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





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TODAY at the Qatar Classic - Daily updates from Doha

04-Nov, Day SEVEN, Quarter-Finals
Sherbini and Cuskelly take out third seeds in Doha
No more rest days as the final sixteen players reach the final stretch towards claiming the Qatar Classic titles.

Today it was quarter-finals with two mixed sessions at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex, where two more major seeds - and almost a third - were beaten.

The women's matches started with Omneya Abdel Kawy winning a five game tussle with unseeded Joshna Chinappa, while fourth seed Laura Massaro beat world junior champion Nouran Gohar in four games to reach the semis for the first time.

In the bottom half of the draw defending champion Nicol David had little trouble getting past Hong Kong's Annie Au, and the second seed will play her eighth Qatar semi-final against young Egyptian Nour El Sherbini, who delightedly overturned recent results to beat Camille Serme, the third seed, in four close games.

The top two seeds in the men's draw progressed in contrasting style - world #1 Mohamed Elshorbagy got revenge for his China defeat by Max Lee in straight games, but had to work for it, while second seeded Frenchman Gregory Gaultier had to come from two games down against Karim Abdel Gawad to prevent al all-Egyptian semi-final.

Shorbagy's opponent will be Australian Ryan Cuskelly, whose great run of form continued as he came from two games down to beat third seeded Colombian Miguel Rodriguez, becoming the first male qualifier to reach a World Series semi-final for 15 years.

Gaultier will face an unseeded opponent in Mazen Hesham, who beat fellow young Egyptian Ali Farag in straight games, also making his World Series semifinal debut.

14th Qatar Classic - Women's Quarter-Finals

[5] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) 3-2 Joshana Chinappa (Ind)
                     11/8, 9/11, 7/11, 12/10, 11/6 (50m)
[4] Laura Massaro (Eng) 3-1 [8] Nouran Gohar (Egy)
                     11/8, 11/8, 8/11, 11/6 (43m)

[6] Nour El Sherbini (Egy) 3-1 [3] Camille Serme (Fra)
                     13/11, 11/8, 8/11, 11/8 (52m)
[2] Nicol David 3-0 [7] Annie Au (Hkg)
                      11/7, 11/4, 11/3 (23m)

14th Qatar Classic - Men's Quarter-Finals

[1] Mohamed Elshorbagy (Egy) 3-0 Max Lee (Hkg)
                      14/12, 11/7, 11/7 (36m)
[Q] Ryan Cuskelly (Aus) 3-2 [3] Miguel Rodriguez (Col)
                      9/11, 7/11, 11/5, 11/5, 11/2 (88m)

Mazen Hesham (Egy) 3-0 [Q] Ali Farag (Egy)
                      11/8, 12/10, 11/8 (42m)
[2] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 3-2 Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy)
                      7/11, 6/11, 11/4, 11/7, 11/6 (63m)

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[5] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) 3-2 Joshana Chinappa (Ind)
                     11/8, 9/11, 7/11, 12/10, 11/6 (50m)


It was one of those matches, typical of a cold court and a match between two attackers! As in, very short rallies (first game was 5m), a lot of decisions, and a lot of changes of momentum.

First game, 9/5 to Omneya, a few nervous tins from both, the Egyptian takes it 11/7. Second is more balanced at the start, a few strokes for Joshna, but itís the same score, 9/5, this time for Joshna, 10/7 game ball. Onny, dangerous as ever, comes back very strong, but just a bit short, 11/9 in 8m.

The third is close up to 7/7, but Joshna seems more hungry and up for it, a few fist pumps, she takes the following 4 points, 11/7, same time, 8m. The fourth will be the longest/most disputed one, and the weirdest one!

Onny is up 6/2, 7/3, and having an nice time out there, controlling the front beautifully. Again that famous 9/5 and game ball 10/5. Thatís when Joshna decides to play the best squash on the match, scoring 5 points in a row! But at 10/10, she gets the ball out of court. This time, Omneya takes the game, finally, 12/10, longest game of the match, 10m.

