ē Al-Ahram Squash Open NEWGIZA ē 17-23 Sep 2016 ē Cairo, Egypt ē  


  TODAY at the Al-Ahram Squash Open
Tue 20-Sep, Day FOUR, Quarters (Top):

[1] Nour El Sherbini (Egy) 3-0 [6] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy)
               11/1, 11/4, 11/8 (22m)
 [wc] Nour El Tayeb
(Egy) 3-2 [8] Alison Waters (Eng)
               11/6, 11/6, 11/13, 12/14, 11/8 (82m)

[1] Mohamed Elshorbagy (Egy) 3-2 [6] Simon Rosner (Ger)
            5/11, 11/8, 4/11, 11/6, 11/5 (66m)
[4] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 [7] Ramy Ashour (Egy)
                6/5 rtd (15m)

Four Egyptian winners in contrasting matches

The first day of the Al-Ahram Squash Open Quarter-finals at the Great Pyramids of Giza produced four Egyptian winners, but in highly contrasting manners,

World number ones Nour El Sherbini and Mohamed Elshorbagy both progressed to the semis, Sherbini racing past Omneya Abdel Kawy in just over 20 minutes, but Shorbagy was twice behind before finally overcoming the resistance of Germany's Simon Rosner.

Newly-married Nour El Tayeb and Ali Farag made it another family double. Tayeb, the wildcard who yesterday beat Nouran Gohar, looked to be heading for a comfortable win at two-nil and 10-8 against Alison Waters, but the Englishwoman fought back to force a decider only to see Tayeb clinch it in the end.

Farag was in the middle of a close first game against Ramy Ashour when the three-time world champion pulled up in distress with what appeared to be an achilles tendon injury and was unable to continue.

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Yes, we are sharing here, and she is like my big sister, so itís not easy to play against herÖ

I was trying to be focused from the first rally, and I think I was controlling the rallies well, I found myself 6/1, 7/1, so I just wanted to keep going with that momentum, which I managed to do on the first and second.

Yes, there were some lets I could have asked, but I wanted to keep playing a bit, there was space to play, and I wasnít going to hit her, so I just kept the rallies goingÖ.

I think I was handling the court better than her, she seemed to be struggling a bit on there tonight, where I was quite comfortable. I could see that she was trying every game to come back into the match. But luckily for me, she did a few errors right at crucial times, that helped me widening the gap.

Still, after leading 2/0, I found myself relaxing a bit too much, and you cannot that against Omneya, I found myself trying to play shots, and thinking this is not the right time for that!

So I tried to refocus and finish the match.

[1] Nour El Sherbini (Egy) 3-0 [6] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy)
            11/1, 11/4, 11/8 (22m)


Not easy to play your Big Sis, your room mate, and your friend, especially when you know how tired she is from preparing herself for the biggest day of her lifeÖ

What to say about a 22m game, 3 m first game, 5 the secondÖ. Not much really. Nour was in front, dispatching her magic, and Omneya tried to stop her, but just couldnít.

The third was longer, 8m, with Omneya taking charge of the middle, sending to the four corners, and giving it a big push. Rallies were intense and excellent squash really, Omneya leading 4/1, before Nour felt the danger, scoring 5 points in a row.

The rest of the game would be very close, but Omneya, not trusting her fitness Ė as she told me yesterday Ė just went for just too much at crucial times, offering that little gap to Nour who closed it 11/8 on the first match ball.

[1] Mohamed Elshorbagy (Egy) 3-2 [6] Simon Rosner (Ger)
            5/11, 11/8, 4/11, 11/6, 11/5 (66m)


People forget that the world number 1 is a young man. He is 25, and has been in the top 5 for so long, we forget he is still young. And today, it was obvious to anybody a bit observant that Mohamed was not in top form. He kept noticing everything that was happening outside the court, kept picking stuff on the court, and kept looking on the floor. Three undeniable signs when you know Mohamed.

Simon well, didnít have much to lose. Playing the world number 1 at home, pressure is not on you is it. And Simon knew Ė he remembered Gouna Ė that he has the game to beat/frustrate the Egyptian. When Simon plays at his favourite fast pace, he plays some volley shots that even Mohamed cannot read and is finds himself under enormous pressure, and he just keeps going, and going, and goingÖ.

ďI felt completely flatĒ he told us at the end of the match. Yes, I could see that. I could see how lost he was, and unable to find solutions to shut the Germanís game out, how he just couldnít get in his head this time round.

Simon just walked all over Mohamed in the first, 3/0, 5/2, 8/2, 11/5 I 12m, 0 errors from Simon, 3 from Mohamed.

The crowd was stunned. Apart from a kid behind me that kept shouting GO BAGY, it was pretty quiet for an Egyptian crowd. Still, like yesterday after the third, I guess Basma told her son to pick up the pace Ė the first game was played at a mid pace that seem to give the German a lot of time of the ball. And it worked Mohamed always had a couple of points lead, he takes the second 11/8 in 10m.

