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


  TODAY at the Al-Ahram Squash Open
Thu 22-Sep, Day SIX, Semi-Finals:

[1] Nour El Sherbini (Egy) 3-0 [wc] Nour El Tayeb (Egy)
                 11/7, 11/8, 11/4 (29m)
[3] Raneem El Welily (Egy) 3-0 Sarah-Jane Perry (Eng) 
                  11/5, 11/7, 12/10 (34m)

[4] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-1 [1] Mohamed Elshobagy (Egy)
                     8/11, 11/7, 11/9, 14/12  (78m)
[3] Karim Abdel Gawad
(Egy) 3-0  [2] Omar Mosaad (Egy)
                      11/8, 13/11, 11/9 (61m)

All Egyptian Finals in Giza
as Farag and Gawad remove top seeds ...

The finals of the Al-Ahram Squash Open will both be all-Egyptian after today's semi-finals saw the seeded players prevail in the women's draw and two upsets in the men's matches.

Nour El Sherbini and Raneem El Welily both progressed in straight games at the expense of Nour El Tayeb and Sarah-Jane Perry, but third and fourth seeds Ali Farag and Karim Abdel Gawad both played superbly to beat top seeds Mohamed Elshorbagy and Omar Mosaad.

She was a bit sharper today on the crucial points, while I wasn’t mentally as sharp as I needed.

But overall, it’s been a very positive tournament, I managed to play two very hard back to back matches, I haven’t played that kind of intensity for a while. And the season is just starting, we are early September and the season goes until May!

Now I know the points I need to focus on and work, I know what’s working and what not. I wish I could have keep playing longer today, but now, I’m going to watch the match with my coach and see what I can learn from it.

I want to thank the organisers, the Federation, Mansi and his team, for putting up this amazing tournament, I enjoyed so much playing here in Al-Ahram, and I hope this event can become a yearly event….

[1] Nour El Sherbini (Egy) 3-0 [wc] Nour El Tayeb (Egy)
               11/7, 11/8, 11/4 (32m)


The Alexandria “Miracle Girl” was flying today in front of her family, friends and sponsors. If her brother Omar was smiling the whole time before the match I know him enough to know how nervous he was, along with his mum and dad – and coach, and all the Alexandria camp.

I don’t think the other camp – the El Tayeb and the Farags were not exactly relaxed either! But as there is HUUUUUGE love and respect between those girls/families, the ambiance was tense but fair the whole time.

After a good start in the first for Tayeb, 3/1, it was Sherbini that took over, 9/5 from 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, 3 errors from Tayeb against only 1 for Sherbini, 11/7 in 6m.

The second game is longer, 10m, and closer too, with Tayeb managing to get in front of Sherbini a few times, 2/2, 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, 6/6 7/7, but there again, Sherbini stronger physically, hitting harder and mixing so well her power shots with delicate feathery volley drop shots, 11/8, 2/0 Sherbini.

We think we may have a “wake up of the Tayeb” 3/0 but quickly Sherbini comes back to 3/3, and just won’t look back, 8/3, 11/4 on her first attempt, 6m. Three errors the whole match for Sherbini, 5 for Tayeb. High quality squash indeed…

We've known each other for a long time and player many many times so I was expected all of her unexpected shots. It’s the first time I play here for a year and a half, since her surgery.

We used to do everything together, room together on tournaments, train together, but since her wedding, I haven’t seen much of her, and it’s the first time I play with her today….

I was very focused from the beginning and worked hard not to let her get in front, I was happy I managed to control the rallies, take the lead, and prevent her from playing her shots. I'm glad to come through in three games.

I've been dreaming of playing here since I was ten years old and playing in front of the Pyramids and the Egyptian crowd. For me being here, in Egypt, is no pressure, but an advantage, it’s helping me to play my best squash.

I didn’t expect to be doing so well in this tournament, so I'm really proud to be here and have my family and sponsor there to see me play so hopefully I can keep it going now in the final.

[3] Raneem El Welily (Egy) 3-0 Sarah-Jane Perry (Eng) 
                  11/5, 11/7, 12/10 (34m)


When I say that Raneem is probably the most gifted player on the tour, I stand by my opinion, sue me. The skills she displayed today to despatch of the Lady On Form Giant Killer SJP were purely and simply exquisite. She was in the zone for most of the match, and when she wasn’t, all credit to SJ that never gave up and kept attacking, mixing pace and angles constantly, she managed not to panic and take control again, not losing a game.

A superb start for the Local Lady, 6/2, 7/2, 8/3, 11/5 in 8 minutes, with some good rallies, but where SJ didn’t have a chance to even try to putting pressure on her opponent.

The second started in the same vein, 5/1, 6/3, but slowly, calmly, SJ started finding her balance, took more control of the T, started pushing Raneem at the back, and forced her to cover a lot of ground, taking time away from her, and we are back at 7/7.

A tin at 8/7 plus a no let confirmed by the video ref, and we are at game ball, Raneem will close the game with a superb backhand boast that dies in the nick, 11/7 in 10m game

The third is far more complicated for the Egyptian, as her level drops just a little bit – a bit of relaxation after taking two games, a bit of hard work produced at the end of the second and more than anything else, a Sarah Jane that goes for it BIG TIME, giving it the big push.

4/1 for the English, then close, 4/4, 5/5, 6/6, 7/7, 8/8. The crowd is supporting their girl, but it’s Sarah Jane’s grit that gets her 2 game balls, a backhand redrop from Raneem saves one, 9/10, a winner from SJ she thinks, she is about to get off court, when the ref calls it down, 10/10. She will tin the next two points, and offers Raneem a place in the final against her friend/sister.

The crowd has got their All Egyptian Match tomorrow…

It feels like it's still the first match. I wake up and I'm not thinking about the tournament and then half an hour before the match it hits me. All day long it's chilling by the Pyramids and then it's match time. It's good until it hits me - and then I think I should have prepared a little bit more.

I got a bit excited in the second and third, she was playing so well, and I got a bit nervous. She is definitely in top form, getting some great wins and she has been playing great all week, so I had to be sharp from the beginning.

I'm happy to be through. She was a bit slower and had a tough match yesterday which helped me a little bit. And it's been good so far.

I used to come here with my brother and my parents, we were so young then, and I remember we were fascinated by everything, so being here means a lot for me.

Tomorrow, I hope it’s going to be a great match, she is a good person, on and off court, and the purest soul I know. I’m looking forward to play my little sister.

First of all, let me say that I have the upmost respect for Mohamed - he's been the best in the game for the past two seasons hands down.

I know if I have a chance I have to be at my absolute best.

It was tough to play after Nour - especially as it didn't go her way - but like I told you, we have each other and we just support each other, both mentally and squashwise.

Maybe it was an advantage that she played before me, then I was not focusing on the match to come, just on her. I’ll have to talk to the PSA and ask them to always put her matches before mine!!!

I've been preparing well since Hong Kong. As you know, I didn’t have much training this summer because of the wedding, but I got a big chunk of training before this event, two three weeks, and that I think made the difference.

Mo can be very intimidating at times – I do not mean that disrespectfully - with how big he makes himself on court - like any top player – but before the match, Wael, my coach, told me that he trusted my squash was good enough to beat him, but that it would all be mental today. I had to match him mentally and that's what I did.

Had I known that was a double bounce I wouldn't have taken it, you know me enough. I'm not that kind of player. Once that was passed, I just put it out of my mind.

It could have gone either way in the end, it was a toss of a coin… Normally, he comes on top the big points, so today, I just tried and kept with him the whole time.

When the draw changed, it couldn’t have been hard, Ramy, Mohamed… B

ut then my Dad told me, “at Motor City you had the toughest draw of the year and you came out on top. Names are just names, and I believe in you.”

I’ll have to speak to the PSA to do my draw as hard as that every time, it seems to work for me!!!

