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TODAY at the El Gouna International 2016
Thu 21st April - Qualifying Begins, two Egyptian winners ...

The Movenpick Hotel, with its single squash court, is the venue for the first three days of action in the final World Series event of the 2015/16 season as qualifying for the El Gouna International takes place.

There's a lot of Egyptian interest, obviously, but surprisingly few all-Egyptian matches - in the first round, which takes place over two days - at least.

The first day saw all the seeded players progress with only the first and last matches of the day taking more than three games, and two Egyptian winners, Omar Abdel Meguid and Mohamed Reda, who play each other in the finals.

Qualifying Round One (part one):                  match reports

[1] Gregoire Marche
(Fra) 3-1 Angus Gillams (Eng)  11/7, 11/4, 9/11, 11/5 (76m)
Farhan Zaman (Pak) 3-0 Maged Ashraf (Egy)               11/6, 12/10, 11/6 (27m)
Paul Coll (Nzl) 3-0 Tom Ford (Eng)                                11/3, 11/5, 11/4 (35m)
[5] Alan Clyne (Sco) 3-0 Omar Baghat (Egy)                   11/2, 11/3, 11/2 (18m)

[4] Omar Abdel Meguid (Egy) 3-0 Marwan Tareq (Egy)   11/6, 11/7, 11/6 (29m)
Mohamed Reda (Egy) 3-0 Andrew Wagih (Egy)                   11/8, 9/5 rtd (14m)
Chris Gordon (Usa) 3-0 Khaled Mostafa (Egy)                11/8, 11/6, 11/5 (30m)
[6] Nafiizwan Adnan (Mas) 3-1 Joshua Larkin (Aus) 11/4, 7/11, 11/7, 11/2 (45m)

Individual Match Reports and Quotes

Farhan Zaman (Pak) 3-0 Maged Ashraf (Egy)      11/6, 12/10, 11/6 (27m)

Farhan wins but Maged shows promise

It’s hard to follow the young Egyptians coming up really! Every three seconds, a good player comes out of the Egyptian Factory! Maghed, 17, showed again good skills and brain, although patience is probably not in his spellchecker yet…

It was a short affair between those two, both of them like to attack and counterdrop! On a true court, the first one that attacked was rewarded, and both realised it pretty early!

The second one was the most interesting one, with the young Egyptian taking a good lead 4/1, 5/2. Farhan came back at 5/5 and it was very close the rest of the game, with Maghed setting up a game ball from 9/9 to 10/9. But he couldn’t get to a counterdrop from his opponent, fell heavily, got a logical no let, but that seems to mentally unsettle him a bit, he lost the next 3 points very quickly on errors.

The third was a formality, just too many errors, 7/2, 9/3, with a nice good push at the end, 11/6! A good performance from the 23 years told Pakistani player, who I have seen playing for 12 years now, one of the nicest player on the Tour, funny, hard worker and pretty handy with a racquet too…

My game is basically about attacking a lot, and it allows me to actually get a lead normally at the start of the game.

But if I see my game is not working, I can switch to plan B, more patient, and then, I go back to my A choice!

At the moment, I’m based in Boston, and I train with my cousin Shahir Zaman. It’s important to be in a place where I can work with no pressure, mentally. We get a lot of criticism back home about why we are not as good as our Legends! So it’s nice to be in Boston, and work very hard, in a positive environment.

Of course, when I don’t have tournaments in the States, I go back to Islamabad and train in our training camp.

At the moment, we have very few PSA tournaments in Pakistan, so it’s hard to play good games. I have a good basic game, I can hit drives, and drop shots, but I need to play hard games to get used to sustain hard pace.

That’s why it’s also very good I’m spending a lot of times in the US at the moment…

[1] Gregoire Marche (Fra) 3-1 Angus Gillams (Eng)        11/7, 11/4, 9/11, 11/5 (76m)

Marche the first winner
Steve Cubbins reports

The first match of the 2016 El Gouna International saw top qualifying seed Gregoire March come through a potentially tricky encounter with left-handed Englishman Angus Gillams in four tough games.

Gillams, winner of the recent Madison Open, lead in the early stages but Marche pulled backl from 4-6 down in the first to take the lead 11-7, then took the third with some ease 11-4.

When Marche recovered from 2-5 in the third to lead 6-5 it seemed the end mightcome quickly but to his credit Gillams dug in and took the game 11-9.