But the third is a no show from Mohamed while Simon just plays the game of his life! He is in front, all the time, controlling every rally, reading the Egyptianís shots and counterdropping or counter attacking superbly, 11/4 in 7 minutes.

At that moment, something unusual happened. Mohamed got away from the two people that were advising him, and stepped behind the court, calling his mum only to come and talk to him. And the Basma Magic, the Push Moment as Mohamed described it, the same that got him that victory in Gouna against Greg, got him back on tracks.

Still Simon was still very much in the race, and it was point for point, 1/1, 2/2, 3/3, 4/4, 5/5. At that point, a few discussions, a no let against Simon Ė which I thought was extremely harsh Ė becomes a let and that seems to fire up our Egyptian, straight to 10/5, 11/6, 14m game. The crowd there played its partÖ.

Once in the 5th, Mohamed was back right in control. Simon, now a bit tired from all his matches in Ponte, the travelling, and the ridiculous work he did against the world number 1 for 4 games at a completely ALIEN PACE started to only defend instead of taking the initiative as heíd done the whole match. But who could blame him??

And finally, Mohamed won that match, a match he just didnít want to win. Yes, I am taking risks here, but I think the reason why his body shut down was because he just didnít want to play Ramy again in Egypt. Not that he is afraid or anything. He would have actually enjoyed the battle very much. But his body/brain was not of the same feeling. It remembered the pain/agony of the match in Gouna 18 months ago. And it refused to play ball.

But Mohamed the Champion, tonight, just beat Mohamed the Athlete. But careful, Bagy, Simon is getting closer and closer, and next time, bewareÖ.

Physically, I felt good. I think I played well, although it was completely different court conditions to yesterday for me, traditional and cold, today, glass and warm really! But still I thought I adapted well and started off well, taking the first game.

In the third, he made a few unforced errors, so I thought it was the time to get the match, finally!!

At 2/1 up, I was still playing well, and at 5/5 in that 4th, there was a few discussions with the ref, and I thought he got fired up, and played much better.

I donít think I did much wrong in the 5th, I just couldnít control it as much, maybe I got a bit passive, but that shows why he is world number 1, and Iím not!

Still, Iím happy with my performance and the way I handled the crazy schedule, arriving straight from Pontefract for the European Teams, and playing two matches yesterday and today.

It was a fair and clean match, and I enjoyed it.

I felt flat today, really flat. I have no explanation really, I shouldnít be tired, itís the beginning of the season, and only the second match of the event! I had to push to hard mentally to make it happen.

After the third game, I took my mum aside behind the court, I only wanted to speak with her, I knew that only her would find the words I needed to hear, I needed my mum to give me that Ďpush momentí. I told her, you have no idea how hard I have got to push for every single short shot he is playing, every single one.

Sometimes you go on court and you feel flat. It's not because you're tired or anything, I don't understand it.

But I'm a tough player, and I told myself that I was not going to lose easily in Egypt, in front of the Pyramids. So I pushed and made sure it was going to take a lot of effort to beat me here.

He was playing very well but when I pushed mentally, I think he went defensive and it would have been even tougher had he not done that. I think the only thing that would have made me lose tonight was if he had kept being positive.

To be honest I'm proud that I could win today. Iím very proud of what I did. Itís moments like that that defines who we are, and that separate the top athletes from the others - today was tough but I live for these kind of challenges.

Luckily for me, I have a day of rest tomorrow, Iíll probably need it more than anybody else!

But you know, my mum is the main reason why I won today, like she is the main reason I won against Greg in Gouna. She knew what to say and when to say it and it made the difference. She is the main reason Iím here today.

Gutted to have lost in a big battle but proud of myself for digging in and coming through some tough decisions.

Awesome venue, loved playing.  

 [wc] Nour El Tayeb (Egy) 3-2 [8] Alison Waters (Eng)
               11/6, 11/6, 11/13, 12/14, 11/8 (82m)


If the young Egyptian, 23, played sublime squash for two game and 18 points, it was then Alison that gave the world a lesson in volleying and determination. And I am not afraid to say that Ali played a better squash from 10/8 in the 3rd, and that anywhere where else than Egypt, she would have won today. But there is a sort of desperation to win when an Egyptian plays in Egypt, Iíve seen it again and again. So, imagine in front of the PyramidsÖ.

It was spotless squash from both girls in the first two games to be honest, 1 error each in the first, and one for Ali in the second. Thatís it. And long rallies two, if you consider the score/time ratio, 9m for 11/6, then 11 for the same score.