And talking about my dad, I really want to thank my mum and dad for everything they do for me behind the scenes, and that nobody knows about…

[4] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-1 [1] Mohamed Elshobagy (Egy)
                     8/11, 11/7, 11/9, 14/12  (78m)

Mohamed hasn’t been at his top for this tournament. I heard he suffered from an upset stomach, which is never good when you are fighting some of the best players in the world who have only one idea in mind, scalp you.
We all saw how Mohamed dug in very, very deep in his matches against Cameron then Simon. He had to go and fought with all his being to stay on course. And tonight, I guess it was just the match too many. Rewind.
Mohamed still has dark circles under his eyes, he is still noticing the people moving around the court, the music, little details, and he is still looking on the floor. Signs for me he is not relaxed but when I see him zooming to 4/1, I’m thinking that I am just being silly. That he is fine. He is not. His stomach is killing him.
The crowd is vocal, and a lot of “Yalla Ali” we are in Cairo after all, are coming from the crowd, including from right behind me, a loud man’s voice… I’m thinking I’m going to be deaf before the end of the game….
Quickly, Ali finds his range, and comes back to 5/5, 6/6. Mohamed, still not completely focused but still in control, got up 10/6. The rallies are getting more intense, the video ref is kept busy, not only for video reviews but also for video decisions. Ali claws back to 8/10, but Mohamed closes it out, 11/8, 15m opening game.
At that point, I notice that the man behind me is not shouting for Ali, but for Mohamed. I turn round, and look at him during the interval, and ask him why did he change his support. He smiles “did you hear Mohamed saying in Arabic “I’m Egyptian too” to the people who were shouting for Ali? I don’t want him to feel bad, so I am supporting him now”…. Only in Egypt….
Ali comes back and takes a superb start this time, 4/1, 6/3, 7/4, 8/5. He is finding so many sublime volley drop shots from the back of the court that Mohamed three times will stop and clap. At 10/6, game ball, Mohamed finds one of the best winners of the event on a return of serve and now it’s Ali’s turn to salute his opponent, a huuuuuge smile of his face… still it’s 11/7, 11m game, and we are 1/1.

The third is the turning point.

The World Number one is back and is has had enough of that young contender. 5/1 he goes, 8/4. At that point, he goes for a silly shot behind his legs, not really forced, and I’m thinking seriously, Mohamed? In a semi final, you go for an exhibition shot at 8/4 in the 3rd? I’m thinking he is not fully focused here. Ali says thank you, takes advantage of it, and will string the points to 7/8.

At this point, it is important to say there were several interactions with the ref. 1/0, Ali realising on the replay Mohamed's ball is good when the ref was not sure and awarding a let, gives it back the point to his opponent.

Then at 4/1, Mohamed's shot is good but was also called down initially. Mohamed is getting a bit frustrated.

At 7/8, Mohamed is questioning Ali’s shot – he thinks is not up, the ref thinks it is. "I thought my shot was good, I asked my brother, who told me he was not sure" says Ali. But Mohamed is absolutely sure the ball is not up.

Again at 8/8, Mohamed loses his temper when he sees what he think is another double bounce not penalised. “Are you KIDDING ME??” he shouts to the ref. He goes on a little bit too long and too loud. His mum is asking him to calm down, Mohamed is told off by the ref who demands he stops addressing him in that manner.

"In my head, I was 10/7 up", told me Mohamed at the end of the match. "And that really got to me, to find I was 9/8 down."

A stroke will make 10/8, game ball. That's 6 points in a row for Ali, who'll finish 11/9 with Mohamed's finding the tin.

A welcome longer break as Mohamed is bleeding from the knee. Mohamed can put his thoughts/head back together, while Ali can rest and take his energy back – the pace is just astonishing.

It seems that the break benefits the contender, who goes up 6/2, only to see the World number 1 showing his determination and talent by stringing 5 points. Back at 7/7, 8/8, 9/9.

Game ball Mohamed, 10/9. A drive saves that one. 11/10, another game ball, Ali dives to save a drop shot, Mohamed stops the rally as the sweat is dangerous, and wins the following rally with a great deep crosscourt.

Another chance at 12/11 but two strokes later, it’s a match ball for Ali, who won’t think twice before finding yet again another sublime volley drop shot that Mohamed cannot retrieve this time.

