set backs, some edginess because you think of what could go wrong, and you are afraid that something is going to go wrong, but have three games in
three days in a great occasion like that…

It’s real happiness, just to be able to do what I do. And I’m thinking, why could I not do that when I was younger, just appreciate the moment, what I was living, but I guess it’s part of the learning process…

To be fair, I am glad that Ramy is not injured, because at the start of the third, when it all went a bit dodgy and I thought that he might be injured again, I thought please no, I’m pretty much done here!!!!

I don’t think it has been done in history before, one player gets injured, and the other one is just unable to go on! So happy he is ok, cause I think another match would have been pushing it a bit too much, I don’t think the body would have been able to take it, so thanks for that Ramy!!!!

We both come out of surgery, and we are facing the same difficulties and mental doubts and worries.

I always said that James is a great ambassador for our sport, both on and off the court. And it’s never easy to play against somebody for whom you have the upmost respect, as an athlete as well as a gentlemen.

So you have to be selfish. And again, that’s not easy because of that respect you feel! But we always have great battles. Today, was another one.

Yes, I know, I shouldn’t keep on diving like I did in the 2nd. But that’s mental scars. It’s the same thing, the same process after every injury It’s like when you get into a fight, and you get marks on your face. It’s the same thing. It takes time to disappear.

I’m just scared. Scared to lunge, scared I’m going to hurt myself again, so I dive, I plunge to just avoid the use the leg. But it does away after a while. It just takes a bit of time.

It’s all a question of trusting it, of trusting my body again, you’ve got to get through the process and break it down.

You are scared. You feel it. You go away. You regroup. And you get back on court.

[2] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 3-0 Daryl Selby (Eng)      11/4, 11/3, 11/1 (25m)

He couldn’t move at all, he had a huge match/win yesterday against Miguel and it took too much out of him.

I thought that he would maybe struggle a bit at the start, and then get into it like he did last year, 12/10 in the 3rd, but no, when you have about 200 minutes squash in the legs in 2 days, it just takes too much out of you.

All credit to him, he still came on court, and tried and gave it all he could.

For me, I have nothing to say to my performance, I’m just going to rest, tomorrow, a light practice, then keep it simple, and try and get as ready as possible for my semi.

One match too many. Feared the worst when I woke up this morning, three hours of brutal squash on concrete floor took its toll! 

Greg is not the man you want to play in that situation, far too solid. Apologies to everyone I couldn't make more of a game of it...

   on twitter

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