The third is amazing really, what a game. Alison is taking the T and for the first time of the match is able to step in front of Nour. Putting the Egyptian under more pressure than she did in the first two, the English is finding her volleying range and shooting at will. Score is close, 2/2, 4/4, 5/5, 6/6. 9/6 for Nour who has strung 4 points, an error, the only one of the game for her, and itís 10/8 match ball. The crowd is chanting and itís lovely to see. But the Egyptian just wonít close it, despite 3 match balls. And itís the English lady that gets it on her first attempt, 13/11, in 14m.

If the third was amazing, the fourth is just from another planet!!!

Alison by now is at the top of her game. She plays sublime squash Iím not afraid to say, and yes, Nour manages to stay in touch, but is forced to do a heck of a lot of work, picking up Aliís shots all over the court, sliding here, sliding there, the rallies are getting more intense, more dramatic. The crowd is now fully involved. 1/1, 3/1 Ali, 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, 6/6, 7/7. Ah ha, 9/7, surely this time Nour.

Nope, 9/9 it is, and 10/9 game ball Alison. A no let against Ali is corrected by the video ref, then is Alisonís ball good or not, we are not sure, so we play a let Ė the video ref is starting to be busy Ė and itís finally a tin from Alison, 10/10.

11/10 Alison, game ball. Nour asks for a let, the ref cannot decide, video ref in action, itís a stroke. Next point, same story, this time, itís a no let, another game ball for Alison, 12/11. A crosscourt deep in the back corner saves that one, 12/12. At that point, we have 1 let, then again a video ref decision for Alison, itís a let, then a let decision for Nour contested by Alison, video review, decision upheld, e are still at 12/12

Are you confused? Iím confusedÖ

Finally, a tin from Nour and the crosscourt kill that dies in the nick, and itís 14/12 in 24m which by the way is longer that Nour/Onnyís match!!!

Alison, pumped up by the clinching of that ĎVideoRef Festivalí Game, is still attacking at will, while getting frustrated with a Nour that is asking far too many lets Ė she will apologise for it in her postmatch interview. The rallies are still as ridiculous, with Alison playing sublime attacks and Nour, defending and retrieving for her life, just keeps a couple of points ahead, 2/2, 5/2, only to be caught back 6/6. 8/6 Nour, 2 strokes take care of that 8/8.

A tin, 9/8 Nour, another video ref decision that becomes a stroke for the Egyptian, and a last huge ridiculous hit, run, dive rally, with Nour finally finding a short shot, that Ali just cannot save. 11/8, 13m last game, 82m.

Iím exhausted. Are you?

Toughest match I've ever won. I've never been match ball up and lost before and there was a lot going through my head.

Even when I played against Raneem in NY, the pressure was on her, not me. So it wasnít as tough as today.

At 10-8 in the third, I had that thought of winning, and stupidly, I saw myself raising my arms, having won the match, I saw myself having that big picture with the pyramids in the background and boom it hit me!!

After the third, it got quite heated and I just started panicking. I stopped my attacking, I took my space too much, I know that, and I apologise, I was just, well, panicking completely. But we have a lot of respect Alison and myself for each other, so I think itís ok now.

Thing is, I told all my friends and my family to come and watch me and the thought of losing was going through my head. I just didnít want to loseÖ

They say Egyptians play drop shots, well, I had absolutely no confidence in them from the 3rd on, and I had my coaches telling me to play drop shots, my dad poor him just came at the end of the 4th, and told me, begged me to play a drop shot, he BEGGED ME, why are you so scared he said, but still I just couldnít.

I didn't think I was going to win after the third game. She was playing so well, I feel sorry for the poor ref, we gave him a very hard time, he just couldnít decide what decisions to takeÖ.

Tomorrow, a rest day, Iíll be able to work on the few things I noticed today, but the thing is, I havenít enjoyed my squash for a long time now, Iím putting so much pressure on myself, I had that feeling the clock is ticking and that I have to win evertying now, but my husband is so supportive, and he is the one telling me to take my time, to stay positive, to keep pushing, and that my squash will come hopefully.

I am so happy I won in front of my parentsÖ

[4] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 [7] Ramy Ashour (Egy)
                6/5 rtd (15m)


If it wasnít that sad, and dramatic, and frankly, Iím in tears writing those words, I would say that he has managed to tear a part of his body he never did before.

I read a lot of quotes from athletes who had their Achilles tendon damage. They say the same thing. They feel that somebody shot them in the calve. So, when I saw Ramy turning to Ali asking him if he banged into him, I knew immediately it was not good. And when I saw Ramy unable to put any weight on that leg, I knew.

Now, Iím trying not to panic. There is a logical explanation that could be the reason why this happened. Ramy Iím told just changed shoes, and that fact alone could have created a unbalance in his so fined tuned instrument. Any change could affect it.

If it was the reason, we can hope itís a small tear and Iím told by somebody who had the same problem that it just heals by itself.

It could also be a real tear and like Joelle King, Ramy would then require surgery.

For now, letís just shout at the Stars, the Angels and all what is up there that sometimes, their mysterious ways just suck.


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