It’s a 23m game. Mohamed made one error. Ali none. Just for you to realise the extraordinary level of squash they both produced.

A heck of a match.

[3] Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy) 3-0  [2] Omar Mosaad (Egy)
                      11/8, 13/11, 11/9 (61m)


Omar Mosaad had a pretty bad time recently. He was really poorly he told us after his previous matches, had to take three courses of antibiotics in a 3 weeks period, and only came back to the competition in China.

Here, he did very well, but I feel that to sustain the pace/power he wants to play, he needs to be at the top of his shape physically, and I think he is not there yet. Today, Karim truly kept on with the same momentum he had against Tarek. He pushed/kept up with Omar point for point, absorb the extremely hard hitting from the Hammer and translated it in counterdropping or counter attacking that Omar struggled to contain really.

There is not much between the players in the first game, 2/2, 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, two errors from Karim, enormous rallies, back on equal terms again, 7/7, 8/8, and the Gezira Club Man scores 4 points to reach 11/8. High quality squash, ridiculous pace, 2 tins each, 16m first game. What a start!

Karim keeps the momentum going it seems, 4/1, 8/5, but Omar is right back in it, while Karim is showing signs of tiredness, the pace those two are playing, the amount of court coverage is just silly – don’t try this at home kind of squash I swear, and the Hammer is back in contention, 8/8, 9/9.

The rallies are getting longer, the crowd is more and more involved, the video ref is kept busy, but it’s Karim that finds the winners, 13/11 on his second game ball, as Omar couldn’t close it at 10/9. 21m game….

Again it seems like Karim is flying away towards the finishing line 6/1, 8/3, but again, the Hammer of Thor digs in, scores 5 points in a row, and Karim looks a bit lost and outplayed. Despite a hammering of the Hammer – sorry, can’t help that one – Karim stops the hemorrhagic of points, 9/8, Karim’s mum is jumping in her seat, Basma way. Not easy to be the mum of an athlete I tell you.

A volley drop shot from out of space offers Karim a match ball, huge rally, let, huge rally, let, Omar manages to pass Karim with a backhand low drive, 9/10, but a squeeze off the backhand side and it’s game and match, 11/9 to Karim, 18m last game, 61m in total.

Just watch the replay, it’s a beauty of a match, an average of 5 decisions per game, fair, clean, fast, intense, ridiculous squash. Don’t miss it.

Before anything else, I need to thank my coaches, Omar Abdel Aziz, Mohamed Abbas and my fitness coach Ali as they truly helped me getting back on my feet.

My season was going well until I got injured pretty badly, my end of the season was terrible in Gouna, and they worked very hard with me to make me fit again, both physically, mentally and in my squash.

Omar is such a tough competitor, he is so hard to compete against, and I truly didn’t expect a 3/0. Wining 3/0 against him is just amazing result for me.

It’s such a dream to come here and play, I remember how I watched the players, and also Robert chatting with the players at the end, and I remember thinking I wanted to be interviewed as well!

I am looking forward to my match with Ali, we played so many times on the Junior circuit because we are about the same age, we played hundred of times as juniors, and a few times on PSA too!

I hope it will be a great match….

It has been one of my dreams to play here in front of the pyramids and here I am, definitely there are a lot of things to thank for.

First of all I want to thank Amr Mansi and his team for doing a great job bringing back the tournament to this amazing venue, we all hope to be here again next year ISA.

Also I want to thank everyone for coming and supporting us during the tournament; it is a shame I could not make it through the final, but I gave my best after a long period of recovery during which I had to skip Hong Kong and poor results in China ; maybe I was not that ready for this one, but I have learned that you must compete no matter what and well I must say also all credits to Karim Samy, he played so hard and so well to be where he is right now.

Also I want to thank my sponsors head my club Smouha, my fans and followers, thank you guys for so much love and good vibes.

Finally I want to say that there is a lot going on behind the scenes and all this has been team work, so I want to specially say thank you to my wonderful team and coaches, thanks a lot for being there always by my side guiding me and supporting me.

Wishing Ramy a speed recovery, and all the best for the ladies and the guys today

(on Instagram)


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