• 14th Qatar Classic Squash Championship • 29 Oct-06 Nov 2015 • Doha •  





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TODAY at the Qatar Classic - Daily updates from Doha

03-Nov, Day SIX, Round TWO, Bottom
 Women's seeds assert as Gaultier foils
Egyptian clean sweep in men's ...

Eight more matches today to finalise the quarter-finalists as the bottom half of the draws took to the all-glass court at the Khalifa Tennis & Squash Complex in Doha.

The women's matches featured seven different nationalities, and all went with the seedings as Camille Serme won a see-saw five-setter with Amanda Sobhy, Nour El Sherbini won a quickfire shootout with Rachael Grinham, Annie Au won three close games against 2009 champion Jenny Duncalf, and defending (from 2011) champion Nicol David saw off Victoria Lust in three games.

The men's matches all featured at least one Egyptian, and the first three all went their way.

Mazen Hesham
repeated his British Open win against fourth seed Omar Mosaad, this time in straight games, Ali Farag made it an unhappy birthday for Daryl Selby as the qualifier won in straight games, and Karim Abdel Gawad survived a hugely entertaining five-setter against qualifier Greg Marche.

Second seed Gregory Gaultier stopped the Egyptian run as the Frenchman, the 2011 champion here, beat Fares Dessouki in three games, coming from 7-10 dow to take the second and almost letting a 10-1 lead slip before taking the third 11-9.

Men's Round Two (bottom) :

Mazen Hesham (Egy) 3-0 [4] Omar Mosaad (Egy)
                   12/10, 13/11, 11/7 (51m)
[Q] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 Daryl Selby (Eng)
                   11/7, 11/8, 11/2 (37m)
Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy) 3-2 [Q] Gregoire Marche (Fra)
                   11/8, 4/11, 11/5, 10/12, 11/8 (81m)
[2] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 3-0 Fares Dessouki (Egy)
                    11/4, 12/10, 11/9 (48m)

Women's Round Two (bottom) :

[3] Camille Serme (Fra) 3-2 [14] Amanda Sobhy (Usa)
                    4/11, 13/11, 11/8, 5/11, 11/9 (57m)
[6] Nour El Sherbini (Egy) 3-0 [9] Rachael Grinham (Aus)
                    13/11, 11/7, 11/6 (23m)
[7] Annie Au (Hkg) 3-0 [11] Jenny Duncalf (Eng)
                   14/12, 12/10, 11/9 (35m)
[2] Nicol David (Mas) 3-0 [16] Victoria Lust (Eng)
                    11/5, 11/5, 11/5 (31m)

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Mosaad was much more tense than I was, you saw my reaction at 9/5 in the 3rd when he tinned, how happy I was, he was playing so hard on there. But it’s funny, last time I played him, I was injured, today, I’m injured, my shoulder, I’ve been spending my last three days on the physio table, but I guess it’s a lucky charm because every time I play him, injured, I win! I’ll keep on playing injured if that’s what it takes!...

But to be honest, my shoulder was fine, I didn’t feel anything, but maybe it actually helped me because I was focusing more on my shots.

At the end of that first, when I get those three lucky shots, man, it must have been my mum praying for me…

I am blessed man, I am blessed…

Mazen Hesham (Egy) 3-0 [4] Omar Mosaad (Egy)
                    12/10, 13/11, 11/7 (51m)

Mazen makes it count

Amazing Mazen and the Hammer of Thor entertained us tonight.

Bless his Racquet, HighHair is both impredictable, a stunning performer, not to mention an adorable young man. And Omar gave all his talent, intelligence, flair and physical power tonight, with puting a foot wrong in two games and a half. He was just put through the mill by a player with a Diamond Wrist… And a bandage shoulder.

Yes, Mazen played and won this match with one arm. Apparently, last time he won against Omar in May, for the British, he was also injured, and yet he won. “It’s my lucky charm”, smiled Mazen, “I’ll keep being injured if it means I’ll keep on winning! And to be honest, I didn't feel it all during the match"....

Closer first two matches, can't do. Enormous, ridiculous, astonishing rallies, from the start. Mosaad is just a sniff ahead, 5/3, 6/4, but after a string of 3 points, Mazen takes it back to 6/6. 7/7. 8/8. Annnd 9/9. Omar is hitting JohnWhite like, that means veryyyy hard, they both are now. But a lucky bounce, and Mazen apologises.

Game ball Mazen, 10/9 he tins it. 10/10, a backhand squeeze, annnnd another lucky bounce. Mazen apologises again. Mosaad is starting to find his luck uncanny. 11/10, second game bal, and this time, it’s not even a lucky bounce, it’s a luck nick. Imagine how Mosaad feels. Now double it...

