Experience prevails over youthful exuberance as fifth seed Darwish wins ‘Battle of the Egyptians’
By MICHAEL CATLING – Squash Mad Reporter
World number six Karim Darwish fought back from the brink of defeat to secure a dramatic 3-2 victory over fellow Egyptian Omar Mosaad in the first-round at the Tournament of Champions in New York.
Darwish, who was a runner-up at the Sky Open in his last PSA Tour event, narrowly survived a repeat of his first-round exit at the Malaysian Open in September as he recovered from a 2-0 deficit to triumph 6-11, 11-13, 11-7, 11-5, 11-9 in 81 minutes.
“It was a very tough match, especially for a first round of an event,” said an exhausted Darwish. “He’s in the top ten but that is just a sign of how tough squash is right now.
“I was 2-0 down but I told myself to relax and enjoy myself. I had to change a few things in my game and my tactics and thankfully I came back strongly and won.
“This tournament is a very special event in the PSA calendar. There are thousands of people passing by every day and it’s a great feeling to play here as a player and credit goes to John Nimick who runs the tournament for making it such a great event.”
Darwish beat Mosaad in four gruelling games at the Qatar Classic in November but was forced to dig even deeper as the world number 12 from Cairo secured a 2-0 lead on the McWIL glass court at Vanderbilt Hall.
But despite losing a second-game tie-break, the former world number one retained his composure to battle back and duly forced a decider following a series of unforced errors by Mosaad in the fourth game.
A tense fifth game battle predictably ensued but the fifth seed managed to capatilise on the waning energy of his Egyptian teammate to secure victory in 82 minutes.
The Grand Central Station crowd were treated to another lengthy encounter in the following match-up as German number one Simon Rosner needed 90 minutes to overcome world number 15 Saurav Ghosal in five games.
The unseeded pair traded tie-break victories in the opening two games, with Ghosal levelling the scores after edging a pulsating second game 16-14.
A one-sided third game handed Ghosal the momentum but Rosner seemed to gain a second wind as he edged a narrow fourth game before racing clear in the decider to win his first-ever PSA Tour meeting over the Indian number one.
The world number 13, who will now meet Darwish for a place in the last eight, said: “I knew it would be a really tough match. Saurav is a great player with lots of skill. Whenever we’ve played before the matches have always been very close.
“The first few games today were crazily intense and we both played some great squash. He played some unbelievable shots throughout the match so I’m just really happy to win.
“I ended 2013 on a high so hopefully I can continue to build on that now. I’ve got nothing to lose going into the next round so I’m going to enjoy it and give it my best.”
Top seed Gregory Gaultier had little trouble in progressing into the second round after defeating Englishman Tom Richards in straight games.
The 31-year-old Frenchman, who needed just 41 minutes to prevail 11-4, 11-8, 11-6, will now meet world number 19 Alister Walker, after the Botswana ace edged a seesaw third game tie-break 18-16 to secure a straight game victory over Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez.
Elsewhere, the Egyption duo of Mohamed Elshorbagy (pictured right) and Tarek Momen also advanced into the last 16 with resounding 3-0 victories over American Todd Harrity and compatriot Omar Abdel Meguid respectively.
Elshorbagy, who is seeded third for the $115,000 event, edged a second game tiebreak but was otherwise untroubled as he swept past the world number 129 wildcard 11-3, 12-10, 11-2 in 28 minutes.
Momen needed just four minutes longer to triumph over Meguid 11-5, 11-6, 11-8 and will now bid to repeat the feat against Elshorbagy in another all-Egyptian clash.
Meanwhile, world number 26 Chris Simpson secured his maiden victory at Grand Central Station by overcoming Egyptian qualifier Ali Farag in four tough games.
Farag, who threatened a shock after winning the opening game, was forced off court during the second game due to a facial injury suffered when Simpson accidentally caught him with his racket.
The stoppage proved to be a pivotal moment as the Englishman proceeded to bagel the 21-year-old before clinching the match in 69 minutes.
“That was my first win on the glass court here which was very special for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Simpson.
“During the injury break I was telling myself to keep warm and keep focused. I felt that I had found a bit of a zone before it happened so I didn’t want the momentum to shift and I managed to come out with a good win.”
Simpson will now face fellow Englishman Daryl Selby for a place in the quarter-finals, after the world number 10 prevented a hat-trick of first-round exits on the PSA Tour with a 11-9, 11-7, 11-5 victory over qualifier Adrian Waller.
Pictures by Steve Cubbins (SquashSite) and Michael Catling