All credit from Joshna, the Indian Lady still believes she can do it, and she is fighting hard, taking a great start, 3/1, 4/2, only to see Omneya coming back to 4/4, and overtaking her. A few tired errors will finally creep in the Fiesty Indian, whoíll bow to her Egyptian opponent, 11/6 in the 5th, to the great sadness of her vocal supporting crowd, but to the huge pleasure of the Egyptian one!

Joshna is such a dangerous player, she played so well today. And on that court, itís who ever attacks well that wins. To be honest, I was very uncomfortable for the whole match, I never relaxed. That court feels cold, but in fact, you think the ball is going to die, but it does, you can still keep it going!

Iím still enjoying the Tour, Iím the oldest now! The pressure is on me, Iím supposed to have the most experience, but in fact, if I lose, playing really well, thatís okÖ

This year has been good and bad, for squash, good. It was very tough to come back in the match, Iím not sure how I did it to be honest! But I had to do it, because otherwise, we, as in the Egyptians, would have been in trouble!

Of course, the fact she beat Raneem was on my mind all the time, she has been playing very well since Weymuller, beating Raneem here was a great achievement, so she has a lot of confidence at the moment. But I was a bit lucky I think as I just beat her in the US Open, 3/0, it made it a bit easier in my head. If I hadnít had that result recently, the result might have been extremely different.

[4] Laura Massaro (Eng) 3-1 [8] Nouran Gohar (Egy)
                   11/8, 11/8, 8/11, 11/6 (43m)

Massaro shuts the door on Gohar

The second match of the day saw the former senior world champion take on  the reigning world junior champion, and it was experience tat prevailed in a tough four games.

Massaro started strongly, opening up a 6-1 advantage in the first game, and although Gohar narrowed the gap to 4-7, Massaro pulled away again to 10-5, taking the lead 11-8.

Gohar led in the early stages of the second but Massaro soon overhauled that lead and stayed ahead to double her advantage with the same score. 

A good start to the fourth and an 8-2 gave Gohar fresh impetus, and although Massaro got back to 8-6, the Egyptian closed out the game 11-8, giving a delighted little skip as the video ref confirmed the 'no let' on the final point.

From the outset of the fourth though Massaro was back in charge, Gohar unable to get the momentum back and even Massaro's own fistpumps and "C'mon"s - much in evidence in the previous games -  were muted.

On match ball Gohar put in a short boast, Massaro was backing up behind her and offered her hand before the stroke decision came.

Massaro reaches the semis for the first time in ten Qatar Classic visits, having lost out in the quarters in 08, 09 and 10.

ďIím a bit disappointed with how I played in that third game - I think I came off my tactical plan a little bit and allowed her to play the way she wants and everyone can see hoe lethal she is when you let her to that so Iím very happy to get off in four games in the end.

ďI feel good physically which is a really big thing for me. If Iím moving well and feeling god physically then Iím half way there with my game and I feel like thatís happening at the moment.

ďObviously playing two big majors in a row is hard so I;m really happy that Iíve made it to the semis and back up a really good week in Philadelphia here in Doha but Iím not done yet. Iím going to try and go one more round if I can.

ďOmneya is a very different player to Nouran. She plays with softer hands, attacks a lot to the front and isnít quite as powerful as Nouran so itís a completely different game considering theyíre both Egyptians.

Weíve come through the juniors together so weíve played each other enough and it will just be a case of who plays the best on the day.

[6] Nour El Sherbini (Egy) 3-1 [3] Camille Serme (Fra)
                    13/11, 11/8, 8/11, 11/8 (52m)


This was a superb performance from the just turned 20 Nour today, a very confident and mature match from the Miracle Girl as her family nicknamed her.

Those two played 8 times on the PSA/WISPA/WSA tour, but the most significant were the past two matches, with Camille wining in May 2015 in the British Open quarters, 11/9 in the 5th, and more sharply in the US Open two weeks ago, same stage of the competition, 3/0 in less than 40m.

So Cam was favourite today, but I feel that maybe her match against Amanda took a lot out of her, not only physically, but also mentally. Not having her coach or anybody in her corner here was maybe a factor that played in her disfavour. But what do I know.

In the other corner, Miss Nour El Sherbini. Slimmer, looking more mature and professional Ė no more stuffing herself with bags of sweets during the evening Ė Nour looks the business.

With the support of Atef her dad, she really imposed herself today on court, finding most of her points at the back on a very cold court, proving that she is not playing a junior squash anymore, but trusts herself enough to let her opponent guess where the ball is goingÖ.

First game couldnít have been any closer really, 2/2, 4/4, 6/6, 7/7, 9/9, game ball Nour, Cam saves that by a nice taxi Ė or Uber as the social network seem to call it nowadays Ė but canít transform her own, to finally lose it 13/11 in 14m of a very nice and pleasant game to watch indeed!

The second will be dominated by Camille, 7/4, 8/6, 9/7, and itís 11/8 for Cam in 9m. But thatís the only game sheíll take, despite a great start in the 3rd, 4/1, sheíll get caught up 5/5, 8/5 Nour, Cam claws back 8/8, but at the end of three great rallies, Nour get a great advantage, 11/8. The game was again 11m long.

Leading 2/1, Nour is now full blast confident, but Camille is experienced, and wonít let go. Game is truly close, the four corners are visited, both retrieving and attacking, lovely angles and depth. 2/2, 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, 6/6. A gigantic rally, that probably took a lot out of the French lady, 8/6, 9/7, and a superb backhand drop shot to close out the match for Nour, 11/8 in 51mÖ

Lovely match, truly enjoyed that oneÖ

Camille beat me the last two times, so maybe this was my turn, I just didnít want to lose this timeÖ

Iím really happy Iím through, itís been a long time since I reached the semis of a major tournament! It was tough until the end but I was trying to be focused and positive until the last point. Iím so glad I am back playing like before.

Iím not putting pressure on myself, Iím just trying to relax and enjoy playing and get back to how I used to play. I have lost weight, I have worked hard on my fitness regime with my fitness coach, and now my training is at the moment more orientated towards fitness than squash.

The fact I feel good physically gives me confidence on the court, I donít have to finish the point early, and when you feel good physically, you enjoy your game much better! I am playing a much more positive squash now, instead of going negative like I was going a few months ago.

Iím nothing without the support of my family, my dad that came here with me from Cairo, my brother and my mum watching me on TV, my friends, Omneya, all these people Iím so grateful too, and also the Egyptian crowd, they just want us Egyptians to win, they donít really care about whatís happening on court, they just support us unconditionallyÖ

[2] Nicol David 3-0 [7] Annie Au (Hkg)
                 11/7, 11/4, 11/3 (23m)

David eases into semis

In the quickest match of the day, defending champion Nicol David eased into her eighth Qatar Classic semi-final with a clinical straight-game win over Asian rival Annie Au.

The Hong Kong player has all the attributes to be a nightmare to play on a cool glass court, and sure enough she was able to put in some winning drops and boasts that not even Nicol could get to.

But for the most part the Malaysian was well on top, dictating the pace and putting the ball where Annie least wanted it, as as she does.

After losing the first two points of the match David settled, and from 5-6 down took the opening game 11-7 in nine minutes. A 7-0 start in the second was consolidated 11-4, and there was no stopping the tournament favourite in the third

Annie is so dangerous, she is a lefty, you never know where her shots are going, she is so hard to read, and she can put something together nicely, especially on that cold glass court.

I was very aware of what she can do especially on the forehand I had to make sure I would close the court, I couldnít afford to give away anything. I had to work very hard and Iím happy with my game today.

Delighted to win in three.

If you perform well, the results will come and the ranking will go up. You just have to put in the work, and I know what I have got to do.

I have a dream team, itís so hard to explain how crucial it is for a squash player to have a great support. itís so nice to have Ronald back with me back in action, and Liz [Irving, coach to Nicol forever] , what can I say, sheís been amazing, sheís seen me through bad times, through my ups and downs, sheís been a true mentor, and I wouldnít be here without her.