Apparently Mazen’s Mum prayers did the trick…

Back on court, and Mazen is even more confident than in the first one. He is nearly calm, only speaks to himself every 4, 5 points instead of his usual every single point, and takes a good start, 3/1, but quickly, we are back at 3/3. 5/5. 6/6. 7/7. Both players are getting nervous, a couple of tins each: “Calm down, calm down, I told you to calm down”, states Mazen in Arabic.

How do I know? Cause I know EVERYTHING.

Mosaad, with his experience, power and reach, saves those three game balls at 10/7, taking 4 points in a row, 11/10, game ball! They are both patient, the rallies are “joke squash” as the social media describe it.

A backhand winner for Mazen, 11/11. A tin, it’s game ball, the 4th for Mazen.

And a superb redrop on the backhand does it, 13/11, in 17m.

Mentally, Omar is broken. Yes, he’ll keep fighting, and makes 9 unforced errors.

And as Omar tins the last one at 9/5, Mazen exits as he broke a string, and we can hear him going “Elhamdulillah, Elhamdulillah, Elhamdulillah,” all the way to his bag…

He knows he is a lucky boy, but sometimes, you create your own luck. The last game was still 13m, they still both worked very hard, but it's Mazen in 3, 11/7 in the third…

[Q] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 Daryl Selby (Eng)
                       11/7, 11/8, 11/2 (37m)

Farag forces into quarters

Two very hard games, with Daryl playing the “Sponge”, absorbing the pressure and forcing Ali to make the error, putting him under intense pressure. Very few shots weren’t perfect from Daryl’s racquet, and it was up to Ali to try and break the regularity/consistency of the Englishman.

Ali takes a good start in the first two games, 3/1 in the first, 5/3, but Daryl is very well awake and present, 6/6. Two tins from the Englishman, 8/6, then 10/6 game ball, 11/7 on a no let, 16m played.

Second is again a very good start for Ali, 4/1, 7/4, 8/5, but Daryl again is applying pressure, long rallies, mi-pace shots, lovely to watch, two craftsmen at work on there, 8/8. But a big push from Ali, carried by the Egyptian crowd, 11/8, three points in a row, in 13m.

The third, I truly think Daryl is physically in pain. He doesn’t show anything, but the way he doesn’t move his upperbody is not the way he normally moves on a court. It’s a quick affair, 6m and 5 tins. Not sure what’s wrong, I know he was suffering from his back for a long time. Could be that one that flared up…

I didn’t expect to play that well, that’s the best performance I have made this week. Especially against such an opponent.

I was talking to my brother [Wael] and I watched him on video, and I noticed that we are both most comfortable at that medium/slow pace, so I had to break that rhythm, because at that rhythm, he is the best in the world.

So I made sure I was playing a few boast here and there, and a few flicks, and Elhamdulillah, it worked.

I can play silly shots when I get excited, and I did it in the second at 8/5, and you saw it too in the US Open against Rosner, so I was thinking about that the whole match. That’s one of the things I need to work on if I want to go at the next level.

This is my first time in the second round of a world series, so of course, the first time in the quarters. I was dreaming but I always believed I could do it. And that’s why when I book my flight, I always book the return for the day after the final. Because I believe I can do it. Didn’t work at the US Open though, but Nour did it for us two.

We are lucky in Egypt, we have so many young Egyptians coming up, and we grew up watching Shabana Ramy, Karim, and I hope one day I’ll be one of them and pass on the knowledge…

I’m so happy I was able to play that well as my parents just flew from Egypt, and thanks also everyone here for the amazing support I’m getting here!

note from Howard Harding (SquashInfo): With Daryl gone, it's the first time ever there is not one Englishman in the Qatar Classic quarters

Yes, that was a very very very easy match, you have no idea how easy that was…

Greg and myself are about the same age, just he is a few months older than I am, so we’ve been playing during the juniors, and of course on the PSA tour. I know how amazing player he is, how talented he is too.

At times, I just lost concentration, and I had the impression I was playing against the world number, which I’m sure he’ll be one day, he’ll be like Greg, I’m sure of that.

When I was down 7/3 in the 5th, I couldn’t have done it without the support of the crowd. They were amazing. I know that they finish work, and they come here to support us, it’s so positive for us, it’s no extra pressure, it’s lifting us….. Tonight, they really gave me the push.

