Frenchman told to play more like an Egyptian in Canary Wharf comeback battle
By ALAN THATCHER at Wimbledon
Lucas Serme thanked Egytpian Yathreb Adel for helping him to beat Leo Au of Hong Kong in the qualifying finals of the Canary Wharf Squash Classic.
The world No.47, who has recently moved his squash base from Bristol to Prague to train alongside fellow Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, fought back from two games down to beat his higher-ranked opponent.
Serme won 5-11, 7-11, 11-1, 12-10, 11-3 in 78 minutes and was grateful to London-based student Yathreb for some words of support between games – telling him to play more like an Egyptian!
Serme said: “That result was more about him than me, I think. He played so well to control the first two games, hitting some quality straight balls and some excellent lobs.
“But then, after the third game, Yathreb Adel, who trained with me at Bristol, came to the court and told me to be a bit more aggressive and start to play more in the Egyptian way. And luckily it worked.
“I stepped up the pace and won the third 11-1 and I could sense Leo was looking tired, or maybe struggling with an injury.
“I was 6-1 up in the fourth, but I switched off a little bit and let him back in the match. He started hitting some random winners and suddenly he was on match ball at 10-9.
“I played more aggressively again and won the game, and then stayed in front throughout the fifth, so I’m now looking forward to playing on the glass court at Canary Wharf.”
At the end of the second game, Serme earned a deserved round of applause when he insisted on playing a let when he hit a sublime backhand volley at full stretch. The referees saw it good, Au thought it was down, as did some of the crowd, so Serme told the officials he was happy to play a let.
The match was a credit to both players, full of high-quality, technical squash, with enough splashes of genius to entertain a packed crowd behind the glass-backed court at Wimbledon.
Mohamed Abouelghar of Egypt became the first player to advance from qualifying into the main draw.
He beat Nasir Iqbal of Pakistan by three games to one at Wimbledon Racquets and Fitness Club with a quality display of attacking squash.
However, he can’t afford to switch off for long periods on the glass court at the East Wintergarden as he did here today and yesterday against Rex Hedrick.
He seemed to offer only token resistance as Iqbal won the second game, but recovered his attacking rhythm to win the third and fourth, completing victory in 40 minutes.
Abouelghar loves attacking the front right corner of the court, frequently hunting the loose straight backhand or forehand crosscourt to slot backhand volley kills into that forehand nick.
We will love seeing him try that on the new glass court.
Joe Lee enjoyed his second straight-games victory in qualifying to ensure he arrives at the East Wintergarden fresh and hungry.
After disposing of Australian Steve Finitsis yesterday, he raced to victory against Scottish opponent Greg Lobban, who was clearly far from 100 per cent physically.
Lee took just 30 minutes to complete a straightforward victory, winning 11-5, 11-1, 11-5.
Lobban’s mobility was clearly impaired by injury and he revealed: “I’ll need to get home and get that sorted out. My head was all over the place.”
Lee’s ability to finish rallies will prepare him for the next phase of his career as he seeks to climb the rankings.
He said: “I was pleased with that yesterday. I was hitting it tightly again today but I know Greg likes to hit crosscourt in those areas and I was pleased with my volleys off those shots.”
With two big guys striking the ball at a ferocious pace, there were frequent stoppages around the mid-court area, which led to even more frequent discussions with the referee and marker.
Meguid (right) received a conduct stroke at the end of the third game for dissent, and both players received a warning from the referee at the start of the fifth.
After a fiery closing game, world No.33 Meguid clinched victory 11-7 when his opponent received a conduct stroke.
Bizarrely, as he left the court Le Roux uttered a swear word and the referee announced he was awarding a conduct game … even though the match was over.
Meguid’s prize is a place in the first round against four-times champion James Willstrop on Tuesday.
Joe Lee meets Daryl Selby in the opening match of the tournament tomorrow, while Abouelghar was drawn against Peter Barker, with Lucas Serme meeting Simon Rosner of Germany.
Canary Wharf Squash Classic, Qualifying finals, Wimbledon.
Mohamed Abouelghar (Egypt) beat Nasir Iqbal (Pakistan) 11-8, 3-11, 11-8, 11-7 (40 mins)
Lucas Serme (France) beat Leo Au (Hong Kong) 5-11, 7-11, 11-1, 12-10, 11-3 (78 mins)
Joe Lee (England) beat Greg Lobban (Scotland) 11-5, 11-1, 11-5 (30 mins)
Omar Meguid (Egypt) beat Shaun Le Roux (RSA) 7-11, 11-4, 3-11, 11-5, 11-7 (82 mins)
CANARY WHARF CLASSIC, FIRST ROUND DRAW:
Top half played Monday March 23:
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v [WC] Eddie Charlton (ENG)
Adrian Waller (ENG) v  Fares Dessouki (EGY)
 Daryl Selby (ENG) v [Q] Joe Lee (ENG)
Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) v  Borja Golan (ESP)
Bottom half played Tuesday March 24:
 Simon Rösner (GER) v [Q] Lucas Serme (FRA)
[Q] Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) v  James Willstrop (ENG)
 Max Lee (HKG) v Mazen Hesham (EGY)
[Q] Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) v  Peter Barker (ENG)
Pictures by BRYAN LINTOTT