[1] Mohamed Elshorbagy (Egy) 3-0 Max Lee (Hkg)
                         14/12, 11/7, 11/7 (36m)

Mission: Revenge

Having lost to Max Lee in the first round of the China Open a few weeks ago, top seed Mohamed Elshorbagy will have been keen to put that right in today's rematch.

Less stressed then he was in his previous match against Abou, it all looked to be going well for the world #1 as he led 8/2, 9/3 in the first. But Max seems to be able to make Mohamed lose a bit of focus it seems.

Like in Shanghai, Max didnít to let him get off that easily, and a run of points brought him back to 8/9. Mohamedís camp Ė as in his mum Ė was getting nervous when Max saved two game balls before finally losing the game 14/12 to the Egyptian's obvious relief!

Mohamed led 7/2 in the second, Max fought back to 5-9, Shorbagy taking the game 11/7, and in the third Max held his own, even led 6/5 and 7-6, but again Shorbagy finished the game the stronger, taking five points in a row to move into the last four.

Just before Shanghai, I remember telling my brother, Ďam I really going to take a plane to go to another tournament, am I really going to start another season?í I hadnít recovered from the last oneÖ

It was a very hard season for me there, I had won 4 events, but had my peak too early, then lost in the Worlds, and I had to defend my WR1 for the first time in my life. A lot was happening at the same time, and when I got to that Shanghai event, I just wasnít mentally or physically ready, and Max was the better player on that day, he played better than me, and fully deserves to win.

Half an hour after that loss, I called Jonah [Barrington] and told him ďI deserve to lose, this is the best thing that could happen to me, now Iím ready for the new season.Ē

I had only a few days, 4 or 5 before the Grand Prix in England, I didnít do anything different training wise, but mentally, I was now ready for the battle.

Today, I still lost a bit of focus when I was up in the 1st, 9/3, and then again in the 3rd, but Iím glad I didnít give him a game point in the first, they are very hard to get back. In that third, he took a much better start, but in the end, I think I played just a bit better for sure.

Itís all about not losing confidence. You know, nobody can win all the tournaments, sometimes, you have to accept that somebody is better than you, and say too goodÖ. This year, Greg has started the season better than any of us, as for me, Iím raising my game after each match, after each event.

Itís sad that the ďold generationĒ is not around anymore, I feel that Iím the only one left with Greg that has played with them, the Darwish, Shabana, Palmer, with Nick and Ramy injured on this event as well.

And yet, itís funny to hear the people talking about the ďnew generationĒ coming up, they are only 2 years younger than I am, itís going to be like between Nick and James I guess. Letís see what that new generation will get out of me!!!

I feel this is my time, one day, it will somebody elseís time, and Iím aware of that.

[Q] Ryan Cuskelly (Aus) 3-2 [3] Miguel Rodriguez (Col)
                     9/11, 7/11, 11/5, 11/5, 11/2 (88m) minus 14m

Ryan Enters History ...

What a day for the 28 years old Australian, who not only got to the quarters of a WS for the first time ever, and now is in the semis! Last man that did that was Chris Walker, in 2001. Well, Delia Arnold did it last year at the British, but as a male player, it had been a little while!

I know for a fact he feels terrible about what happened at 9/8 in the 1st game, when he hit a backhand drive that clipped the ďarcade sourcilliŤreĒ Ė no idea how you say that in English, and Cubs doesnít know either Ė the bone just above the eye Ė and touched Miguelís eye. The game was interrupted for 14m while Miguel was getting treatment.

The Colombian, quickly attended by a doctor, was told he could resume play , only kept on putting ice on the eye between the games. Which he did.

We came back in game at 10/8 game ball for Miguel who then took the first game 11/9 in 15m of actual play.

An excellent start for the Australian in the 2nd, 3/0, 4/1, only to see Miguel getting right back into it, 4/4, 5/5, 6/6, 7/7, finding some lovely length, taking the 2nd in 16 minutes 11/7 to lead 2/0.

Miguel was moving so well on there today, so fast, that it looked like Ryan couldnít find an answer. But answer and solutions, he found. He take the 3rd, quickly in 9m, 11/5, and the 4th, same score, same length, but with a turning point at 6/4 in that 4th, where Miguel becomes negative and only returns for the first time the match.