Even when I was 7-3 down I still believed that I could win because he still had to win four points to make it. And those four points were a lot of points. And I kept pushing as I could on each point because that was absolutely critical, I know how important it was for my rankings, and if I want to defend my position and improve in the rankings, I have to be more consistent.

I was not tired at all, not for one minute today, and that is crucial for me because I have started working with a new fitness coach, Mr Jörg, he is Austrian, but based in London, and it’s a new fitness regime for me. He keeps me injury free, which had been impairing me for a long time now: I feel good, I feel strong.

If I appeared tired, I think it was more of a mental fatigue, because I knew I was playing the wrong tactic, and opening the court for him. I made sure I focused on keeping the ball tight, and play straight drop shots to close it for him. Anything I would open, he just killed me.

And the end of the 4th, I could hear him breathing very heavily, and I thought to myself, I may have lost that game, but if I keep pushing and making him tired, he’ll start making unforced errors. And that’s what happened… finally!!

I know I didn’t play my best today so I’m happy to win and I know that’s what the top players do - they win on bad days - so I’m very happy I was able to do that.

Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy) 3-2 [Q] Gregoire Marche (Fra)                    11/8, 4/11, 11/5, 10/12, 11/8 (81m)

What a match, what a squash,
what a show !!!

It had it all, the loud support from the French/Egyptian crowds, the drama, the dives from the Acrobat, the ups and downs… And very few decisions, that’s the cherry on our GlassCourt, ain’t it people.

Let’s rewind to the first game, very close up to 8/8, rallies are pretty straight drive and nice attacks, 8/8 then Karim that finds his groove, 11/8 with 3 lovely winners, in 12m.

The second, Karim doesn’t show up much, TGreg is doing pretty much what he wants – I haven’t seen him play that well since his matches with Nicolas Mueller (from memory, HK and Gouna, but I could be wrong). Free arm, moving extremely fast, fluid with his squash and thinking, 11/4, 5 unforced errors from the Egyptian, 11m.

Well, anything you can do … one point difference for the third but this time, it’s TGreg that doesn’t find his squash while Karim’s the boss on there, 11/5, in another 11m!

The fourth is where it’s starts to be fun! To be honest, I feel Karim was tired. I know, I know, he said that he wasn’t. But he looked pretty dead to me in that 4th, he tins 4 points in a row, 2/5 down. Greg is all over him, he is flying like he knows how, plays “The Flash” character to perfection, 7/3, 8/5.

To Karim’s credit – I’ve seen him play quite a few matches over the years – the Egyptian is pushing like I’ve never seen him push. I can see he is knackered, and still he keeps getting to the next ball, and the next ball.

And he manages to come back scoring 3 points in a row, 8/8. 9/9. 10/9, match ball, saved in a roaring fashion for the Frenchman, on fire, with a very very vocal French crowd – aren’t they always… Literally carried by his countrymen, he’ll take the game, 12/10, in 24 very long minutes.

At that point, in my mind, Karim is physically gone. Yes, yes yes, he says he wasn’t, but just watch the SquashTV replay, and you juge.

And he is down 3/7 in the 5th, and I tell you, the Acrobat is looking veryyyyy good indeed.And that’s when he happens. That second wind. That magic moment where the lungs fill up again, and you find the boost pedal.

TGreg, maybe a bit tired, maybe a bit thinking he can relax, maybe a bit of both, will make enough unforced errors at that points to put Karim back on the horse, straight to match ball, 10/7.

The Frenchman saves one on a gruelling amazing breathtaking rally, but it’s too little too late, and he loses the match on an unforced error.

Not sure if Karim will have much left after first his match against Tarek, then this one, but hey, that’s what those boys train for, day in, day out. We’ll see tomorrow…

[2] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 3-0 Fares Dessouki (Egy)
                          11/4, 12/10, 11/9 (48m)

Don’t think that will stay in Fares as the best match he ever played.. That boy is so gifted, I do believe in his talent, and I truly think he has the potential to go to number 1. But that match showed what he’s got to work on a few things. Which I know, I KNOW he’ll do. But Squashwise, people, there is nothing wrong with him, I tell you.

In the first game, I assume he was nervous and didn’t not focus on his squash, but on trying to get decisions which of course, didn’t work that well, the refs being too experienced. I kept thinking, just play the ball Fares, come on… And as he lost concentration, as you do when you start playing against the refs as well, his movement went all over the place, and he got penalised for it. He finishes the first game with 2 strokes against him and two tins, 15m of hard work and 4 points to show for.

