By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Controversy flared up again as world No.6 Mostafa Asal received a penalty game punishment as he held off fellow Egyptian Youssef Soliman in a dramatic 118-minute battle to reach the quarter finals of the CIB Squash Open Black Ball.
The 20-year-old Asal was tremendous in the opening two games as he hit his targets and outplayed Soliman. However, Soliman refused to back down and took a third game that was littered with stoppages and refereeing decisions.
Asal then led 4-1 in the fourth before an incident which saw the Egyptian hit his head on the floor after a collision with Soliman. After spending some time off court with the physio, Asal returned to court, only to be told that he had been given a conduct game against him in punishment for his movement, following a similar incident earlier in the contest where he received a conduct stroke against him for leaving his leg out.
An emotional Asal took a while to compose himself but returned for the fifth game, where he held his nerve despite the drama to secure his place in the quarter finals, and he will take on former World No.1 Karim Abdel Gawad, who won the Platinum tier Black Ball event in 2018.
Meanwhile, World No.4 Tarek Momen also had to battle through a five-game thriller as he overcame World No.16 Youssef Ibrahim by an 11-7, 11-9, 2-11, 10-12, 12-10 scoreline.
Momen was on top in the early stages but lost his focus in the third game and Ibrahim soon came back to level after saving a match ball in the fourth. A nail-biting fifth game saw Ibrahim save two further match balls, but he couldn’t deny Momen, who finally converted to set up a quarter final meeting with Marwan ElShorbagy.
“I am very proud of how I managed to close this one out, I eventually used my experience to close out a match that was slipping away from my hands,” said Momen afterwards.
“After the second he stepped it up and cut his errors down and his quality just went up. I kept hitting some errors but then my quality went up in the 4th and 5th and I was playing good squash, I only made a few errors at crucial times and he played super well.
“To be honest, I thought this match was going to slip away from my hands, that’s why I’m so proud that I managed to close it out. He pushed me so hard and played an incredible match and overturned a poor start into an exquisite finish and a brilliant match towards the end.”
Frenchman Gregoire Marche is the only unseeded player to advance to the last eight after he got the better of No.8 seed Mazen Hesham, with an impressive 11-9, 13-11, 11-8 victory seeing him set up a fixture with World No.1 Ali Farag.
“Winning 3-0 against Mazen, it’s not what I was expecting,” Marche said.
“Every game was tough but I think I was a bit better mentally at the end of each game, not making any errors, which he did a bit too much today. I put enough pressure on him and I am happy with the way I moved, and I hit the ball in the corners today, so it was a good match.”
Farag, who reached the final of the Gold Black Ball event last December, overcame Spain’s Iker Pajares Bernabeu in his opening match, winning 11-1, 11-9, 11-5.
“There were lots of positives, I found my targets from the get go, there were lots of winners coming from my racket,” said Farag.
“But you know you can’t win 33 rallies like this, so you have to construct rallies a bit more and that’s a mistake I made in the second. I thought it would be more straight forward and I needed more patience to build the rallies and he punished me for it, but I’m happy I could get the balance right in the third.”
There were also wins for World No.2 Paul Coll and World No.8 Joel Makin, who will meet in the other quarter final after overcoming Miguel Rodriguez and Omar Mosaad in four tough games.
2021 CIB Black Ball Open, Black Ball Club, Cairo, Egypt.
Men’s Second Round:
Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt  Mazen Hesham (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 13-11, 11-8 (47m)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 3-1: 3-1: 6-11, 11-7, 13-11, 11-6 (57m)
 Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt Youssef Soliman (EGY) 3-2: 11-2, 11-8, 9-11, 4-11, 11-8 (118m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) 3-2: 11-7, 11-9, 2-11, 10-12, 12-10 (79m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Mohamed ElSherbini (EGY) 3-1: 5-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-8 (51m)
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt Omar Mosaad (EGY) 3-1: 12-10, 11-5, 11-13, 11-8 (74m)
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt Miguel Rodriguez (COL) 3-1: 11-1, 11-13, 11-6, 11-5 (71m)
Men’s Quarter Finals:
 Ali Farag (EGY) v Gregoire Marche (FRA)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v  Mostafa Asal (EGY)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Joel Makin (WAL) v  Paul Coll (NZL)
Pictures courtesy of PSA