We still have some lovely intense rallies, but Ryan is not in control in the 5th, completely, a few uncharacteristic errors from the Colombian, maybe the incident with the eye has got something to do with it, who cannot stop the incessant attacking from the Australianís racquet,  in still 11 minutes of hard workÖ

The big Colombian Support contingency was truly disappointed to see their champion lose and even booed the Australian at the end of the 4thÖ. But the 5 Australians in the seats were pretty happyÖ.

Of course Iím delighted, canít believe Iím in the semis of my first WS final, but there was that unfortunate incident in the first game, where I hit him with my racquet above the eye, it was an unfortunate incident, I truly felt bad about it. Itís not the way you want to start a match.

His length was so good at the start of the match, I just couldnít anything, I couldnít get into it and was a bit flat and I was struggling to cope with his speed. He was that little bit quicker and I was missing my timing just a little.

I couldnít hit the corners, he is so fast and using his speed to play some weird little shots. I tried to hold on in there, and then, managed to get a bit more aggressive, and stick to the game plan.

I didnít want to lose, so I tried and take that third, managed to get better length, tried and not do anything stupid, and then took a good lead in the 4th and 5th. 

I started hitting some winners and I think in those last three games I played pretty flawless and like I did in the last few rounds. But I canít believe I came back from 2/0 against him, he is one of the fittest player on the tour so Iím over the moon with that result.

Rodney Martin has done everything for me, since he started coaching me 9 years ago, heís been a good friend and a second father to me.

And I was telling him at the start of the tournament that I was just trying to scrap through qualifying, I just won in Halifax, the travelling, didnít play that well in the qualifications, slept better, a bit of a rest, then been playing the best squash of my life this week! UnbelievableÖ

These opportunities donít come often. You never know - Iíve got nothing to lose so Iíll be pushing again tomorrow. When I looked at the draw I thought, if I play well, I can do well in this tournament, so no pressure on me, just do the job Ö

Tomorrow, world number 1, I canít waitÖ

Mazen Hesham (Egy) 3-0 [Q] Ali Farag (Egy)
                11/8, 12/10, 11/8 (42m)

Gentlemen At Work

Itís never easy to play your mate. But for us, it was a great pleasure to watch. Two great players, fair, honest, fighting hard, but fair and clean. Those two didnít need refs tonight. They saluted each otherís great shots. They called their balls up or not up. They played a fluid match. Loved every second of it. Well, except the end, where one of them had to lose.

Mazen was all evening with a armband to rest his right shoulder, whose been troubling him all week, while I thought Ali was a bit flat tonight. He tried and shout himself into the match, but he was not as sharp I felt as he was previously. Maybe a bit of tiredness? Maybe just a bit of pressure falling on his shoulders? Tonight, he tactically was not at sharp as he can be, and in particular, his backhand drive was inexistent until the very last shots of the last game. Maybe something he needs to check on as when he used it, he managed to put Mazen under pressureÖ

But Iím a bit picky, you know that by nowÖ

First game, good start for Ali, 3/0, only to see Mazen taking the next 4, then 6/6, 7/7, 8/8. Mazen suddenly accelerate, and gets Fairest Farag out of his comfort zone, 11/8. The physio comes and check Mazenís shoulder at the end of the opener, but everything seems to be fine.

Second game, again, excellent start for Ali, 3/0, again a string on point from Mazen, but this time, itís not 4, but 7! Mind you, just after that, Ali takes 4. Mazen ahead again, 9/7, Ali, shouting to himself gets back to 9/9. It will take a few amazing rallies, and two game balls for Amazing Mazen 12/10 to lead 2/0 in 30m of playÖ

This third around, itís Mazen that takes a good start, 3/0, 6/3, and will keep the lead until the end, against 11/8 on the second match ball.

I know, Iím a crybaby like Amanda Sobhy, but I had tears in my eyes as those two finished in each otherís armsÖ Sue me.