I guess that Greg just relaxes a bit when he finds himself 1 game up 11/4 and 4/0 up. That’s the moment Fares shows us what he can do, what he will do when sorts his brain out bless him. He just scores 8 points in a row. Don’t think Greg went all silly and tinned all over the place. Not at all, only 1 unforced error at 4/4. All the rest was winners….

Finally, he makes 2 tins at 8/5, but will carry on to game ball, 10/7. Greg’s experience goes to work. He makes the rallies hard, painful, and forces Fares to retrieve, and retrieve and retrieve again. Greg’s turn to show what he can do, and he takes the next 5 points to win the second in 17m, 12/10.

In the third, the enormous work forced on Fares in the first two games – and with no game on the scoreboard – pays dividend for the Frenchman who just get to 10/1 in no time at all.

And that’s when it happens. I can see in Fearless Fares what I want to see for the rest of his career: he just breathes in and out. Smiles. And start playing squash. Amazing squash. Beautiful squash. And strings the points, one by one. 2, 3, 4, 5.. Now Greg is starting to panic. Now the Frenchman is making the errors, 5 errors and a not let!

But at 9/10, finally, FINALLY, the world number 3 just find that beautiful drive, that dies at the back….

Lessons all around tonight… 

That finish, I’m up 10/1, match ball, and only takes it 11/9, that was very stupid of me, I just saw myself in the showers.

There is nothing worse you can do as a professional. He just went for his shots, and they went in.

At the end, I was not constructing my rallies at all, it was terrible.

It was a mental exercise: I need to work on how to stop it happening again!

[3] Camille Serme (Fra) 3-2 [14] Amanda Sobhy (Usa)
                     4/11, 13/11, 11/8, 5/11, 11/9 (57m)

Camille gets her revenge

Once again, the proof I know very little… As those two started, Amanda was in such a chopping mode I told Joshna “she is going to win in 3 isn’t she…”. Yeah right. Quick and onesided, that match was not!

Amanda played the first game beautifully, never gave Cam a chance, 7m, from 2/2, 9/3, 11/4, Camille a bit nervous I guess, short rallies indeed, and the American chopping it Natalie Grainger’s style…

The second started the same way, with Amanda again on the warpath, 5/2, but Cam this time was more on her guard/relaxed maybe, 5/5, 6/6, 7/7. She takes the lead, 10/8 game ball, but she’ll need two more to take that crucial 14m game, 13/11.

In the third, Camille is controlling most of the rallies, Amanda a bit on the backfoot, tired maybe, 6/3 for the Frenchgirl. But Amanda finds her second wind, and start blasting again her crosscourt all over the court, and scores 5 points in a row. Still, Camile manages to clinch the 11m game, 11/8

But boy, does Amanda turns the tables round in that fourth? Oh yes. The American will never let Camille back in that one, 5/1, 8/2, 11/5 in 6m….

Annnnnd we turn the table round again, round it goes, with Cam in complete control, 8/3, 9/5… Think it’s all over??? Naaaa… 4 points in a row for Amanda, stunning rallies, four corners visited, front, back, tight squash, lob and volley boast… Quads working overtime… 9/9… And Amanda plays her first loose shot of the match, low drive that doesn’t go anywhere, Camille kills it with a lovely backhand redrop, and finishes it 11/9.

Her enormous YES!!! to her support camp (Greg and TGreg) shows how relieved she is…

Amanda beat me the last two times we played, so mentally, I really wanted my revenge. But in the first game, her length was so good, she won it easily, and I was thinking oh no, it’s happening again, I cannot find any solutions…

But what I did better than last time today, I didn’t panic, and I tried and not be frustrated. The key on this court, is the length. If you have a good length, you are immediately rewarded.

The second and third were better from my point of view, the 4th, she got the control again, but in the 5th, I thought I was controlling well, 9/5, but then, she started coming back, I guess she had nothing to lose, and went for it! I told myself don’t be afraid to be in front of her. And you know, when you think you are about to lose, you give everything you have. And today, I’m lucky it worked.

[6] Nour El Sherbini (Egy) 3-0 [9] Rachael Grinham (Aus)
                              13/11, 11/7, 11/6 (23m)

Sherbini wins Doha shootout

Well, on the glass court, with a low tin, between two shot makers, it was never going to be a long match now, was it.

I guess that Rachael had a bit of her match against Heba in the legs (I could be wrong of course), and after a disputed and close 8m first game where she had 2 game ball but lost 13/11, she had a little drop of energy from the middle of the second, from 7/7 to 11/7, Nour in 7m.

