Monday, October 2, 2023

All-Egyptian final in Cambridge Cup

Shabana showdown with Elshorbagy will be a titanic Toronto tussle
By CHRIS HOLLOW – Squash Mad Toronto Correspondent

Mohamed Elshorbagy and Borja Golan (left)
Mohamed Elshorbagy and Borja Golan (left)

First up on centre court at the Cambridge Club was an all-lefty affair between 2010 Cambridge Cup champion Amr Shabana and giant-killer Laurens Jan Anjema, the big Dutchman having secured his spot in the semis with an upset victory over number one seed Gregory Gaultier the night before.

The first game was fairly conservative in the early going, the players opting for sensible shots and longs rallies. Shabana will be Shabana however, pulling out the full-swing complete miss fake at 8-9, freezing Anjema on the tee while he feathered in a straight-drop winner on his second swing. Shabana would go on to lose in extra points 13-11 in a long first game .

Shabana looked to be on auto-pilot in game two, running away with it 11-5 in just under 9m. Merrill Lynch Bank of America’s Mike Capombassis appeared to be suggesting a game of three-way when the players returned, joining them on court. His offer was politely declined.

LJ put his incredible reflexes on display down 5-7 in game three. He’d set up shop in front of the tee-line right behind Shabana, ready to cut-off the straight drive. When it came cross court he switched up and somehow still got a racquet on it, finely slicing it just above the tin.

It got an eyebrow raise from Shabana and a hearty round of applause from the crowd. “Never a doubt,” he joked. They’d exchange cross-court forehand nick kills to go to 10-8 and despite pulling it back to 10-10, Anjema lost the third 12-10.camajshab

An absolute barn-burner of a fourth game had the guys clawing tooth and nail, requiring 20 points to settle it with Anjema finally coming through 20-18 to set up the fifth.

It’s game fives like this where Shabana shows why he’s a four-time World Champion. He turned up the heat on the Dutchman with relentless combos of length and attacks. He’d go ahead 9-6 and never look back, sealing it with a bread-and-butter backhand straight drop 11-7.

Match to Shabana 11-13, 11-5, 12-10, 18-20, 11-7 (65m)

The second match of the evening pitted defending champion Mohammed El Shorbagy against emerging star Borja Golan. They took the court at 7:33p to decide who would face Shabana in the final.

This match took a different tone than the first with the players hitting at a very fast pace right from the get-go. A huge rally at 5-2 Shorbagy ended in a let but had the Spaniard taking hard breaths as he regrouped in the service box to receive. Shorbagy unleashed one of his cross-court kill speacials to go to 7-6. Not to be outdone, the Spaniard recreated the shot on the following serve getting a good rise out of the crowd. Knotted at 7-7, it was all Shorbagy down the stretch, taking game one comfortably 11-7.

The young Egyptian opened the second by continuing where he left off in the first, racing out to 5-1 lead. The cries of encouragement came from the crowd in Golan’s native tongue. “Vamos! Vamos!” rained down from the gallery as Borja gave himself a stern talking to. Despite a semi-toasted Peter Ellis ensuring the Spaniard it was “his time,” Shorbaby would go another 11-7 win in game two.

Realizing that he had to do more if he was to stand a chance, Golan opened the third game playing extremely tight squash up and down the walls. He’d let an early lead slip into a tie at 4-4. “Ariba! Ariba!” he yelled, amping himself up for a stretch run. He held a narrow lead through the game but a stalwart Shorbagy would capitalize on a couple of loose errors in the business end and force extra points. Up to the challenge, Golan squeezed an error with a tight backhand drive that Shorbagy couldn’t scrape off the wall. Game to Golan 12-10.

The comeback was short-lived. Shorbagy showed off the skills that have catapulted him into fourth in the world rankings. Unlike the crowd, it didn’t appear as though he wanted to see a fifth game. Slotting winners from everywhere, the Egyptian was setting them up and knocking them down. He was just too strong for the Spaniard, maintaining a 3 point lead for most of the game and finishing 11-9 to set up a rematch of last year’s Cambridge Cup final against Amr Shabana.

Match to Elshorbagy 11-7, 11-7, 10-12, 11-9 (45m)

Gaultier wins consolation classic

Whoa, what a night! The Barrie Athletic Club was proud to host the second round consolation match between Peter Barker and Gregory Gaultier, a match that they weren’t expecting at the start of the 2014 Cambridge Cup.

Both players were odds on favorites to win their first round match but that’s squash and the Barrie fans were ecstatic about getting Gaultier back to Barrie where he has wowed the crowd many times before. It was Peter Barker‘s first trip to Barrie and it didn’t take him long to get the attention of the partisan crowd.

For some reason a small contingent of Collingwood players that made the trip to Barrie took Barker as their man and as the match wore on they were pushing him to keep pace with the higher ranked Gaultier

Right from the start Barker felt the support and volley lobed his way to a 12-10 victory in the first game. Gaultier feeling that maybe this was going to be another off night came out strong in the second and although he dominated most rallies, he barely snuck through with an 11-9 victory.

Third game was more of the same with some incredible gets and unbelievable rallies, the lead changed hands 12 times. With the crowd on the edge of their seats, both players kept returning unreturnable balls, the crowd went crazy. Game to Gaultier 12-10

It was hard to tell who was more tired, both players having gone all out in the first two games. Gaultier seemed to gain strength from the crowd as he made some of his trademark “what the heck was that shots” and got the fans on his side. He rolled to a 6-3 lead before the Collingwood contingent pushed Barker to fight back. At 10-10 one error by Barker and one backhand reverse volley drop to the nick by Gaultier and game over 11-9

By this time both players are showing signs of fatigue, but pumped by the crowd and don’t want to lose, game on. Once again it’s a see-saw battle with both players alternating between retrieving and attacking. Gaultier seems to have found his rhythm and starts hitting consistent length mixed with brutal drops,

Barker keeps coming back for more and finally forces the odd mistake by the Frenchman. At 11-10 the crowd is convinced they’re going to game five, but a tin by Barker makes it 11 all and fives swings later we have our winner Gaultier 13-11.
Match to Gaultier 3-1

Many in the Barrie crowd that have been to most of the Cambridge Cup matches from years past and other world class matches held at the club ranked tonight’s match as one of if not the best they have ever seen. It was a combination of the intensity and desire to win along with the natural ability to perform and entertain that made it such a special night.

Thanks to Carter Robitaille and Jaryd Osborne, two of Canada’s top juniors for putting on a terrific opening match and getting the night off to a good start.

And special thanks also to Krown Rust Control, the local Sponsor that made it possible for Barrie to host such an incredible match.

Pictures from Shahier Razik, Chris Hollow and Terry Pritchard


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