Ali Farag produces masterclass performance to capture his first Qatar Classic trophy
By ALEX WAN – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
Ali Farag today produced a well thought out masterclass performance to deconstruct the German tree chopper Simon Rosner in straight games to capture his first Qatar Classic trophy. Playing to a full house in a gallery packed with Egyptian supporters, the 26 year old from Cairo did not disappoint his fans as he cruised to a straight game victory.
The world number 2 came into tonight’s final having had more court time than the German and he certainly did not have the best of starts. A tin in the first rally, followed by another two consecutive ones at 2-4 had him fall behind 2-6. He started to catch up from then to within a point at 6-7, after which another tin from his racket and a lucky nick to Rosner would draw him back three points behind. Up to now, it seems Farag was the far more passive player who was reluctant to play to the front, despite some opportunities that arose. He was also caught off guard a few times by Rosner’s forehand boast.
But at 6-9 down, things took a turn as the Egyptian was moving around lighter and started to attack more. Farag was thoroughly rewarded as he won the next five points, the last one with a backhand volley drop right into the nick to clinch the game. That totally sent the crowd into a frenzy who started chanting his name.
Speaking later after the match, Farag revealed, “At the beginning, I saw how crowded it was, I was OK. But after Andy gave that introduction and during the warmup, I heard the screams of the crowd, that was scary. I got really nervous and I couldn’t settle my nerves until maybe 6-2 down in the first. This is when I told myself to focus on the process and not the circumstances surrounding me. I’ve played in Egypt, I’ve played at Harvard where the atmosphere is crazy, but nothing comes close to this one, so that really shook me at the beginning of the match.”
The second game was cruise control for Farag as he raced into a 8-3 lead, dictating most of the rallies as Rosner’s movement looked a little heavy. It would seem that all the work Farag had put in during the first game of playing passively which had prolonged the rallies, it was paying dividends now.
However, at 8-3, a no let decision against Rosner was overruled to a stroke. That incident turned things around for a while, with Rosner coming back within a point to 8-7. But that was all he managed as Farag took the next three, the last courtesy of a tin from the German tree chopper for a 2-0 lead.
If the overruled decision in the second game seem to have rattled Farag, the one at 2-2 in the third seem to have returned the favour. Rosner hit a wide cross court which came back into the middle of the court in the back and was given a stroke against, to his displeasure. This was followed by three consecutive tins from Rosner, opening up a 3-point gap between the two. Farag never lost this lead and after just 12 minutes into the game, dropped his racket and raised his arm in joy after Rosner sent a backhand lob out of play.
“I’m very, very happy with my week here and the way I backed up match after match and I couldn’t be prouder”, a jubilant Farag said time and time again during the post-match interview with the press.
When asked about his game plan, Farag was open to share, “Simon is extremely good at volleys, probably the best at the game and if you open it up with cross courts, I think he’s the most lethal on the court at the moment, so I wanted to keep it straight as much as possible. But then it turned to a point I was passive and this is exactly where it’s hard to find the balance. I am very happy I was able to do that from the second part of the first game all the way to the end. But even then, it never felt easy. Even at 8-3 up, I thought I was going to close that, but with one controversial call, and with the stop of momentum as well, everything changed.”
Despite the defeat, Simon Rosner, who played his second consecutive Platinum final tonight, was feeling very positive about his performance in Doha :
“I don’t have any regrets. I think I’ve had a great week. Getting into another final is huge for me. Obviously you want to get those wins as well. But at the same time, you should be happy with what you’ve achieved. As I said, I got into the semis last year, I got into the final this year. I hope I can one day get the win as well.”
With that, the Qatar Classic came to a close and what a tournament it was. The players have always said that the tournament has every year, raised the bar for their hospitality. Having been here to experience it, it must be said that this is not only limited to the players. Members of the media and guests too are being taken care of very well. A big congratulations and thank you to the Qatar Squash Federation for another cracker of an event.
Men’s Qatar Classic Final, Khalifa Sports Complex, Doha, Qatar.
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Simon Rösner (GER) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-5 (46m)
Pictures courtesy of Qatar Squash Federation and PSA World Tour