Iíve known Ali since we were something like 8 years old, he is really a good character on and off the court. I feel that his family is like my family, and the same for mine, itís been very hard to play him at that stage of the competition, I was as excited as usual, but I couldnít show it as much today against such a close friend on mine.

I really love the way I play at the moment, Iíve been coming to Qatar about 3, 4, I stopped counting 5, 6 years? I never won a match, and suddenly this year, first round I beat Wan that I never beat before, and then Mosaad and today, Ali.

So, Iím blessed, Iím so lucky, Iím feeling awesome, overwhelmed I cannot find words to describe what I feel, but whatever you think of, I am! I really want to thank my coach in Cairo Omar Abdel Aziz and Karim Darwish also.

My parents of course, also Joey Barrington, who is doing great things for me, but the man you never hear about, and that has been supporting me on this tournament, always texting me with nice tips, and mental support, Jonathan Kemp! That guy is amazing, he has been helping me a lot and I really want to thank him. And thanks to you Fram, and SquashTV!!!

I hope that Iíll have a great match tomorrow, maybe with Greg, maybe with my room mate KarimÖ

This week in Qatar has been so good, today, not so good. He was going for shots, killing everything, he deserves to win definitely.

There is still an Egyptian in the semi, and hopefully, it will be an all-Egyptian final.

[2] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 3-2 Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy)
               7/11, 6/11, 11/4, 11/7, 11/6 (63m)

Greg went on court today, with very little sleep, and it showed. A bit sluggish, not even getting excited when he was playing badly, he was going through the motions. Karim on the other hand had nothing to lose, and just played superb fearless accurate squash, sprinkled with a little "parfum" of Egyptian Squash. In other words, lethal.

And he took the first two games with very little resistance from the Frenchman, in 20m, Greg was 2/0 down. And that's when Camille came into play, using the right words. One of them was "Orgueil". "Pride". And Greg just went ziiiiiiing!

Went back on court, looking very pale, taking the third in 8m, against a Karim that looked a bit out of source, making 6 unforced errors whereas he'd been pretty error-free up to then, 11/4.

The fourth is more disputed, with Karim complaining more and more about Greg movement, while getting several no lets that led him to get more and more frustrated as the game went along. A longer game, 11m, but once again Greg takes it, looking actually less tired at the end of the 4th, 11/7, than he did in the 3rd.

A big effort from Karim to come back in the game, but again, a few no lets whereas Karim is trying to explain that he feels he cannot go to the ball.

At 7/3 Greg to serve, the central ref warns the Frenchman "Mr Gaultier, please provide better access to your opponent, no matter the quality of  your shot might be".

"Tis a bit late now', states Karim...

The Egyptian will stick to the score and comes back to 6/8, but a tin and two strokes give the match to Greg. That was a come back and a half... must be something in the Qatari Water...

Well, tonight Karim really surprised me, I was a bit flat to begin with, I didnít expect to go 2/0 down against him, I had always had 3/0 wins against him, I managed to control him rather well, apart from the first time we played, I think it was 3/1 [it was actually in the 2010 Qatar Classic]. Today, he really played out of his skin, I just couldnít read his game at all, and he was taking the ball very early.

At 2/0, Camille came and spoke to me with the right words, she told me ďPrideĒ. And something just clicked in my head. It sort of woke me up and I pushed myself, started to be patient again, and worked, and worked and worked, to tire him and force him to keep in the rallies. Of course, it was burning inside, but I thought, if itís burning for me, itís burning for him too! So I just had to stay strong and patient.

Once I took the 3rd, I was more confident, I started to take the lead and forced him to pick up one more shotÖ

Tomorrow, Iím playing another Egyptian, Iíll have to be alert from the word go. What I need is a good night sleep, I just couldnít sleep at all last night, I was the last one on court, so by the time to go back to the hotel, you eat too fast, and you pass your bedtime.

I took some Melatonine to sleep, normally itís fine, if you manage to sleep. But if you donít, it makes you very flat. And thatís what happened to me. But tomorrow, a good night sleep, and Iíll be perfectly fineÖ

There are days like this, youíve got to deal with it, and Iím happy with the fighting spirit I found in myself today.

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