The third was about the same, Nour finding lovely winners, and from the middle of the game, Rachael a bit tired, making a few too many errors to put any kind of pressure on the young Egyptian…

"The rallies were very short, it was serve, drop, serve, drop. I never felt comfortable on there today, she was killing the ball so well, like one inch from the tin, nobody could have retrieved it! I mean, she is the double of my age, but she kept on surprising me, and I couldn’t do anything or get to the ball! She is such a dangerous player, killing the ball from anywhere…

This tin is good for us, for me anyway, I like it a lot, but somehow, we still manage to hit the tin!!"

[7] Annie Au (Hkg) 3-0 [11] Jenny Duncalf (Eng)
                  14/12, 12/10, 11/9 (35m)

And Annie kept clawing back…

Weird match that one, with Jenny leading in the three games, only to lose from the middle of the game.

Well, that’s not exactly true in the first mind, Jenny is the one coming back from 4/2 down to 5/5, rallies are extremely short. 7/7, 8/8, a not let confirmed by the video ref gives the Englishlady game ball, 10/8, save by Annie with a lovely winner.

Two unforced errors, 11/10 Annie, who’ll tin it as well, nobody seems to want that one! Another match ball on a stroke for Jenny, that’s 3.

And yet, after three great rallies, Annie takes it in 11m.

OK, seems to say Jenny. Water under the bridge. And she just kills it out there, perfect length, lovely sharp attacks, 6/1, 7/2, 8/4.

Then kicks the ball as a football. And I remember one English player (maybe Alison Waters?) telling me, when Jenny does that, it’s bad news, means that her head is gone. And Annie manages to score the next 6 points,10/8 game ball Annie.

This time, it’s Annie’s turn to need a few game balls, but the game she finally takes, 12/10, 9m.

And would you believe, it will happen again in the third: 5/1, 7/3, and again, Annie does it, quietly, she just take a point after another, to reach 8/8.

A few nervous errors from both girls, but from 9/9, a feathery drop shot and a stroke, confirmed by the Video Man, and it’s 11/9 Annie in 11m.

Can't say that was a particularly enjoyable match but credit to Annie who plays a dead court very well. Next stop Monte Carlo ... 
Jenny on Twitter


I don’t think my coach and my brother like it… I was never in front, and it’s not easy to keep coming back, and coming back…

I think I was maybe not as focused for this match as I was for my previous match. Well, I maybe was a bit too happy/relieved to have saved 4 match balls, maybe a bit of mental energy there. Plus, although I loved the rest day, maybe I lost a bit of focus…

I think I was so nervous, it’s not easy to come back and score 6 points. But I think my coach and my brother, it was even more difficult for them!

The lower tin, well, they may be more wall to hit, but you still aim too low! And like Joshna said, it’s hit or miss for me too! You definitely have to move quicker with that lower tin…

Although the score is not much different from last time we played in Alexandria, I feel I played better this time, I managed to get in front of her a bit better, and I stayed in the rallies better too.

Where I was a bit weak, was indecision, when I had the opportunity, whereas Nicol was very clinical. That’s what I need to work on… but overall, happy with the way I played today.

[2] Nicol David (Mas) 3-0 [16] Victoria Lust (Eng)
                     11/5, 11/5, 11/5 (31m)

Nicol pulls clear

Defending champion Nicol David completed the quarter-final lineup with a straight game win over Victoria Lust that was trickier than the scoreline might suggest.

The Englishwoman held her own in the early part of each game, putting the eight-time world champion under enough pressure to force a few uncharacteristic mid-game mistakes.

But Nicol steadied, and pulled away from 6-5 in the first, 5-4 in the second and 6-5 in the third to set up a match against Annie Au tomorrow.

My injury (calf) is absolutely fine, a week of rest made a huge difference…

In the middle of each game, she was probably doing her own things, so I had to reassess, and make sure that I would work to impose my own game, and like every time you play on the glass court, be more alert and on my toes.

I’m lucky as my Amsterdam Club, Sportcity, changed the tin for me as soon as the decision to go lower was made public. So I have had a lot of practice on there, and actually, some of my sparring partners are like, oh, my shots are going in better!

You just have to adapt, and turn it to your advantage, taking the shot when you have the opportunity, and try your best to prevent your opponent to attack, cause that’s the game, isn’t it? Otherwise, I made sure I am training on getting more strengthening and to get lower on the ball, to get faster on the ball, and also to be more assertive with my shots.

Nooo, I don’t mind playing younger players than me, they all going to be younger than me anyway,!!! It’s actually exciting times for squash, men and women, as we have so many young players, hungry, on the tour. It’s new challenges for us, with different styles of play, truly exciting times.

It was a bit of an up and down match, I am happy to get through in three.

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