At 2-1 in the fourth Marche took a few minutes to bandage a grazed knee, then fell 3-5 behind on the resumption but, helped by a trio of unforced errors from Gillams, retook the lead and closed out the match with a run of eight unanswered points.

It’s not that easy to play somebody you never saw play before. I tried and watch some videos, but it’s not the same!” said Marche.

He is a good player, his forehand drop shot is particularly good, he surprised me there. At the start I was a bit struggling to see what he was up to but the pace I imposed was maybe a bit too much for him.

But in the third, when I lost a bit of vigilance on my length and discipline, he was right in there! I think the blood injury in the 4th helped me getting my head back on again today.

Happy to get through and to have a day of rest tomorrow. Back into battle the day after!

Paul Coll (Nzl) 3-0 Tom Ford (Eng)          11/3, 11/5, 11/4 (35m)

Ford positive but Coll too steady

If the score looks severe, just to give you an idea, first game 11/3 was still 12m. As in, a lot of work done from both. Tom had the right attitude I thought, take the game to his opponent, and showing his lefthander skills in many occasions.

But today, Paul was very focused, never let the English get in score contention really, making him do a lot of work and get very little/no reward for it at all.
I feel Tom was expecting a better result today, a harder fight, and he was pretty disappointed. As for Paul, he prepares himself for a good battle with Scot Alan Clyne, in great form here it seems…

I just arrived from Zurich, I played a match against Simon Rosner, and I was told by several people I did far too many unforced errors. So today, I was really focusing on keeping the ball straight and cutting down on the errors.

We played a league match a few weeks ago, and he surprised me there with his racquet skills. I think there was a point I opened the court, and he scored something like 5 nicks in a row! So today, I made sure I shut him down and put pressure on him with my movement.

First time in Egypt, I was a bit nervous, the World Teams having been cancelled and all, but somebody was there to pick me up, the travel here was a breeze, everyone is so nice, things are well organised for us, it’s paradise really, and I have no problem coming back here for sure…

We played a few weeks ago in PSL, and I thought I managed to surprise him a bit there. But then again, when you play PSA, I guess you raise your game a bit, and also, he was not surprised today and knew what to expect.

I don’t think I played badly today, it was not one of those matches where you hate yourself for hitting 10 tins in a row. Things went his way, but it was partly the way I structured my rallies. But he was on the ball, wasn’t he!!! Then again, I guess it’s easier if you are allowed to do so…
First time in Egypt…. What’s not to like???

[5] Alan Clyne (Sco) 3-0 Omar Baghat (Egy)      11/2, 11/3, 11/2 (18m)

I had no idea what he looked like, let alone the way he played! But if there is a country in the world where you get worried when you see “local young player” is Egypt!

So I made sure I was keeping him under control, and I’m happy with the way I played

No complaint about the accommodation, I’m a walk down along the path in the Movenpick!!!… The worry could have been to get court time as there is only 1 court, but no problem there, I got plenty of hit, plus a day off tomorrow – incredible for the qualifying – so life is good!

[4] Omar Abdel Meguid (Egy) 3-0 Marwan Tareq (Egy) 11/6, 11/7, 11/6

Omar never relaxed

One of those matches where if you relax “un chouia”, just a bit, you find yourself into a lot of trouble. The three games were following the same pattern, excellent start for the 16 years old (2/0 in the 1st, 3/1 in the 2nd, 3/0 in the 3rd), then a long string of points for a very focused Omar (9/3 1st, 9/5 2nd, 9/5 3rd) then arriving at the business end of the game, Omar trying to finish too quickly, a few errors, but finally closing down…

The funniest moment was when Omar scored a point at 5/4 in the 3rd, and was sooo angry with himself still – although he won – that the poor Marwan didn’t know if he actually won the point!!! Bless our favourite Hulk. Even when he wins he is still not satisfied with himself…

Marwan is a very good player, and I’m happy to see that the future of Egyptian Squash is still blooming. He is very skilled and his movement is a bit like Ali Farag, very light.

What impressed me was the way he took the game to me at the start of the 2nd. I’m lucky he is still a junior, and made a few errors, but when he has the mentality of a Pro Squash player, it will be a different match…

Mohamed Reda (Egy) 3-0 Andrew Wagih (Egy)   11/8, 9/5 rtd (14m)

I knew he was injured, but the way he was playing some great shots, I wasn’t sure! So I just tried and focused on my own game, and made sure I closed the first game. Now, going to concentrate on my next match, a tough one, Meguid the day after tomorrow, we always have hard five setters….

I’m still in Cairo, I came back from the US back in July, I’m very grateful to Wadi Degla and especially Karim Darwish as they welcomed me back when I arrived. It’s nice to be back training full time and to see my little boy Ali, now 1 year and 8 months, getting bigger every day….

 Chris Gordon (Usa) 3-0 Khaled Mostafa (Egy)      11/8, 11/6, 11/5 (30m)

Length Perfect for Chris

Difficult to contain those young kids.. Another talented player from Egypt, 19 years old, very solid on his feet, good movement and nice racquet skills.

As in, do not even think about opening the court, and make sure you’ve got a great length. I know, basic principles, but it worked great for Chris, who just couldn’t relax for a shot, had to stay focused and alert the whole time: any approximation from him, and he would find himself running for his life in the four corners….

Yes, 100% right, I was never able to relax a bit. He is very gifted with the racquet, and I had to try and neutralise his shots by making sure my length was as good as possible, and putting him under pressure at the front with a powerful movement.

Nowadays, wherever you are going in the world, you’ve got to play extremely gifted players, the level is that high, and especially be weary when they are new to the game. And it’s never more true than in Egypt!!!

The level on the tour is such at the moment, any win I can get is a bonus. I mean, there are so many events now in the US, and so many great players in it.. every win is meaningful for me….

I’ve been now back in NY for the past two years, developing a few nice routines. Luck has wanted that André Delhoste – former French National Coach, now married to an American lady – lives about 1 mile away from my house! Which is very convenient of course!

We have been working on my movement in particular, I’m a pretty big player, and we are trying to make my movement smoother, to cover the court and not being as tired as I used to.

I still work with DP (David Pearson, former English National Coach), we link up at tournaments, and he will always be my mentor. It’s just luck that brought somebody with so much experience so close to me! Small world hey Fram!!!

 [6] Nafiizwan Adnan (Mas) 3-1 Josh Larkin (Aus)        11/4, 7/11, 11/7, 11/2 (45m)

Adnan rounds off Day One but Josh impresses

I probably wouldn’t have realised if Chris Gordon (thanks for that Chris) didn’t tell me, but Joshua qualified for the Irish Open, played his two matches to reach the main draw, then lost in the first round against Shaun Le Roux yesterday. Yes, you read well, yesterday!

So this morning – as in middle of the night really – he took two flights, arrived in Gouna at 6pm, to play tonight at a 8.45pm!!!!

I thought he was going to be flat as an Australian waffle, but he was more fiery than an Irish Coffee with double dose of whatever you put in there!!!

I haven’t impressed like that since Shorbagy senior played against Olli Tuominen in Sky Open while fasting (no food, no water) a few years back – “fasting and furious” I described the match then.

Wan was put under a lot of pressure by a player running of fumes, no fear, no negative thoughts, pure adrenalin and will to survive really. The Malaysian was forced into making 6 errors in the 2nd game, all credit to Joshua’s determination and clever game, good rally construction and accuracy at the front/back.

It took a bad fall at 4/0 down in the 4th after a collision with Wan – the Australian twisted his right knee that apparently was on the mend – to stop the Unstoppable Josh. Not sure why he didn’t ask for a little break – it was a contributed injury, he could have put a bit of ice on it, and catch his breath. But he just didn’t, kept on playing, well, hopping around the court more like and finally bowed 11/2 to a very relieved Malaysian, happy to finally shake that incredibly determined player off.

Hat to you Josh, I’m rarely impressed nowadays – getting old and all – but you certainly did that today. Bravo.

I played and lost against Shawn yesterday, woke up at 3, took a flight at 5m, changed flight, then arrived here in El Gouna at 6pm, my hotel cancelled my booking, had to do it again, then had dinner.. and was on court at a quarter to 9pm….

He was playing very well, he had nothing to lose and put me under a lot of pressure, especially in the second one. I was a bit flat today, but better than I felt yesterday, only coming from Manchester…

happy I managed to play well at the end, but it’s a shame about the ending, he made such a great effort today!!


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