Five-game battle with improving German Raphael Kandra
By NATHAN CLARKE in Doha
Three-time World Champion Nick Matthew was forced to call upon all his experience to avoid a shock defeat against German qualifier Raphael Kandra in the first round of the 2017 Qatar Classic, the second PSA World Series event of the 2017-18 season.
The 37-year-old, competing in his 20th and final season on the PSA World Tour, looked to be in cruise control early on against the World No.42 as he took the first two games to establish a commanding lead.
But Kandra, 10 years Mathew’s junior, was equal to the challenge, winning the next two games to set up a compelling fifth during which he matched Matthew all the way to 8-8. With an early exit looming however Matthew managed to find just enough to escape, sealing the 12-10, 11-9, 5-11, 8-11, 11-8 win that takes him through to the second round where he faces Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet (who defeated Scotsman Alan Clyne).
“I was hitting hard and running with him early on which was silly because he’s much younger than me,” said Matthew.
“But finally at the end I started to use my brain and my experience – which shows you it’s never too late. He was sharper than me today but it was experience that saw me through.
“I got out of jail. In the middle of the game I was mentally booking my flight back home. Then I told myself to push on and just win ugly. I don’t want to discredit him, he rushed me and hurried me and pressured me but I have to go away and learn and focus on my own thing and not worry about anyone else.”
Matthew’s victory was just one of eight on a day of marathon encounters at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex which was highlighted by Omar Mosaad’s thrilling and gruelling 108-minute victory over Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez.
The opening game alone lasted 28 minutes and set up what was to follow as the duo traded blows back and forth all the way until a fifth game tie-break that saw both squander match ball opportunities before Mosaad, a former World No.3 who slipped outside the top 30 this year, forced the error that secured his place to take on compatriot Marwan ElShorbagy for a place in the quarter-finals.
“You always know against him that it will be physical and that you need to stick to your plan,” said Mosaad.
“I had a good result at the last event I played and it’s important to try and stay in that zone and keep consistent. I’m trying to get back up the rankings and I need to win more matches to get back on track.
“In the fifth I was getting tired and getting some cramps but I just tried to fight and keep focused. I’m happy with how I managed to do that and stay mentally strong.”
Defending champion Karim Abdel Gawad also came through a tough 62 minute encounter with Spaniard Borja Golan to keep his defence alive, surviving a huge fourth game tie-break to see out the win.
“Today I wasn’t at my best but you aren’t always at your best and in those days you have to find a way to win and get to the next round,” said Gawad. “He put a lot of pressure on me today so I’m very happy to come through.”
The other winners on day two of action were Germany’s Simon Rösner, Australian Cameron Pilley and Egyptian Tarek Momen.
PSA M165 Men’s Qatar Classic 2017, Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex, Doha, Qatar.
Results – First Round (Bottom Half):
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [Q] Raphael Kandra (GER) 3-2: 12-10, 11-9, 5-11, 8-11, 11-8 (64m)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt [Q] Alan Clyne (SCO) 3-1: 9-11, 11-9, 14-12, 11-3 (66m)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt [Q] Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-1: 11-3, 11-13, 11-9, 11-6 (57m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 3-1: 11-4, 11-6, 7-11, 11-7 (43m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Paul Coll (NZL) 3-1: 11-13, 11-9, 11-5, 11-6 (58m)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 3-2: 13-15, 11-5, 12-10, 10-12, 14-12 (108m)
Simon Rösner (GER) bt [Q] Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) 3-1: 11-7, 11-2, 8-11, 11-6 (46m)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 3-1: 4-11, 11-5, 11-7, 16-14 (62m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Zahed Mohamed (EGY)
[Q] Saurav Ghosal (IND) v Diego Elias (PER)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v [Q] Leo Au (HKG)
Fares Dessouky (EGY) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v Omar Mosaad (EGY)
Simon Rösner (GER) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA