World No.46 upsets the rankings
By JOEL DURSTON at Canary Wharf
World No. 46 Lucas Serme produced possibly the performance of his career to beat his friend and former training partner Marwan Elshorbagy 11-9, 11-9, 7-11, 11-7.
The two players, along with Marwan’s older brother Mohamed, trained together at Bristol UWE university, adding intrigue and no doubt some friendly rivalry to the encounter.
The victory is even more impressive considering the fine form Elshorbagy is in at the moment, having beaten his brother, the World No. 1, and Ali Farag on his way to the Windy City Open final recently. However, this is something Serme had in his mind to work to his advantage.
Serme said: “He was probably a bit flat. It’s hard to back up a good tournament like that. He beat his brother for the first time which was a big deal for him, emotionally as well.
“So you could feel that today. He wasn’t as mentally sharp as he usually is, so I just had to jump on it from the very first point and get as many points as possible before he gets into the game. I guess I was a bit more hungry today.”
Asked if it marks his biggest win to date, Serme said: “People have to judge – I have no idea. I don’t know what happened just now!”
The game was played at a breakneck pace, punctuated by clever frontcourt play from both players, especially Serme, who showed off some delicate touch and superb delay and disguise.
However, it must be said he was helped by two big backcourt nicks in the first game, the second of which coming after a great rally at the pivotal stage of 9-9 – causing Elshorbagy to throw his racket on the floor, cursing his luck.
The Egyptian fought back strongly to take the third 11-7, but Serme kept his head for a magnifique victory, 11-7 in the fourth.
Serme now faces Borja Golan, who progressed with relative ease against qualifier Declan James, but had to stave off a strong fightback in the third from the English qualifier before prevailing 11-1, 11-4, 12-10.
The Spaniard, fresh from his scalping of World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad in the Windy City Open, hit the ground running, executing superb line and length which put James on the back foot and forced him into low percentage shots, many of which dropped into the tin.
As Golan raced to a 7-0 lead in the second, it looked like it could be a bit of an embarrassment, with the crowd suitably flat as they watched ‘El Toro’ rampaging to victory, now finishing the points with even with more precision and venom.
However, from here James put a bit of respectability back on the scoreboard – and gave some life to the crowd, which had become slightly flat amid what was frankly beginning to appear a bit of a non-event.
And this was a good sign for the third game, which James made a far better fight of.
He upped the pace and became more aggressive, which saw him inch ahead on the scoreboard throughout the game.
The only time he got ahead in the game, Golan earned himself a matchball, at 10-9, but James saved it masterfully – and very boldly – with a backhand volley kill right into the nick straight off serve, then proceeded to pump up the crowd.
At 10-10, Golan was given a no let but cleverly used a review to have it overturned to a let, then James was given a no let and reviewed but was unsuccessful with his appeal.
It was, frankly, an ambitious appeal, as there was only minimal interference and, with the ball past James, it would have required a flying backwall boast to keep him in the rally. But presumably James was thinking that, at last chance saloon, he might as well ask.
Unfortunately for him, having lost his review, he had a much better case in the next point as his trickle boast appeared to wrongfoot Golan slightly, yet the Spaniard, pivoting and stretching to hit the shot, was still awarded a stroke to take the match – in an unfortunately inconclusive manner.
Still, overall Golan showed the gulf in class.
Fifth seed Fares Dessouky turned on the style as he saw off England’s Tom Richards 11-9, 11-5, 11-5, in an entertaining encounter.
Richards went pretty much toe-to-toe with Fares Dessouky in the first game, but then the Egyptian began to take control and move Richards to all corners of the court.
Especially compared with the brutal rallies in the Coll v Rosner match the day before, the game took on a slightly casual, even exhibition feel, with a lot of rallies ending either in skilful outright winners or simple errors.
As the game went on the flashy, quintessentially Egyptian player began to turn the all-important winner to error ratio in the right direction – the disguise and finesse of Dessouky proving too much for Richards on several occasions.
However, while the quality remained the same, just a bit of needle began to creep into the game in the second two games, as Richards grew frustrated at what he saw as Dessouky not sufficiently clearing his shots. At one point there was even a quiet word from Richards to his opponent as they passed each other between points.
But, whatever one’s interpretation of this, what wasn’t in doubt, in the end, was the result, which earns Dessouky a quarter-final tie with Mathieu Castagnet, who progressed with a fairly routine 11-6, 11-1, 11-5 win over wildcard Lyell Fuller.
The Exeter player gave a very respectable showing for himself on a higher stage than he’s accustomed to – but Castagnet, with his incredibly speedy retrievals and soft hands at the front, is very hard for even the best players on tour to put away, and Fuller did not quite have the weapons to do it with any kind of regularity.
Castagnet, the reigning champion in this competition, is hoping the win sets up a good return to the East Wintergarden following a difficult year.
After the win, he said: “Since I went outside this building last year, I have no explanation (for what has happened). My ranking has gone down and down and down. It’s just been a nightmare, to be honest.
“This is the first match where I’ve been playing well and moving well…so I think I will just play this tournament in future!”
2017 Canary Wharf Classic, East Wintergarden, Canary Wharf, London.
First Round (bottom half):
 Fares Dessouky (EGY) bt Tom Richards (ENG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-5, 11-5 (40m)
 Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt [WC] Lyell Fuller (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-1, 11-5 (35m)
 Borja Golan (ESP) bt [Q] Declan James (ENG) 3-0: 11-1, 11-4, 12-10 (43m)
[Q] Lucas Serme (FRA) bt  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-1: 11-9, 11-9, 7-11, 11-7 (55m)
Draw – Quarter-finals:
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v  Cameron Pilley (AUS)
 Daryl Selby (ENG) v Paul Coll (NZL)
 Fares Dessouky (EGY) v  Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
 Borja Golan (ESP) v [Q] Lucas Serme (FRA)
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com)