Sunday, June 23, 2024

British Open Squash 2023: Mohamed Elshorbagy aims for mentor to tread Birmingham stage

Mohamed Elshorbagy has admitted that this year’s British Open has a special resonance for him.

It was in June last year that the best kept secret in squash was finally let out of the bag when the former World No.1 brought 16 years of residency on UK shores to a culmination when he declared for England and turned his back on his birth land of Egypt.

But now, as he prepares to open his 2023 British Open campaign on Monday afternoon with a meeting against gutsy Mexican Leonel Cardenas at Edgbaston Priory, ElShorbagy has revealed the poignant motivation that is firing up his bid to harvest a fourth British Open.

For the adopted Englishman is desperate to take a home bow in front of Jonah Barrington, the man who mentored and coached him at Millfield School as a callow teenager, and now continues to be an invaluable sounding board and confidante to him.

Speaking to Squash Mad ElShorbagy said: “Of course it would mean the world to me if Jonah could be there and I could win it in front of him – that would be the greatest dream come true for me.

“The last time Jonah watched me live was a 10k at Exeter and it was very close to our base at Millfield and I was starting my career and all the other times he watched me were from his iPad, so if he can make it there for me this week it would be a huge extra motivation for me there is no doubt about it.

“Really, it would just be fantastic.”

While a tear-stained appearance from the man still known as “Mr Squash” would no doubt set many bottom lips trembling, while also stoking the Beast’s inner-fires into a competitive inferno, ElShorbagy also admitted that a determination to do his adopted homeland proud has also stiffened his resolve.

The No.4 seed said: “I am very excited to play the British this year in particular and also it’s an event I’ve had a lot of success in.

“But I would love to win it as an English player – it is a huge dream for me to achieve this. I’ve always felt at home when I’ve played there and I have played four finals.

“In general in England I have played well and of course I won my World Championship there, won Grand Prix, Canary Wharf and British Opens there and so I’ve always done well in England.

“But playing it this time, for the first time as an Englishman creates extra motivation and excitement for me.

“It’s a challenge and I love challenges and I am just really excited to be there. Also it’s in Birmingham and that’s close to my base in Bristol and just adds to it all.”

ElShorbagy will tread the boards at Edgbaston Prior knowing that a fourth British Open title can restore him to World No.1 status and concerns over a groin and adductor issue have been put to bed after he came through a court test with brother Marwan at their Bristol base at the end of last week.

Yet in the absence of the banned current top-ranked Mostafa Asal, ElShorbagy was keen to talk up the chances of the other man who could be hailed king should he emerge victorious this Sunday.

ElShorbagy said: “Diego (Elias) was the first young guy to have taken it to my generation. When he was 18 or 19 he started having a go at myself, Ali (Farag), Tarek (Momen), and my brother (Marwan), so the first one to take it to us.

“Now it looks like he has been here for ages but he is only coming into the prime part of his career at 26, and I have to say that all of my generation knew that when Diego would get it right he would be very hard to stop.

Mohamed ElShorbagy in action this season

“This season from the period after he won the US Open he took it to another level and I think everything is there with him and that is not a surprise to me but I just didn’t know when it would come together.

“He is a great guy and very good for the tour and we spend a lot of time together. In December we went to Peru for an exhibition, so it’s good to see him playing like this. With that run of three events, and he has two Platinum this season behind him, he will have a lot of confidence.”

Yet a huge question mark will hang over Elias after he was forced to scratch in his second round match last time out at the Optasia Championships when conceding at 0-4 in the fourth with a leg injury against Karim Abdel Gawad.

As if that wasn’t bad enough for the Peruvian he is due on court at 7pm against Joel Makin the man who defeated him at Canary Wharf in straight sets.

The fiery Welshman remains very much a dark horse to cause major damage at this British Open – should he prevail against Elias in the pick of the second round encounters.

Read more

Latest News