After three days in
Cairo, the roadshow moved to Hurghada, waiting for the sun to go
down so that play could start on the promenade. A change of schedule put
Egypt's top woman and man on first so that they could be covered
live on Egyptian TV.
Four straight-game victories followed, with little sign of an
Crowd favourite Omneya Abdel Kawy faced a nervous Heba El
Torky, who never really adjusted to the conditions, only getting
into the match when it was too late in the third game. Last
year's finalist Jenny Duncalf also faced a young
qualifier, and while Joey Chan coped better, she too left it too
late in each game to offer a real threat.
Karim Darwish and Gregory Gaultier both looked
impressive, doing what was necessary to keep speedy Pakistanis
Aamir Atlas Khan and Farhan Mebhoob at bay, and they will meet
for a place in the final.
"I just didn't see the ball at the
beginning, I was nervous too, but it felt like a completely
different court from what I practiced on earlier.
"I started to play better towards the end, but it was too late.
It was great to play here though, first on in front of a big
crowd like that.
"I feel I'm playing better, I'm getting some good advice and
training from my coaches, and I'll be concentrating on preparing
for the worlds now, it's only three months away ...
Omneya at Home
Having won this tournament twice already, Omneya Abdel Kawy is
quite at home on this court, in these conditions, with this
crowd. For Heba El Torky this was a whole new experience though,
and it showed right from the start of the opening match on the
promenade in Hurghada.
Heba was 3/0 down within seconds, and Omneya found her range
quickly, putting the ball deep into the back corners, where the
cool conditions made it die quickly.
When Heba did get into a rally Omneya was quick to put in a
boast or dropshot, and the first two games were over in a flash
with few rallies extended to more than a handful of shots.
Heba started to find her range in the third though, and gave as
good as she got, winning several drop exchanges and catching
Omneya out with some flick shots.
From 5-all Omneya crept ahead to 9/5, but Heba hung in, got it
back to 9/7 and was distraught when her serve was called out.
The referee didn't relent, and one impetuous volley into the tin
later and it was all over, the reigning champ was through to the
was very nervous from the start. She never got to play on the
glass court in the world championships, and this court is very
different, and especially with the crowd. I'm used to it all,
but she will have only played on it this morning in the sun when
it's very bouncy, but at night it's cool and dead.
"In the first game I played it deep into the back, making her
'go get', and took opportunities to play it short when I could.
"I'm happy with my performance and looking forward to the
"He just plays at a completely different pace," was Aamir Atlas
Khan's initial assessment of his match against world number one
Karim Darwish. Praise in deed from one of the quickest players
around the court, but Darwish's pace is different, it's the
speed with which he gets to the ball and the pace he puts on it
with clean strokes.
for the most part that was the story of the match, the Egyptian
stroking the ball into the corners, the Pakistani chasing down
what he could but finding too many balls going past him, or too
tight at the front to chase down.
He stayed within touching distance for the early parts of the
first two games, but the third was pretty comfortable for the
crowd's favourite ...
tried to make it as fast as I could, and to put him in the back
corners, not giving him any loose shots to attack.
"I'm happy to go through 3/0 and thanks to my coaches and my new
sponsor Marina Wadi Degla, it's really great what they've
done for me.
"Today I played the world number
one and it's just a completely different pace. I was feeling
good, fine physically and I tried my best but he was just way
too strong for me.
"If I can carry on playing the top five in matches like this
hopefully I can get used to this level of play and pace. I'm
still learning, so maybe one day I can reach this level ..."
"It was difficult to see the ball
at the start, especially in the left hand corner, it was so
different from in the morning, so dead.
"I tried to keep the rallies going, I just wanted to get more
experience from playing her, but I attacked when I could to try
and put more pressure on her.
"Overall I think I played well, I'm happy with my performance
here and it's been a good week ..."
At 10/3 in the first game it looked as though we could be
watching a replay of the first match of the evening when the
experienced player dominated a youngster unused to the
Joey Chan took her time getting into each game, but get into
each game she did, giving last year's finalist Jenny Duncalf a
good runout, occasionally a good runaround, but without
seriously threatening to take a game, 2-0 in the second being
the best lead she held.
Jenny led 1-/3 in the first, 8/5 in the second and 7/2 in the
third, so she always had a comfortable cushion, and if the
second half of each game was more or less even, the Englishwoman
always had enough in reserve to ensure it never got too close.
So it's a repeat of last year's final against Omneya for Jenny,
and some valuable experience gained for Joey ...
got a good start each game then maybe relaxed a bit and she came
back. It's a bit dead on there so you have to try not to let it
get to the back, it's very different from the courts in Cairo.
This will be good experience for playing on a court like this
with a big crowd.
"I felt I played ok, looking forward to the next match which is
another one against Omneya, it should be a good atmosphere ..."
The scoreline looks quite comfortable, and while Gregory
Gaultier never looked anything other than the likely winner,
Farhan Mehboob gave the Frenchman a good test for two games.
started well, taking 6/1 and 8/3 leads in the first, but he had
to work at it, the rallies were generally long and the
Pakistani, as he does, ran willingly after everything the
Frenchman threw at him.
Mehboob opened up a lead in the second, 8/4, but rather than a
turning point this was the signal for Gaultier to up his game a
notch, which he duly did, stepping forward and working hard to
take control of the next seven rallies to double his lead.
That was effectively the end of the match as a contest, Gaultier
starting quickly in the third and never looking likely to let
the lead slip.
was a good match. He's so talented, if you give him anything
short he kills you, he hits the nick so easily.
"I had to play a quick game and get good length, I had to be
careful not to let him get in front of me. He got a good start
in the second, I got a few points behind playing too short so I
tried to keep the rallies going longer.
"In the third I played more carefully than the second. If you're
too relaxed this is the sort of game you can lose, so I prepared
as if I was playing one of the top guys, which he probably will
be very soon, he has the right game and he deserves to be up
played so well, he's very fast and so experienced. I worked hard
to get ahead in the second but he really put me under pressure
when he came back to take that one.
"We're good friends off court, we train together and sometimes
teach each other shots.
"I'm happy with my performance, I thought I played well today
and hopefully I can play better next time ..."