‘Asal is the best player in the world and I had to do a Nick Matthew to get back into the match,’ admits Mo
By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor) and JONATHAN SMITH (PSA)
England’s No.5 seed Mohamed ElShorbagy meets unseeded Frenchman Victor Crouin in the final of the QTerminals Qatar Classic, creating a rare all-European decider in a PSA World Tour Platinum-level tournament.
ElShorbagy played excellent squash to come from behind to beat No.3 seed Mostafa Asal 3-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-7 in 60 minutes.
While Asal had spoken ahead of the match about his respect for ElShorbagy, who he describes as being ‘his idol’, world No.3 Asal did not let any reverence for the three-time winner dilute his attacking instincts in the opening exchanges.
Game one showcased the best of Asal, with the 21-year-old playing fast-paced but controlled squash that was too much for the Englishman to handle.
ElShorbagy departed from his quarter-final tactic of slowing the game down by trying to match Asal blow-for-blow – but his renowned hard-hitting power squash made little impact.
After taking the opening game 11-3 in just eight minutes, Asal started well again in the second.
ElShorbagy, however, looked more measured as he dropped the tempo, and the pair traded the lead through longer rallies on the way to 6-6. At 7-6 down, former world No.1 ElShorbagy’s experience came to the fore. The 31-year-old remained patient while Asal began to rush, and ElShorbagy levelled the match with five unanswered points to take game two 11-7 in 23 minutes.
ElShorbagy was on top form in the third game, while Asal struggled for accuracy at the front of the court.
Time and again ElShorbagy punished heavy touches from Asal, with ‘The Beast’ putting together another brutal scoring run to move from 3-1 down to a comfortable 11-4 victory.
ElShorbagy continued to look strong in the fourth game, while Asal’s struggles with the racket resumed. Despite Asal’s desperate best efforts, ElShorbagy was able to keep out of reach throughout, eventually wrapping up a relatively comfortable victory with another 11-7 win.
Speaking after the match, ElShorbagy said: “I don’t think Asal gets the credit he deserves. He’s only 21 years old.
“For me, he’s the current best player in the world. Once I was down in the first game, I had to give a ‘Nick Matthew performance’ – make the second game as tough as possible as that’s exactly what he would have done!”
In the first semi-final, which began with a minute’s silence in memory of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, World No.18 Crouin produced another incredible performance as he shocked No.6 seed Tarek Momen to reach his first ever Platinum-level final.
Crouin, who last night reached his first Platinum semi-final by knocking out Qatar’s Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi in straight games, looked confident from the beginning as he made an aggressive start.
This was countered well by Momen, with the 34-year-old exposing Crouin’s movement and capitalising on a spell of poor shot selection from the Frenchman to open up an 8-5 lead.
Crouin, however, then rediscovered the tidy, organised squash that took him to this stage and pulled back to 8-8 before taking the first game 11-9 with a terrific winner.
The 23-year-old maintained this momentum in the second game and stormed into an 8-4 lead. Momen began to fight back and narrowed the gap to just one point at 8-7, before the outstanding Crouin pulled away to take a 2-0 lead with an 11-7 win.
Leading 3-0 in the third, Crouin appeared to be cruising into a maiden Platinum final.
Momen, however, is no stranger to overcoming adversity. The Egyptian, who twice came from behind on his way to the final here in 2019, fought back well after returning from an injury break at 4-2 down and rattled off eight quick points to move 10-4 up.
Crouin saved one game ball, but could not prevent the energised Momen wedging a foot in the door as the No.6 seed took an 11-5 win that only minutes earlier seemed extremely unlikely.
After Crouin requested a new ball for game four, the Frenchman looked back to his best and went 8-4 up, with the 23-year-old reaping rewards from his precise volleys at the front.
Crouin then had a golden opportunity to reach his first Platinum final when he had four match balls at 10-6 up. Incredibly, Momen saved all four, with the Egyptian forcing a tiebreak after showing brilliant movement and mental fortitude.
World No.18 Crouin then marshalled his nerves excellently and went 11-10 up after an enthralling rally before sealing the match with a bitterly contested ‘no let’ debate that brought in the video referee to decide matters in Crouin’s favour.
A delighted Crouin said afterwards: “There have been too many speeches this week! I’m not used to speaking so much!
“It feels like everything’s fitting into place. Today I felt like I wasn’t as good as in previous days and I hit the tin a little more, but that’s probably because Tarek was putting a lot of pressure on me.
“I kept telling myself to be proactive and aggressive, because that’s how you win rallies. I’m just enjoying it on court. Not overthinking, just hitting my targets and it’s working. One more push tomorrow.”
The final of the QTerminals Qatar Classic takes place tomorrow (Saturday September 10) at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex. Play begins at 18:00 (GMT+3), with live streaming available on SQUASHTV.
PSA Platinum 2022 Men’s QTerminals Qatar Classic, Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, Doha, Qatar.
Semi-Finals: Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) bt  Mostafa Asal (EGY) 3-1: 3-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-7 (60m)
Victor Crouin (FRA) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-1: 11-9, 11-7, 5-11, 12-10 (68m)
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour