Selby goes close against Momen but Elias is too hot for Willstrop
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
England legends James Willstrop and Daryl Selby bowed out of the St. James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic as top seed Mohamed ElShorbagy overcame a tricky test and India’s Saurav Ghosal produced a seedings shock on day two at the East Wintergarden.
Willstrop fell to Peru’s Diego Elias before Selby narrowly failed to deliver another giant-killing act against world champion Tarek Momen.
Egypt’s World No.1 ElShorbagy narrowly secured his berth in the quarter-finals after a close battle with France’s Mathieu Castagnet and Ghosal delivered shots of precision at crucil moments to beat No.5 seed Simon Rosner of Germany.
ElShorbagy held control through the first game against Castagnet and he took it 11-6. But the fit-again Castagnet fought his way back.
The match was played at a phenomenal pace throughout and the World No.22 refused to go down without a fight. He took the second 11-8 to set up a decider and it looked like it could go either way right through the middle part of it, with neither player able to pull away.
In the end, the World No.1 took the victory and was full of praise for his opponent, saying: “He is a warrior. He had a really bad injury and he is making his way back. I know his ranking is still outside the top 20 but the level he can play at…once you are a great player, you don’t just become a bad player. You stay great and luckily I pulled through at the end.
“The best-of-three format changes the dynamic of the sport. It will be short, sharp rallies and you will play at a very high pace. With the best-of-five you have to think about the whole match, and think about your energy throughout the match. I am proud of my mental performance today. I got lucky today and I know I need to try and improve for the next round.
“I have always enjoyed playing this event and the crowd are always fully supportive from the first day. We play for the crowd and they make it really exciting for us to play. It is close to Bristol, my home, and I definitely enjoy playing here.”
ElShorbagy will face Ghosal, who came out firing in the first game of his clash with World No.7 Rösner. He held the momentum through the middle part of the first game, before he caught the German on his follow-through at 9-5. After a ten-minute blood injury delay, Rösner came back onto court and won five of the next six points, including saving four game balls.
However, it would be Ghosal that took the game, before the German Tree-Chopper fought his way back into the match, restoring parity in the contest by winning the second – despite the Indian saving a game ball in the process.
It would eventually be the ‘Mongoose’ that took the win, only his third over Rösner on the PSA World Tour, as he moved through to the quarter-finals of the PSA Gold tournament.
Ghosal, reflecting on that first game collision, said: “I think it was a culmination of a couple of things. I was 9-5 up, the momentum was with me, and especially when you are playing Simon, it is so difficult to get that against him because he has such good power and a great touch art the front of the court.
“He stepped up and played some really good stuff but I am glad that I was able to finally win it because I think on the balance of play that I deserved to win it. Beating a player of that quality, in the form that he is in right now, is a really good win for me!”
Earlier on the second day of the tournament, Peru’s World No.6 Diego Elias and World Champion Tarek Momen made their way through to the last eight, with the pair scheduled to meet on Wednesday after halting the progress of English veterans Willstrop and Selby.
Peruvian World No.6 Elias is through to the quarter-finals after a superb debut performance saw him overcome former World No.1 Willstrop.
It was his first match at the tournament, and Elias needed just 24 minutes to get the better of Willstrop, playing at a high pace throughout, keeping the ball fast and low, forcing the 36-year-old 6ft 4in Willstrop to twist and bend into some awkward movements under extreme pressure.
Elias won the first four points of the match but Willstrop responded with an excellent run of six points of his own, offering hope of a home upset in a competition he has won four times, including the very first edition back in 2004.
I reminded the crowd that his 4-2 victory over Thierry Lincou was in a best-of-seven games final (PAR to nine) but this was best of three and there was no room for error.
Elias fought back to take the opening game 11-8 and he maintained a blistering pace throughout the second to dominate proceedings to clinch the match 11-4.
Afterwards he said: “I am really happy. It is always amazing playing James. I have played him a couple of times and I am always nervous because I watched him when I was a kid. It is always great to have another opportunity to play him.
“I enjoyed the match a lot. It is tough to play best-of-three. It was my first time so I was nervous and I knew that if I gave James anything that he could win the match so I had to start really strong at the beginning.
“I tried to make the rallies long and tried to played fast. I was trying to make it as long as possible. I don’t know why I have never played here because it is an amazing atmosphere. This year, I was looking forward to this tournament!”
Selby threw everything he had at World Champion Momen, but the Egyptian was just about able to come through it to book his place in the quarter-finals of the St. James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic.
This was the eighth time the pair had met on the PSA World Tour, but the first time they faced off in the best-of-three format. It suited the Englishman, as he took the first game 11-9, with the home crowd cheering him to the rafters.
However, the World Champion showed his class in the second and third games, and apart from a late Selby flourish in the second game, where he threatened to pull it back from 10-3 and send it into a tie-break (as he had done in his stunning win over world No.10 Joel Makin the previous day), Momen seemed to have it under control.
Momen said: “I am very pleased to be through. As Daryl said, he is one of the most experienced players on tour and he is very skilful so to play him in a best-of-three format would always be a tricky one.
“I was just trying to prepare myself to just stick to my game plan and not deviate from it. He has a way to impose his game, with lots of tricky shots that can catch you out, but I was very happy to get out of it every now and then. I finally managed to sneak it which is a great pleasure.
“If this is the last time I play Daryl, then it has been a pleasure. I remember that we played here eight or nine years ago, and it has been a great pleasure.”
Selby, when asked if this was his farewell performance at Canary Wharf, was non-committal. He said: “We never say never but if it was my last, then I said to Tarek at the end that it was an absolute pleasure to play the current World Champion. Tarek has been a great player and a great ambassador for the sport.
“I had a hard game yesterday but with a crowd like this to motivate you, you have every incentive to back it up.”
He told his Twitter followers: “Got close to another upset. Nice to mix it with the current World Champ and didn’t feel like I was too far away tonight. At 5-3 up in the third, it would have been nice to have those two nicks go for me rather than against me! Loved every minute of being on that court as always.”
St. James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic, East Wintergarden, Canary Wharf, London, England.
Second Round (Top Half):
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 2-1: 11-6, 8-11, 11-9 (47m)
Saurav Ghosal (IND) bt  Simon Rösner (GER) 2-1: 13-11, 7-11, 11-4 (61m)
 Diego Elias (PER) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 2-0: 11-8, 11-4 (24m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Daryl Selby (ENG) 2-1: 9-11, 11-8, 11-8 (51m)
Second Round (Bottom Half today):
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Greg Lobban (SCO)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) v Fares Dessouky (EGY)
Declan James (ENG) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
Quarter Finals (Top Half, Wednesday):
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v Saurav Ghosal (IND)
 Diego Elias (PER) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
Pictures by STEVE LINES (www.squashpics.com) courtesy of PSA and PATRICK LAUSON